Coach Steve Sarkisian can admit when he is wrong.
And in this case, the error benefits the University of Washington football team as it heads into its season opener Saturday at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
Offensive guard Gregory Christine suffered a broken lower-leg injury last October against Arizona so gruesome, some – including Sarkisian – thought it was the final time the former walk-on would ever play a football game.
Months later, as UW released its first regular-season depth chart Monday, Christine – a senior out of Camarillo, Calif. – was listed as the starting right guard, replacing Mykenna Ikehara, who was listed as the reserve center.
“When a guy is a walk-on – an overachiever in a sense – and you have that type of injury, you think, ‘Man, I feel for the kid, but I’m glad he got to play for us when he did,’ ” Sarkisian said. “The recovery he’s made has been tremendous. He’s a really neat personality on our team. He provides a great deal of energy and leadership. I’m proud of him. He’s worked his way back. He’s earned it.”
Christine (6-foot-2, 288 pounds) gives the Huskies a little more inside bulk than Ikehara (6-2, 265) against a big BYU defensive front. His experience is also invaluable.
“Greg is a guy that’s worked really hard ever since he’s got here,” Huskies quarterback Jake Locker said. “You look at him, and you probably wouldn’t peg him as a starting lineman in the Pac-10.
“For him to come back … I don’t think anybody on the team, if you asked them to a man, they would have doubted that he’d be back and have a chance to play this year. I’m really happy for him. I’m proud of him. And I love having him protecting me.”
In other depth-chart news:
• Senior D’Andre Goodwin is a starting receiver again. One of the reasons is the health of James Johnson (ankle), who was off 10 days and only returned to practice Saturday.
• Even though De’Shon Matthews has been healthy all fall camp, and was one of the bright spots at defensive end, it is Everrette Thompson (heel) who will start against BYU. Sarkisian said both will play significant minutes.
• With an edge in game experience, Nate Fellner lands the starting free safety spot by a nudge over Will Shamburger, who starred during spring camp. Expect this to be a season-long battle, barring injury.
• The only true freshmen on the two-deep are quarterback Nick Montana, running back Jesse Callier, offensive tackle Erik Kohler, offensive guard Colin Porter, tight end Michael Hartvigson, receiver Kevin Smith, defensive end Hau’oli Jamora, linebacker Garret Gilliland and strong safety Sean Parker.
Linebacker Brandon Huppert (knee) is the only UW player officially listed as out for Saturday. Defensive end Kalani Aldrich (knee) is doubtful. … Johnson did practice Monday afternoon, and Sarkisian hopes to get him playing time. … Former coach Jim Lambright took in the latter part of the 65-minute practice. … Seattle native Fred Couples, in town for last weekend’s Boeing Classic, attended Sarkisian’s regular-season kickoff press conference. … Former tight end Kavario Middleton, who did not get accepted by Nebraska, has enrolled at Montana.
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 firstname.lastname@example.org
HUSKIES’ OPPONENT THIS WEEK
BRIGHAM YOUNG (11-2 OVERALL, 7-1 MOUNTAIN WEST IN 2009)
Kickoff: 4 p.m. Saturday, LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, Utah
TV: CBS College Sports. RADIO: 950-AM.
Coach: Bronco Mendenhall (49-15, sixth year).
Last week: Season opener for both teams.
Against the Cougars: UW leads, 4-2. Twice the Huskies have opened a season in Provo – a 42-20 win in 1997 and a 35-28 loss in 1999, which is the last time the schools met.
Washington connections: Two quarterbacks – Jake Heaps (Skyline) and Jason Munns (Southridge) – played their high school football in the state. Linebacker Spencer Hadley (Connell) signed with BYU but is on a two-year LDS mission.
Scouting report: A lot of offensive production is gone with quarterback Max Hall, running back Harvey Unga and Dennis Pitta no longer around. But the Cougars have been down this road before, and found adequate replacements. The hot topic is who will be the next signal-caller: returner Riley Nelson or Heaps, an early enrollee. That could turn out to be a time-share position at the start of 2010. One thing is for certain, on both sides of the ball, the Cougars are big and not afraid of contact.
Did you know: Max Warner, BYU’s first of 53 All-Americans, in 1934, was a defensive back with the nickname of “Greasy” because of his ability to slip in between opposing offensive linemen for sacks.
(top returnees from 2009)
JJ Di Luigi13483.70
Todd Milles, staff writer