Tuesday Post-Practice Notes

Speaking to Steve Sarkisian after Tuesday's practice, he had the look of a man who was in his comfort zone. With all his coaches back, their offensive, defensive and special teams systems in place, as well as his starting quarterback in tow, Sarkisian led a two hour-plus workout amid blustery, gray skies and everything looked like it went off without a hitch, at least until the very end.

"It was a lot better than last year's day one," Sarkisian said to the media afterward. "Obviously there are some things we need to clean up, and understandably so. The ballhandling was going to be a little shaky the first day, and obviously that was evident. But I was proud of our defense to get after the ball. We've been making a big pitch to them that we have to create more turnovers, and they were able to do that today. I was proud of them for that."

The continuity in all facets of the UW football program was on display despite less than ideal weather conditions. "I thought that paid dividends today," Sarkisian said of the idea of continuity from one season to the next. "They are used to practice, but we don't want them to get too, too comfortable. We are trying to expand that comfort zone so that they feel good about what they are doing."

If it weren't for the addition of basketball player Clarence Trent into the mix, the return of Jake Locker would have gotten a lot more attention. As it is, Sarkisian knows the media microscope will be on the senior-to-be from Ferndale the closer they get to the season.

"He's such a mature guy, I don't want to shield him from that," Sarkisian said of Locker. "I don't want to baby him. I just want to approach it the right way and really be a pro about it. Because inevitably, a year from today he's going to be getting ready for the NFL Draft and all of the expectations and the hype and the media. So we might as well get him prepared for it."

And from all accounts, it looks like Locker has picked up from where he left off in 2009. "He just loves football, and he feels the progression in his game - so I think he was anxious to see all the mental work he's put in and what was going to come back out of it," Sarkisian said of Locker. "And I think he had a really, really nice day."

But all eyes were on 97, and with all due respect to Fred Wiggs - a media favorite - this spring's 97 was not Fred. "I'm excited to have Clarence on our team, because he's the right body type at the defensive end spot that we're looking for; a long, rangy athletic guy," Sarkisian said of the 6-foot-5, 225-pound defensive end, formerly a forward for the basketball team. "He hasn't played football in five years, so there's a lot of work to be done. But I know coach (Nick) Holt and coach (Johnny) Nansen are excited to have him and I think he's excited to be out here. He's what we're looking for, but there's a lot of work to be done."

Throughout the day, all the UW coaches were on Trent after every single rep, giving him notes and talking through what they were looking for.

According to Sarkisian, Trent asked hoops head coach Lorenzo Romar about the idea early into their season, and then Romar approached Sarkisian about it. "Lo and I talked about it months ago, but there's not point in doing anything about it during the basketball season," he added. "There were some logistics to go through to make sure it was possible."

As of Tuesday, Trent is now a full counter toward football, meaning he takes up one of their scholarships. And Sarkisian christened him the only way he knows how - by throwing him right to the dawgs. "We've got to find out where he's at, what he's good at and what he needs to work on," Sarkisian said. "That's the beauty of spring ball; not having a huge amount of numbers, everyone gets reps. I don't think there was a guy on the field that didn't get work today. It was great for us, and that's why it fit really well - to fill the need for the position and what he brings."

There were four other new faces - Nick Montana, Deontae Cooper, Jesse Callier and Victor Burnett - and Sarkisian was thrilled at how seamless their transition has already been.

"For a kid that just here in January, what he did in the weight room and the conditioning program was really impressive," Sarkisian said of Cooper, who enrolled at the beginning of UW's winter quarter.

How about Montana, who will battle Keith Price as Locker's backup. "Not a bad first day," Sarkisian said. Montana did complete his first college attempt in team play, to sophomore James Johnson. "I'm always nervous for guys their first time in a college practice. But one of the things I'm most proud of is that he didn't fumble a snap. Most freshman quarterbacks, they fumble two, three, four snaps. Another thing I was really proud of him…I loved his presence in the huddle. I loved his presence at the line of scrimmage. He was confidence. Obviously we have an enormous amount of work to do, but I just liked what he brought from a stature standpoint."

Callier was the other freshman running back, and Sarkisian thinks he saw glimpses of potential greatness. "He's got a nice feel for running the football," Sarkisian said of the 5-foot-10, 187-pounder from Downey, Calif. "He got out on a couple of runs, and all it was was a little slide to the left or a slide to the right to create some big plays."

Last, but certainly not least, was Burnett. "He was running with the ones quite a bit, and he looked good," Sarkisian said. "He looked how they are supposed to look. He looked like he was confident as well."

All in all, Sarkisian sounded like he expected things to go this well, despite dropped passes and fumbles hitting the turf. In fact, when asked who he was most anxious to see, he was pumped about seeing the strides made by all 72 players on the roster. He mentioned players like Johri Fogerson, D'Andre Goodwin, Jermaine Kearse, Chris Izbicki, Semisi Tokolahi and Cort Dennison by name, but added, "I don't think I could stand here in front of you and say this guy had a bad off-season. I don't think so. I think all of them have bought into Ivan Lewis' conditioning program, and they've bought into our coaching staff and what it means to really prepare, mentally as well as physically."

Things appeared to go very well with a revamped offensive line, especially when it came to keeping would-be sackers out of the backfield. "First impression, it felt good," Sarkisian said of a line that had Senio Kelemete at left tackle, Ryan Tolar at left guard, Drew Schaefer at center, Mykenna Ikehara at right guard and Skyler Fancher at right tackle. "But it was in underwear. Until we put all the armor on, I don't really know. But it felt good. I felt the communication was really good. I don't feel like we were turning guys loose in the backfield. And that, to me, was the biggest difference from this first practice to last year's first practice. Last year we were turning guys loose, there were guys free in the backfield, we were getting sacked like crazy. This year I felt like we were in sync, the communication was good up front, and that's what you get when you have veteran guys."

Sarkisian added that he was very happy with the way Fancher and Greg Christine have rebounded from injuries that kept them out of either part or all of last season.
Injury Report: There were only three players in red Tuesday: Chris Polk, Victor Aiyewa and Cody Habben - all out with shoulder issues. Polk did practice a little bit, but it was during the pre-practice walk-through. "We're not going to risk that shoulder at all," Sarkisian said of Polk. "I want that thing to get back to 100 percent. We'll get his drill work done. He might get into some 7-7 stuff, but he won't be in any team or any contact at all."

The rest of the other players Sarkisian mentioned that would be out for all of spring - like Everette Thompson, Kalani Aldrich and Brandon Huppert - worked out along the side or did stairs.

Back-up Blues: Sarkisian was asked about redshirt freshman QB Keith Price and mechanics. "I like his mechanics a lot," he said. "I thought he did a few things really nice today. I think the next step for Keith in this progression is a true belief in himself and a true belief in the system…trusting what he's seeing and delivering the football. He'll see that when he sees the film today. He probably pulled the ball down four or five times, and a good three or four of those he could have spit it out and got a completion. But he'll get better."

'Backers get their work in: With Donald Butler watching from the sidelines, getting ready for the NFL Draft, and no E.J. Savannah, there were definitely some new faces in the linebacking corps. Aiyewa, despite not playing at all, was with the linebackers all day long, and junior Alvin Logan - another player moved from the safety corps - played substantial minutes with the ones on Tuesday.

"When we moved Mason to WIL today to expand his game, I thought Cort (Dennison) did a good job, and Alvin (Logan), I think he looks right," Sarkisian said. "The linebackers, kind of like the o-line - it's hard not to look good in underwear. We have to see what they look like when we put the armor on."

Sending a message: Sophomore safety Nate Fellner, who became a stalwart for the Huskies in the secondary last year, didn't act like a veteran Tuesday as he got bounced from practice after an altercation near the end of play. "We had an incident at the end, and it would have been a 15-yard personal foul penalty," Sarkisian said when asked why Fellner left practice early. "That's not OK. We'll learn. You get ejected from practice when you take one of those."

Faces in the crowd: Besides Butler, Bothell's Michael Hartvigson and Colin Porter were at practice, as well as O'Dea's Zach Fogerson - younger brother of Johri Fogerson.

Folk perfect: Erik Folk started off his spring in perfect fashion, going 4-4 in gusty conditions. His long kick looked to be around 42 yards.

Walk-on tryout: While Sarkisian was talking to the press, coaches were trying out potential walk-on prospects on the east field. Apparently out of roughly 20 who tried out, the Huskies took a defensive end out of the group, one who has a track background. Hopefully we'll find out more on this walk on in the days ahead.

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