After assembling a coaching staff that was the talk of the offseason in the Pacific-12 Conference, Washington coach Steve Sarkisian’s revamped, retooled and re-energized staff was doing all the talking on Friday.
The new coaches on staff – offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau, defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi, linebackers coach Peter Sirmon and secondary coach Keith Heyward – were besieged by the media interested in their thoughts on their first three spring practices with the Huskies.
The transition seems to be going smoothly.
“So far it’s been awesome,” Lupoi said. “I couldn’t be happier. Just the culture here and what a big deal football is in this state and this area and the city of Seattle. It’s an incredible environment to be a part of where football is tremendously important here.’’
Making the change is not as easy as some people might think. For coaches like Lupoi (Cal) and Heyward (Oregon State), their coaching experience has been limited to one team. To pick up a new system, and leave behind what’s familiar, can be difficult for coaches with limited experience.
“Like any transition is, it’s kind of just a little bit awkward at first,” Heyward said. “But Coach Sark is an awesome dude. The rest of our offensive and defensive staff, we are close to the same age, so it’s been a good chemistry and a good mixture from that standpoint. The only thing I find tough to adjust to is the cost of living. But other than that it’s been an easy integration.’’
The comfort level isn’t necessary for just the coaches. It’s a time of adjustment for the players, too. Senior safety Justin Glenn finds the coaching staff he’s always known is gone.
“These coaches are a lot different,” Glenn said. “The energy that they are bringing and the positivity, I really like it. I really like the direction we are going in.”
Wilcox might have the toughest job of all the assistants, trying to rebuild a defense that was beat up and maligned last season. He not only needs to get the players to believe but also teach his multiple front defense. He has no complaints so far.
“They’ve been great,” Wilcox said. “I’m really pleased with their work ethic. They have to improve, there’s no doubt about that. We’ve got a long way to go. But I love the way they are working, and we have to continue to do that.”
PRICE ON RISE
Quarterback Keith Price let out a yell in frustration. He could only watch as Huskies defensive players celebrated linebacker Thomas Tutogi’s leaping interception of Price during a 7-on-7 practice.
And while interceptions are common during practice, there would be no more from Price the rest of the day. After that interception, Price put on a display of passing in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 periods that was as good as anything he showed last season.
Using a short field, Price hit Austin Seferian-Jenkins on a 27-yard touchdown pass over the middle. Later, he found James Johnson on a corner route against a cover two defense for a score. It was a perfect pass into a window of about three feet. Later, he hit Seferian-Jenkins in the back of the end zone for a score.
In 11-on-11, Price hit Kasen Williams on a seam pass up the hash for about a 25-yard scoring strike. Price made another brilliant play which didn’t result in a touchdown, but did net a solid gain. A bootleg play was blown up immediately, and Price rolled the opposite direction of the play, running away from Josh Shirley and hitting Johnson on a crossing pattern with an across-his-body pass.
After Tutogi’s pick, Price threw only about four or five incomplete passes. Kiesau could only smile.
“He loves to practice,” Kiesau said. “A lot of times (when) you have great players, you have to convince them to practice. He loves it. He’s out here early throwing the ball. He’s very competitive.”
Linebacker John Timu was limited in practice with a sore hamstring. Wide receiver Cody Bruns participated in a few drills, but is still slowed by a sore ankle. Safeties Sean Parker and Nate Felner both were briefly shaken up after battling with Seferian-Jenkins on separate pass plays. … Washington had several potential recruits watching practice. Lakes wide receiver Sammie Long, who committed last week, was on hand at practice. Tumwater’s Hank Bryant was there with head coach Sid Otton. South Kitsap offensive lineman Austin Kanouse was at the prior two practices. Several players from Federal Way, including lineback Roderick Jones and wide receiver/defensive back D’Londo Tucker were at the practice.