Opportunities there as fall opens up

SEATTLE - Washington Head Coach Steve Sarkisian made it clear Friday that he was not going to play favorites. True, he wanted to see even more improvement from those that excelled during spring, but he wasn't going to shut out those that struggled. And during UW's first fall practice Monday, there was plenty of evidence to suggest the team is eager to compete for playing time.

Not only do the current coaches see it; even the former players are sensing a bit of Deja Vu. "One thing these guys have is opportunity," said former UW quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo, who took part in his first day as an assistant coach in Ivan Lewis' weight room. "And that's what we had when coach (Rick) Neuheisel came here. I hope these kids take advantage of that."

The similarities between Sarkisian and Neuheisel are palpable: Both arrived at Montlake young, full of energy and with the reputation of being very good recruiters. And just like Rick did during his first nine months on campus, Sarkisian is hitting all the right notes and making all the right moves in getting fans excited about Washington football again.

His first job, however, was to win over the players first. And if Monday's 150-minute practice is any indication, these Huskies are willing to do most anything to be noticed and earn their share of the playing time pie.

"This camp is all about opportunity and competition," UW Offensive Coordinator Doug Nussmeier said. Nussmeier is also in charge of Washington's quarterbacks. "There's always a sense of urgency in this game. You never wait for another snap and you got to maximize every opportunity you have."

On offense, the competition at running back is going to be fierce. While Chris Polk stole the show during the Spring Game in April, it was freshman RB Demitrius Bronson that really impressed, and Willie Griffin has been the most consistent tailback since he arrived on campus three years ago.

Sarkisian mentioned another offensive group after Monday's work. "If you look at our wide receiver play today, there were a lot of guys hungry to get the football. If you look in the defensive backfield, we were rolling guys through there at the safety and cornerback spots. Up front on the defensive line, there were guys rolling through."

He then went on to talk about some of the new junior college guys - players like Dorson Boyce, David Batts and Dominique Gaisie - and how they are getting right in the thick of their respective battles. Boyce will be in it tooth and nail with Kavario Middleton and Chris Izbicki at tight end, while Batts and Gaisie will be attacking the competition in the secondary.

Batts, a sophomore from El Camino College, has a little more pressure on him; he was recently given the number 25 to wear for the season to honor the memory of Curtis Williams.

"He was still feeling his way through the defense, but at times he showed what he was all about," Sarkisian said of the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Batts.

Sarkisian even admitted that the coaches aren't immune from the competition bug. At times during their 11-11 period, it was tougher to figure out who was being more competitive: RB coach Joel Thomas, who at times ended up on the other end of the pile waiting for his back to get through, or Safeties coach Jeff Mills, who was seen on many occasions dragging his charges by their jerseys to where they were supposed to be pre-snap. Granted, they were young players, but time is a-wasting!

In fact, this staff is pulling out everything at their disposal to get ready for the Huskies' first game of the season against LSU. And that means checking out their professional contemporaries on the other side of Lake Washington.

The Seattle Seahawks initially approached the Huskies with the idea to have a couple of practices at Husky Stadium. New Seahawks Head Coach Jim Mora is a former Washington player.

"For us, it's fun," Sarkisian said of the arrangement to have the 'Hawks invade Montlake. "It's going to be exciting when we come out and scrimmage on the 18th and they practice right after us. It's great for the community.

"This relationship is only going to get better."

Sarkisian added that the new UW staff have other reasons for wanting to align themselves with Mora and his gang. "Schematically, we're relatively similar on both sides of the ball," he said. "So to get some of the similar ideas, or drillwork, is great. For me, to watch the structure of their practice and some of the things they do and how things are conducted, is great."

The Seahawks practiced at Husky Stadium this past Friday, and many of the current Husky players took advantage to rub elbows with some 'Hawks, even if it was brief. For the players, they got an up-close and personal look at what the NFL is all about. Many might end up finding pro mentors as a result, or they might just realize how close they are to realizing any football aspirations they may hold after their time at Washington is done.
Notes:
Opening Lines: No, I'm not talking about the LSU-UW betting spread, I'm talking about Washington's two-deeps at OL and DL. As the OL lined up, it was Cody Habben at left tackle, Ben Ossai at left guard, Ryan Tolar at center, Senio Kelemete at right guard and Drew Schaefer at right tackle. The number twos were Skyler Fancher at left tackle, Greg Christine at left guard, Mykenna Ikehara at center, Morgan Rosborough at right guard and Nick Scott at right tackle.

On defense, it was Daniel Te'o-Nesheim and Darrion Jones at the defensive ends, with Cameron Elisara and Alameda Ta'amu inside. For the twos, it was Kalani Aldrich and Everrette Thompson, with Tyrone Duncan and De'Shon Matthews at defensive tackle.

At linebacker, it was Mason Foster, Donald Butler and E.J. Savannah, with a number of combinations and players backing them up. The same could be said for the secondary, where they had Quinton Richardson and Justin Glenn as the No. 1 corners, and Nate Williams and Greg Walker as the No. 1 safeties. For a spell, the coaches had both Victor Aiyewa and Alvin Logan paired at safety, and that was fun to watch. Batts also worked some with Tripper Johnson.

Offense wins the day: As Sarkisian closed out the day, there were two plays by the offense to finish out the 11-11 period that won it for the offense. First, newly converted safety Johri Fogerson was able to cut back and run to daylight, running over Gaisie in the process. And then on the final play, backup QB Ronnie Fouch found Jermaine Kearse for a completion. The offense cheered madly, while the defense was not very happy.

"I was very encouraged by our quarterback play," Sarkisian said. "All three of those kids - from Jake, the progression's there - to Ronnie, this would have been his best day of spring, and he had it in fall camp. That's what you like to see. And Keith Price, he handled himself well. He had good huddle presence, nice footwork. So I like all three of those guys."

"He's got really good feet, he's really quick to separate from center and he's got a natural feel for the game," Nussmeier said of Price, who took place in his first college practice Monday.


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