Wednesday’s practice had the players in shoulder pads for the first time this spring. And with the extra gear, there meant a little extra physicality. That’s a good thing except for when it’s after the whistle.
On three different occasions, head coach Steve Sarkisian sent players to the sidelines after they were getting physical after the whistle. Chronic repeat offender Nate Fellner got booted off the field for a few plays after hitting running back Willis Wilson, after he dropped a pass. Fellner then received a stern lecture from Sarkisian on the side. Also guilty of similar things were Ben Riva and another younger linebacker, possibly Scott Lawyer.
The Fellner and Riva incidents came in 11-on-11 periods in the red zone. And Sarkisian simply won’t accept controllable mistakes like that.
“You just can’t late hit,” Sarkisian said. “We try to pride ourselves in being a smart football team. Teachable moments we have to learn from. Hopefully, every can learn from them, not just that individual.”
Fellner has been guilty of those questionable hits and being a little too physical in practice for the last few years. He was banished off the field for a few snaps in Monday’s opening practice.
“It’s a point of emphasis with him,” Sarkisian said. “Not that I”m trying to take Nate’s stinger. He’s a physical player. We love that about him. That’s why we moved him to linebacker. But dumb penalties are dumb penalties and we have to get rid of them.”
But Fellner wasn’t the only one to take some heated criticism from Sarkisian in practice.
Quarterback Keith Price heard it from Sarkisian after he tried to extend a play when nothing was open downfield and he scrambled around for a few moments.
Sarkisian could be heard screaming, throw it away in slightly different verbage.
“Sark was kind of on one today,” Price said. “He was kind of on everyone’s case. I don’t take it personally. I understood his message and he came over later in practice and talked to me. I understood.”
Said Sarkisian: “It’s obviously a point of emphasis that we aren’t going to take sacks, we are not going to take unnecessary hits, especially in the red zone. It’s a point of emphasis with him and for our offense. We have to get better.”
Sarkisian knows that Price’s instinct to make plays, and he’s quite good at it. But the abuse he took last season in terms of hits and sacks leveled it’s toll on Price’s health and performance.
“Innately in the games, he’s going to revert back to his old self,” Sarkisian said. “I’m being a bit more conservative now in practice, just to try to give him those reminders that will click in on game day.”
The Huskies debuted their “jumbo” personnel package on defense, used a lot in short yardage situations. It was a 5-2 look featuring Josh Shirley, Andrew Hudson, Danny Shelton, Talia Crichton and Hau’oli Jamora on the defensive line with John Timu and Thomas Tutogi as the linebackers.
Freshman QB Cyler Miles threw a pair of nice touchdowns in the last 11 on 11 period. The first came after Miles was flushed from the pocket and threw to the end zone on the run. The ball was a little underthrown, but senior Cody Bruns adjusted quickly and came back to the ball, while freshman Shaq Thompson couldn’t adjust. Miles then connect with Josh Perkins on a pretty pass on a fade route for another score.
Price connected with Austin Seferian-Jenkins on a nice red zone touchdown pass. ASJ pulled the ball down between two defenders with an impressive grab.
Sarkisian said Cody Bruns will be the holder. JC transfer Travis Coons looked solid on field goals, hitting all of his attempts, including a final one from 53-yards. Coons missed a pair of 52-yarders yesterday.