Coach's Corner

Two weeks into fall camp, and the pieces of the puzzle have now all been turned over and color-coordinated; the coaches at least know who can do what. Fans and media alike never really have access to the developmental evaluation of a team because we simply don't get to watch the film. 'The big eye in the sky never lies', meaning every kid on every play is evaluated and critiqued.

The ball distracts us all from really knowing what most of the players are doing on any given play.

It doesn't, however, take a rocket scientist to tell who are the good players, and the Huskies certainly have more of them than they have had in a long time.

The infusion of this last signing class, combined with some excellent red-shirt freshmen really has made a noticeable impact in the program. They are simply better looking players as a whole and appear more fit physically, although it was obvious fall camp fatigue had set in on the rookies the last couple of days.

Coach Sarkisian said the defense won the scrimmage and that is just from the competitive standpoint. Nobody won and nobody lost: We were still playing ourselves and won't know how good this team will really be until it goes out on the road and beats BYU in two weeks.

Here are my general observations following two weeks of camp and the scrimmage and then talking with some of the coaches and then finally looking at the stats: The overall talent level of this team has really been elevated since Sarkisian and his staff took over. This is the best looking Husky team in a number of years.

They will run the football and run it well. They will be one of the leading rushing teams in the conference. Even though the defense "won," the offense rushed the ball 32 times for 216 yards. That's over 6 yards per carry, and you win a lot of football games averaging that. They didn't turn the ball over and all the backs showed great ball leverage.

They also rushed the ball without either Jake Locker or Keith Price getting to run. Both are excellent runners and that is probably the primary difference between Price and Nick Montana as a back-up. Price is really a good running quarterback, and although not as big, fast, and physical as Locker, he is even more elusive and quicker. He can make you miss, and when Washington has either of them in the rushing game they will be even better.

You would have to go back almost a decade to find better depth in the offensive line. They will be able to red-shirt a whole line, and yet still get some immediate help from Erik Kohler and Colin Porter. All of the veterans are improved and look to finally all be in the positions they were meant to start out at.

There is also great depth on the back end of the defense, and that is making both the corner position and the safety positions more competitive. They have nine safeties and eight corners, and newcomers like Sean Parker at safety and Greg Ducre at corner both look like they will play this year. They have three solid safeties in Nate Williams, Nate Fellner, and Will Shamburger. There are three other lettermen [Justin Glenn, Greg Walker and Marquis Persley] who are also competing hard for playing time. Taz Stevenson, the other freshman safety, has been hurt but looks to have a great upside as well.

They are solid up the middle of the defense, with potential stars in Alameda Ta'amu and Mason Foster, to go along with a great cover corner in Desmont Trufant. Those are three legit big-timers on the defensive side of the ball who all look good enough to eventually play on Sundays.

Quinton Richardson and Vonzell McDowell have both really prepared for the season and it shows with their increased intensity in pass coverage. Richardson has fought his way back into the starting line-up with a slight edge aver Adam Long, who ended last season as a starter opposite Trufant. Ducre might be better in the long run, but right now is still swimming as a freshman trying to learn all the coverages and techniques. They have all improved their man-to-man technique and the competition is making all of them better.

The starting linebackers also look solid with Foster being joined by junior Cort Dennison and senior Victor Aiyewa. There appears to be a drop off after that and some of the freshmen like Cooper Pelluer may see the playing field. I don't think anything is settled at the linebacker depth except for the starters.

The skill positions on offense at running back and receiver both look good and deep with both groups getting major infusions from freshmen.

Receiver is probably the deepest and most competitive position on the team. Jermaine Kearse is a proven star and Devin Aguilar will probably help by returning punts as well as being a dependable pass-catcher. What I have noticed is that they are all much better blockers and that is only going to improve the running game. I would think that all this group needs to do is hang on to the football and they could be awesome as a group.

True freshman Kevin Smith is big time. End of discussion! He is powerfully built and is very strong going to the football. A great basketball player too, Smith didn't turn out for football until he was a junior in high school but he has impressive hands and showed he too could be a great returner for punts and kickoffs. He is as impressive as James Johnson was last year and is bigger and stronger. Physically he is the most impressive looking freshman receiver since Reggie Williams.

The running backs proved in the scrimmage that they are all more than capable of contributing this year. Each is different, and the true freshman Jesse Callier is showing why he was the leading rusher in California last year. Remember, Callier rushed for over 3,000 yards and 43 touchdowns as a senior in high school. Like Smith, I also think Callier has the potential to be a big-time running back at the collegiate level. He has some special moves that really compliment the running game. He is in a four-horse race with Chris Polk obviously being the starter, but Callier joining Johri Fogerson and Demitrius Bronson gives the Huskies a solid quartet of running backs.

The two senior fullbacks, Austin Sylvester and Dorson Boyce, both look ready to compete on game day. They both are solid blockers and receivers out of the backfield.

The kicking specialists are solid: The punter, Will Mahan and the kicker, Erik Folk, appear to have added considerable strength to their kicks, with Mahan booming some punts 60 yards and Folk now being able to kick off into the endzone, something he did only sporadically last year. Brendan Lopez, a walk-on via Bellevue High School and Michigan, has reduced the time on his snaps and is now consistently putting the ball right on the money. Cody Bruns is the holder, and of course has great hands but also can throw or run and gives the Huskies a constant fake threat for PAT's or FG's.

Polk and Smith are being tried as the kick off returners along with a number of others, but they looked special in the scrimmage.

That leaves the position of quarterback and I think the starter there will be fine, ya think? He is the one with the big gun, and as they say in football, 'How goes your quarterback, so goes your team'.

Overall, I think this Husky team is deeper, more skilled, in better shape, and know what they are doing better, especially after being in the same system going on two years now. I also think the coaches know they have a better team now than at this time last year, but all of that is meaningless unless they go out and win games. A lot of that will be determined by how well the trigger man plays, but this is easily an improved team from a year ago.


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