SEATTLE – Josh Shirley sped past the helpless offensive tackle, who tried to grab his jersey but couldn’t. In an instant, Shirley was face to face with quarterback Keith Price.
With the play essentially dead, unable to hit the Huskies starting signal caller, Shirley slapped Price on the backside and let out a yell along with the rest of his defensive cohorts.
On his way back to the huddle, he screamed to no one in particular, “Even when they hold me, they can’t hold me.”
For Washington, the hope is that opposing offensive linemen can’t hold the Huskies’ pass-rushing specialist back this season, either.
A year ago, Shirley led the team with 8.5 sacks.
“He’s so fast off the edge,” coach Steve Sarkisian said. “He’s stronger than people give him credit for. He can drive guys back. And he plays with such good pad level.”
It’s reasonable to expect Shirley to want a higher sack total this season but he wouldn’t speak of such individual goals.
“I want to win,” he said. “Whatever the coaches need me to do to help us win, I will do it. That’s the only goal for everyone on the field.”
After being forced to start with his hand on the ground in a three-point stance last season, Shirley finds himself standing and rushing from an upright position in new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox’s scheme. He’s also dropping into coverage and playing in run situations.
“My role has emerged,” Shirley said. “I think coaches trust me more now with my maturity on the field. They are letting me drop more, letting me rush more, freeing me up.
“I’m very comfortable playing in space,” Shirley said. “It’s something I’ve done in the past and it’s something I’m getting re-adjusted to.”
Shirley has all the ability to be a playmaker on a defense in desperate need of one. But he won’t admit it.
“Everybody wants to be viewed as a playmaker,” he said. “But each week everyone’s roles change. So if I can’t make a play, anybody else is going to make that play. These coaches put us in those situations or predicaments and we now excel at it.”
PLAY OF THE DAY
The best pass of the day wasn’t either of the two pretty deep scoring passes that Price fired to James Johnson late in practice. Both were fantastic throws by Price, and Johnson made a ridiculous catch on a post pattern for the first one.
But the best pass belonged to wide receiver Cody Bruns. The fifth-year senior from Prosser took a reverse flip from Price and just when it looked like he was ready to head up field, he pulled up and fired a perfect spiral to a streaking Kasen Williams, who was behind the defense.
Williams never broke stride, hauling in the pass and running into the end zone as the offensive players watching broke into a wild celebration.
“The beauty of Cody is he can just about play anywhere,” Sarkisian said. “The versatility he brought today. Obviously you saw it with the pass. He can return punts. He holds on field goals. He’s the emergency punter. The guy just does it all.”
Junior Erik Kohler suffered a dislocated kneecap in Monday’s practice. He went for a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as a precaution but the results were not available.
Sarkisian admitted that Kohler likely won’t practice for a few weeks but thought he would be ready for the Sept. 1 opener against San Diego State. His confidence comes from dealing with a similar situation at USC when quarterback Mark Sanchez suffered a similar injury on the first day of fall camp.
“It’s the exact same thing,” Sarkisian said. “He dislocated his knee cap in the first day of training camp. So the timetable realistically with him (Kohler) full go is probably more to a couple of weeks.”firstname.lastname@example.org 253-597-8483 blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @RyanDivish