Tuesday Practice Report

It's the classic conundrum when a team practices against itself; whenever something good happens on one side of the ball, that usually means a breakdown on the other side. And vise-versa. Steve Sarkisian pointed that out first thing Tuesday during his post-practice press conference at Husky Stadium after UW had concluded their second practice of fall.

"I thought our defense's ability to get around the football today was really evident," Sarkisian said. "Did a nice job of punching balls out, they got their hands on balls in the passing game…a couple of interceptions, and even a couple more that we didn't catch…but we got our hands on the ball today. That was really encouraging. I was a little discouraged by the fact that our exchange between quarterback and center today, for whatever reason, came into play. And that can always put a little bit of a damper on practice, but overall I liked the intensity, the enthusiasm, guys brought it again today. We've just got to clean up that quarterback-center exchange and keep practice moving along."

With players like Colin Porter and freshman Siosifa Tufunga taking snaps from under center, Washington is trying to get as many linemen reps with the ball in their hands. "It's just a little bit of an adjustment," added Sarkisian. "We have a young kid at center in Sifa (Siosifa Tufunga), who hadn't done that before, so it was a little bit of an adjustment. A little bit of an adjustment is the fact that Colin Porter normally plays guard and we're working him as a backup at center behind Drew (Schaefer). It was the same play that Keith and Drew had, the fumble exchange on, it was actually the same type of play, so there's something in the mechanics there. When Drew's going left, Keith has to go left with him, so we just have to work through that."

Danny Shelton fell on at least one of the fumbled exchanges, and Sarkisian was quick to point the 6-foot-1, 334-pound freshman defensive tackle from Auburn as one of a handful of first-year players that stood out Tuesday.

"Marcus Peters, I thought he did some real nice things today," Sarkisian said. "Bishop Sankey showed up again today running the football and doing what he's doing. He's very tuned into it. I liked Tani Tupou and Danny Shelton again today. And with Austin (Seferian-Jenkins) and Kasen (Williams), they are getting a lot of opportunities, but there's also part of the frustration factor. We knew that would be there. We just have to get through these growing pains to the point where they'll be comfortable, and right now they're not comfortable yet with what we're doing. But we'll keep throwing them out there, they'll be OK."

With regard to Seferian-Jenkins, Sarkisian noted that the 15 practices the 6-foot-6, 258-pound tight end from Gig Harbor was able to take part in this past spring has really sped up his learning curve. "For him that was practice number 17 compared to these other guys for whom it's practice number two," Sarkisian said. "But these other kids will catch him over time, that's natural. But I just think in general his comfort level, not only on the field but just in general in meetings and with the team is just accelerated compared to the other guys."

Sarkisian isn't worried about the high expectations that come with being a five-star, can't miss prospect. "He's a really humble young man," he said of Seferian-Jenkins. "Great work ethic, great want to. It matters to him from within, not perception. So I'm not concerned about that. But you don't try to put everything on him. You allow him to be a kid and make his mistakes but be demanding and coach him but not expect him to be the guy that has to score two touchdowns the first week to win. Just be part of the team and do your job when you're called upon."

Part of his job will be blocking, something he didn't have to worry about much with the Tides. Most of the time he was split out wide, just bulldozing his way through smaller defenders on the edges. "I think it's somewhat of a curve just because he wasn't asked to do that as much in high school," Sarkisian said. "But to his credit he's been very willing. It's not like he doesn't want to do it. It's the fundamentals. He's a great athlete and he has the ability to use the techniques and the fundamentals but all the sudden you get into the heat of the battle and Hau'oli Jamora is lined up across from you or Talia Crichton or Everrette Thompson and those fundamentals get thrown out the window. So when we can get him honed into those techniques and those fundamentals, he'll be fine."

Speaking of Thompson, Sarkisian had nothing but praise for the senior defensive lineman from Burien. He's been working inside with Alameda Ta'amu, while Crichton and Jamora have been causing headaches for the tackles. But Sarkisian is always looking for options, and the youngsters are stepping up. "Right now when we go with those four guys to kick things off, Everrette and Alameda inside and Talia and Hau'oli off the edges, that's the way we've been starting off," he said. "But there was actually a time today where we used Danny Shelton some at defensive tackle next to Alameda and moved Everrette outside, and some of that stuff will change when we get Sione and Semisi back, but for now when the first guys go, those are the four guys that are out there."

It's also been noticeable that Crichton, the true junior from Lakewood, Calif., is back and fully healthy for the first time in what seems like a while. "This is the best I've seen him play since I've been here," Sarkisian said of Crichton. "He's being aggressive, physical. His motor is as high as I've seen it. He's doing a nice job."

The Huskies will go in shells Wednesday, the first of two NCAA-mandated lighter-pads practices before they can engage in a full-pads practice - expected to take place Saturday night. "It'll be good for us," Sarkisian said of the move away from just shirts and shorts. "We'll stay up. It's not full pads, just tops…but it'll be good for the line of scrimmage, for the o and d-linemen especially. They get their shoulders banged up when there's no pads on. That'll be good, and it'll be good for our special teams work as well when you can get pads on."

Sarkisian said it will be a couple of before he gets a true sense of where the newcomers are at and when he starts to make decisions on which players will redshirt, and which ones will play. "I like to allow these guys to scrimmage, to really play football," he said. "Sometimes, as much as we try to make practice as game-like as we can, you don't really see the complete football player until you see them scrimmage. Especially on the defensive side of the ball when you have to tackle, and the offensive side of the ball when you have to get tackled and what happens to them. We'll be able to do that after a couple of scrimmages."

Injury Report: "I think Sione (Potoae) is very close, we are hopeful that he is really going to be going, going by the end of the week," Sarkisian said of the sophomore DT from Lakes. "Semisi (Tokolahi) might be a little bit behind him and Taz (Stevenson) is realistically to go full go probably about a week out." Frosh safety Evan Zeger was doing stairs and what he could to rehab his hamstring injury, but Sarkisian didn't give a timetable for his return.

Academics Update: "No update yet on the academic guys, hopefully sooner rather than later, you want your whole roster, your whole squad out here as quickly as you can get it," Sarkisian said. Junior College transfer Antavius Sims is presumably waiting for grades to post before he can officially enroll, while Marvin Hall and Kyle Lewis are currently working through the NCAA Clearinghouse.

Position Switches: There were two position switches on offense today. The first was senior OT Skyler Fancher, who moved inside to right guard. "We moved him into guard today, give him an opportunity in there to see what he looks like," Sarkisian said of Fancher. "He's a real big body, he's strong, he's powerful, and I just think he's a little more suited in there. You get out on that edge and there's so much speed, so much of a speed factor…if you can get a big body, a powerful body like him inside, it might suit him better. But we'll have to look at the film. It allows Ben Riva a few more reps at right tackle, which is what we wanted to do as well."

The second position switch was Nick Holt, who moved from linebacker to fullback. He actually made the move Monday, but the switch was seemingly sealed by a change in jersey color from the white of the defense to the purple of the offense. "He's a bright kid," Sarkisian said of Holt, the son of Defensive Coordinator Nick Holt. "Any time you're the son of a coach, that helps. You can move around. Have to look at the film, and his assessment will be more of when he has pads on and what the contact looks like, but he's going to all the right places - and that's the first step."

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