It didn't exactly sound as if Huskies safety Nate Fellner had his grandfather on speed dial – it's Jim Sweeney, the ex-football coach at Montana State, Washington State and Fresno State – but he thought it might be time to get in contact with him. Pronto!
By the look of it, Fellner – a true freshman from Fresno, Calif. – could be the UW's starting free safety Saturday night against Arizona at Husky Stadium.
"(Sweeney) probably would be mad (if I didn't)," Fellner said. "So I'll call him."
A confluence of circumstances have opened that door. First, starting free safety Justin Glenn broke his right leg in the second half against Notre Dame, and is out for the season. Strong safety Nate Williams, who could move over, is questionable with a concussion. And in the first few minutes of individual warm-ups before practice Wednesday, backup Greg Walker – the opening-day starter – went down with a right knee injury, and spent the rest of the day on the trainer's table being examined by the team doctor.
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If the game were to be played Thursday, Fellner would certainly be the guy.
"When it's all said and done, we might be pretty good with him in there," UW defensive coordinator Nick Holt said.
Things surely work out for a reason.
Fellner was an original oral commitment to former UW coach Tyrone Willingham. When new coach Steve Sarkisian was hired last December, the staff notified Fellner he might have to grey-shirt (enroll a semester late) because of scholarship limitations.
But in May, as he was working out in Fresno, and completing his senior season at Clovis West High, Fellner got a phone call from Huskies safeties coach Jeff Mills, and said to report in August.
Initially, he came in as a strong safety, but immediately moved to the other position early in fall camp.
He's progressed slowly, as true freshmen often do, but has started on special teams in each of the past two UW games, against Stanford and Notre Dame.
If Williams doesn't recover in time for Saturday – coaches will run him through a test for his concussion on Thursday – Fellner appears in line to start opposite Victor Aiyewa, who has one career start (2008 against Oregon State).
"That kid (Fellner) has really come on here the last three weeks," Sarkisian said. "He got a lot more reps the last two weeks, not knowing that this would happen. He went out and had a great practice today."
Other notes from Wednesday:
• Redshirt freshman Adam Long has taken the majority of snaps at left cornerback the past two days in place of Quinton Richardson. The reason was to get him more repetitions as it appears the UW will play a tad more nickel coverage against Arizona's wide-open attack.
Long, Richardson, Desmond Trufant and Vonzell McDowell Jr. all rotated in. Sometimes, they played three cornerbacks at a time.
Sarkisian confirmed Richardson still was the starter.
• Like Williams, receiver D'Andre Goodwin (concussion) also missed his third consecutive practice.
• Running back Johri Fogerson missed his second consecutive day of practice with the flu.
• Glenn had surgery Wednesday on his right leg. Sarkisian said the procedure went well and that he would stay the night in the hospital.
• Reserve defensive tackle Craig Noble, a redshirt freshman from Los Angeles whom doctors detected a heart murmur, is done playing football.
"It's not life-threatening, but I know he can't play football anymore," Sarkisian said.
• Offensive lineman Terence Thomas also had surgery Wednesday to repair three broken bones in his right foot at Harborview Medical Center.
• Two walk-ons, both true freshmen, were added to the roster Wednesday. They are Houston Hubert, a placekicker from Bellevue; and David Butler, a long-snapper from Liberty Lake near Spokane.