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Sarkisian on Seferian-Jenkins, assessing punishment, Keith Price and winning on the road

Post by Todd Dybas / The News Tribune on July 26, 2013 at 4:46 pm with No Comments »
July 26, 2013 4:57 pm

We spent time away from the podium with Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian at Media Day. Naturally, Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ future came up.

The TNT has learned Seferian-Jenkins spent the night of July 15-16 in Issaquah jail as part of his DUI sentence. He has one more court date July 31 for a jail check following his DUI arrest.

Sarkisian did not commit to any suspension for Seferian-Jenkins, at this point. He said he would address the topic once more at an Aug. 5 media gathering, then move on.

Here’s a chunk of our discussion with Sarkisian:

Any injury surprises like Percy Harvin heading into camp? “I hope not. We’ve got a little over a week now until training camp begins. I think so far, so good. Everybody seems good. I’ll get a full assessment of what exactly where we’re at from a medical front next week when I get back in town and I sit down with our medical staff and they literally take me through our entire roster. They take me through everything anybody has had whether from last season through spring ball, through the summer. Whether a guy had a cramp, a twinge in the hamstring, a wrist, whatever. I want everything anybody has had so we know what we’re dealing with.”

Any attrition?) “We’re the same. If anything happens between now and next week, I’ll nail before we get going.”

What are you scholarship numbers now?) “We’re right there. We’re right at 85. Some years, you’re right there, some years you’re down and have the opportunity to put kids on scholarship that are walk-ons and things. It’s a great thing to do. We’ve been fortunate enough to be able to do that the last few years, this year’s not working out that way, I don’t think. There’s still eight more days to go and I’ve seen stuff happen every yer that is mind-boggling to me. Last year was Garrett Gilliland telling me two days into practice he was done. If you would have told me two days earlier I would have a scholarship to give somebody .. we’ll see how it goes.”

How disappointing is it to see Kasen Williams get in trouble in a similar way to Austin Seferian-Jenkins and shortly there after?) “It’s hard because, I really take a lot of pride in being there for our guys and really trying to develop our players and  helping them grow as men. So, when guys make mistakes, I take it hard, I take it personally because I feel invested in them. I feel like so much of what we do …yeah, there’s the Xs and Os, yeah there’s conditioning, yeah, there’s practice, film, as much as all of that is mentoring, it’s talking, it’s decision-making. It’s how to handle themselves, how to conduct themselves, how they represent when they put on that ‘W’ every day. That part is what’s hard for me. But, again, I’m not naive to the fact they are 18-22 years old, they are going to make some mistakes, I don’t ever want to feel like I want to overreact to anything because it’s not fair to them and I wouldn’t want it that way if it was me when I was a kid and made bonehead decisions. It’s hard. It kind of wears on me. But, I want to make sure there message is clear to our team, that they understand the standard that they’re held to, that we can all be better for their mistakes. We need to learn from one another and not just have our own individual instances.”

There’s thought that if you would just go ahead and announce what’s going on with Austin that it wouldn’t be that much of a distraction. Is there thought behind not saying anything as opposed to doing what you’re going to do?) “He’s not done with the process yet. There’s still things that he’s doing that other people don’t know but are part of our own requirements for him to earn his way back onto our team. And, I don’t think it’s a distraction, quite honestly. We haven’t started football and when we start next week, I’ll address it one more time at that press conference before they start of training camp and that’s going to be it. We’re going to move forward.”

There’s a perception that if he’s not suspended, he’s not punished) “I think the worse punishment is spending the night in jail and spending the thousands of dollars as a college kid, then the public humiliation you have to endure as a 20-year-old guy that he’s had to go through. I think that is really severe. Now, that being said, that is all punitive. That’s what the legal system does. It’s punitive. We’ve tried to make it rehabilitative at times, but those are all punitive punishments. As I’ve said before, when we get to a final decision of what we do, as much of what we do will be about developing Austin and rehabilitating Austin more than as much as punishment. I look at every time and any incident we have with any of our kids, who really benefits from punishment and how severe that punishment is. That’s always the hard part where you’re in this situation as a head coach and you’re making those decisions. That’s why I always say I look at every incident separately. I look at every individual separately. The true character of the individual as I know it and the incident they were in is what’s going to peen on the process will be for that individual to earn his way back onto our roster. We’ve acted quickly and swiftly on a lot of instances that have gone on even from the initial suspension of Austin from the day it occurred. And, so, my job, though is not to just hand down punishment. If I wanted to do that, I’d go be a judge. My job is to be a football coach, to develop young men and to win football games and I think we’re doing a really good job of that.

“There are things that we are skiing him to do and there are things within our own team that we are asking him to do. Things that are not easy to do mentally and emotionally. He’s handled it really, really well to his credit. From Day One, he’s owned up this thing. Even at the incident when it actually occurred, he stayed. He didn’t leave the scene of the crime. I think he’s been .. from the moment the incident occurred, from that point on, I think he’s represented our university he’s displayed and how he’s handled himself. Not only from a legal standpoint, but community standpoint, but also from a team standpoint. I think he’s owned up to it. I think that he understands what punishment he’s already endured and what potentially could be there. He’s willing to do whatever needs to be done to get back in good graces with our team and to move forward.”

Did him changing his plea to guilty influence your assessment of him accepting responsibility?) “Believe me, I’ve exhausted myself in understanding DUI cases not only in college athletics and in professional ranks, but in general. A lot of times, these guys can drag these cases out for months, years at a time to find a loophole to get out and his attorney quite honestly wanted to do that. He was under the mindset, coach , I just want to get it over with, I just want to move forward, it’s never going to happen again. I don’t care how long my probation needs to be. I committed the crime. This is not about a loophole, it’s about, this is what I did, it’s not going to happen again, I want to move forward. I want to get this done before training camp starts. If that’s part of owning up to it, then it is. He’s been really mature in his approach to it.”

Fans upset at how last year ended. What do you think?) “For me and the players, I think there’s a real chip on our shoulders and I don’t mind it. I kind of like it. There’s a little bit of an edge going on right now with our football team. I think it’s a good thing. I think they’re hungry. I think they want to get back to work. They want to show and prove that they are better than what our record showed last year because we think we were better than that but unfortunately, we were 7-6. It doesn’t matter what we think. The one stat that does is the wins and the losses. I think our guys have a chip on their shoulder.”

Improvement this year?) “We have to go on the road and win. We’ve been 11-2 at home over the last two seasons. The real issue for us to continue to improve as a program is to maintain that at home, but how do we bottle up that energy, execution, that fight, that want-to and take it on the road with us and play that way at Oregon State, play that way at Stanford, play that way at UCLA and play that way at Arizona State and play that way at Soldier Field. That, to me, is what’s going to be key.”

On Keith Price:) “He’s laser-focused and he wants to win. There’s all this other stuff we could be focused on. The end of last season, the off-the-field stuff; to our team’s credit and to our coaches’ credit we’re focused on winning. I think he feels the same way. If you look back to 2011, he had to beat out Nick Montana and there was a lot of pressure to go win that job and to take that job. Then it was, how is he going to replace Jake Locker? This guy is a first-round NFL draft pick. Well, he did a pretty good job of doing that. Then it’s now you have to face RG3, the Heisman Trophy winner, then he went out and played great in that game. Then, whether it was me, whether it was him, whether it was our community in general, maybe we did come out of that Baylor game feeling a little bit too good about ourselves. Maybe we weren’t as laser-focused on winning the way we need to be. I think we’re back to that and I think he’s back to that. He’s a real competitive guy, he’s a fifth-year senior, the majority of the guys that he came in with in that class have graduated and moved on. I don’t think it’s about being buddy-buddy with everybody and having everybody like him. I think it’s about this is my team, I’m going to lead you, follow me, let’s go.”

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