Quantum leaps can be made

Senio Kelemete (Kim Grinolds/Dawgman.com)

SEATTLE - Sometimes it takes a whole year to make that quantum transformation from player to star. Steve Sarkisian said Thursday it's possible for a transformation to occur literally from one practice to the next. And while he has to watch the film to make sure, he saw some players step up that he didn't see on Tuesday.

"It's a comfort zone of being out here," Sarkisian said after Thursday's practice, the second so far for the Washington Huskies this spring. "Sometimes you see guys that had a good off-season, and they come out and there's so much anxiety for that first day they are a little tight and they don't perform maybe the way they want. They they look at the film and relax and then come out and play the second day. It becomes the norm, and those guys start to show up even more."

For players like De'Shon Matthews and Alvin Logan - players with tenure in the program that are trying to take the spot of former starters like Daniel Te'o-Nesheim and E.J. Savannah - this time of the spring is crucial for what Sarkisian called 'putting their resume on film'.

"Inevitably, when fall camp rolls around, we're going to have well over 20 new players," Sarkisian said. "And we're going to put them in those spots to see how they look. For Alvin Logan and De'Shon Matthews and those guys, this is a great chance to put their resume on film. They are trying to earn that spot, and the best way is by playing that spot and doing it."

Logan, a 6-foot-2, 219-pound junior from Colorado, has been looking for a spot on this Huskies' team ever since he landed in Seattle - first starting at receiver and then at safety. Now he looks to play the part of a LEO - a hybrid linebacker position that plays close to the line of scrimmage, usually on the strong side, and can act like a defensive end.

"He's got the right frame and the athleticism we like at that spot," Sarkisian said of Logan. "He's got to get his comfort level still and find his way. Obviously as we move into shoulder pads, it's going to be critical for him to find his comfort zone."

It's not a position wholly unfamiliar to Logan; he was moved to linebacker last year after the Oregon game, and practiced there the rest of the year.

In other moves, Sarkisian had a lot of praise for junior offensive tackle Senio Kelemete, who has moved from right guard to left tackle this spring, and so far the results have been nothing but positive.

"It brings some athleticism to the position for us," Sarkisian said of the move. "It brings a nastiness…you're talking about a player that was a defensive lineman a year and a half ago that's now starting at left tackle. He also brings a real leadership quality. He's confident in what he's doing. We loving having him out there. To think of what he's accomplished…he was very encouraging. By no means was he perfect, but he showed signs of consistency. He showed a physicality. And for his body type, that left tackle spot is a lot more fitting than when he's inside against a 3-technique or a nose guard. He can get out on the edge and block against athletic guys."

Right now, UW's offensive line looks nothing like it did at the end of the 2009 season: Instead of Drew Schaefer at left tackle, it's Senio Kelemete. Instead of Nick Wood or Greg Christine at left guard, it's Ryan Tolar. Instead of Tolar or Christine at center, it's Schaefer. Instead of Kelemete at right guard, it's Mykenna Ikehara. Instead of Cody Habben at right tackle, it's Skyler Fancher. Habben, who is out rehabbing a shoulder injury, may very be the starting right tackle in the fall, but for right now the mishmash of players and positions on the offensive line gives the group depth and experience, but how much cohesion? So far the results seem to be panning out.

"To get Nick Wood and Greg Christine, (Ryan) Tolar and Mykenna (Ikehara), all those guys reps….Drew Schaefer getting those reps…those are invaluable for us," Sarkisian said. "They are invaluable now and they'll be invaluable in the fall when our new guys come in and we're able to roll them in and guys are comfortable playing."

The same thing goes on the other side of the line, where the Huskies are dangerously thin at defensive end. Even with the infusion of hoopster Clarence Trent to the mix, they have only four ends, and only one (Talia Crichton) that has more than one career start at DE - and his four starts came as a true freshman.

"As we move through spring, we're going to get to some 3-4 principles where you're going to see a 'backer playing that defensive end spot," Sarkisian said. "But it's early."

But it's not too early to make a big jump from the first practice to the second. Sarkisian said he noted jumps by DT's Tyrone Duncan and Cameron Elisara. "I'm guessing there will be a handful of guys," he added, noting that he wants to see the film first before handing out gold stars.
Notes:
Turnover Thursday?: It started out as 'Turnover Thursday', but it didn't end up that way, as the offense beat the defense on the last play of the practice-ending team period. "It ended up being no-turnover Thursday," Sarkisian said with a smile. "The offense won today. The defense won the first day. And the other side should dig down deep and win the next day, and the offense won. It was good for them."

Locker as quarterback: Sarkisian was asked Thursday about Jake Locker's development as a quarterback, and how he can measure improvement. Sarkisian said he looks for efficiency in the passing game, getting to secondary reads, and checking out of bad plays and into better plays as three critical components when determining if a QB is getting better. He started to see it a little bit at the end of last year. "One of the telling games was the Washington State game, where Paul Homer got four or five catches in that game," Sarkisian said. "None of those plays was he the primary receiver. He was a secondary or even a third or fourth option. That started to show me that he's starting to lock into what we're doing."

Boyles getting his due: Anthony Boyles - another player who has moved to a different position in search of a home - was named Tuesday's player of the day. "He was efficient," Sarkisian said of the 6-foot-3, 197-pound sophomore. "He was technically sound. He was competitive. He made plays on the ball. He had an interception. I just thought he was very active, yet sound."

Looking for more at TE: Chris Izbicki, Kavario Middleton and Dorson Boyce all had strong off-seasons, now Sarkisian wants them to continue to ramp up their games. "I hope they keep playing and keep pushing each other to play at a high level," he said Thursday after practice. "I want more production in the run game than we had last year. I'd like more efficiency in the pass game. I don't think we had a pass game that was tight end-oriented last year. This system is one that is used to really throwing the ball to the tight end."

Freshmen continue to impress: Despite a bobble or two, the two true freshmen running backs continue to roll right through their practices like veterans. Deontae Cooper and Jesse Callier have been thrown right into the mix and are getting a substantial number of the carries. Each show a very nice burst going through the holes in the line of scrimmage, as well as shiftiness beyond to elude would-be tacklers in the secondary.

Faces in the crowd: Former UW coach John Pettas; former UW players Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Darrion Jones, Mark Bruener, Elliot Silvers, Sean O'Laughlin and John Anderson; signees Colin Porter, Michael Hartvigson and Jamaal Kearse; recruits Kasen Williams (Skyline), with father Aaron, a former UW receiver; Zach Banner (Lakes), Dylan Wynn (De La Salle), Shane Schmidlkofer (Gonzaga Prep).

Defensive two-deeps: Not that you can take too much out of the first couple of days in practice, but here's how the defense lined up. I hesitate to use first-team and second-team, because it could very well be a mix. But one team had De'Shon Matthews and Talia Crichton at DE; Semisi Tokolahi and Cameron Elisara at DT; Alvin Logan, Cort Dennison and Mason Foster at LB; Quinton Richardson and Vonzell McDowell at CB; Nate Williams and Nate Fellner at safety. The other team had Clarence Trent and Conrad Remington at DE; Alameda Ta'amu and Tyrone Duncan at DT; Matt Houston, Victor Burnett and Jordan Wallace at LB; Anthony Gobern and Anthony Boyles at CB; Will Shamburger and Greg Walker at safety. I noticed that DT Chris Robinson went in for Duncan for a few reps with that grouping.

Rougher day for Special Teams: After going 4-4 on Tuesday, Erik Folk was only 2-6 under similar conditions. He missed his last four, the longest from roughly 48 yards out.

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