Sarkisian talks about Day Nine

SEATTLE - Steve Sarkisian spoke with the media Wednesday morning about UW's upcoming Saturday practice at Memorial Stadium, who is making moves on both sides of the ball, and practicing with more physicality and hitting this spring.

Memorial Stadium an annual thing now. why? - "I kind of like it. Gives us a chance to embrace Seattle, you know. You get downtown. You get under the Space Needle and you get a chance to play. Just the environment. It breaks up spring ball, with the stands and all that. I know our guys get excited about it. I know our fans do. Again, it's a chance to embrace Seattle and to get down there."

What kind of practice will Saturday be? - "Oh, we're going through it. We still need to work things from a situational standpoint. So we'll have our special-teams phases involved as far broken up into it. There will be moments where it will be live scrimmage atmosphere, and there will be moments where there is more of a 'thud tempo.' So it will be broken up pretty good. We'll try to give our guys as many opportunity as we can to play live football, but we have to monitor that so that we get the guys who aren't full contact in there playing and getting their opportunities as well."

Is it different this year at Memorial since you can't bring fans out here to every-day practice? - "Oh, I think it's great. And the forecast looks good. We are hopeful that we get a great turnout. I know our kids are excited. They are talking about it and are looking forward to it."

On doing more 'man-beater' drills - "One thing we have really tried to emphasize this spring is tackling, to become a better tackling team. And, two, really a better fundamentally sound blocking football team. And then third, becoming more accountable individually to your teammates. So we are putting kind of spotlight in a lot of one-on-one opportunities as a team, really seeing who is battling and competing and who is winning and losing, and who is doing things the right way -- and who's not. We are getting a lot out of these opportunities. It's a little different format than we've used in the past. It's been new, but the effects of it so far have been really positive. And the outcome's been really good."

It's just another way to keep score? - "It's a way to keep score. It's a way to keep guys accountable. But also really focus in on the fundamentals and techniques that are needed to win. Sometimes there's 11 guys going every snap and sometimes it's hard to see the exact hand placement of a guy or if he's using the right footwork or using the proper technique when he's trying to block a gunner and different things in the special teams game as well as the offensive-defensive game. We've really tried to spotlight that and I think its brought out a lot of our competitive nature in our guys. We are seeing them battle. We are seeing them compete. We are seeing them have fun competing, which is what this about. In the end result, I think we are getting better for it because guys have to focus on the fundamentals and proper techniques to win because if not they get exposed in front of their peers."

On Erik Kohler playing some center - "We are always trying just to develop guys. You never know. The worst case scenario is we get into a ball game and two centers go down and we have to have a contingency plan if that did occur. And if that did, we are just trying to get a third center prepared so that if – knock on wood it doesn't happen – we have a third guy that has snapped before and understands what needs to be done at the center position."

What is Kohler's best position - "I think guard would be the best thing for him. He's been exposed to quite a bit, obviously playing some guard his first year and getting out to tackle last year. So they experience of being a guard and being able to communicate really well and utilize his strengths. He's a big guy, a physical guy and I just think that fits him better as well."

On using Nate Fellner at linebacker - "We are doing some different things as far as nickel packages and dime packages and it's getting Nate down in the box and utilizing his strengths. I think it's a credit to Coach Wilcox and the defensive staff to try and identify those guys and the things they do well and put those guys in the position to do the things they do well. Nate is an excellent run defender. He's really good around the box, so we'll try and give him those opportunities."

Has Nate gotten bigger in the offseason? - "I think he's up maybe 10 to 12 pounds from the offseason. He looks good. He hasn't lost his speed. He had a play the other day where he bursted out of the stack and caught the running back down the sidelines. He's looking got at that."

On John Timu - "That's where he is right now is in there. He looks really good in there. Johnny is another guy who bulked up from last year to this year, he looks very comfortable inside right now. He's athletic, he's shown the physicality to play in there and he has been a real playmaker this spring, especially since he has been back going again. So it's been good to see that transition from him to go from never playing linebacker to playing outside last year to stepping inside. He looks good.''

On Timu overcoming the injury he suffered against Cal - "It's funny you say that, in being with Johnny and being around him and watching him, that's the first time I thought of that incident, on the field, probably since he came back last year when I started watching him just to make sure. But I haven't even thought about it and he hasn't given me any reason to think about it so I think  he's come back great.''

On walk-on safety K.C. Herren? - "I think he decided that baseball was baseball and it's probably tough to hit an 87 mile an hour slider like it was for me. He wanted to come out and play a little football and I think he had to knock a little of the dust off there and the rust off and get going and I think he has done some things here this spring that will give him an opportunity hopefully as we move into fall to hopefully do some things.''

On the new coaches and what he knows now - "It's exciting. You see them practice one and now practice nine is in the books already. They are starting to come out of their shell a little bit more and starting to feel comfortable on the field and in their surroundings and in their position group and they are learning the personality of the players in their position group and their comfort level within the defense is growing as they have come together now so I think the biggest thing I am seeing out of them is them being themselves and not trying to be something else. There is a unique demeanor about all of them but inevitably they are good coaches --- that's what I'm learning, these guys are good coaches. They coach their kids hard but they coach them well, they communicate well and the players have responded.''

On Herren being older - "He doesn't act it all the time for being a married guy. But he's a great kid and it's great to have him out here.''

On Josh Shirley being disruptive in 11-11 situations - "He's been really disruptive, especially in days like today where the second half of practice was a real pass emphasis - second-and-long, third down situations…and that's where Josh can really pin his ears back and go. And he's got such a great get-off, that's when he's at his best, especially when we've got some push coming from the inside that can collapse that pocket…he's tough. He's tough on all the guys, whether it's been Riva or whether it's Micah or whoever else has been out there…he's caused problems."

On Shirley incorporating more than just his speed - "I think he's really taken to coach Lupoi and learning some new moves, the array of pass rushes that he has, so that when he is getting those different looks he has some different alternatives to what he wants to do. But also, he's using his power. Josh is a strong guy, and sometimes you don't know it because he's not the biggest guy, but he's one of the strongest guys on our football team right now and he's using that strength in his pass rushing as well."

On doing anything different with kickoffs this spring because of NCAA rules changes - "No…spring for us, from a special teams standpoint…we're really focused on our fundamentals. It's not as much about scheme, especially in the kickoff game and trying to minimize how many times we run 60 yards and have a big collision. It's about the technique, the fundamentals, how we take on blocks, how we shed blocks, things of that nature…so that scheme factor and some of the new rules we'll take more into effect when we come back in fall camp."

On if those rules changes will have an effect come fall - "It can here, as we know. It can get a little windy up here. Some of those kickoffs, if you can get the ball five yards closer to the end zone, that can be helpful."





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