Everything up for grabs

SEATTLE - If it wasn't clear by Tuesday, Steve Sarkisian put it out there in big bold letters: Every Spot is Available. There is no depth chart right now, the UW Head Coach said after the Huskies' 10th practice of the spring. He wanted more physical play up front, he got it. He wanted to see different combinations of linemen on both sides of the line of scrimmage - he got that too.

"All in all it was a good, physical practice, a good full-padded practice. And hopefully there's some good film to look at so we can come back Thursday and clean some things up. I don't know if we've been as physical as I want, so that's why we came out today with a point of emphasis - I wanted a physical practice today. We need to be more physical up front - on both sides of the ball, to be honest with you. I thought that showed up today. I thought we tackled better today, outside of a few occasions, I thought we were more physical at the point of attack, especially on the defensive line, which was critical. Now the offensive line has to respond."

Asked if anyone's spots were solidified in the depth after seeing two-thirds of spring camp, Sarkisian was adamant - they don't have a depth chart right now. "Guys are going to play," he said. "We're all going to play and then we'll worry about that stuff the week of the BYU game.

"There's not a real depth chart anywhere."

With competition at a premium, Sarkisian said the coaching staff is using the last six practices of spring to preach and teach their methods on a different level. "My big thing, from an urgency standpoint - I want to make sure our guys understand, we just don't come out here and run plays," he said. "We're not just calling three-deep zone, four verticals, or outside zone on offense; it's them understanding why we're calling the things we're calling and understanding conceptually what we're trying to get accomplished. The installation is way down now. Now it's understanding what and why we're calling it in the situations that we're getting. We have six days to teach at another level, and not just install plays and get guys lined up, but take this teaching process and this learning curve to another level."

A couple of examples of that aggressiveness coming to the fore was when freshman running back Deontae Cooper rolled redshirt frosh safety Will Shamburger, and also when junior LEO Alvin Logan battled with tackle Senio Kelemete. Kelemete's helmet came off, and the play soon turned into more of a wrestling match, with neither player looking like the wanted to relinquish the play.

The offensive line got a bit of a wake-up call Tuesday. Typically they've been using the same five all spring - left tackle Kelemete, left guard Ryan Tolar, center Drew Schaefer, right guard Mykenna Ikehara and right tackle Skyler Fancher. "Today was drastically different," Sarkisian said. "We had a lot of guys rolling in with the ones and twos. We mixed it up pretty good today. We just wanted to see what they looked like. We just shook it up. We moved guys around. We moved Greg Christine back in with the ones some today to see what he looked like. What happens is, we like to go goods on goods or ones on ones and twos on twos, and you can get in a rut where the same guy is going up against the same players. It's hard to get a fair evaluation of 'em. So by switching some guys, whether it be on the o-line or the d-line, you get some different matchups. So we'll see how this film looks like with some guys going against a different body in front of them."

All that said, he had nothing but praise for Kelemete, who has converted to left tackle from right guard this spring. "Love him," Sarkisian said unabashedly. "He's an all-Pac-10 player. He wants to be great. He's athletically gifted enough to play that position, and he's got the leadership qualities to be that type of guy."

Sarkisian is continually pressing to see more and more physicality and aggressiveness, but he's very happy with the speed in which the team is playing. That's is clearly one thing that has come with familiarity. "Our guys are playing fast right now," he said. "There's not as much wondering, not as much thinking. I think we're playing relentlessly, which is the way you want them to play. From that standpoint, it tells you that year two means a better base of knowledge and the systems."

But offense or defense? Someone has to be ahead so far this spring, right? "I think it varies, and that's how you want it. I think today the defense got after 'em pretty good. But naturally, when you have a good football team, good coaches and competitive guys…Thursday the offense should come back and have a pretty good day again. That's the way spring's been for me, and that's how you want it. You want each group to make each other get better and better and better and better. Not one just get better and one stay the same."

He was asked if one player has singled themselves out so far this spring, and Sarkisian obliged. "The guy to me that has really increased, not only physically, but mentally and from a leadership standpoint…we can't ask for more than what we've gotten out of Cort Dennison this spring," he said of the junior from Salt Lake City. "I think he's a guy that played five football games for us last year and played well, but has taken his game to another level this spring. He's a leader, he's intense, and he's physical. I'm really proud and excited about what he's done."
Converting positions: Sarkisian was asked about the progress of the players that have made position switches, like Dorson Boyce and Demitrius Bronson to fullback and Anthony Boyles to cornerback. "I'm liking what Dorson Boyce is bringing," Sarkisian said of the 6-foot-2, 231-pound senior tight end convert. "He brings the ability to play on the line of scrimmage because of his history at tight end, but he's shown nice hands out of the backfield in different things. So from a conversion standpoint, that's encouraging to me."

And Bronson, the former running back? "He's just a little behind on the learning curve," Sarkisian said. "We did it a few days into spring. He didn't get the off-season to learn the position. He's doing a few things here and there that are encouraging, but we won't really get a taste for that until fall camp, when he can see the film from this spring, study it all summer and then come back and really get into it for fall camp."

How about the 6-foot-3, 197-pound Boyles, who made the switch mid-way through the 2009 season? "Especially in our conference, we've got some big receivers," Sarkisian said. "They are tough matchups for us unless you have a tall, long-armed guy. I think he's come a long way, but the challenge for Anthony is to stay consistent, to really understand all the nuances and the adjustments that it takes from a coverage standpoint. Seventy-five percent of the time, he's a great player for us at that spot; the other 25 percent of the time we have to get him locked in. We have to continually get better, but he's come a long way."

Sarkisian was asked about the selling of a player from one position to another. "The biggest part is one, an attitude about helping the team and doing what's best for the football team, and also giving yourself the best opportunity to get on the field," he said. "The thing we do a pretty good job of is, once we make those changes, we throw 'em right in to give them some shots, some activity so we don't belabor the point. If it's worth it, it's worth it; if it's not, it's not. We can move them back. Like with Boyles, like what we've done with Bronson, you've seen them in there, and you've seen them in there versus the good guys to see what they do well and what they don't do well."

Receivers continue to impress: Sarkisian again had nothing but great things to say about the starting receivers, Jermaine Kearse, Devin Aguilar and James Johnson. "Jermaine is a big, physical receiver," Sarkisian said of the junior from Lakes. "And sometimes those big guys, they use their physicality at the line of scrimmage when the ball is in the air, but they forget to use it once the ball is in their hands for yards after the catch. It's been a big emphasis for him this spring, and it's paying dividends for him. He's created some more big plays for himself that way."

And Johnson, the sophomore who scored the first offensive TD for the Huskies in 2009? "James, over the past five or six practices, has been dominant again," Sarkisian said. "I think he's back, mentally and physically, and I love what he's doing."

Injury update: It appeared that LB Brandon Huppert and CB Desmond Trufant finally started to get some work in with full pads, while receivers Jordan Polk and D'Andre Goodwin struggle with their respective hamstring injuries. "Trufant's come a long way, Huppert's come a long way, Everrette Thompson has come a long way," Sarkisian said of their injury front. "All that stuff is encouraging; what's not as encouraging is the guys that got nicked up earlier in spring - the Goodwins and the Polks - that aren't back out here. And that part has been a little frustrating."

Kicking update: Erik Folk was 2-4, with a long of 38 yards.

Spring Game format: "I'm just going to take a body count that Tuesday night after our hitting is done and see how many available bodies we've got and we'll figure something out," Sarkisian said when asked if he had an idea of what he wanted to do for the game, which is going to be held Friday night, April 30th, at Husky Stadium. The expected time of the game is 6:30 p.m. Saturday practice time moved: Practice time for this coming Saturday was moved up two hours, so it will start at 11 a.m. instead of 1 p.m. "We don't have a bunch of install, so I figured I would give the guys and the coaches a little afternoon off," Sarkisian said when asked about the time change. "So by going a little earlier we just get in here and go and then get a few more hours with family and friends."

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