Savvy is Steve Sarkisian. When he wants to, he can charm, entertain or rivet reporters from all corners of the West Coast.
The UW’s third-year coach was on hand for the Pacific-12 Conference football media day at Fox Studios in Los Angeles on Tuesday afternoon.
For a brief nine minutes – the quickest enter and exit of any coach in the proceedings – he sat up along side tailback Chris Polk talking optimistically about the Huskies’ continued growth.
He was off and running. Others had to face the music concerning offseason issues – something Sarkisian was largely devoid of (unless you count Johri Fogerson’s ongoing issues as a major infraction or distraction, which I don’t).
Rarely in a setting such as this will Sarkisian allow a reporter to peek into his candid, off-handed side. In that regard, he is very guarded.
But on Tuesday, when I approached him about a topic I will write later during fall camp – how impactful year No. 3 is in a reshaping project – Sarkisian raised some insightful points about how much more confidence he has in what his team is doing.
“I jokingly say this, we lost the leadership of Jake Locker, but in the end we added the leadership of another 10 or 12 players who have stepped up and come out of their shells,” Sarkisian said.
“It has relieved some of the stress on my end because I feel so much more comfortable and confident with what they are doing without me … and it’s allowed me to have my best offseason personally where I can relax a little more and know these guys are doing it the way we want it to be done.”
Ah, relaxation – something of a lost art in college football.
Now I’m sure in the days ahead, when fall camp opens Aug. 8, Sarkisian will return to being the sometimes-raving and unrelentless yelling lunatic of a coach. That is what he is paid to do – get his team’s attention.
But it wasn’t difficult to see the proud glow he carries in his back pocket -at least for now.
* The pass. The catch. The punt. The taunt?
A significant rule change about excessive taunting and celebration will go into effect – much to most of the coaches’ chagrin.
Starting this season, if a team is flagged for a live-ball taunting or excessive celebration penalty during a scoring play, the touchdown or field goal will be taken off the board.
In its subjective nature, the new rule is certainly going to be controversial – mainly because the coaches are not real clear on its interpretation.
The best explanation I got was from WSU coach Paul Wulff: When a player exhibits “different body movements that aren’t normal (during a play), and they have a sense of showboating, I think that is how they are going to make that judgment call.”
* Mentioned earlier – and kind of surprised – that Polk was brought to the conference media day instead of a Cort Dennison or Jermaine Kearse – guys who rarely run off the reservation.
But the Polk move was a smart one – he ended up being one of the most delightful participants at the event.
“Of all the guys I have been most proud of in our time here, it’s been Chris Polk,” Sarkisian said.
Speaking more of the standout tailback, he has lost weight since last seaosn – back down to 220 pounds. He is a ball of tightly-wound muscle.
“Same strength but I am just faster now,” he said.
The California product, who could set many of the UW rushing records with a big season, was asked if the extra weight helped in dealing with the constant pounding by defenders last year – especially given the team played an extra game in the Holiday Bowl agaisnt Nebraska.
“More cushion, so I wouldn’t get bone bruises,” Polk said. Yes, he is kind of amusing.
* As previously reported, Deontae Cooper will miss the upcoming season with his second serious knee injury, suffered during a team drill in the spring.
To which Polk said Tuesday: “I was sad, but I look at Deontae, he is a great person … with a good heart and I told him, he has nothing but time. When he has to start playing, he’s an animal.”
It puts the needle back on Polk and Jesse Callier, who will be a sophomore this season.
“Jesse came on the first three-quarters of the season, but those last couple or three games weren’t his best,” Sarkisian said.
“That is challenging for a true freshman. You can wear down a little mentally and physically at the end of the year. With our offseason (conditioning) program, hopefully we can count on him for 13 games.”
* If Callier, or even Fogerson somehow falter, Polk pointed out two newcomers who could make an immediate impact – Spokane’s Bishop Sankey and Dezden Petty, of Carson, Calif.
“Bishop, he wants to punish you and run you into the grass, and Dez, he is real elusive and he is just fast,” Polk said.
* Had a brief conversation with Andrew Luck, the star Stanford quarterback and likely No. 1 pick in next year’s NFL Draft.
Luck took over the position for good in 2009 – from Clover Park High’s Tavita Pritchard, who was then a senior.
“I remember how easy how it could have been for him to disregard (me), be a jerk or shut his mind off from football, None of the above came,” Luck said. “He helped me like an older brother would. He was unbelievable.”
Pritchard is still at Stanford as a defensive backs staff coach.
Luck said the two are still close. In fact in recent days, they played a tennis match – won by Pritchard.
UW offensive guard Daniel Kanczugowski, a junior from Edmonds, will miss the start of fall camp with grade issues. … Sarkisian has decided that sophomore Erik Kohler will come to fall camp as a tackle. … The morning sessions of fall-camp practices will be closed to the public, boosters and media. … All the Pac-12 coaches took off from Los Angeles on Tuesday for a two-day media tour in New York and surrounding areas.