Football practice is work. The fun usually doesn't begin until afterward.
On most days, some sort of contest breaks out – and after the morning practice Monday, University of Washington coach Steve Sarkisian had his two placekickers, Erik Folk and Eric Guttorp, right next to him as all three tried to throw 50-yard passes through the goalposts on the west end of Husky Stadium.
After Guttorp and Folk each tossed footballs through their intended marks, Sarkisian lamented about his off day: “I haven’t been throwing quite as much lately … it shouldn’t take me that many throws to hit the crossbar.”
His skill at long-toss aside, the Huskies are more impressed by Folk’s improved leg strength – something that was mandated in the offseason.
Folk, the younger brother of NFL kicker Nick Folk, had a stellar first college season on field goals, making 18 of 21 attempts.
But his 59-yard average on kickoffs – with only five touchbacks – was a concern. Opponents were starting their drives at roughly the 25-yard line.
“Last year, it was definitely an issue,” Folk said. “I went back and looked at film before I got hurt, and saw what I could do differently.”
In Folk’s defense, he was coming off a pretty serious injury – a hip labrum tear – in the 2008 season, and was not fully healthy when he was named the 2009 starter, replacing Ryan Perkins.
In offseason film review, Folk noticed he was doing things mechanically to compensate for the slow recovery.
“It’s more technique-wise,” Folk said. “I worked a bunch (on it), especially on my steps to get them smoother instead of so jerky. Last year, I kind of sped up on my kickoffs, and now it’s a lot smoother.”
The “pop” in his kicks – field goals and kickoffs – has been on display this fall camp. He nailed a 53-yard field goal with ease during a two-minute practice drill Saturday, followed by a 49-yarder. His longest field goal in 2009 was 48 yards.
“He has some power,” said Cody Bruns, his holder on kicks.
Even the ones he misses – like the 39-yarder Monday – had so much force, it shook the upright on contact.
“I’ve built up the trust that (my hip) won’t hurt anymore,” Folk said.
That pleased his coach immensely.
“He’s had now a whole year of really strengthening his body,” Sarkisian said. “It’s showing, and it’s evident in all the things he’s doing.”
Late Monday, after reports started circulating about the future of former UW tight end Kavario Middleton, his mother confirmed that the Lakes High product will be enrolling at Nebraska for fall semester and join the Huskers football team. He will have to sit out this season. … Deontae Cooper, the sensational Huskies freshman running back, will miss the 2010 season with a torn ligament in his knee, Sarkisian said. … Receiver James Johnson (ankle) and cornerback Desmond Trufant (head) sat out both practices Monday. Also, safety Justin Glenn (ankle) came up lame in the evening session. … Sarkisian had to stop the night practice after fullback Dorson Boyce and safety Sean Parker, a true freshman, came to blows after a play. The second-year coach gave the team an animated lecture about fighting at practice.