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Five things to look for at today’s UW Spring Game

Post by Todd Milles / The News Tribune on April 30, 2010 at 11:24 am with No Comments »
April 30, 2010 11:24 am

Busy day. Glad the five weeks are over. Part of me thinks spring camp, considering the grand scope of it, is pointless in many regards, just because many of the position battles reset all over again next August for fall camp.

Remember what spring ball did for Demitrius Bronson in 2009? Virtually nothing. He played sparingly in the regular season.

That’s not to discount coaching evaluation – and UW coach Steve Sarkisian has gotten plenty of footage of some of the lesser-known up-and-comers who could be vying for key reserve roles next season.

Heading up early. Doing a little shopping in the U-District this afternoon. Then it’s off to the game from the press box. Here are five things I’m specifically going to hone in on tonight:

1, IS THIS THE NIGHT DEONTAE COOPER CREATES SEPARATION?
This week Sarkisian pointed out that the newcomer from California has made one of the strongest statements for playing time this spring.

Don’t think there is any way Cooper will supplant Chris Polk as the starter, but tonight with another impressive showing (114 yards, two TDs in spring scrimmage Saturday) could clearly cement him as the No. 2 tailback.

What could that mean? How about 75-100 carries in 2010. A dependable Cooper would certainly ease Polk’s workload (226 carries last season), and could give the Huskies their best 1-2 punch since … Willie Hurst and Rich Alexis a decade ago?

2, IS WILL SHAMBURGER’S PROGRESS FOR REAL?
See Will hit. See him run. See him make plays.

That is what Shamburger, the redshirt freshman from Compton, Calif., has given this team most of this spring.

Opening eyes? Sarkisian has already tabbed the safety as the UW’s most improved player. UW defensive coordinator Nick Holt declared Thursday that Shamburger has pulled even with Nate Fellner for the starting free safety position, and the two would go to fall as the favorites to battle it out.

Whereas Fellner might be a tad more reliable play-to-play, Shamburger clearly has the edge in playmaking ability.

3, WHO FITS IN TO THE SECOND WAVE OF RECEIVERS?
Unlike a year ago, the UW has three clear-cut starters at receiver: Juniors Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar, and sophomore James Johnson.

Who’s part of the second run? This spring has created more confusion than answers.

D’Andre Goodwin reportedly had a superb offseason, but hasn’t shown it much on the field since he’s been sidelined by a hamstring ailment.

Jordan Polk has slumped the second half of spring, and had a miserable spring scrimmage (three dropped passes, one catch).

Cody Bruns has been non-descript, but is giving the Huskies a little flexibility as a kick holder and special-teams returner.

Who has that opened the door for? Walk-on William Chandler, out of Skyline High School? Possibly Luther Leonard, who had three catches in the spring scrimmage, but still is a little raw? Incoming Kevin Smith?

This would be a time for anybody in this second-tier group to distinguish himself.

4, WHAT IS GOING ON AT TIGHT END?
For 18 months, this has been a real head-scratcher – and that has continued on this spring.

Uber-talented Kavario Middleton has talked as if this spring, he’s done the necessary things to show coaches he’s ready to take the next step – mild improvement in his run-blocking, shedding a few pounds. Meanwhile, it’s Chris Izbicki who is performing with a sense of urgency and, frankly, self-entitlement.

Last week, Sarkisian noted Izbicki had a slight edge over Middleton for the starting job.

Has that touched a nerve with Middleton? Not sure. If it has, he didn’t showed it when asked about it Tuesday. In fact, he said he was unaware of Sarkisian’s comments.

Either Middleton has the best poker face on the team, or he doesn’t seem the slightest bit concerned he won’t be starting come the first weekend of September at Brigham Young University.

5, A RESERVE OF DEPENDABLE OFFENSIVE TACKLES?
Easily the best development of camp as a group has been the reshuffled offensive line, which hasn’t been nearly as tinkered with as other weeks in the Sarkisian/offensive line coach Dan Cozzetto era.

The UW seemingly has found something golden in moving Senio Kelemete to left tackle. At worst, Cody Habben should be an average right tackle in the Pacific-10 Conference when he returns from a shoulder injury.

Then there’s Daniel Kanczugowski, a walkon who made a quiet buzz at the end of the 2009 regular season. He’s continued that this spring.

Take one look at him, he fits the part – physical, nasty and plows through a line as a run-blocker (a big spring-camp emphasis). And talking to his former rugby coach earlier this week, he noted the O’Dea product was, indeed, in line for a national-team tryout, and that for a big man, he was fleet-of-foot.

A knee injury has likely robbed him of some of that over the past year, but if Kanczugowski gets a little quicker to handle some of the speed pass-rushers, imagine what the Huskies will have with him and incoming standout Erik Kohler this fall?

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