Five things to consider as UW opens spring practice

todd.dybas@thenewstribune.comMarch 5, 2013 

Kickoff is already here.

Washington has decided to split its spring practices into two sessions, so that means spring football starts much sooner than usual for the Huskies.

The Huskies are back on the practice field behind the construction scene that is Husky Stadium starting tonight. The first two-week session of practice runs from today through March 16, with three practices a week.

The second section goes from April 2, which coincides with the start of spring quarter and is the usual starting point for the 15 spring practices, and ends with the annual spring game, which will be at 4 p.m. April 20 at Seattle Center’s Memorial Stadium.

Which leads us to five storylines to watch for over the next seven weeks:

WHITHER KEITH PRICE?

Washington coach Steve Sarkisian prefaced his discussion about the quarterbacks Tuesday with this: “Keith Price is our starting quarterback.”

But, that doesn’t mean the other quarterbacks won’t get their time in camp.

“The goal is to get Keith Price back to playing the way he was two years ago,” Sarkisian said. “But, also, there’s four guys behind him that are going to be champing at the bit to make this thing into a thing that is either going to push Keith into becoming a better player than he’s been or ultimately surpass him.”

Sarkisian said the number of plays each quarterback – from redshirt freshman Cyler Miles to early enrollee Troy Williams – receive will be specifically scripted out heading into practice.

WHO’S THE MIDDLE MAN?

Washington lost one player off an offensive line that struggled a year ago, and it was the most consistent member. Center Drew Schaefer graduated and will have to be replaced after starting 43 consecutive games to finish his career.

Erik Kohler, coming off a knee injury suffered in the second game last season, tops the list of candidates to take over at center.

Since the injury happened so early in the season, Kohler was able to redshirt to save a season of eligibility. He will be participating in the second half of the spring practices. Mike Criste and Colin Tanigawa will also compete at center, though an injury will keep Tanigawa out of action until the fall.

INJURIES AN ISSUE ALREADY

In addition to Tanigawa being out for the spring and Kohler being delayed, also out for the spring are running backs Deontae Cooper and Jesse Callier, defensive ends Pio Vatuvei, and Hau’oli Jamora, linebacker Travis Feeney and defensive tackle Lawrence Lagafuaina.

“Those are all key contributors to our football team,” Sarkisian said.

Part of the reason Sarkisian decided to split spring practice into two segments was in case someone was dinged up during the first session, they might have time to recover and participate in the second session.

YOUTH MOVEMENT OVER

UW’s roster has not only evolved into Sarkisian’s recruits, but it is now a decidedly more experienced group. Of the 77 names on the spring roster, 57 have used a redshirt season.

The 47 players on the roster who are sophomores and juniors include 35 (74.5 percent) who have redshirted. The five true juniors are running back Bishop Sankey, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, defensive lineman Danny Shelton, linebacker John Timu and receiver Kasen Williams.

“We are still going to have to, just like any season, rely on some young players to step up and perform for us,” Sarkisian said. “I’d like to think that number doesn’t have to be as big as it has been … some years in the past. But again, the best players play in this program, and we signed a tremendous class and they are going to come in and push these veterans to the limit to earn playing time.”

PICKING UP THE PACE

Sarkisian said he wants the Huskies to play more up-tempo in practice for two reasons: One, he would like Washington’s offense to play at a crisper pace and, two, he would like the defense to face more no-huddle looks in practice more often.

The Huskies have had problems defending spread offenses, most notably Oregon’s. The Ducks have beaten the Huskies nine consecutive times.

“Oregon has been a hurdle for us,” Sarkisian said.

todd.dybas@thenewstribune.com @Todd_Dybas blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports

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