Fall camp had an autumn feel to it Monday, even though it was August and not late October.
Skies darkened up and spat sprinkles of rain. Unpredictable wind flurries made footballs take flight on one end and then duck-hook into the turf on the other end of Husky Stadium.
Yet, by the end of the Washington Huskies’ first practice day – and new coach Steve Sarkisian’s fall-camp debut – the concerned parties agreed on one thing: Little about the near 21/2-hour practice itself went sideways.
“It was a lot better than day one in the spring, I can say that,” Sarkisian said in full confidence. “From the execution standpoint on both sides of the ball, we’re playing faster. You can tell our kids had studied and prepared all offseason. Was it perfect? No. But I thought we did things really, really well that jumped out at me.”
And how did the starting quarterback assess the proceedings?
“Even in shorts, we practiced fast,” junior Jake Locker said.
Anticipation came and went. The Huskies escaped with no serious injuries. And to add a little flavor to the coming days, a few UW players were polled about the essential questions for the coming days:
• Which coach’s voice will be heard loudest and most frequently on the field?
That one drew a laugh, a sigh and a response of, “Wow, that’s a hard one.”
Unanimously, the candidates all came from the defensive side of the ball – coordinator Nick Holt, line coach Johnny Nansen and safeties coach Jeff Mills. The assistant who got the nod was Mills.
“(Mills) is an old man, and he’s trying to hang with these young guys,” cornerback Vonzell McDowell said. “He’s the loudest.”
• What drill will tire out the players quickest?
McDowell, safety Jason Wells and receiver Jermaine Kearse, the Lakes High product, all were reluctant to answer, for fear they would be violating some sort of team oath.
McDowell mentioned the “9-on-7” drill for linemen who go at it frequently. Wells said the “hash drill” where defensive backs run up and down the hashes, but don’t get to hit anybody.
Kearse was diplomatic: “Every drill tires me out, and will if you go 100 percent.”
• Whose newly sculpted body will drive the women crazy?
Sarkisian mentioned at press conferences before camp that the players paid extra attention to the team’s strength and conditioning program. So naturally, the three answers from players were similar.
“Oh, you know, mine,” McDowell said.
“Me, of course,” Kearse said. “I’m representing the 195- to 210-pound crew.”
• What percentage of spectators will come out for a fall practice primarily to gauge Locker’s progress at quarterback?
This question had the most varied responses. McDowell estimated, “50-50.” Kearse noted 10 percent, while Wells answered a whopping 75 percent.
“I’d say all the fans do it to … see him run so they can hold their breath,” Wells said.
Another day, another paid staff addition, and a welcome one. Former Huskies QB Marques Tuiasosopo, whose NFL contract was not renewed by the Oakland Raiders, was hired as a strength and conditioning assistant under Ivan Lewis. “To be back here, it’s a dream come true,” said Tuiasosopo, who admitted his first priority is finding an NFL job, which his UW contract allows. Meanwhile, his UW counsel will pertain only to conditioning activities, Sarkisian said.
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442