I can’t really call this a practice report, as in a change from previous years, all Thursday practices are now closed to the media.
But we do still get a chance to talk with UW coach Steve Sarkisian after the workout, and he said there was nothing of substance to report.
Asked if there was any personnel news, he said “Status quo. The guys that are supposed to play will play and the guys that can’t, won’t.”
And everyone that is scheduled to play he said will do so without any limitations, including those coming off significant injuries such as Colin Tanigawa, Kevin Smith and Erik Kohler.
“We will watch them closely but we are going in full go with all of our guys,” Sarkisian said.
In what might most pass for news, he said Deontae Cooper and Hau’oli Jamora were each having knee surgery today. But he did not have any updates.
Instead, Sarkisian talked a lot about the opener against San Diego State and what he expects out of the Huskies. And in one particularly insightful passage, Sarkisian noted the value of having a veteran QB such as Keith Price to whom he can turn to get the Huskies in the right play at the line of scrimmage.
He talked about that in this answer to a question about how the Huskies will try to replace what Chris Polk gave them last year in a reliable option to turn to in late-game situations when UW has a lead and is trying to salt away a win
“That’s an interesting question and it’s part of the new personality of our team that we have to find those kind of nuances within the game for our own personality,” he said. “And some of that is going to come naturally and some of that we are going to have to create on our own through schemes or personnel groupings and things of that nature. I think a little bit of that remains to be seen. Obviously we feel great about what Jesse (Callier) and Bishop (Sankey) are bringing to the table.
“I feel even better this year than I have in the past about our quarterback and his ability to manage those situations within the game and maybe put a little bit more on him rather than just seeing ‘you’ve got to run the ball and work the clock’ and him making good decisions on when to run it and when to throw it and things of that nature. Go line of scrimmage with more two calls in mind and running the best play available. But definitely a chance in philosophy when you don’t have just that workhorse back that you know can just kind of grind you out and pound you out. I think part of that for me is I have to get a feel for our guys when games get going and we get put into those situations, where to go with the ball.”
He said that was something they did more and more with Price as last season wore on, and will continue with this season.
“We got into it much more with the no-huddle stuff about half-way through the year and then late into the year a lot and quite extensively in the bowl game,” he said. “We’re going to continue down that path. He’s such a bright kid and he has such a high football IQ that he gives us that ability to do that type of stuff. It’s a nice luxury to have.”
Here’s video of Sarkisian’s meeting with the media today, followed by more text of what he had to say:
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Here’s some more of what Sarkisian had to say:
On if he enters openers having a pretty good feel for what his team will look like: “I think there is always curiosity. You feel like you’ve got a great handle. But things change when the lights come on. Some guys play better than they have played in practice and some guys don’t play quite as good as they have practiced and so I try to go in with an idea of what might happen but I try also not to be shocked when things go a different direction than the way I envisioned. And you try to force the hand a bit, especially on offense as a play caller to generate some things for guys to get them in the flow of the game. But again, there is as much curiosity for me as anybody because some guys you just don’t know. I know what 17 (Keith Price) is going to be like Saturday night. I know what Drew Schaefer is going to be like, No. 88 (Austin Seferian-Jenkins), No. 2 (Kasen Williams). We’ve got some other guys I’m not quite sure. We’ve got to figure it out.”
On the defense being a big curiosity and if he is as curious about that as well: “I’m excited to watch our guys play. I think we have made great strides. I love what we have done schematically and what we have done personnel-wise. And again we have to go play. And some things that have looked really good in training camp might not look as good, and some things that maybe we didn’t think would be a huge part of our defensive scheme might look even better. And that’s what we have to work through as the game gets going and who we are and what we are about and what our pass rush is like and how we cover and who is tackling and who is missing those tacklings that in practice we are blowing the whistle on and giving them the tackle. So there is a lot of information we have to gather early on. But I am excited to watch our guys play.”
On if Kevin Smith is one of the guys he has to watch early on to see how he holds up physically: “I think so. Kevin has made a tremendous return. I am so excited for him and fired up for him. He’s had an unbelievable attitude about this and the way he has attacked the injury and the rehab. But again, he’s got to play the game now and he’s got to get tackled and hopefully we can get him into the flow of the game and see how he does.”
On if Smith is full go: “Yep, full ready to go.”
On attacking defenses that are known for creating turnovers: “Well you stress obviously protection of the ball and we work on our ball security drills and we stress to the quarterback of making good decisions with the ball and not trying to force things. And you know I think you have to try to combat some of their aggressiveness with your own aggressiveness. You can’t sit back and just let them attack you. So we have to make sure that we are aggressive as well and that we are attacking them as much as they are attacking us.”
On Tre Watson being put on scholarship: “He earned it. We had one to offer, we had room and he earned it. He’s done everything to work at this. I am always appreciative of guys that have a plan and are trying to get something done in their life and Tre did that. He’s an awesome kid who works his tail off, not only on the field but in the classroom. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
On Watson being the only one to get a scholarship this year: “Yes.”
On the other cornerbacks, Greg Ducre and Marcus Peters, also playing: “Well they are going to play. Again some of that remains to be seen, the flow of the game, what is happening in the game. But they are going to play for sure. First time for Marcus (Peters) really being on the field in a game so again, we just have to kind of play it by ear. We’ve got an idea of what we want to do but we’ve got to play it by ear as the flow of the game is going and what we are doing and what San Diego State is doing and how that dictates how we want to play.”
On if he remembers the six weeks he spent as QB coach at San Diego State in 2001: “I know what my office looked like – I was sleeping there most of the time, hadn’t even moved down there yet. I know they have great facilities. By the time I was there they had just built that new building – I think it was a year old. Great facilities and good setup from a practice standpoint. It’s a place where I’ve always thought could be really good. Growing up in southern California and being down there, to get those kids to stay home and to go to that school and live in that city – it’s a great place to go. I always thought they could be pretty good and Rocky (Long) has done a tremendous job here kind of picking up right where Brady (Hoke) left off. They’ve done a nice job and they’ve got that thing going in the right direction for sure.”
On how game day changes for them because they do travel to CenturyLink: “I think we’ll be fine, I don’t think it’ll be an issue. This will be the fourth time doing the game there – from the Apple Cup last year to the spring game to the mock game this fall camp and now going there again – it just feels normal to our guys now. I don’t see it as an issue.”
On how hungry the team is going to game day: “I use the analogy earlier in training camp about the dogs on the porch and keeping them on the leash and then letting them off the leash… they were all kind of barking today about wanting to get off the porch and off the leash and let ’em go. I think they are excited. It’s like anybody…anytime you keep banging heads with the same guy across from you, you’re just kind of excited to go play somebody else. The key for us is to…I know we’ll be pumped up, I know we’ll be excited. But we need to be smart and we need to play smart football, something we’ve been stressing since Day One of this training camp, and not let our emotions get the best of us – especially early in the ball game. Play really smart football, whether that be scheme-wise, attitude-wise, the penalty stuff after plays – we just have to play smart football early on and then let the game come to us as we go – and I think we’ll be able to do that.”
On anything they can take from last year’s opener: “I just thought in general we might have spent ourselves a little too much in the buildup to the game and I don’t know if we had the right type of energy and enthusiasm that I’m accustomed to our team having once the game kicked off, so we’ll try to monitor that a little bit better and build to kickoff rather than exhaust ourselves before the game even begins. And I think we can generate some of that ourselves and continue to be aggressive. We were a bit conservative last year early on – obviously new quarterback and trying to find our way – so from the opening snap we’re going to try and be us and stay aggressive, whether that’s offense, defense or special teams.”
On Price having more on his plate at the end of last year: “Yeah, we got into it much more with the no huddle stuff about half-way through the year and then late into the year a lot and quite extensively in the bowl game. We’re going to continue down that path. He’s such a bright kid and he has such a high football IQ that he gives us that ability to do that type of stuff. It’s a nice luxury to have.”
On moving Erik Kohler around: “A little bit remains to be seen. I have to see how he plays. Micah Hatchie is going to play, Ben Riva is going to play for the first time really playing football. Micah has gotten in a little bit more…we have to see how it looks and how it plays out. There will be a lot of conversations on the headsets about where we’re at and how we’re doing – if a guy needs a spell or not. So a little of that remains to be seen. It’s definitely a topic of discussion for us – it’s on the table and it’ll remain on the table throughout the ballgame.”
On dressing fewer players because of playing at CenturyLink: “We’re a little limited locker space-wise. They don’t have nearly as many lockers as we’re accustomed to, so we won’t be able to dress the entire team. We’ll dress probably upwards of about 80 of the 105.”
On the defensive line depth: “I think we’re great. I love the depth we have up front on defense – on the d-line. We have some guys that are playing service team that three years ago may be starting for us. So we’re in the right place as far as the numbers are concerned and staying fresh for four quarters and not having to exhaust guys early in the game. I feel good about that.”
On Jamora and Cooper’s surgeries today: “Yeah. One should be done and one should be starting pretty soon.”