University of Washington

A transformation at tight end

To get what he wants, Chris Izbicki knew he had to make a change.

The University of Washington tight end arrived at Montlake as a heralded high school star in 2007, but through three seasons he had yet to make a serious impact on the field. All that changed last winter.

“Something just clicked,” the 6-foot-3, 246-pound redshirt junior said. “If I want things to change, I can’t just sit around and they’ll just change. I had to do something.

“Through winter workouts I felt like I pushed myself harder than I had before. Coming into spring ball I had the same attitude. I want to take this. Do whatever I can to get better at this position so I can have a bigger role come this fall.”

UW coach Steve Sarkisian noticed Izbicki’s increased dedication in the months leading up to fall camp.

“It’s focus, it’s preparation on and off the field, in the weight room, studying, understanding responsibility,” he said. “I think he’s just transformed himself in all phases of life.”

And not a moment too soon for the Huskies, who need a reliable tight end to emerge. Of the five on the roster, Izbicki is the only one who has earned a varsity letter. When Kavario Middleton was dismissed from the team last month for violating team rules, the Huskies lost their starting tight end and fourth-leading receiver. Izbicki, who caught three passes for 7 yards and a touchdown last season, said he wants to give Washington the pass-catching tight end it lost with Middleton’s departure.

“That’s the plan,” the Lake Washington High product said. “I’m trying to prove to the coaches that I have the ability to make some plays so I can fill that void.”

Sarkisian said Izbicki has shown he’s a capable blocker but must gain confidence to be effective in the passing attack.

“For him to take the next step is a firm belief in himself in the passing game,” he said. “I think he’s fine in the running game. He understands what his responsibility is. He can be a playmaker for us. He’s just got to believe in himself for that.”

With a new mind-set, Izbicki is intent on having a breakthrough year.

“I feel like I’ve paid my dues, I’ve waited what feels like a long time now,” he said. “My time’s here now and I’m excited.”

MAN OF MANY HATS

Cameron Elisara doesn’t know where he’ll find himself lining up on the defensive line when the season begins in three weeks. A starter at defensive tackle in 2009, Elisara has been bouncing between tackle and defensive end.

“I’m going with the flow,” the 6-foot-3, 269-pound senior said. “I don’t know what they’re going to do with me. If they put me at nose, I’ll play nose; they put me at tackle, tackle; and end, end. Wherever they want.”

Elisara might not be the only defensive lineman to play more than one position. Sarkisian said the defense might adjust its personnel depending on the type of offense it faces each week.

“When we’re facing specific runs teams we might be bigger inside and bigger with Cameron at the end,” Sarkisian said. “We’re looking at different options so we’re prepared for it.”

EXTRA POINTS

Linebacker Mason Foster was sent to the sideline for shoving a teammate during the team portion of practice. Sarkisian said Foster, a senior, accepted responsibility for his actions and he returned to the field about 15 minutes later. ... Sarkisian singled out the play of former Lakes High defensive tackle Sione Potoa’e for the second straight day. “He’s powerful enough that he shows up, you see him,” Sarkisian said. ... Cornerback Quinton Richardson sat out practice because of back spasms. ... Joe Montana and his wife, Jennifer, watched practice from the track with the rest of the spectators in attendance, keeping an eye on his son, freshman quarterback Nick Montana. ... Practice is at 3 p.m. today at Husky Stadium and open to the public.

Doug Pacey: 253-597-8271 doug.pacey@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports

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