Couple quick notes from UW practice this morning:
— Sarkisian is hopeful senior safety Will Shamburger, another L.A. native, can return vs. UCLA on Friday night. Sarkisian hasn’t confirmed a specific injury.
— True freshman Kevin King made his first career start in Shamburger’s place against Colorado last week and drew solid reviews despite getting beat deep by Colorado standout receiver Paul Richardson on the Buffs’ lone touchdown.
— Justin Wilcox and the UW defensive staff have been preaching turnovers a lot in practice the last few weeks, and they’re hopeful three takeaways in the third quarter against Colorado are a sign of more to come. Sarkisian, in fact, has challenged the team to finish the regular-season with a plus-10 turnover margin. The Huskies are at plus-5 right now.
— It appears that the Huskies will again wear their shiny chrome gold helmets. They debut those against Arizona at home and wore them again the next week.
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The transcript of Sarkisian’s availability after practice today:
(Typical Thursday-type practice?) Yeah, it was great. I thought the guys were energized, pretty crisp. It was a good practice.
(Do you get a heightened sense from the SoCal kids because they are going home?) I don’t think so. You’d have to ask them. They see the opportunity for our football team. I’m sure it’s nice to get an opportunity to go home and play in front of some friends and family but for the majority of these guys their friends and family come up here to see them anyway. I think they are just excited for the opportunity for our team.
(What kind of challenges does UCLA present?) We haven’t seen them in a couple of years. Their personnel we have assess as the game goes on. We know they are a physically gifted team on film, a very big front seven on the defense, a lot of good athletes on offense. And they are very well coached in all three phases. So they pose a lot of challenges but I think ones we have some things that can combat that.
(Is there a possibility Will Shamburger will play?) Yeah there is.
(A good possibility?) A possibility.
(With the stats not really favoring one team, is it the classic matchup where a turnover or special teams could decide it?) I think these are two good football teams getting ready to play. In a lot of the key stats we are very similar. If you talk about turnover margin I think we are both plus-5. Third-down conversion rates we’re at 50 and they are at 50, 51 percent. Defensively we’re at 37 or so and they are at 35. Red-zone efficiency is very similar. The stats, in our opinion, that matter in the game, and we are very close. We both get penalized a lot too so we’ll see who gets penalized in this game. I think these are two good football teams that are getting ready to play. I think in these types of games execution is paramount. I think the football is paramount, and ultimately the team that can make the play at the critical moment is going to be vitally important.”
(Any other goals besides the turnover goal that you’ve set for the team in terms of stats?) 4-0 in November. That’s the biggest one. The best way for us to get there is if we can finish November plus-10 in the turnover margin. We have our work cut out for us. We started plus-2; we got three against Colorado, so we’re on our way. I think that piece of the game, that portion — to be able to continue to take care of it offensively and create turnovers on defense will be the biggest component to our success these final three games.
(Do you defend Hundley similar to how you tried to defend Marcus Mariota?) I think so. They are similar in some respects. They are a little bit different. Brett is a big, strong guy. He can break tackles, kind of throw guys off of him. Our approach is different because the schemes are a little bit different, but yet the end result is – we better have our eyes on the quarterback, especially in the third and long situations where Marcus really hurt us here. Third and 10, he pulls the ball down and runs for 12, extends the drive. Those plays are going to be big for us.
(You didn’t blitz much against Oregon. Are there different things you can do?) I think so. The schemes are different. What UCLA tries to do is pretty different than what Oregon would do. I know they are both no-huddle shotgun teams but when you really look at the intricacies of what they do they are different. I think we felt like, in that game, we wanted to keep our eyes on Marcus. That’s why we were dropping a lot of eight-man drops, trying to have guys on him – we couldn’t catch him very good obviously, especially in the third-and-longs. We’re going to have to mix it up against Brett. He’s a really good player. He’s smart. I think Noel Mazzone is an excellent offensive coordinator. If you just stay in the same thing they’ll get after you, they’ll pick you apart. So we’re going to have to have some variety.)
(On the road woes and finding consistency) I think we’ve played some pretty good teams on the road. I think that’s probably the first thing. When you play good teams and then if you don’t perform to your standard you can get beat. I think the biggest thing for us is, whether it’s this game or any game here or anywhere else is – play to our standard, playing with our energy, our enthusiasm, our physicality, the speed in which we like to operate – all those things are important, whether it’s right here, at the Rose Bowl, or Reser (Stadium) next week. It’s our ability to play to our standard and our brand of football.
(With regard to the plus-10 turnover goal, have you ever been a part of a team that did that?) I don’t know. We started at plus-two, so we had a little bit of a head start. It is a lofty goal, but we have to set goals high here. When you achieve them, you achieve some great things along the way. It is a lofty one, but I think we can get there.
(on progress of John Ross) I think John came in, he was a very mature kid. Really good head on his shoulders. Wants to be great. And he works at it. I think he’s got a high football IQ. He’s a guy that is much more comfortable in the system and the details we’re demanding of him in the system, and I think he understands that. Obviously, him catching the ball, running the ball, the return game — he’s a guy that can have an impact on any game, and we’re hopeful he has an impact Friday night.
(Did you think during recruiting that Ross would be able to have an immediate impact?) Yeah. I’d been recruiting him for years. It was probably a three-year process. … He’s always been very mature, and he’s always been really fast. You’re starting to see his body mature now, just some of the short amount of lifting he’s done with us in the summer and fall. I think his best days are ahead of him — in a year or two years from now he’s really going to be elite because he’ll be even stronger. But he is fast and, like I said, I think he can have an impact on every game we play.
(on Sean Parker) Somebody brought up to me, I think Sean now is in the top 10 in career interceptions here at the University of Washington, and that’s pretty big. If you think about some of the great DBs that have played here over the years. … This guy’s been a complete player. I think so many times we look at him and see his big hits and think, ‘Oh, Sean’s a big hitter in the secondary.’ Well, he’s got 11 career interceptions now, 10 or 11. He’s an emotional leader on this team — he gets really fired up, he’s excited to play. What I’m proud of (for him), is he’s going to graduate from the University of Washington, he’s going to go on and have an opportunity to extend his career at the next level and when that’s done, I think he’s going to come out of here with this four-year experience as a better person, somebody who came here and had the potential to be great, and I think that he’s achieved it. I’m proud of him, because I think he’s come a long way in four years.
(on Marvin Hall) Marvin’s confidence is improving. Obviously in the punt return game, he’s catching the ball. He caught a few passes last week, which is important for us. He’s a real speed guy. As with any guy making the transition from being a maybe not a player to a sometime player (and) now a full-time guy, it’s the consistency — it’s the consistency doing it every single day in practice so that it carries over to the game. And that’s something Marvin’s working on right now.
(on Kevin Smith) I couldn’t have asked for more than what Kevin Smith has given us this year. He’s just had a fantastic senior season. He’s probably top two or three guys on the team of just my favorite guys. You have those guys — the team knows it. You just have certain guys that you get around. I value his opinion on a lot of issues with the team. I think he’s got a great pulse for our locker room. He comes to practice every single day with an amazing mindset that he is going to embrace the opportunity today. Maybe that’s because of the knee injury a year ago and struggling to get back into it; maybe it’s because it’s his senior year and all that; and maybe it’s just because it’s the opportunity to play college football. Whatever it is, he’s just got a great attitude every single day. So I’m happy for him. I hope he goes and plays lights out Friday night. He’s a guy that didn’t play a lot of high school football. He came here and has just gotten better and better and better, and for his sake I hope he plays lights out Friday night.
(Do you remember seeing him for the first time in high school?) I do. I remember going to his high school game. He was a strong, physical guy that didn’t know everything, the nuances of the game, but he played hard. And he had fun playing — you could see it then. He had fun playing the game.
(on Keith Price and his legacy) Keith has an opportunity to walk out of here as one of the greats. The numbers already tell us that. But he has a chance here this month of November — like this team — to have a chance to really define his career. He can’t do it all at once. You don’t get to his a four-game winning streak, home-run pass on one play. It’s consistency, it’s doing it right, it’s preparation, and that’s what he does. He’s in a great frame of mind right now; I think he’s playing really good football. I thought the character he showed battling through the thumb injury and the tough game at Arizona State, to bounce back and play the way he has the last two weeks, he’s setting himself up for a great run to finish his career.