Will Shamburger (Kim Grinolds/Dawgman.com)
SEATTLE - No offense to Rebecca Stevenson, but Steve Sarkisian might be doing his own meteorology from now on. Washington's Head Football Coach took a look at Thursday's forecast and decided to hold UW's fifth spring practice inside. Then he started looking outside. Apparently word is that he'll be carrying a barometer in his back pocket for the rest of spring.
"I kept looking out the doors and it looks pretty sunny and the lake looks good - so we may have missed it today," Sarkisian said with a smile.
But that was one of the only things the Huskies' Head Coach has misjudged. Most everything else so far this spring has gone on without a hitch. And Thursday's padded practice was more installation and prep for Saturday's first full scrimmage - a chance for the coaches to see the players apply what they have learned so far.
"This will really be the first test," Sarkisian said of Saturday's anticipated scrimmage, which begins at noon at Husky Stadium and is open to the public. "We've had five days of installation. We won't install anything for Saturday. It'll be a chance for our guys to go out and play and see if they can take what they've learned in the classroom and the first five days of practice and go play football."
Injuries to Everrette Thompson (achilles), Kalani Aldrich (knee) and De'Shon Matthews (hamstring) has hurt the Huskies a little bit on the defensive line - as well as the defection of Clarence Trent back to basketball - but the coaches may have found an interim solution - Cameron Elisara.
"We don't anticipate Cameron being a full-time defensive end," Sarkisian said of the 6-foot-3, 275-pound senior from Spokane. "But when some situations against some more physical teams gives him some experience now doing it, it's an easy transition for him in the fall.
"He's still active. Sometimes when you move a bigger guy from inside to outside they aren't as active because of the speed. But he's staying active, so there's some benefit there for him to get on an edge and rush on one guy, but in a perfect world I'd like to have him back at 3-technique and be disruptive, because to me that's the most important position along the defensive line. But it's good for him to have that versatility, similar to Daniel (Te'o-Nesheim). We used Daniel at both spots and he was effective at both, so I think it would be good for Cameron that way."
Expect Elisara to continue to get looks outside until the coaches start inserting more odd-front principles, which Sarkisian and DC Nick Holt have said previously they would be doing at some point. But for right now, the defense looks to be more Elisara and Talia Crichton at DE's, and less LEO.
Speaking of Crichton, there may not be a single player on the team getting the number of reps he's getting simply because of the dearth of bodies at his position. The sophomore is listed at 6-foot-3 and 229 pounds on the Huskies' official roster, but he seems to be playing bigger than that. He was the recipient of a tipped ball during Thursday's practice - only the second interception given up by the offense all spring.
"He's a little bit bigger, he's a little quicker," Sarkisian said of Crichton. "His comfort in rushing the passer is there; he had a great sack in the 2-minute drill. I think he just keeps getting better. He's playing faster football. I really like what he's doing.
"We've installed the way we would have normally installed. Obviously it puts a little stress on some guys at defensive end that maybe don't have the experience and knowledge of the system. But for guys like Talia, these reps are invaluable and he's taking advantage of it."
Another player taking advantage of a new-found opportunity is defensive lineman Chris Robinson. He's been rotating inside and getting more reps with Elisara moving outside. And according to Sarkisian, the freshman is making strides after rehabbing his knee during his redshirt season.
"He's been very active inside," Sarkisian said of Robinson. "I've been impressed."
Robinson wasn't the only frosh rehabbing a torn knee in 2009; safety Will Shamburger was in the same boat, and still wears an offensive line-sized knee brace as a reminder of where he's been and what he's now trying to accomplish. With Nate Williams out suffering from the effects of a slight concussion, it's been Shamburger who got a ton of reps on Thursday.
"He's been coming on," Sarkisian said of the 6-foot-2, 198-pound Shamburger. "I think he's getting more comfortable and more comfortable. I'm anxious to see the film today when we did some live stuff and he had to fit up and tackle and see what it looks like.
"He sat in so many meetings, so for a guy that's had his first five practices, they really aren't his first five because he's been in so many meetings and he's seen so much football. So it's not totally foreign to him. There is some familiarity there."
Sarkisian is pleased with the fact that both Robinson and Shamburger have responded so positively from last fall's knee issues. "I think with both of those guys, their comfort level with both of their knees is there," he said. "Ok, it's still there at the end of the play…it didn't fall off. I can go a little harder the next snap. That comfort level has been big for them."
The moves by Robinson and Shamburger underscore the main theme of competition this spring, and whether it's redshirt freshmen making moves, or upperclassmen trying to get their starting roles back, everyone has the chance to determine their worth.
"Every job in this program is about competition," Sarkisian said. "It's about competing and getting better and you don't have to accept the role that you've earned. You can keep fighting for it and you better if you've earned it because the guy behind you is fighting for it to get it back. It speaks volumes for the work ethic and the character of a lot of the kids in this program that they are continuing to battle."
Look for the battle to definitely be joined on Saturday, when major moves can be made during their first scrimmage of the spring.
Faces in the crowd: Tons of faces in the crowd Thursday. It was just a matter of time before NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana and his wife Jennifer were spotted at a UW practice - following their son, freshman QB Nick - and they were indeed at the Dempsey Indoor, checking everything out.
"It might have helped 10 (Jake Locker) today," Sarkisian said when asked if having his Dad in the crowd helped out the younger Montana. "Jake was pretty good today. I don't think he missed many throws today. He had a heckuva day - probably his best day so far this spring."
Also in attendance, but not as conspicuous, was former Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan, sporting a new Jake Locker jersey. He is great uncle to UW recruit Dexter Charles, an offensive line prospect from Stanwood. "I've been a Husky fan since I was cognizant of football, which was about five," he said Thursday, noting how the 1978 Rose Bowl was probably his favorite UW football moment, with the 'Whammy in Miami' in 1994 a close second.
Charles was also there, as well as his father Dennis, who is Duff's nephew. Charles wasn't the only recruit there, as the Dempsey was littered with prospects from Washington, Oregon and California. Over 40 recruits ended up at UW Thursday. Here's a list of the players we saw - 2011: Jake Bainton - Liberty; Dexter Charles - Stanwood; Tyson Coleman - Lake Oswego, Ore. - committed to UO; Valentino Coleman - Garfield; Nic Cooper - Kamiak; Connor Cree - Skyline; Rahmel Dockery - Curtis;
Austin Embody - Auburn; Jake Geringer - Newbury Park, Calif.; Ellis Henderson - Vancouver Skyview; Nick Holt - Seattle Prep; Chandler Jenkins - Liberty; Jamaal Jones - Graham-Kapowsin; Cory Ladd - Gig Harbor; Nik Landdeck - Issaquah; Justin Lane - Lakewood; Jake Lippell - Graham-Kapowsin; Drew Loftus - Kennewick; Alex Mitchell - Portland (Ore.) Jefferson; Tana Pritchard - Clover Park; Brennan Scarlett - Portland (Ore.) Central Catholic; Brandon Search - Pasco; Austin Seferian-Jenkins - Gig Harbor;
Danny Shelton - Auburn; Sam Shirley - Juanita; Brett Smith - Salem (Ore.) West Salem;
Diondre Toms - Lindbergh; Taniela Tupou - Archbishop Murphy; Kendrick Van Ackeren - Bellevue; Alphonse Wade - Auburn; Trey Wheeler - Liberty; Kasen Williams - Skyline;
Antwaun Woods - Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft. 2012: Drew Austin - Graham-Kapowsin; Zach Banner - Lakes; Nathan Dean - Juanita; Cedric Dozier - Lakes; Cory English - Auburn; Joshua Garnett - Puyallup; Ma'ne Manaea - Lakes; Trent Sewell - O'Dea; David Wood - Lakes. 2013: Sean Constantine - Bellevue.
Injury Report: De'Shon Matthews, Everrette Thompson, Kalani Aldrich, Brandon Huppert, Conrad Remington and Cody Bruns were held out of Thursday's practice. Jordan Polk and Desmond Trufant were also held out, and were working out on the exercise bike during the first part of the practice.
Safety Nate Williams was shelved early on in practice. "He banged his head a little bit, nothing serious," Sarkisian said of the senior from Renton. "Our young safeties need the work anyway, so to get those guys those reps is good for 'em."
Trent back to hoops: Here's Sarkisian's comment about Clarence Trent's move back to basketball after going through the first four football practices of spring - "I think he tried it, and he wanted to go back and focus on hoops and school. I can respect that."