Highlights from Steve Sarkisian‘s Monday press conference:
— LB John Timu, UW’s leading tackler in 2012, “should be fine” to play Saturday against Arizona, Sarkisian said. Timu sat out the Idaho State game after suffering a shoulder injury a week earlier against Illinois. Thomas Tutogi made his first start in Timu’s place at middle linebacker. That UW didn’t miss a beat speaks to its defensive depth, Sarkisian said. “A year ago, I don’t know if we could afford for him to sit out,” he said.
— RB Bishop Sankey reiterated that he’s fine after bruising his shoulder in the victory over Idaho State.
— Senior DB Taz Stevenson, a key special teams performer for UW last year, is out for the season after having shoulder surgery. He’s believed to be the first player lost to a season-ending injury for UW, which has been relatively healthy so far, particularly compared to this point a year ago. “We’re in great shape,” Sarkisian said, crediting much of the team’s health on how well players are practicing daily.
— The loss to Arizona last season, with the Wildcats pulling away for a 52-17 victory, was a tipping point for Sarkisian in realizing that he needed to remake his offense, which would, in theory, help the UW defense be better conditioned to face the various Pac-12 no-huddle team. “I felt like Arizona’s tempo got us, and this is part of the reason we’re doing what we’re doing offensively is to prepare for this game,” he said, “so that when teams go to this up-tempo style against us, we don’t become uncomfortable on defense. We remain comfortable. It’s an arena that we’re used to being in, we’re used to excelling in, so this up-tempo style people are playing in is really the norm now … and you better be ready to defend it or what happened to us a year ago there will happen to you.
— Arizona QB B.J. Denker is “a scrappy guy” who, like Sarkisian, is from Torrance, Calif. Denker has more rushing attempts this season (40 for 224 yards and 5 TDs) than passes completed (31 of 55). “He’s really fast — really, really fast. They lean a little bit more on his legs than they (last year) did with Matt Scott,” Sarkisian said.
— CB Marcus Peters “is playing extremely well” against both the pass and run. Sarkisian called Peters one of the best tacklers on the team.
— Sarkisian said he’s “proud” of the defense overall through three games, noting improvements in tackling and “all areas.”
— QB Keith Price is completely 77 percent of his passes (67 of 87, with at least eight throw-aways), and Sarkisian said people tend to overlook Price’s accuracy because a lot of the throws are on bubble screens or other short passes. “His preparation is tremendous,” Sarkisian said. “He know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”
— C Mike Criste has been one of the “most pleasant” surprises on the team so far.
— UW coaches decided last Tuesday to give freshman DE Marcus Farria his first chance to play in a game Saturday. Farria was the scout team player of the week leading up to the Illinois game. ”He’s a handful for our guys on offense with the scout team,” Sarkisian said. “And he came out Tuesday and had another really good practice, so we said, ‘We’ve got to find a role for this guy.’ He’s a very physical guy; he’s extremely quick-twitched; he’s explosive coming off the edge, and I think he can help us.”