Coach's Corner

What can you say about spring football? It's about getting reps, particularly for your younger kids, in order to develop them fundamentally in accordance with their position areas. It's basics, to be sure - but it's extremely important to have repetitions in anything you do in athletics. Practice is all about the reps.

Steve Sarkisian has noted how these last two 'scrimmages' were supposed to be around 100 plays each. That's a ton of reps! Even during practices where they aren't in full pads, they'll probably run 30 or so plays of 'live' action, so the amount of work the Huskies are getting this spring is impressive.

The most positive about this spring for me is seeing how the team's understanding of the system has made practices quicker and more efficient. The coaches don't have to spend as much time explaining what they are doing. The kids know the drills. They understand what they are doing, and most importantly when, where, and how to do it. They've been with the exact same coaches for three springs now and that shows in the older players. They are at the front of lines now and are helping the youngsters. Tempo is still high, but this team knows what it's doing now.

Here are some observations after four weeks of spring in the books and what jumps out at me from the offensive personnel standpoint. Simply put - they are going to run the football, because of their stable of running backs and the emergence of the tight end position.

The quarterback situation will play itself out, and before it's all said and done, I think both Keith Price and Nick Montana will play next fall. They are both improving, but have a long way to go to be ready to win a championship. They have worked particularly hard on the short and intermediate routes this spring, including dumps to the backs, hooks or comebacks to the wideouts and lots of action to the tight ends. They have also worked the play-action passes, the screen passes, and the "hot" passes. Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach Doug Nussmeier is working the quarterbacks really hard, and they are getting lots of reps simply because of the organization of practice.

Both quarterbacks have taken turns with the number one offense all spring and will continue to do so through fall camp. Montana looks better to me in the pocket, while Price seems to be better when things break down.

Price has some of the quickest feet of any quarterback I've ever seen at Washington. Once he goes live during games, it looks like he will be able to scramble for first downs. During spring the quarterbacks are essentially off limits to contact, but lots of times when they blow the early whistle, Price would probably have gotten away from the tackler. He can make you miss.

The running back situation is solid, even though the fullback position looks questionable. The benefit of finally having some big tight ends is that they can be used two or three at a time, and in those personnel groupings you really don't need a fullback.

Zach Fogerson appeared to be the leader at fullback early in the spring, but has not played since sustaining a concussion. Former walk-on Jonathan Amosa from Rainier Beach, has been the starter since and seems solid on his blocking fits. He's a former linebacker, so he knows what the defense is going to do, and that has helped him adjust to the other side of the ball.

The running back position has a star in Chris Polk. He's been the one true constant this spring. He is a War Daddy, and he is preparing to be the Huskies' workhorse this fall. We should expect him to carry the rock over 20 times per game, and in doing so carry this team to a winning record. Polk will have a great supporting cast, but if he has his way he'd rather take all the carries himself.

Sophomore Jesse Callier was super on the fly sweep last year and proved he can play. Johri Fogerson has worked his tail off this spring, and if he clears his legal hurdles will be a perfect compliment to Polk. Fogerson brings a totally different look to the position. Polk is such a contact runner, and Fogerson is more of a slider who is as good at catching as he is running.

Polk, Callier, and Fogerson will be joined in the fall by Deontae Cooper, who looks awesome in practice even though he is still sporting a knee brace. The good thing is that it's not the kind of knee brace you'd see on a lineman. It's a smaller one, which means he's right on track in his recovery. Cooper has worked hard at coming back from knee surgery and has been limited to no contact this spring but he looks special to me and I can't believe he is not going to become big time college back someday. He is just so fluid and light on his feet that he too will bring something unique to the table.

This fall you also add incoming freshman Bishop Sankey to the mix, so that's five good backs with one of them, Polk, being a sledgehammer.

Hammers are good for pounding.

Two walk-on running backs - Cole Sager and Willis Wilson - probably got as many reps as any of the backs this spring, and may play their way onto special teams.

There lots of depth at receiver and lots of youth in the offensive line and both groups are getting lots and lots of reps. Working on things like steps and hand placement can never be over-emphasized.

The only question at wide receiver now is - who will be giving up minutes to Kasen Williams when he arrives in the fall? There is no question Williams will play and there is also no doubt that senior Jermaine Kearse will have a monster year. All Kearse has to do is hang on to the football, and he will certainly be one of the big-play artists for this team and one of the leading receivers in the new Pac-12 Conference. He's been a top receiver in the league the last two years, and that shouldn't change this fall.

It's apparent that Kearse and Polk will again be the focus of the offense on this team, and both are poised to have great senior years. Kearse is joined at receiver by fellow seniors Devin Aguilar and Cody Bruns, along with Kevin Smith and James Johnson.

That's five experienced receivers, and they all are familiar with the system. I'm not convinced any of them has big-time top-end speed, but Kearse and Smith are real strong to the ball and Aguilar, Bruns, and Johnson know how to get open. All have worked really hard on their blocking, and it shows downfield on every long run the offense breaks. Besides these five, there are at least four others who could help down the road, like DiAndre Campbell - for example. That isn't even counting Williams, or the other three incoming freshmen receivers. That's great depth.

The tight end situation is probably the one position on the team where there has been the most noticeable change. There are now six kids competing, but make no mistake - Austin Seferian-Jenkins is going to be big time, as soon as he learns how to block consistently. Catching up to Michael Hartvigson as a blocker is all Seferian-Jenkins needs to do to become a starter as a true freshman. The two of them, along with Evan Hudson, have changed the face of the Husky offense just by showing up. There will be a presence in the middle of the field now and I expect the tight end position will become a big part of the offense. Considering it was non-existent last year, they have nowhere to go but up.

Another tight end, Marlion Barnett, changed his number around going from 18 to 81, and has added at least 15 pounds to his frame. Walk-ons Marek Domanski, at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, and Cameron Salley, at 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, both have shown they will help the team on scout duty. Salley has showed some soft hands in drills. But the brunt of the playing time will go still go to Hartvigson and Seferian-Jenkins, who both should weigh 255-260 pounds by fall.

The offensive line has taken a few hits this spring, with left tackle Senio Kelemete sitting out the past two weeks and Ben Riva, a freshman, missing this past week of practice. Kelemete is a proven player, and will likely be the best lineman this coming season. He is bigger and stronger than ever, and should be an all-conference player come fall.

Sophomore Erik Kohler moved over from right tackle to replace Kelemete at left tackle and that allowed for Riva and senior Skyler Fancher to compete for the right tackle position. Both should be more ready in the wings because Kohler will probably move back to the right when Kelemete returns. Kohler has also played some left guard this spring when Kelemete and Riva have been healthy, so he just might become their most versatile lineman in the fall. It's going to be hard to keep him off the field, because he is extremely talented.

The interior spots on the offensive line will be manned by junior Drew Schaefer at center and sophomore Colin Porter at right guard. Schaefer appears to be the leader of the offensive line. He started there last year, so he should be even bigger and stronger by this August. Porter could be another Benji Olson, and will only get better as he matures in the system. Redshirt freshman Colin Tanigawa, who gained some weight in the off-season and has had a solid spring, appears to be the front-runner to replaced the graduated Ryan Tolar at left guard. As a whole, the offensive line looks bigger and more fit than they were a year ago.

Dan Kanczugowski, who played some tight end last fall, appears to be one of the first back-ups, along with Riva and Fancher. This will allow Offensive Line Coach Dan Cozzetto to mix and match his players, with support help coming from Mike Criste, Micah Hatchie, and James Atoe, who all red-shirted this past year.

Veteran Nick Wood, who has also missed the whole spring due to injury, will return in the fall and will provide a full two-deep. Although the Huskies only signed two offensive linemen in this last recruiting class, I would anticipate them signing 5-7 prospects next year. Right now, there appears to be substantial depth to get through next season.

Because the Husky coaches are now in their third season together, the offense should be good enough for the quarterback situation to play itself out and still win football games. Remember, its league play that counts most, and this offense should be clicking by the time California rolls into Husky Stadium at the end of September.


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