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Transcript of Steve Sarkisian’s pre-fall camp press conference

Post by Ryan Divish on Aug. 6, 2012 at 2:19 pm with No Comments »
August 6, 2012 2:19 pm

Opening statement

“Well it’s good to be back talking football again with you guys. We have as always the clichés of, great offseason, the guys look good, hold true again. I think Ivan Lewis and his crew have done a tremendous job with our guys, they look in great shape, excited to get on the field with them this afternoon and crank it up. Some things of note, Matt Lyons has decided to transfer from the University of Washington, Dwayne Washington is still under review with the NCAA to get qualified, and Cory Littleton has been cleared by the NCAA so those are the only real updates on that front.

I will just say that in general about our team, year 4, I feel like we’re becoming a more mature football team, I know sometimes the age is the age issue and we don’t have many seniors and all those things but I think we have experience and sometimes experience outweighs age and we’ve had a lot of guys that have played quite a bit of football for us since their true freshman, true sophomore years that are now in their junior season, or sophomore season, that experience that we can rely on.

I really feel like this is a tight knit group, probably our closest, tightest team that we’ve had where the last 4 classes have come in together with the sole purpose of winning a championship and have been recruited by myself and the coaches on this staff and so there seems to be a sense of urgency, a focused group with a purpose and maybe a little bit of a chip on their shoulders. I think that this group has got the leadership in place obviously when you’ve got your returning quarterback coming back in Keith Price.

The leadership in place to embrace the philosophies and beliefs that we have and that we believe in and that’s playing hard and playing fast with an attitude but yet playing smart and understanding the special situations of the game, playing with a very high football IQ and so we’ll lean on the likes of Keith, and Desmond, Sean Parker, Drew Schaefer, those types of guys for their experience and their leadership to help guide some of our younger players as they get used to the program. I don’t think that from the naked eye you will see much different from training camp as far as things that we’ve done in the past.

There will be some things along the way that will be a little bit different from a focus standpoint or what we’re working on and that aspect of it a little bit. We’ll continue some of the themes we had in spring ball, a lot more competition, 1 on 1 competition drills that we did more of then. I think on the back end, one area definitely different for us, we’ve gone totally digital from a playbook standpoint, everything is on the Ipad now, which I know the players embrace so obviously we’re cutting down on the big notebooks, but also I think it’s something that they relate to, this is a digital world that we’re living in, I think the players probably understand the Ipads better than we do and how to operate them and get from page to page and all that stuff so that’s so far so good, and I’m really excited to get on the field with them. You make the changes that we made from the staff standpoint, you recruit the players that you recruit, you lose players to graduation, new leaders emerge and like I’ve said every year, the beauty of training camp is every year is different and I know there’s a lot of familiar faces on our roster but as players mature as they get more experience, leaders are formed and through that comes a new personality every year and this team will take on a new personality than any other team that we’ve had and that’s what training camp is about. It’s about coming together and working with one another, it’s about fighting through the blood, sweat, and tears, enjoying the laughter, enjoying the smiles, and inevitably coming together as one for a common goal and that’s to win a championship.”

On the biggest change coming into fall camp:

“Well just trying to get to know these guys is one of the biggest things, and when you bring in new coaches, it’s getting to the core of it, and who they are, and what they represent, and their style in which they coach, and how they relate to the players, and how they relate with one another, and how they relate with me, and get them to embrace the uniqueness of the University of Washington and what makes this place so special. And so I’ve really tried to attach myself to them and instill the confidence in them and why we wanted to hire them and why they are here, so maybe that’s a little bit different where I’ve just been focused on what I needed to do for me and for the program, but trying to reach out a little bit more to let people know that this is a great place and we are all fortunate and honored to be part of it and I think that has really helped the messaging to our team as well.

We’ve got new coaches in the strength staff, we’ve obviously got new players in our program and you go back 4 years and you inherit a football team and you try to piece together a recruiting class there and you got new coaches coming and there’s so many things to get done. Well now I’ve got our leaders on this team who have been here for 4 years who were recruited by us, the messaging, the philosophies are second nature to them, it’s who they are, it’s what they’ve become. And so now when you bring in new coaches, it’s to get them integrated as quickly as possible so that their beliefs are aligned with mine and with the players so that’s what the biggest change has been.”

Did the freshmen make a leap?

They did great in school. I think our lowest grade of all the payers in leap was a 3.2. I think it was an average of almost a 3.5 for the entire group, which was amazing. It’s a great job by kim Durand and her staff. It was the best ever that’s ever been here.

Really poroud of them that way.

The reports I’ve gotten from campus is that they’re respectful, humble, they’re hungry. they want to get on the field and go play. SO time will tell. It’s a hard one to answer today, it will probably be a hard one to anwerr in the next two or three days intil we really get going and have tofight through adversity. I do know they’re a good looking group, they’re excited to be here and proud to be part of the program.

How is the overall health of the team?

You’ll see everybody go. Feeney will be going, Sample’s going, (Colin)Tanigawa’s going—he’ll be limited some, but he’ll be out there – (Siosifa) Tufunga will be going. You’ll see a little brace on his hand. Deontae Cooper’s cleared to go so you’ll see him out there today. The one kid who wont be completely cleared is Ryan McDaniel, who’s still in the stages in recovery from the ACL. Cooper Pelluer is other one who’s out and that’s been known – had the shoulder surgery. Kevin Smith you’ll see he’ll have a gold jersey on. That is the other change – the injured guys, instead of wearing red jerseys, they’ll wear gold jerseys like the quarterbacks. They should have their number on so you can identify them. That basically means they’re non-contact. Kevin Smith you’ll see him running routes, you’ll see him in some 7-on-7 today. We won’t have him going in full team but he’s made a great recovery.

On the health of Deontae Cooper?

We don’t know. We’re kind of in uncharted waters with Deontae at this point. He’s going to get in, were going to monitor him closely, but I think it’s important for him not only physically, but from a mental standpoint, a psyche standpoint, that he gets into the flow of it. Obviously we’re not going to try to give him 20 carries today, but he’s going to get enough exposure from football that he’s going to get comfortable again.

Replacing all of Chris Polk’s productions?

I haven’t seen them yet. That’s a hard question. It’s hard to answer the what-ifs. I hate making statements that I don’t have the answers to yet. What I do know is we have some players on our roster, who the levels of expectations have risen, just as our program has. Whether that’s Kasen, whether that’s Austin, whether that’s James Johnson, whether it’s some of the newer players coming into the program, if it’s Jesse or Bishop. I know the standard of the bar for which we’re setting for them is higher. And it’s higher for them within. I don’t know if I’ll feel better about it until I actually see guys making those plays and creating those touchdowns and all those things. Hopefully we can put those questions to ease sooner rather than later.

On Shaq Thompson can he contribute?

“He’s here. He looks in shape. He cleared his physical. But you’ve got to give me a couple of days. I don’t know exactly what we are getting. We’re going to put him out there in different scenarios, different situations, just like all of our freshmen will. You’re going to see Brandon Beaver and Cleveland Wallace. You’re going to see Darien Washington. All four of those guys are going to get their shots. In 3-4-5 days I’ll probably be able to answer that one a little bit better.”

On if he’s talked to Thompson about hitting sliders?

“We haven’t got there yet. We’re just making sure we cover the seam route today.”

On if there is anything different about this training camp and what he has learned from camps in the last few years:

“That this is a building process. You’re first year you want to come in and it’s a big first meeting, rah, rah speech. But this is a long month and not that we weren’t fired up to go last night, and not that I wasn’t, but you save some things now I think for week two, week three when that grind is going, so I think we were a bit more efficient with our time in our administrative meetings. I think our message was clear, we didn’t have too much for them to focus on. But that there is going to be messaging that is going to get given to them as we move forward throughout this camp that maybe in this camp we would have tried to give it to them all at once and you miss some of it. So we are going to try to break it up as we go and hopefully some of that comes from growing and learning.”

On if they’ll try to redshirt more freshmen now?

“It was unique, Chris. I think two years ago we played 16 true freshmen which I think was the most in the country, us and Florida. And last year we played four, and one of those was James Sample who got his year back. So I like to think that’s the sign of the times of where we are headed. I do know that I won’t ever not play a kid just because he is a freshman. The best guys on the field are going to play for us but I know it’s harder for our freshmen to get on the field now than it was before. I think we have recruited the type of athletes that fit our schemes and have the personal makeup, the competitiveness that we love, the unique and special qualities that they possess. So I think it’s getting harder for them to get on the field but we’re going to give them the opportunity to show us what they can do and if they are the best player for the spot to make us the most successful team then they will earn that job. And you ask any senior, junior, sophomore or freshmen on our roster and they get it, that the best guys are going to play, and that’s what makes the competition so unique.”

On now having solely his own recruits and players?

“Well, there are five other guys. But the cool thing about those five other guys is that we’ve been in some pretty good battles together and had some pretty intimate moments together, so I think they recognize what it’s all about, too. The key to it is the consistent messaging from day one, that these guys step on our campus and they are hearing the same things over and over again and it’s ingrained in them until it becomes them and I think that we are seeing that and what happens is that then your leaders, the talk in the locker room is what we say, and our messaging can be something beyond that because we are already speaking that way together collectively. And that has definitely occurred, and I’m proud of that. As a coach there are definitely little nuggets along the way that you get proud of and when your guys are speaking your language and your lingo and it’s not coach talk, it’s locker room talk, that’s when I think you can really make strides and we are definitely getting that from our veterans through our younger players and that’s why it’s so important.

What these guys came here to do is a consistent message in recruiting as well, and that’s ultimately to win a championship and a world class degree from a tremendous institution and live in an  amazing community in the city of Seattle where the support for Husky football is second to none. So they are all here for the same reasons and they all have a really cool edge to them that is a competitive nature within them that is the first thing we look for in recruiting and they all fit that criteria, and when you bring that all together it creates an environment that I’m proud to be able to say we put that together and now let’s see what we can do with it.”

On the logistics of QB snaps for the backups vs. Keith?

“Good question. You’re really going to see the next three guys pretty extensively. You’re going to see Derrick Brown still. You’re going to see Cyler Miles and you’re going to see Jeff Lindquist and we’re really going to give Cyler and Jeff as much as we can especially early to get a gauge for where they are. It’s always tough to tell what a high school kid really did at quarterback, it’s a difficult. We’re going to give them as much as we can, you’re going to see them and by no means diminish what Keith is doing. We need him to continue to get better as well. Everything is thoughtfully laid out so we know who is getting what reps against what looks so we can get what gage how they handle pressure and zone and run game, all those things.”

Cyler had surgery before signing day. Is he OK:

“He appears great. We’ll see today. He’ll be rolling out of the pocket today, one of the first things we do. He says he feels great, he’s been fully cleared, ready to go. So I wouldn’t expect any setbacks.

You are practicing in the morning this fall, why not do it all fall?

“We do walkthroughs in the morning. We’re actually out in the morning, you guys just don’t get to be there.”

How will you determine which running back will get the start?

“It’s everything Elise. There will be certain days when certain guys get the bulk of carries and it might be Jesse one day and Bishop the other to see how they can handle 20 carries a practice or 25 carries a practice, how they respond physically. Obviously their ability to do things right, technically, fundamentally be sound at that spot. Who can respond to the special situations in the game, who can respond to the third down to the red zone stuff, to the two minute stuff to the short-yardage goal line things. We’re going to gather as much information as we can individually but also how they fit into the grand scheme of what they try to do. I will say this about both those two kids, Jesse and Bishop, they’ve both been diligent in their preparation and they’ve got a real sense of seriousness about them to say the least. That being said that doesn’t mean they don’t’ have a lot of fun. They do. We all know Jesse and he’s one of the funnest guys on the practice field. This is our time and Deonte is back going, Erick Wilson is going to be in the mix, Dezden Petty; just like the quarterback spot there is going got be certain days, certain drills guys are going to be featured over others so we can get as much information as we can.”

On their styles and strengths:

“A little bit. Jesse obviously is a little more the jack of all trades. He’s done so much for us in the last couple of years that we have a pretty good idea what he is. I want to see him getting extensive carries, I know what he is on a couple of carries here and there, but what he looks like on carries extensively. Bishop I thought had a great spring. And again, we’re trying to gather as much information as we can.”

Who has impressed you so far?

I’ll continue on the theme of Michael Hartvigson, I think has been tremendous. And in turn he’s helped Austin, Austin looks great. Sean Parker, another one who looks good. Sorry, I’m going down the list here guys, Connor Cree looks really improved, Talia looks great, as good as he’s ever looked. John Timu looks fantastic, he looks awesome, looks great. I’ve mentioned Keith already, what he looks like, what he’s put into this thing. Andrew Hudson is a guy, I’d be remiss if skipped over him, he’s up to almost 250 pounds now, he looks tremendous. The thing to remember about Andrew, he was a wrestler in high school, so when your body gets used to your weight fluctuating up and down. . . I think now he’s starting to settle in to where he’s not trying to drop all that weight after football season, he’s able to build his body up. He looks tremendous. Some guys you wouldn’t  know.

Kasen Williams, to his credit, looks fantastic as well. He looks flexible and loose and confident and strong, so I’m kind of excited to watch him run around today too. With Kasen, it’s doing more with him than we ever have where was such just an isolated receiver on the single receiver side for us a year ago, to get him ingrained in the offense. You’re going to see him much more in the slot for us this year than he ever was, and I think that will be really conducive to his game, because he’s got a very high football IQ.

Will Kasen do more special teams?

Wait and see a little. We know what he can do, and I think he’ll be even better at it, but we’ve got some guys in who I think will be pretty good too, and some guys we redshirted last year, so it’s going to take some time. We’ve talked about that as a staff, we’re going to have to put these guys in some real, live kick return situations to where maybe you didn’t do as much of that in a training camp before because of the fear of injury, but we’re going to have to put some of these guys in real, live return situations to see how good they really are. I know what Kasen is, from that aspect of it, but there’s other guys, a Jaydon Mickens, a Marcus peters, a Kendyl Taylor, those types of guys that I need some information for to tell me that they’re not as good, as good, or better than Kasen in varying areas.

What is the next step for Austin Seferian-Jenkins?

Consistency. His ability to really do things right at the level of capability that he’s capable of, and that’s really high. His is different than other guys. He’s set a bar, his bar has been set differently than others. Fortunately for him, but unfortunately, he’s the one that set the bar there, because we’ve seen glimpses of how good he really can be, and now it’s down after down after down.

The cool thing about Austin, he’s a very, very mature young man. He recognizes it, he’s working at it extremely hard, but that’s ultimately the challenge is down after down after down, and not those lapses at times where he might drift off and take some plays off. And we can help that as well and get him involved in things maybe earlier or more consistently. And we’re going to need him to, he’s one of the guys that we’re hopeful can continue to grow and to take some of those touchdowns that Jermaine and Devin and Chris had last year

Replacing your kicker and punter and longsnapper?

That’s one of our bigger question marks. For me, we’ve had a really good luxury from what we’ve had from our specialists the last three years. From the snappers to the punters to the kickers, to replace all three of them in one year is a little unsettling. I feel like we’ve identified people that are more than capable.  Never mind replacing them but maybe even excelling beyond, whether that happens this year or the next or the next, we’ll see. That is a huge factor in the game. I feel like we addressed our special teams so much from year one till now. We’re so much better. We have so much more depth. I’m these  guys can come right in and continue with the path that we are on. They are very talent  but again its much more than talent at those two spots. There’s some psyche involved so those guys feel great about what they are doing.

How much competition will there be?

There will be plenty. It’s going to be ongoing. Nothing is done. There is no depth chart there. Not yet.

On the lasting impression of the Alamo Bowl?

I don’t know. That was last year. It’s such a different deal. I would say, I’m not troubled by it. It’s actually if anything been a positive. I think our guys have really come into this camp with a little bit of a chip on their shoulder, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think the perception is that, you know what Washington is pretty good. That was the number 10 team in the country they went toe to toe with. Hopefully we’ve improved form that and this is what training is camp and the season is about to see if it holds true.

Is this team mentally tough enough to withstand the tough early schedule or is it built?

It’s constantly talked about, our mentally tough. The day I sit up here in front of you guys and say we are a mentally weak team, I’m in trouble. I like to think we kind of exude mental toughness and we’ve dealt with a lot of adversity over three years and we’ll get faced with more along the way. What I do is we are not flying under the radar anymore. Teams have circled us on their schedules, you have to understand where you ae and the lay of the land. That’s where we are at. We aren’t sneaking up on anybody anymore. We have to throw our best punch every Saturday if we expect to win.

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