Newcomers make their presence felt

When Steve Sarkisian hit the recruiting trail last January, he had only 5 weeks to salvage a recruiting class that had only two players committed before he arrived and coming off an 0-12 season, the question was -- 'What kind of a class can he hope to sign?' While the class finished ranked 66th in the country, there are several newcomers who could end being big contributors this fall...

After two weeks of practice, here's a look at each of the freshmen, as well as the three junior college transfers, and how they've progressed and how they can possibly help the Huskies this fall...

WR James Johnson - Coming in, a lot was expected of the Valley Center (Escondido, Ca.) wideout. He was one of the players that Sarkisian said he expected to play right away and Johnson has done nothing to disappoint. All he has done is get open and catch the ball. He runs very precise routes for a play of his youth and he has outstanding hands. He's also ultra-competitive and very tough, coming back the very next practice after injuring a shoulder while attempting to make a circus catch in the endzone. Expect Johnson to play a lot this fall, mostly in the three and four receiver sets.

DE Talia Crichton - Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Nick Holt both heaped praise on the pass-rushing abilities of Crichton who is ultra-quick and has a knack for getting to the quarterback. When he arrived, he was a lot smaller than I expected him to be, but there's no doubt he's got the motor and athleticism to be a real threat off the edge, sooner rather than later. After the first week of practice, Sarkisian noted that Crichton, along with the other freshmen defensive linemen, would play if they had a game that week. As it is, Crichton will most likely end up in the rotation at defensive end, but will only be a situational player who will see time in passing situations.

DT Semisi Tokolahi - When he arrived this summer, it was amazing how much his body reminded me of Alameda Ta'amu. He's a huge young man who has the size, strength and quick first step to be a huge problem for opposing offensive linemen. Defensive line coach Johnny Nansen told me that Tokolahi has quite a bit to learn, but that he might be a better athlete than Ta'amu and he's almost as strong. Will he play this fall? I expect him to really push for time, but at this point he's behind both Ta'amu and Tyrone Duncan at the nose tackle position.

DE Andru Pulu - During the summer workouts, Pulu was put in the middle linebacker position and he looked pretty good there. However, because of his size he's a better fit at defensive end, most likely on the strongside, and he could eventually grow into a three-technique defesive tackle, asked to get penetration and get pressure on the quarterback. Pulu's speed and athleticism, along with his strength make him a potential All-Conference player down the road, but this fall I would bet the coaching staff does what they can to redshirt him, although he might be just too good to keep off the field.

TE Marlion Barnett - He looks like a big wide receiver right now when he's out there, but you can see why the Huskies liked him so much. He's got a good frame and will probably end up at about 235 or 240 when it's all said and done. He's already a decent blocker and that is an area of focus for him, but he's got sufficient strength and very good hands. He'll eventually fit into Washington's offense the same way that Fred Davis did with USC's when he was one of the top tight ends in the country a few years back. Expect him to redshirt as he adds size and strength.

FB/H-Back Kimo Makaula - One thing you love about a guy like Makaula is his athleticism and size. He's a really impressive looking athlete, but he looks a bit out of place at fullback right now. A lot of that has to do with the fact that he played quarterback at Punahou and has never played the position before, but you can see the potential he has as a receiver and blocker. He also looks athletic enough to play defensive end if the Huskies opt to move him there next spring, but this fall he will redshirt while learning the H-Back/fullback position.

QB Keith Price - While I seriously doubt the Huskies will enter the season with a true freshman as the number two quarterback, at times he's looked better than Ronnie Fouch, making quicker reads and throwing a much better ball. Price has shown excellent mobility and throws a nice, tigh spiral, whether he's throwing on the run or standing strong in the pocket. You can tell he's a freshman at time, making questionable throws and looking to run before the play develops, but you can also see the massive potential he has in this offense, especially under the tutelage of QB coach Doug Nussmeier and Sarkisian. He also needs to work a bit on his footwork out from under center and his release, but the future looks bright for him.

TE Dorson Boyce - The JUCO transfer arrived in great shape and will be the primary backup to Kavario Middleton with Chris Izbicki being used in a bit of a different role. Boyce has shown great hands this fall and Sarkisian said he has been pleasantly surprised by the receiving exploits of Boyce. The one area where there wasn't a concern is his abilities as a blocker and he's been every bit the impressive "down" blocker he was expected to be. Boyce will see plenty of time this fall on both the return teams as well as in the offense.

S Nate Fellner - Fellner has looked good at times this fall while running with the third unit. He's not the biggest or most physical guy at this point, but you can see he's got the frame and athleticism to be a solid strong safety down the road. He will definitely redshirt.

LB Jordan Wallace - The last one to sign with the Huskies, Wallace went overlooked in the recruiting process even though he was the captain and leading tackler on the California 4A state championship team. Wallace arrived in great shape and has done nothing but show he should be on the field in some capacity this fall. He's abused several receivers who have ventured into his zone, while looking like a heat seaking missle on the coverage units. Will he play this fall? It's tough to see him not playing considering how much the coaches have raved about his abilities and how much time he's seen on the special teams.

CB Desmond Trufant - He missed a week and a half of fall camp while taking care of a Clearinghouse issue, but once he showed up he made an almost immediate impact on the unit with his instincts and quickness. He's very physical, making hits on players wearing pads while he was just in a helmet and shorts. He still needs to add some weight because he looks very wiry right now, but with the way Holt has talked about him, there's a chance he could see time this fall, however I expect him to redshirt.

Tim Tucker - He's been playing the middle linebacker position with the third unit, but could easily play the strongside position as well. He's got good size already, showing up at 230 pounds, and he looks very athletic making plays. Tucker needs to learn to use his hands a little better, but he has great instincts and is another one that could see time on special teams this fall.

P Will Mahan - He was signed to come in and be the starter and Mahan has done nothing to dispell the faith the staff has had in him. He's very consistent, hitting 50+ yard kicks on a regular basis. He also has excellent hang time, allowing the coverage team to get down the field before the return man has a chance to make a play. Husky Stadium is a tough place to kick the ball in with it's swirling winds and damp weather, but Mahan appears to be a good fit for what they need him to do.

DB David Batts - Batts showed up to Washington with outstanding coverage skills and he's been the primary nickel corner the Huskies have brought in with the first unit. Batts is very physical and has shown outstanding quickness. He's still getting used to the playbook at the safety position, so I expect him to play this fall only in the nickel package and then should challenge for playing time at the free safety position next year. He'll also see a lot of time on the coverage units.

Both S Will Shamburger and DT Chris Robinson will redshirt this fall while recovering from knee surgeries, but both pass the eye test when you get a look at them up close.


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