For a change, UW football coach Steve Sarkisian showed up for a sit-down press conference Monday wide-eyed with rest, not jacked up on caffeine after an in-season, late-night meeting with coaches to discuss an upcoming opponent or game plan.
This time, he was relaxed. He was fresh-faced. He was upbeat.
And he’s ready to take another step in the turnaround of the Huskies program with the start of spring ball Tuesday at Husky Stadium.
“It’s good to have football back in the air,” he said to a throng of reporters. “Geez, it feels like it’s been a long time.
“If I could put a theme on this spring ball, it would be competition, because I think the competition is live and well at a lot of positions.”
Plenty of news and nuggets were revealed:
• Injuries have carried over into the offseason – so much, some major contributors will be sidelined for most or all of the five-week camp.
Those who are out for the entire camp: Running back Chris Polk (shoulder), offensive tackle Cody Habben (shoulder), defensive end Kalani Aldrich (knee), defensive tackle Everrette Thompson (achilles) and safety Victor Aiyewa (shoulder).
Limited: Running back Brandon Yakaboski (knee), safety Justin Glenn (knee) and cornerback Desmond Trufant (groin), the Wilson High School graduate.
About Trufant, arguably the team’s top cornerback last season, “Just wear and tear. It was a football thing he carried through the end of last year, and just never got quite healthy, so we said, ‘Shut it down,'” Sarkisian said.
Offensive linemen Gregory Christine (knee) and Skyler Fancher (foot), who missed all of last season, will be back for action.
• Attrition, too, happens every season. Sixteen underclassmen on the roster at the end of last season have either transferred or left the team to concentrate on school.
They are: OL Reece Anderson, QB Taylor Bean, WR Tony Chidiac, DL Travis Dupart, QB Ronnie Fouch, RB Willie Griffin, OL Ben Hayes, LB Taylor Lappano, LB Kurt Mangum, CB Matt Mosley, P Kiel Rasp, CB Romeo Savant, RB/WR Curtis Shaw, WR Vince Taylor, OL Terrence Thomas and LB Fred Wiggs.
A 17th – defensive lineman Andru Pulu – is still up in the air. Pulu, a Federal Way High product, has been suspended indefinitely for an off-the-field incident a month ago. Sarkisian said his return is uncertain.
With 30 incoming freshmen – including four who have already enrolled at UW (QB Nick Montana, RB Deontae Cooper and Jesse Callier, and Linebacker Victor Burnett) – that leaves the total roster count at 103.
It’s one of the smallest rosters in the Pacific-10 Conference – something of little concern to Sarkisian.
“One-hundred and fifteen (players) … that gets large,” Sarkisian said. “We may get a little bigger here and there. It’s a manageable number, one you really connect with your players and feel their presence, and not just have a bunch of guys out there at practice. I like where we’re at. We’ll be at a good number come fall.”
• Some personnel switches:
The offensive line starting out in spring has been overhauled. Drew Schaefer will replace Ryan Tolar at center. Senio Kelemete moves from guard to left tackle. Tolar is at left guard now. Mykenna Ikehara will man right guard. And with Habben out, Fancher is the starting right tackle.
The UW coach on the Schaefer move: “He’s a very bright guy, a 3.7 GPA kid. He’s athletic. I think he’s mentally tough enough to handle it. And I think for Ryan Tolar, it gets him back to guard to allow him to play fooball and be the nasty football player he’s capable of playing, and not have to worry about making all the calls for everybody for all the snaps.”
Sarkisian on the Kelemete move: ” (He’s) athletic enough. For us at that spot, we need to be athletic, and we need a guy over there that can protect our quarterback’s backside. I think Senio has natural leadership qualities. Guys really respond to him … and that left-tackle spot is a natural leadership-type spot.”
Once an incoming receiver, junior Alvin Logan had been moved to safety a season ago. He’s on the move again – to linebacker and stand-up defensive end.
“We think he can fit into a role that can keep us athletic of defense, but yet stay physical,” Sarkisian said. “I’m anxious for Alvin. He’s been extremely willing all offseason to learn the position.”
Third-string tight end Dorson Boyce joined Austin Sylvester as a fullback.
Marquis Persley goes from cornerback to safety.
Even defensive tackle Cameron Elisara might show up a little bit at defensive end.
• Of course, when you think about next season, a top priority is keeping tabs on quarterback Jake Locker, surely one of the preseason Heisman Trophy favorites.
As far as baseball, the Ferndale product did spend some time with the team that draft him – the Los Angeles Angels – at spring training, working on his hitting.
In between mandatory football periods, Locker could end up reporting to the Angels for workouts, even some lower-level professional games this summer.
“Where baseball fits,” Sarkisian said, “it will fit.”
As far as on the football field, the biggest improvement the coach wants to see from Locker this spring is a spike in completion percentage.
“I harp on completion percentage. Yeah, it’s a great stat. You can look at it. But for me, it tells me something – tells me that he’s understanding where his secondary reads are within plays, his ability not to get sacked, to check the ball down,” Sarkisian said. “It’s a telling stat.”
• Cort Dennison enters spring ball as the projected starter at middle lienbacker, replacing Donald Butler. Sarkisian wants to see how the junior handles an increased load of responsibility.
I love his leadership right now in our offseason programs,” Sarkisian said. “I want him to play well, really. I want him to be physical, and tackle well and lead our defense in a manner that it’s not all on Mason Foster’s shoulders.”
• Receiver Cody Bruns and punter Will Mahan are expected to share the holding duties on kicks while Brendan Lopez gets the first crack at replacing Danny Morovick as the long snapper, but tight end Kavario Middleton and linebacker Tim Tucker will also be groomed to do that.
• Sarkisian pointed out receiver D’Andre Goodwin, tight end Chris Izbicki and running back Johri Fogerson has having the finest offseason improvement.
QUICK HITS: The team will first be in pads April 6. … Kickoff for the Spring Game on April 30 will be approximately 7 p.m., even though it’s been listed at 6:30 p.m. … On the subject of UW basketball star Isaiah Thomas mentioning he wanted to join the football team, Sarkisian chuckled about that one. “We (Sarkisian and Lorenzo Romar) agreed it was probably not a great idea.” … The team posted its best grade-point average since 2007 during last winter quarter. … Sarkisian turned 36 on March 8. How did he celebrate it? “I spoke at a Nike coaches clinic in Portland,” he said. “My kids, they hid from me when I came in the house that day, and they jumped out and said (“Happy Birthday”).”