University of Washington

Freshman backs hit field running

Deontae Cooper knows the helpless feeling his freshman teammates are experiencing when trying to decipher and memorize the University of Washington football team's playbook.

“They say, ‘Dang man, I’m having a hard time doing the playbook,’ ” Cooper said. “I tell some of my classmates, ‘I was here, I was in the same position you were my fourth day into it. Just keep on learning it and it’s going to come.’”

Cooper is one of four freshmen – quarterback Nick Montana, running back Jesse Callier and linebacker Victor Burnett are the others – who arrived on campus in January and took part in spring ball. Those 15 days of practices have been invaluable to beginning fall camp in a sprint, instead of a stumble.

“We had time to learn the plays in the spring,” Callier said. “All the stuff for the new guys is new. We’re able to help them out and learn some new stuff ourselves.”

Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian takes it a bit further.

“I think they’re ahead from a mental point of view and … they know what to expect,” he said. “They understand the heat and the pressure and the intensity of practice. They’re not awed by it.”

Callier, a shifty 5-foot-10, 205-pounder, might have actually awed some of his upperclassmen teammates during Friday’s practice – the first of the season with full pads. He surely impressed the coaches by ripping off two long runs down the right sideline and picking up blocking assignments in the backfield.

“If you wanted to give an MVP to somebody today it was probably (Callier),” Sarkisian said. “Great practice running the football and the subtleties that sometimes can get missed. I thought he pass-protected extremely well today and did a couple things, just getting out in space and making people miss, real well.”

Cooper, a powerful 6-foot, 193-pounder, and Callier figure to give the Huskies depth in the backfield behind incumbent starter Chris Polk. Sarkisian gave Polk the day off Friday, and Cooper and Callier were thrown into the mix with the first-string offense. The two freshmen played liked they had been in the program for the better part of a year, not days.

EXTRA POINTS

Sarkisian said Jake Locker enjoyed his best day of practice in the five-day-old season. Locker completed 10 of 12 passes, including a 25-yard touchdown pass to receiver Jermaine Kearse. … Safety Nate Williams was also given the day off. Offensive lineman Ben Riva did not practice because he was not feeling well, Sarkisian said. ... Sarkisian also made a plea to fans that attend practice to stop posting on the Internet what they have seen or he will close practice to the public. He specified that any details about drills, players and the interaction between players and coaches are off-limits. ... Two-a-day practices begin today.

doug.pacey@thenewstribune.com

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