Sarkisian talks about Day 13 of Spring Ball

SEATTLE - With only one more practice to go until Saturday's Spring Game at CenturyLink Field, Washington Head Coach Steve Sarkisian took a number of questions from the media on how spring has gone, who has stood out, what Spring Game will look like, and many more. Here's how it went.

On Price's movement in the pocket with the rush coming from players like Josh Shirley - "It's just pocket presence and continuing to improve. We talked about the end of last year and evaluating ourselves - obviously our sack total was too high last year, and that's for a lot of reasons. One of the reasons is Keith's ability to understand how rushers are rushing, knowing your opponent…Josh is obviously a speed rusher and he loves to come off the edge and rush wide. Now part of that is understanding…where is my voided area where I can work the pocket to. Obviously if you have a hard, up-the-field rush, that voided area is back where you can slide into. That's what we were talking about."

On special teams and being curious as to how that's going to work out - "I think there's some natural curiosity of how they are going to be. I think we'll be talented. I think we have the right pieces in place, there will be enough competition to push guys. But if there is some curiosity as we come back into the summer and as we go into fall camp, those 29 practices prior to the first ball game are really going to be critical as we prepare those guys for the moment of playing actual football."

On Travis Coons - "He's a powerful leg guy; love him for his kickoffs. In JC Football sometimes the numbers can get a bit skewed, but you go back and study him and watch him and you see the drill tape of him, I think he's a very talented guy. We'll see what he does with a snap, hold, kick here at our level, but we do have some other kids coming in that are very accurate guys. I've been down this road before where we had a kickoff guy that was also our long, deep kicker, and we had a guy who was an extra point/mid-range guy who was very accurate. We may do something like that as well."

On if Erik Nothstein might be one of those guys to compete this fall - "No. We've got a few guys coming."

On Josh Perkins and making that next jump - "There's a long way to go still. There's still some signs of being a little bit immature in the preparation standpoint to get ready to play every single day. Physically there's tools there to utilize to make plays, and we see that at times - but there's other days where we just don't notice him. Part of that is again being a young guy, and understanding from a maturity standpoint what it takes every single day to prepare to come out and compete, because the guys he's going against are preparing really well right now, and we're seeing it - whether it's Tru or Tre, or Marcus or Greg Ducre…those guys are preparing themselves for it. That's the challenge for Perk, and there's days where he's been really good and days where he's been not very good, so that's his challenge as he continues to move forward."

Did you notice Drew Schaefer was back, and how did he help? - "Well, I think it helped. Drew's got such an understanding of our offense. It's like having your quarterback back for your entire offense. Having your veteran center back is like having the quarterback for your O-line back. Communication was better. I think the confidence level was better. Drew, is he 100 percent? Uh ... maybe not. But I felt Drew today brought a calming effect to the huddle, which was good."

Going to use him Saturday? - "Probably, yeah."

How is Saturday going to go? - "We are going to an offense-defense, points-scoring system. Is that ideal? No. I wish we could split up into two times like we have in the past. But just because of injuries and where we've gotten to we'll play offense-defense. We've got a good scoring system in place. It should be competitive."

On Siosifa Tufunga's broken hand - "He's having surgery Thursday."

What is the points system for the Spring Game? - "Yeah, the defense gets three points for a stop, five points for a turnover and seven points for a touchdown. For the offense the scoring is as it goes: three points for a field goal, six for a touchdown, and then depending on whether they go for a one or for two."

So it will be much like practices here, offense versus defense? - "Yeah."

Mix and match? - "Exactly."

With Tufunga, timetable? - "It will be about a month."

How did moving safeties up to linebacker work out? - "I think it's been really good for us. We are very athletic. We are multiple. It causes a bit of confusion for the offense. We are getting a bit used to it because we have seen it every day, but it can cause some confusion who's who, where are pressure is coming from. And I think it has helped in our playmaking ability, our ability to get after the football, disrupt route concepts, get our hands on balls. It's been very effective for us, as we head into fall."

Crichton hurting lately, how frustrating is that? - "No, it's not frustating. He was back, he just wasn't feeling good today and he left. That was it. We've got a little flu bug running around the team. I'm hoping I am getting out of the road of that."

What can fans expect to see saturday, effort wise? - "I think they will see an energized group on both sides of the ball. I think fans will see guys that have improved in their level of play. From a scheme standpoint, it will be interesting. We are going to meet on that now, how much we want to show. It could be a little bit vanilla that way. But I don't think that will diminish from the style we play and the way we play and our big-play ability that I think this team has on both sides of the ball."

So how would you assess how spring went? - "I thought it's been very competitive. It's been good. It's been spirited. I've felt like we did a lot of individual work with guys, whether it is individually, one-on-one specialty work, whether it was offense versus defense. I think by really focusing on that we are really going to help our football team as we go to the fall. Fundamentally, I think we've really improved this spring -- maybe much more than we have in other springs in the past, where it was so much scheme, scheme, scheme. This time around it was focusing on individuals maybe more than it did on individual scheme. And, in turn, I think it's helped our scheme. We are seeing some improvements here on both sides in the last week that have really been solely based on guys having to win one-on-one battles, which was the focus of ours the first couple weeks of spring ball."

Do you know how the offensive line is going to look in the fall? - "There's always that concern. Colin Tanigawa looks great, he's running already so we expect to have him back full go ready go. Erik Kohler has played himself back into shape and he looks good here this past week. You get Drew back healthy and ready to go. There are always concerns on the offensive line even if we were 100 percent healthy because you are one, two, three snaps from guys going down. On that side of it, I feel good about the fact that these guys got so many reps this spring. Whether it was a Mike Criste or a Tufunga before he got injured, a James Atoe, a Dexter Charles, a Micah Hatchie or a Ben Riva. A lot of guys got a lot of reps that are valuable for them to learn from so that when their number does get called, they can rely on this experience.

What have you learned from your assistant coaches? - "They're great coaches. These guys are really good coaches. I've touched on early their ability to teach and communicate and get guys to do their job really well. The one thing that has really stood out to me the last week or two weeks is their ability to motivate. I feel like our defense has been very energized, very enthusiastic and they're playing with a lot of excitement and energy together. And that's because of what these coaches are bringing. That's the part that has stuck with me recently. The teaching and the coaching and all that, I knew that after a couple practices that these guys were really good. But now their ability to motivate and things of that nature have stood out to me. And its been impressive."  

On concerns going into next year - "I think that naturally, we have so many personnel changes going on defensively right now. It's a matter of where are numbers, what do we look like. We've moved all these safeties to linebacker, so what does that do to our secondary? What does that do to our backer situation. What's going to happen when we get Hauoli Jamora back, and Semisi back? What does that do to Andrew Hudson? So those things on the defensive side of the ball. What's the best fit for our offensive line, the ideal fit when we get Tanigawa back. What do we want to be when we step onto the field on first day of fall camp on August 9th? Who is that first five that takes the field. And ultimately, what's our identity as an offensive football team. I don't know if it's a concern, but it' a question that needs to be answered – who are we going to become when fall camp rolls around?

On Polk, Kelemete and Ta'amu's chances in the NFL - "I think they will all have opportunities to have extensive careers in that league. The challenge for all three of those guys is like any guy that goes into the NFL --- the draft comes, the draft goes and now it's that daily grind, the self motivation to get up every day, to work, to compete, to prepare. And I feel like we've helped prepare them for that.  But that's going to be their challenge and it's going to take their own internal motivation to make that happen and that's the hardest thing to transition  from when you go from college football to the NFL. We are on these guys about school, about life, about football. When you go to that league, especially with the new CBA, they are only around those facilities a couple of weeks in the off-season and that's it --- the rest of it you are on your own.  And so for those guys to really extend their careers in the NFL, it's going to be their self-motivation day in and day out. Because it's not about talent with them, that's for sure. They are plenty talented enough to play in that league.''

On if he watches the draft - "Yeah, I'm interested in it. I'm a football fan. The first round is kind of painful because it just takes so long, but I have as much fun watching the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh round as the first. Watching guys that you coached against or saw on film and what they think  of them and maybe what my assessment of what a guy would be, higher or lower than what the NFL thinks. So as a fan, sure I watch it.''

On what he thinks when he hears stuff about Polk not being fast enough - "Well, he's got to go prove it. The NFL, these guys, they are the experts, right? They do this for a reason, they study every film, they look at every play, they look at all of it. And that's the perception they have, and if that's a guys' perception of Chris it is what it is. And until you go out and prove to change that perception that's who you are. And I've talked about that numerous times with our own football team. That's the perception, and then a perception can become a reality like it can in the draft if for some reason he doesn't get drafted very high. The perception can change in one instance when one team takes him maybe higher than people thought he would go, too. For Chris it's ultimately when training camp rolls around he's got to go prove what he wants to prove about himself.''

On Tre Watson and what he's done this spring and making the jump to UW - "I knew him briefly coming out of high school, obviously a local kid, we looked at him and ended up not going on him. I think he realized that maybe he was a better player than people gave him credit for --- the perception of him, right? Like we just got done talking about. And he felt like he wanted to compete and he came back and he's always had kind of knack for being a natural football player even for the year when he was on the scout team. And that hasn't changed this spring. I think the style of play in which our defense plays and our coverage and our matching of routes and things really fits to Tre's style. He's a heady football player, he understands things that are coming --- he reads routes, he reads splits. And be believes in himself in that when he knows, he goes. And that's allowed him to make quite a few plays this spring ball because he's in the right place, he's using the right technique and he's got the right sense about him to go make plays and it's been showing up, almost daily here in spring ball.''





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