For the first time this spring, the Washington Huskies practiced in full pads on Tuesday and had a spirited full-contact session to wrap up the 21/2-hour practice. But the man who scored the most points on the day was coach Steve Sarkisian.
Sarkisian called an audible about halfway through practice and decided to move the team out of the elements at blustery Husky Stadium into the protection of the Dempsey Center.
“I got a lot of thanks on that one,” Sarkisian said.
The Huskies seemed much more thankful for the tangible rewards of last season’s improvement as they lined up near the locker room after practice to collect their Holiday Bowl rings.
They looked to be about the size of the typical, hefty Super Bowl ring, with a purple “W” in the center.
Sarkisian saw enough of the raw, windy conditions almost completely stifling practice of the passing game. And worries over the stability of the film tower caused him to hustle everybody inside. The wind chill was not the issue, he said, the issue was the abnormally strong gusts that disrupted anything beyond direct handoffs.
“The biggest thing, in spring ball, especially, we only get 15 practices, and you need to maximize every opportunity you get,” Sarkisian explained. “I’m not concerned about us being a mentally and physically tough football team – we’ve proven that, and we’ll continue to grow in that area. This was about being efficient and getting quality reps.”
Although the passes looked sharper after the Huskies moved inside, the defense had a good day getting pressure on both Keith Price and Nick Montana, the two young players vying for the starting quarterback position.
“We’ve got to get used to playing football again,” Sarkisian said when asked of his impressions of the live session. “We’ll tackle better as we continue to go.”
He thought the open-field tackling by the secondary was strong, and the running game shone at times.
He also cited good quarterback pressure by freshman linebacker Josh Shirley.
Sarkisian came into spring drills with a goal of getting his team to be more physical, and he likes what he sees through the first four practices.
“I think our guys have adopted that mentality,” Sarkisian said. “That is what they want to be; we still have a ways to go to get to that point.”
And it is a goal that has to be balanced with maintaining a pace that allows for teaching, he said.
“As much as we’re trying to be physical, we’re trying to raise our football IQ as well,” he said.
“There’s a lot of teaching of the nuances of the game that is going on right now. I think our kids are responding very well.”
Early entry freshman tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins sat out the later stages of practice with what Sarkisian said was “little quad pull.”
“We don’t think it’s serious,” Sarkisian said of the promising newcomer from Gig Harbor. “I’m trying to look at this as No. 4 of 15 practices. The last thing I want to do is have him really pull that thing and miss three or four in a row.”
Others sitting out were offensive lineman Ben Riva and Colin Porter, both of whom had flu symptoms.
Spectators on the sidelines Tuesday included former Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander, former Huskies quarterback Jake Locker and incoming freshman receiver Kasen Williams, an All-American at Skyline High School.