Yet another round of questions and answers. …
Q: Did any of the recruits enter in time for spring ball?
A: Two will be available for all of spring practice — QB Troy Williams and safety Trevor Walker, who enrolled in January. Another, PK Cameron Van Winkle, plans to enroll in time for the beginning of spring quarter and participate in the final nine practices. The other 19 are not scheduled to arrive until the summer.
Q: Are any changes being made this year to reduce the likelihood of knee injuries? Shoes? Surface? Training? Taping/Braces?
A: I have not heard of any but that will be something to ask when the team returns to the field in March. UW coach Steve Sarkisian did say last fall that they would evaluate everything to see if there was a common thread to the injuries of last season. Worth noting, though, that a couple happened on the grass field at LSU, one at CenturyLink where the Seahawks play, a few others on the UW practice field which is the same surface as CenturyLink. etc. I’m not sure the surface is going to have turned out to be an issue given that grass and FieldTurf are basically the two most common surfaces these days. And after the initial run of injuries early, UW actually went the last few months of the season with relatively few significant issues. From the Portland State game on, UW did not have to make a change to the starting lineup on offense due to injury. And UW really had only two full-time defensive starters miss any real time to injuries suffered during the season. But as noted at the beginning of the answer, that will be a good question to ask once the team returns to the field next month.
Q: Does Sark or anyone in his staff ever do coaching clinics? I just saw Mike Leach speak at one in Seattle and read some transcripts from Chip Kelly doing the same.
A: Yes. Sarkisian often speaks at various clinics — here’s a listing of a couple he was scheduled to do for Nike this year. UW also hosts its own clinic every year during spring practice, a tradition that actually goes back to at least the Jim Lambright era. Here are the details on this year’s clinic.
Q: Which coach do you think will end up having the biggest impact on the Pac-12 next year?
A: I assumed that this question referred to incoming coaches, of which there are three in the Pac-12 this year —- Sonny Dykes at Cal, Mark Helfrich at Oregon and Mike MacIntyre at Colorado. Each has such differing situations that it’s going to be hard to really compare them accurately. Helfrich will be expected to keep Oregon at a national title-contending status — lofty expectations for any coach, let alone a first-year coach. Dykes takes over a Cal team that appears to have enough talent to immediately get back to the post-season — seven home games might help. The big question for Cal will be finding a quarterback. MacIntyre, meanwhile, has what looks like a pretty hefty rebuilding project on his hands — anything more than two or three wins next season will be a success.
Q: Given the problems in pass blocking last season, who do you see as in a position to provide depth behind Micah Hatchie & Ben Riva? Or maybe compete for playing time?
A: No question the offensive line looms as a key position to watch during spring and fall drills given the issues of last season. Hatchie started all 13 games last season at left tackle, and Riva started every game when he was healthy — which was eight. Obviously, coaches believed they were their best options last season and I would imagine each will still be at the top of the depth chart heading into the spring. But the Huskies will be looking for more consistency out of those spots, and one hope will be that Hatchie and Riva each improve now having a year of experience.
The listed backup to Hatchie at the end of the year was Dexter Charles, who started the last 11 games at left guard. The listed backup to Riva was James Atoe, who started three games there when Riva was injured. But the spring is a time for experimenting and lots of other players are sure to get looks at those spots. Jake Eldrenkamp was used extensively at left tackle during the bowl practices and undoubtedly will get a long look there during the spring. Mike Criste also started one game last year at right tackle and could be used there again this season if coaches decide they have other options at guard — the expected eventual return of the injured Colin Tanigawa and Erik Kohler should open up lots of additional options. Kohler started at right tackle against LSU before being injured and could figure in the equation at either tackle spot, if/when healthy.
With everyone back except Drew Schaefer, there will be no shortage of bodies and options this season. I’d expect to read/hear about a lot of different alignments up front well into fall camp as UW searches for the right combination.
Q: Any word if we can see any of the spring practices?
A: So far, there is no additional word from UW on whether any practices other than the Spring Game on April 20 at 4 p.m. at Memorial Stadium will be open. UW said it would have more information on that at some point, but it has yet to release that info. I will pass it along on here when it becomes available.