Sark has to see it to believe it

Heading onto Saturday's game against Eastern Washington University, Husky Head Coach Steve Sarkisian is optimistic, while still maintaining a wait-and-see attitude. Coach Sark loves the high-level depth he's accumulated almost everywhere on the field, which has been made apparent by tough position battles from wide receiver to punter.

He loves the promise shown by the freshmen, redshirt freshmen, and inexperienced sophomores during fall camp. He loves the makeup of his team - physical, fast, competitive – and way that they've come together around new quarterback Keith Price, another youngster.

But he can't be sure his optimism is grounded in reality until he sees it replicated against EWU.

"The biggest [question] is - who are we on game day. Who is this 2011 Husky football team when you come out of the tunnel, thousands of people are in the stands, the lights are on…who are we? Are we the same team that we were on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday? Or do we change, and I have to tweak that? The goal is, we don't change. We're that team. I think that's who we are, but the biggest question is - until that happens on Saturday, that's my biggest question mark," Sarkisian said during Monday's press conference.

"I don't envision that happening. I don't think we'll ever talk that way, but you've seen it a lot of times with teams - sometimes you put on the real uniform it can change a little bit. I'm hopeful that won't occur - and I believe it won't occur. But until I actually get a chance to see it, it remains to be seen," he said.

His concern has merit: None of the true freshmen have ever played in front of 30,000 -plus fans, let alone the 55,000 expected at Husky Stadium in 24 hours. And while they've experienced it from the sidelines, the redshirt freshmen haven't experienced it on the field either.

Washington lists 16 players on its two-deep depth chart who have yet to appreciate playing at the FBS level: Eleven on offense - three of whom will start, and five on defense, with the one starter being true freshman John Timu at outside linebacker.

That's not to say it's automatically a bad thing to have youngsters play, especially not this year - when the competitiveness in camp has reached a level where everyone is being pushed for their spot. The kids who have places in the depth have certainly earned it with their play during the spring and fall, but you can never be sure until you watch them reproduce that form during a real live game.

Senior defensive lineman Everrette Thompson spoke for the defense in saying that practice will carry over to game time. "I think our coaches do a great job of preparing us and we're going to do fine under the lights. If we practice well, practice hard like we're coached up to do, we're going to do just fine," he said. "Some of the guys that have been there, maybe that have redshirted and you haven't seen played, you're going to see them step up in that game. You're going to see, just different names throwing out there like [John] Timu or [Princeton] Fuimaono, some of the young linebackers out there, and it's going to be fun."

For the coaching staff, the old adage rings true: You have to see it to believe it.

Even at the most important position on the field - manned by Price - Sarkisian doesn't quite know what he'll get against the defending FCS National Champion Eagles.

"[Keith's] grown up in this system, and it's a real good credit to Doug Nussmeier in training this guy," said Sarkisian. "From where he was the first day of training camp his freshman year to where he is now, he's been fantastic. Now, again, just the other positions I've talked about, sometimes on game days that doesn't always translate with guys. They can be great in practice, great in the meeting room -- all that stuff. Then all of a sudden here comes the game and it has to translate.

"So that's the little bit of the unknown."

While acknowledging the potential for disappointment, Sarkisian is confident that Price will be able to handle the pressure of game day.

"He's done nothing to show us or tell us that he's going to be that way," he said of Price, matter-of-factly.

Price is sleeping well this week, so he'll be able to put to bed any questions about his ability to produce on Saturdays. "I'm ready, I'm excited, and I can't wait. I'm too ready, I'm anxious. It's exciting playing at home in front of our home fans. It's going to be fun, I can't wait," he said.

All Husky can do now is to hurry up, get a good night's rest, and then wait and see.


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