Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian participated in a conference call Monday to wrap up spring football. Here’s what he had to say:
How do you feel about the spring game and its value?) This is our fifth spring game now here. Every one of the formats we’ve done has been a different one. Each team, each coaching staff, you assess where you’re at from a health standpoint on your roster. You assess what you’re doing offensively or defensively. Sometimes when you’ve got a new staff or changed some staff members, sometimes when you’ve made some drastic changes to your offense or defense, there’s always the notion of, well, I don’t want to show too much. It’s a little bit easier when you’re a healthy team, when your staff is intact and you can just go out and put your stuff out there in a spring game that you ran all last season, and you go play a game. I think those are probably for the fans. Quite honestly, they’re the most enjoyable for us as coaches because you like to see your kids compete and you like to see your fans get involved with the ballgame.
Where we were at this spring, for us, more specifically, it was a little bit of a challenge because we’ve implemented so much new stuff offensively. Well, do we really want to go out and put two hours of 150 plays on film for people to scout against? Also, are we capable enough from a roster standpoint to do what we wanted to do and still have the best interest of our players intact? It’s always challenging. I’m sure it’s challenging for every other coach. I think the general idea is the spring game, you want to give your fans a glimpse of what they can see in the fall and put a really good product on the field for them, and give your kids an opportunity to compete. But also have the overall well-being of the program in mind so when August rolls around, you have a healthy football team getting ready to play early September.
How has the competition at cornerback played out this spring?) Our secondary really had a very good season for us last year. I thought Justin Wilcox and Keith Heyward, our secondary coach, really came in and did a great job. The numbers don’t lie. You look at the increase in play that we had in the secondary, our pass defense numbers, our ability to create turnovers. I think really speaks volumes to their coaching and their ability to develop our players. That being said, Desmond Trufant was a great player for us. Any time you have a first-round draft pick at corner tells you the quality of the player you have. I think we’ve got some really capable guys that are stepping in. That secondary is led by Sean Parker, who is going to be a senior for us this fall. Tremendous player, great leader, really exemplifies what we want back there. Then, we’ve got a lot of young players who are continuing to grow who we are going to keep looking for consistency out of. I think Marcus Peters is a guy who has a chance to be a good football player for us. Travell Dixon has a chance to be a good football player for us. Greg Ducre, Cleveland Wallace, Tre Watson, more of a traditional safety in Will Shamburger and another young guy in Brandon Beaver. We’ve got a good amount of talent back there. It’s about finding the right combination of those guys and I think for some of those guys who were redshirt players for us last year in Travell, Brandon and Cleveland, the fall camp is going to be big for them. The spring was good to get the terminology, fundamentals and techniques … they spent all year on the service team last year. There’s a healthy competition going on back there and the end result is we’re fortunate to have good depth. Have good coaches and feel good about our pass defense when the fall rolls around.
Is everyone who was injured on pace to be back in the fall as expected?) Yeah, I think so far, so good. I just got an update here at the end of last week on all of our guys and where they’re at. What they’re doing in the offseason conditioning program and feel good about where we’re at so far. Some of the guys that are a little further along had the surgeries earlier. Obviously the guys from training camp, Hau’oli Jamora, Deontae Cooper, Jesse Callier, his injury, how early in the season it occurred, then Colin Tanigawa. Those guys are a little bit further along than let’s say a Pio Vatuvei. Travis Feeney is working out. We feel good about where we’re at with the guys rehabbing. Again, those things get answered a little easier when we put the pads on and we get to training camp and they have to work through some of that. Not only the physical side of it, but also the psyche side of it. A couple of those guys are repeat injury guys and so they’re ability from a psyche standpoint to work through that is going to be big when August rolls around. I think our training staff has done a really nice job of rehabbing those guys up to this point. Those guys have really been committed to the rehab which is great and they’re doing all the right things to get themselves prepared to get competitive when August rolls around.
How do you manage Deontae Cooper at this point?) He’s an interesting one because he’s probably further along almost than any of these guys, comparatively because of when his injury occurred and because of his rehab and the knowledge of the rehab that needs to take place that we changed and tweaked for him. He’s probably one of the furthest along. That being said, we’ll manage him and we’ll manage him closely. The big key for us with Deontae is to get get him to feel confidence in himself. Genuine confidence in himself to the point of he believes in himself physically. It’s not a belief that he can’t go make plays, I know that he believes that. But that he can go make those cuts that are so unique to him and can go out and play football. There’s not a person in our organization that doesn’t want Deontae Cooper to come back and come back and play to the level of his capabilities because it’s been a long road for him, it’s been a long haul. He’s a special individual. Not only on the football field but off the field and I think everybody is pulling for him. We’re going to have to monitor him closely to give him that chance. I think when he gets that chance to go play in a real football game for us he’s going to be a nice player.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ case appears still open and ongoing. Is that correct?) It is. Like I’ve said before, to Austin’s credit, he’s done everything up to this point we could have asked and beyond. He’s doing a really nice job in school. He’s doing some really cool stuff in the community right now. He’s doing all the counseling we’ve asked him to do. Austin, to his credit, has really stayed ahead of this thing. It’s not just the legal matter that it is. It’s as much a University of Washington and our football program, and as I’ve said numerous times about Austin, so many times when you deal with 18-22-year-old males, you’re going to make some mistakes. When you look out for 105 sons, you’re going to make some mistakes. One of the keys for me was the mistake truly indicative of a young man’s character? Or was it a mistake? I can sit here and say Austin’s incident was a mistake. He’s a good kid. He’s a good-hearted individual. He’s a great teammate. He’s a good leader. He’s learning from this, his teammates are learning from this. As I said before, we’ll move forward as a program, he’ll move forward as an individual and we’ll all be better for it.