With the sun beating down on a cloudless day on Lake Washington and temperatures near 90 degrees on the East Practice Field at the University of Washington, the 2012 version of the Washington Huskies – all 105 players and a myriad of coaches and staff – opened fall camp with a frenetic mixture of intensity, energy and optimism in a relatively confined space.
After a spring and summer of lifting, running and preparing for the season, UW players didn’t lack for enthusiasm or effort on the first day.
Sure, they weren’t always going to the right spots or doing the right things, but they did things at high speed. It’s why head coach Steve Sarkisian didn’t sweat the mistakes and missed assignments. It was the first day.
“I do as much coaching as I can, yet I’m trying to see and observe 105 guys at the same time as well, and so it takes me a little time to get through the film and a couple days to really assess it,” Sarkisian said. “I thought all in all, the spirits were good, the playmaking ability appeared to be there, we appeared fast to me. But again, first day; let’s see how we go.”
Even the most seasoned of starters couldn’t help but be eager to get on the field.
“I was so excited,” said junior quarterback Keith Price. “I couldn’t even sleep last night, I think I woke up about three or four times. I was up at 4 a.m., knowing I had to wake up at 7.”
After all the anticipation, players were going a little harder than Sarkisian wanted.
He had to remind some of his defensive players that practice was not in full gear and to not get too aggressive during some team drills when coming up and making “touch” tackles and stripping the ball from opposing ballcarriers.
Later Sarkisian sent senior linebacker Nate Fellner to the sidelines after he got a little too aggressive on a blitz during 11-on-11 drills and knocked down Price.
“These guys have been like some dogs tied up on the porch and we finally took the leashes off and now they’re going and they want to go and I love that about them,” Sarkisian said. “We just have to learn how to practice when we’re not in pads. It’s great that we had a couple examples to learn from and we’ll show them again tonight on film and we’ll learn from it. We just need everybody to learn from other guys so it doesn’t repeatedly happen.”
Aside from a little over-eagerness for contact, Sarkisian seemed to be pretty pleased as the defense made plenty of plays and Price hooked up with receivers on a few nice completions.
“I thought it was a really competitive practice,” Sarkisian said. “We saw the playmaking ability, some guys making plays down the field in the pass game, but then some other guys turning around making plays for the defense with a couple turnovers. From an overall efficiency standpoint …, I thought it was really good for us to manage one field and get a lot of work done with a lot of football players at one time, I was pleased with it.”
Optimism surrounding Sarkisian’s fourth fall camp with the Huskies is high after back-to-back bowl berths.
And with all but five players on the roster recruited by Sarkisian and his staff, there is a level of familiarity and confidence.
“The key to it is the consistent messaging from day one that these guys step on our campus and they are hearing the same things over and over again and it’s ingrained in them until it becomes them,” Sarkisian said. “I think that we are seeing that.”
Chief among the leaders is Price, who broke a slew of UW passing records last season, while earning all-conference honors. There was little doubt that the guy in the gold No. 17 was in charge of the offense.
A year ago, Price was battling Nick Montana, who has transferred, for the starting job. Price could only shake his head in disbelief when asked about a year ago.
“I know what to expect now,” Price said. “I didn’t really know how to lead.”
For a guy who didn’t know, Price seemed to learn leadership quickly last year.
“I don’t know if he (Keith) has changed so much, but I think maybe how his teammates view him in that he has put his résumé on film,” Sarkisian said. “There is an instant respect for the way he works and the way he prepares and what he brings to the team.”
The much-maligned UW defense might be the most optimistic group on the field with a new defensive coordinator and position coaches bringing a new play-making mindset to the Huskies.
“It feels so good to get back out here and making plays,” said senior cornerback Desmond Trufant. “Obviously, there are things that need to be fixed, but plays were being made.”
Some of the enthusiasm was dampened by injuries.
Safety Sean Parker left the field with an oxygen mask and an IV after becoming dehydrated in the warm weather.
“We need to adjust to this heat a little bit,” Sarkisian said. “We have a couple guys but this is training camp and this is what it’s for – understanding the importance of hydration and staying hydrated and he’ll be OK.”
But an already thin and inexperienced offensive line received a major scare when senior guard Erik Kohler got tangled up with Danny Shelton in one-on-one drills and went down to the ground yelling in pain.
Kohler’s kneecap on his right knee cap slid out of place and then back into place.
“It will be a couple of days, it will be OK,” Sarkisian said.
Still, it was the first day of 22 to prepare for the opener against San Diego State.
“This is a building process,” Sarkisian said. “Your first year you want to come in and it’s a big first meeting, rah, rah speech. But this is a long month – and not that we weren’t fired up to go last night, and not that I wasn’t – but you save some things now, I think, for week two, week three when that grind is going.”email@example.com 253-597-8483 blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @RyanDivish