At first sight, you wouldn't think UW true freshman Jesse Callier was a speed-to-kill burner. He's soft in his face, stocky in his build and unassuming in his whole demeanor.
Then watch him take a handoff from quartback Jake Locker at full speed, turn the corner and get upfield – it seems Brigham Young, Syracuse, Nebraska (to an extent) and Southern California haven't caught on to him. Or caught up.
Sure, no defensive coordinator in America wouldn't go into a game trying to take Locker away FIRST. He's the straw that stirs the drink for the Huskies. He's the guy going to make millions someday.
At when linebackers are watching a play such as the "fly" sweep develop, where Callier comes from one end of the field, across the formation and go right by Locker for a handoff, or a fake, those defenders have to assume Locker is the one who still has the ball.
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What an "alternative" Callier presents, much like James Rodgers does at Oregon State.
"(The fly sweep) has been part of our system going back to when we started," Huskies offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier said. "When you get a guy with Jesse's capabilities that has great speed and can get to the edge, you find ways to get him the ball in space. That's one of the ways he can do it."
Nussmeier has tried utilizing that formation with other guys such as Jordan Polk and Johri Fogerson. Callier, who ran the "fly" sweep at Warren High School in Downey, Calif., has easily been the most effective in that spot for the Huskies.
"He’s pretty quick, man," Nussmeier said. "He plays great at game speed. He doesn’t slow down. He tends to play as if the game is in slow motion. He’s a very special athlete in space."
Never mind the 26 yards on four carries Callier racked up from that play call. When USC's defense was forced to pay him more attention, it gave Locker not only some space to run, but a split-second headstart, too.
"It was definitely a … surprise for them to see Jake was handing off the ball as many times as he did. It's a good play," Callier said. "We've got to keep defenses on its toes. It's either me, Chris (Polk), Jake, Jermaine (Kearse) or the other guys who can do it. It's good."
The "fly" sweep will likely be a play UW coach Steve Sarkisian continues to put in the game plan, even against fast and aggressive defenses such as Arizona State coming in Saturday.
"Every game varies, and this Arizona State defense is very fast, so I don't know how lateral we can really attack them," Sarkisian said. "But it is a part of our offense. It just varies game to game how much we use it."
Some bullet points from Sarkisian's final press conference Thursday after practice:
• First, injuries: Running back Johri Fogerson (upper leg) is out. … Left guard Erik Kohler (flu bug), who was not around Thursday, is questionable. … Defensive end Cameron Elisara (shoulder) did limited work in practice with little or no contact. … Fullback Zach Fogerson (left hand) practiced fully with a protective pad.
On Kohler: "Even if he is capable of playing I don't know that we would play him the whole game, a guy just coming off the flu. So, we'll just kind of assess it as the game goes.
"I mean, everyone's kind of got the sniffles right now. I don't know if it's the weather changing or what, but I haven't seen it as severe as what Erik has."
Expect Gregory Christine and Colin Porter to shoulder a good deal, if not all of the workload at left guard – with Christine getting the start of Kohler is unable to.
• Not since scoring an opening touchdown at Brigham Young has the UW started fast on offense.
It's an issue Sarkisian would like to see disappear.
"I don't want to have to keep looking up at the scoreboard and we are down seven (points), down 10 and we come storming back. I would like to get off to a good start," the second-year UW coach said.
"I'm not sure (why it's happened), in all honesty. Part of it is we like to defer so we get the extra position in the second half, which is why we prefer to receive in the second half. And part of it is we haven't been able to get stops early on in games for that first drive, or when we do, we are punting and they get the first score. So part of it is executing the field position part of it, and two, executing on offense and defense in the first couple drives of the game."
• And, of course, the defense has been shredded on the ground by Nebraska and USC.
"I think the biggest thing we've got to get is our mindset back," Sarkisian said. "I think we're kind of wondering a little too much, in my opinion, at the line of scrimmage and instead of playing really fast, furious defense – we like to be very aggressive, create pressure, which in turn should create turnovers. We haven't created the amount of turnovers that we'd like to create right now."