Thursday Practice Report

Kiel Rasp (Kim Grinolds/Dawgman.com)

The dismissal of redshirt frosh Victor Burnett cast a bit of a shadow during post-practice proceedings, but Steve Sarkisian wasn't going to let it hang for long. During his post-practice interview Thursday, he talked about the coaches' deliberate attempt to up the energy level, and how the players responded during the more than two hour-long workout at Husky Stadium.

"I am not frustrated," Sarkisian said of Burnett's dismissal, and how that could possibly be an off-the-field distraction. "I am frustrated maybe with myself, because I feel like part of my job is to raise these guys. I am inheriting a kid at 18 years old, and I have him for the four or five years of their lives, and those are big years in a young man's life with a lot of changes. You try to get them all – try and make them all better people, and better students and better football players, so the frustration maybe is with me when you don't get them all. Then you sit back and you realize I've got 115 sons, and the percentages tell me we're doing pretty good."

Talk quickly moved forward to the practice that just took place. "It was fun," Sarkisian said of UW's fourth practice. "When training camp gets going, and it's like Groundhog Day now, being day four of training camp…the players can feel the effects and so can the coaches of feeling that grind. We made it a point of bringing our energy, and we feel like if we would bring it the kids would respond, and they did. I thought it was a very intense, upbeat, enthusiastic practice."

Included in the workout was an extensive amount of time spent doing 11-11 team work on the newly-replaced East Field. For two periods, the offense and defense went at it, bathed in the early evening sun while over a hundred or so onlookers watched attentively.

"Well, we got new turf over there," Sarkisian said. "That's part of it. We like to be over there and the guys like to be over there too…sometimes there's a little bit more sun on that side of it. And there's a little bit of trying to get into a comfort zone over there, because come November 6th, and this thing closes down, we're over there full time and I don't want the shock of all of a sudden moving to the East field. The turf's good, and we're just trying to get used to it."

Sarkisian was asked about players that have stood out, and he was quick to point out one of the true freshmen that took advantage of the fifteen practices afforded him in April. "Johnny Timu," he said. "For a guy who is essentially a true freshman for us right now, he basically started today. For a guy who has never really played the position, being a high school quarterback and safety, he is just a natural football player. He has got great instincts. He is very athletic. He can run. He's tough. He has really probably made the biggest impact.

"And the other guy that jumps out at me … and has made a lot of plays is Sean Parker. He is just around the ball. He is a natural football player. If he doesn't get an interception a day, he's got his hands on one that he doesn't quite catch. He is around the ball quite a bit."

Parker had one interception of Keith Price Thursday, a leaping grab over the outstretched arms of James Johnson.

Price had another interception, one that was initially tipped by Cort Dennison, but then Timu was able to snag it in mid-air and clean up the play.

"I think we really have some good competition there but Princeton Fuimaono has done a really nice job," Washington Linebackers Coach Mike Cox added when asked about the two linebacker positions available. Senior Cort Dennison has pretty much locked up the MIK position - backed up by Thomas Tutogi and Tim Tucker - while Fuimaono appears to have taken the lead in the competition for the starting strong-side outside linebacker position. "He didn't benefit from spring practice but I think he has really come at a fairly quick pace right now catching up on things. He picked it up and played well and we obviously were very comfortable with him last year and he started a game and been in games and he's got some experience and he's a good player."

And at the WIL position, the weak-side linebacker spot? "It's very good competition with Garret Gilliland and Johnny Timu but it's still early," Cox said. "It's going to be a process and no one is going to win the job in one or two days. They are going to come out and work every day and that's the cool part of it, they are going to make each other better. But I'm pleased with Johnny's progress. He's done a nice job of kind of catching up a little bit, being new, he wasn't here in the fall and Jordan Wallace has got a lot of maturity as well, so there's a lot of competition and those guys are just rolling in there right now competing for that spot."

On offense, the competition at tight end and fullback continues to be one to watch. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Michael Hartvigson, Evan Hudson, and Cameron Salley were all praised by Sarkisian for their work so far, so much so that fans could expect a number of those players involved in multiple-TE sets this fall.

"We've been doing it, we've been doing quite a bit of it - a lot of two tight sets with Austin and Michael, as well as Evan Hudson…and Cameron Salley has shown up too at that spot," Sarkisian said of the tight ends. "We've been doing it and I think it's been good to us. We've created a lot of big plays in the passing game and the running game because of it, so I think we'll stay the course and it'll be a part of our offense.

With one spot going overboard, does that invariably mean less time for the fullbacks that are in their own competition? "No," Sarkisian said emphatically. "Jonathan Amosa played quite a bit, and I've been pleasantly surprised with Nick Holt at the position, it's something he hasn't played before. But we're also doing some stuff, utilizing what appears to be two tight end sets, with one of the tight ends at fullback. So we're incorporating that as well."

On special teams, all eyes have been squarely fixed on the punting battle, with Will Mahan and Kiel Rasp each making their respective cases with towering kicks.

"I'm hoping one starts shanking a couple of them," Sarkisian said with a chuckle. "They are both bombing the ball right now. They are cranking it. We don't need to rush. They are both experienced, and they've both played a lot of football. Hopefully when it's all said and done they both get their opportunities."

Does that mean the possibility of carrying both players on the squad during the season if the competition isn't fairly sorted out by the Eastern game? "I don't know," Sarkisian said. "I'm still trying to rack that in my brain right now. I don't know if anyone has carried two punters, but we'll see. We'll try."

With Washington's first full-pads practice Friday afternoon, expect the competition to ramp up even further as the coaches look to lock down positions heading toward the Huskies' September 3rd opener against the Eagles of Eastern Washington.


Notes:
Getting healthy: Sione Potoae continued to work Thursday, and he looks more and more like whatever knee inflammation that was causing him to stay out of practice at the beginning of the week has moved past. Semisi Tokolahi (knee), Taz Stevenson (knee), and Evan Zeger (hamstring) are all players the coaches are going to be very cautious with as they move forward. UW has not had any injuries since the beginning of camp, and Sarkisian reiterated how they want to make sure the team is fresh, healthy and ready to go by September 3rd.

"I don't know," he said when asked about Tokolahi, who has been doing some work during practice, but nothing during team drills. "He's on the sled. Not going to force it with him. We've got time. We've got a lot more depth on the defensive line than I think people think. I want to make sure he's playing really good football for us in October and in November. If that means that we lose a little of that in early September, that's okay with me. I just want to make sure he's healthy."

And Zeger, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound frosh safety from Las Vegas? "Oh yeah, I notice him all around here, pacing," Sarkisian said of Zeger's romps around the field as he tries to work his hamstring injury out. "The last thing I want is for that thing to linger for months," added Sarkisian. "Let's just nip it in the bud and get him 100 percent healthy before we get into October and we're still talking about Evan Zeger and his hamstring."

Academics Update: Sarkisian said there's been some movement on the three players - Marvin Hall, Kyle Lewis, and Antavius Sims - in regard to a timeline for when fans can expect to see them on the field during fall camp. "We're hoping on Lewis and Hall within the next seven days is what I'm told, and Sims hopefully we know a little something by early next week," Sarkisian said.

Lewis, a freshman RB from Downey, Calif., and Hall, a freshman WR from Los Angeles, are awaiting approval from the NCAA, while Sims - a junior transfer from Ventura College in Oxnard, Calif. - is apparently waiting for grades to post and transcripts finalized before he can officially be admitted into school.

RB's moving on up: Bishop Sankey, a true frosh RB from Spokane, was getting some time with the No. 2 team Thursday, backing up Chris Polk and Jesse Callier. Sankey, even though it's only his fourth day at UW, continues to impress. Another running back moving back up the depth is senior Johri Fogerson. He looked especially sharp during the team period, putting Parker on his butt on pass protection, and catching a 74-yard touchdown from freshman QB Derrick Brown.

Dawgman.com Recommended Stories