In some regards, the first day of fall football was like any opener – at times sloppy, guys falling down on the turf and a good share of missed assignments.
But there was one significant difference Monday in year No. 2 under UW coach Steve Sarkisian: Being comfortable.
So much, some of the action late started getting testy between the starting offenses and defenses.
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"We were competitive," Sarkisian said. "By no means were we perfect, but I just liked the energy they brought. For not having pads on, it was relatively physical, which was good."
Case in point: In team drills, true freshman Deontae Cooper took a handoff and was stripped hard of the ball coming through the line of scrimmage.
Whoever recovered the fumble took a backseat to the rough-and-tumble action that took place after the turnover. Linebacker Mason Foster got in a little shove to center Drew Schaefer's chest. And safety Nate Williams greeted Chris Polk with a few unkind pleasantries when the running back came over to see if the ball was still loose.
"It's coming a lot from the senior leadership," Sarkisian said. "It's the Cort Dennisons, the Mason Fosters, the Nate Williams … obviously the Jake Lockers … the Senio Kelemetes, the Jermaine Kearses - those guys are really setting the tone for what we really want out of practice."
Perhaps, at times, the action got too rushed – too anticipated. At one point, Huskies offensive line coach Dan Cozzetto shouted to his group to "slow down!"
Everything seemed calm and collected for quarterback Jake Locker, who easily had the best debut of any camp under Sarkisian. In the latter team period, the senior from Ferndale completed 8-of-9 passes.
"I felt good," Locker said. "We're just comfortable with what we're doing. We're comfortable as an offense, as a unit and I think we're able to go out and play and react to what the defense gives us."
Some of the key personnel groupings:
• Will Shamburger saw the most time at free safety with the starting defense, although Nate Fellner and even Justin Glenn got repetitions there. In fact, Glenn – coming off ankle and leg surgeries – saw more action than anticipated.
• As expected, Victor Aiyewa got the first crack at starting outside linebacker. Unexpected, the injury-prone senior made it through practice unscathed.
• Newly-arriving cornerback Gregory Ducre initially started out with the No. 4 defense, but did see time with the first-string offense when Quinton Richardson (back spasms) came up injured, and could not finish practice.
• Josh Shirley, who earlier this summer was dismissed from UCLA because of theft charges, saw immediate time with the No. 1 defense during early nine-on-nine drills at left defensive end. He also worked with the reserve units.
• In the early stages, Erik Kohler – the true freshman from Westlake Village, Calif. – was the No. 2 left tackle.
• Lakes High product Sione Potoa'e, perhaps the prized possession of the 2010 recruiting class, mostly worked with the third-string defense at tackle.
• Potoa'e's former running mate, Jamaal Kearse – also a true freshman – went with the third-string defense at outside linebacker.
• Receiver James Johnson is noticeably sporting an enhanced physique. He's sculpted, and really looked in the same impressive form he was in early last season.
"I gained about 15 pounds from last year. I came in (as a freshmen) at 185, and now I'm 203 – so really 18 pounds," Johnson said. "I feel I gained a significant amount of weight, all dues to the great strength and conditioning staff we have here."
Johnson says he wants to play the season at 205.
• Three key performers – cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Vonzell McDowell, and receiver Devin Aguilar – all suffered the same sports hernia injury in the offseason, and had surgery to repair it.
"You're seeing these sports hernia things popping up more and more and more," Sarkisian said. "Anytime a groin injury creeps in, that is one of the things in your mind, 'Geez, I hope it's not (a sports hernia).'
"A lot of the times when you first diagnose it, that's not what it is, that is what it becomes. I'm always fearful of that. When it was Desmond, or Devin or Vonzell … you try and get it fixed as quickly as you can. A lot of the times, once they get fixed, they're much more healthy, more explosive and they're faster players when they get back."
Trufant had an interception on the first day of fall ball Monday.
• Of course, one of the anticipated returns to the field came in the form of Polk, who sat out all of spring camp with a shoulder injury.
In his first run Monday, he ripped off a 30-yard scamper to the left pylon for a touchdown, and looked extra-healthy.
"Both times I've hurt my shoulder were on pass plays, or me getting my arm out," Polk said. "So me running when I was running and banging it, it didn't hurt. It was just (hurt during) pass protection when I had to put my arms out to block."
• Another revelation came Monday – the public-speaking debut of reserve quarterback Nick Montana, the son of NFL Hall-of-Famer Joe Montana.
The true freshman was granted permission to speak to the media after he completed spring ball in April – and was greeted by a large group of reporters Monday.
He was asked the obvious question: Does a large amount of pressure come from his namesake?
"I don't see it as a negative," the freshman quarterback said. "It's an honor for me to have him as my dad. I love him. I'm just trying make a name for myself, but still embrace that name, too."
• Kearse has his own family pride to man, and witnessed the new addition to Husky Stadium on Monday – younger brother, Jamaal.
"I didn't get to see him too much today. I saw him get yelled at a couple times," the receiver said. "I told him to work hard and stay healthy – and stay learning. Hopefully he takes that in and has a good camp."
• McDowell (turf toe) also didn't finish practice Monday. … Defensive ends Everrette Thompson (heel) and Kalani Aldrich (knee) were primarily spectators at practice Monday from the sideline. … Kearse, on the dismissal of tight end Kavario Middleton, his Lakes High mate: "It's definitely unfortunate situation to happen. Things happen like that, I guess. The team has to move on, and we have to get ready for the season." When asked if he had talked to Middleton since he left campus, Kearse said, "No."… Approximately 200 spectators showed up for the first day of fall camp, including recruits Austin Seferian-Jenkins, of Gig Harbor; Kellen Westering, of Rogers (with father, Scott, the coach at Pacific Lutheran); and Drew Austin, of Graham-Kapowsin.