University of Washington

Breakdowns put linemen on notice

SEATTLE - Demotions are not in order - not yet, anyway.

But the first-week blocking blunders by the University of Washington offensive line were alarming – enough that coach Steve Sarkisian announced Monday that the team will give true freshmen Erik Kohler and Colin Porter a closer look this week in practice.

Missed conversions on third- and- fourth-and-short plays in the Huskies’ 23-17 loss at Brigham Young, and other blocking-scheme miscommunications noticeably irked the second-year coach during his weekly press conference. He made several references to them.

“Generally, the breakdowns we had in the run game were for a lack of communication where we were leaving somebody (a BYU defender) free in the hole,” Sarkisian said. “That’s hard for any (running) back to be successful running the ball.”

So, who is on alert?

It won’t be junior Senio Kelemete, whom coaches predict could be an all-Pacific-10 Conference left tackle someday, maybe soon.

It is center Drew Schaefer’s job to make sure the coverage signals are called out, but quarterback Jake Locker raved about the sophomore’s first start in that capacity.

“I thought Drew played a great game,” Locker said. “It’s difficult when you get in that 3-4 (defense), and you have to deal with the nose tackle (in this case, Romney Fuga) a lot. A lot of times, that’s a single block by yourself, and I think he did a good job against a tremendous football player. He was controlling the line of scrimmage, and controlling him.”

That leaves left guard Ryan Tolar, who has 31 starts in his UW career; right guard Gregory Christine, who last week was named to the starting lineup after suffering a season-ending leg injury in 2009; and right tackle Cody Habben, who has been a full-time starter the past two seasons.

Kohler, out of Camarillo, Calif., is listed as the backup left tackle to Kelemete. During team drills Monday, he moved over to left guard in place of Tolar and ran a few plays with the No. 1 offense.

Porter, a Bothell High product, is Christine’s backup at right guard, but was moved around during training camp.

“Those guys need to be cohesive, and do this thing together and take pride in doing it together, and not, ‘Oh, so-and-so made the wrong call, so we were all wrong.’ Well, if you think he’s making the wrong call, somebody else has got to fix it,” said Sarkisian. “That’s what is going to be our point of emphasis this week.”

YOU TRIPPIN,’ REF?

After watching game film, Sarkisian drew one conclusion about the 15-yard tripping call on receiver Jermaine Kearse, which halted the UW’s opening drive of the second half.

“Phantom tripping penalty,” Sarkisian said.

Replays show Kearse taking a BYU player to the ground, rolling around and raising his leg up as the defender tried to get up to tackle running back Jesse Callier on a 14-yard reception.

“(Kearse) didn’t trip him. He cut him, like there are cut blocks on every play. I don’t understand what the penalty was,” Sarkisian said. “We were crossing the 50-yard line with a lot of momentum. That hurt. It kind of really swung the emotion of the game.”

EXTRA POINTS

Receiver James Johnson (ankle) did not play Saturday, despite practicing the entire week. Sarkisian said he felt the sophomore did not have enough practice time under his belt to play. ... After a few kickoff return mishaps, the Huskies will go to a two-man return team with Chris Polk and Callier, with Kevin Smith also likely being in the rotation. ... Sarkisian pointed out linebacker Mason Foster (14 tackles), safety Nate Williams and defensive end Talia Crichton as having standout games on defense. ... Ex-Puyallup High quarterback Damon Huard had another first start Saturday – in the UW radio booth. The reviews? He said he was told he used too many “We” and “Us” references during the broadcast. Needless to say, he’s not going to be benched. ... Drip, drip – despite a light rain, the Huskies held their 63-minute practice Monday outdoors, in helmets, jerseys and shorts.

Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 todd.milles@thenewstribune.com

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