As position hierarchy crystallizes – and by Saturday, University of Washington football coach Steve Sarkisian will reveal a concrete depth chart heading into the regular season – players are starting to take a look at their first opponent, 11th-ranked Louisiana State.
Even if it’s just a quick glance.
Preseason practice Wednesday still emphasized the players’ fight for jobs. Sprinkled among those battles was scout-team work in preparation for LSU, which comes to Husky Stadium on Sept. 5.
“We thought it was a good day for us to introduce it to our guys,” said Sarkisian, adding game preparation mode will begin Saturday morning.
So at the west end of the stadium, the No. 1 offense, led by Jake Locker, worked for 20 minutes against the scout-team defense. And on the other end, No. 3 quarterback Keith Price was doing his best impersonation of the Tigers’ dual-threat starter, Jordan Jefferson.
“We’re fortunate in that our schemes, on both sides of the ball, are very similar to what LSU does,” Sarkisian said. “It’s not going to be a huge difference.”
Think LSU, think defense. In a five-year stretch until 2008, the Tigers finished in the top three nationally in total defense, including No. 1 in 2003.
Last season, even after defensive coordinator Bo Pelini had left to take the coaching job at Nebraska, lots was expected from the Tigers. Inconsistent play in the secondary, and the fact the defense forced only 19 turnovers, LSU fell to 32nd in total defense (325.5 yards a game), and gave up an average of 24.2 points a game.
Coach Les Miles cleaned house. He let go his co-defensive coordinators and hired John Chavis, who had been at Southeastern Conference rival Tennessee for 14 seasons, to be the head man. Assistants Brick Haley (defensive line) and Ron Cooper (defensive backs) were also brought in by Miles.
At their training-camp-opening press conference, Chavis said of LSU: “We expect to be a championship defense,” and noted his aim would be to have as many as 28 players ready to contribute to that cause throughout the year.
This week, UW players have watched a little bit of LSU game film from previous seasons, and also some from when Chavis was at Tennessee.
“They want to bring the heat every now and then, and their secondary is going to try and hit us, just like our defense,” Huskies receiver D’Andre Goodwin said. “It’s a great season opener, I’m looking forward to it.”
Not surprisingly, Locker compared LSU’s defense to that of Pacific-10 Conference rival Southern California.
“They’re fast,” Locker said. “Like I’ve said, if we can execute what we do, that gives us a chance to move the ball. We have to be crisp, and not be sloppy.”
Sarkisian said two players – safety Jason Wells (Achilles’) and offensive tackle Skyler Fancher (ankle) – have already been ruled out for the LSU opener, and that linebacker Matt Houston (arm) is doubtful. “I’d be surprised if he plays in the game, but I’ve seen stranger things happen,” the coach said. ... Running back Chris Polk (head) was held out of practice Wednesday, more as a precautionary move. He had his bell rung during night practice Tuesday. ... Tight end Kavario Middleton (hamstring), the Lakes High product, ran the stairs at Husky Stadium but likely won’t return to action until Monday. ... Others who did not practice are receiver Cody Bruns (hamstring), safeties Will Shamburger (knee) and David Batts (heel), cornerback Matt Mosley (knee), offensive tackle Terence Thomas (foot) and defensive tackle Chris Robinson (knee). ... Two down, one to go. Defensive end Talia Crichton was the second true freshman cleared by the NCAA to return to the team Wednesday. Linebacker Tim Tucker still awaits word of his reinstatement. ... For the night kickoff against LSU, the Huskies will hold 7 p.m. practices next week starting Monday. ... Former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren attended practice Wednesday.
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442