University of Washington

What's wrong with Callier? Nothing, UW says

SEATTLE - The call was conservative - a simple draw play on third-and-10 early against Brigham Young.

That was University of Washington true freshman Jesse Callier first carry in college football.

The tailback broke right and blew by a couple of BYU defenders.

Callier gained 39 yards – the longest run of the day by the Huskies, and the second-longest play from scrimmage in the game.

First impressions, UW coach Steve Sarkisian?

“The game,” Sarkisian said, “wasn’t too big for him.”

As a result, Callier is expected to see more action Saturday when UW opens its home schedule against Syracuse.

It wasn’t just the two carries (for 40 yards), or the catch on a screen pass (negated by a UW penalty). The tough stuff was what impressed the coaching staff.

“What people don’t notice … he had a great cut block in our base protection, and a downfield block on the long throw to Jermaine (Kearse),” said UW running backs coach Joel Thomas, who said the newcomer graded out in the mid-90 percent area on his assignments.

“He had two knockdowns in a game. As a freshman, that’s not common when you have 10 or 11 plays.”

At Warren High School, a half-hour drive south of Los Angeles, he was an immediate star – so stunning, longtime athletic director Steve Hill, who has been at the school since the early 1970s, dubbed him the best running back he’s ever seen in the program.

“Long Beach Poly (a high-profile neighboring program) turns out guys like that two or three times a year,” Hill said. “Around here, those types of kids come along every 10 years.”

He almost went unnoticed.

Johnny Nansen, the Huskies’ recruiting coordinator, got film on Callier in 2008. He wondered why NCAA Division I programs weren’t in on Callier.

“We asked, ‘What’s wrong with him?’ ” Thomas said. “Finally we said, ‘Nothing, let’s go after him and go get it.’ We were the first to offer him (a scholarship), and he jumped on board.”

Oregon recruited Callier late. By then, he was immersed in a new activity – soccer, which is played in the winter at Warren – before he was going to enroll at the UW in March.

“I wanted to try and learn a new sport, and be good at it,” Callier said.

He was a forward. He never tallied a goal, but he “was knocking guys on the floor, and beating guys to the ball” – all for fun.

“He’s not an ordinary kid,” said Thomas, shaking his head and smiling, “by any means.”

So how will Callier fit into the UW game plan?

He’s likely get more carries – meaning Callier and starter Chris Polk could share up to 30 carries against the Orange.

Sarkisian indicated during his weekly press conference Monday that he wanted to get quarterback Jake Locker in a better rhythm earlier in games – possibly with shorter passes to Polk and Callier in the flat, which the team did little of against BYU.

“They’re throwing me a bone,” Callier said. “I’ve got to do my part now.”

EXTRA POINTS

One day after limping off the field after a punting drill, senior Will Mahan was lost for the season with two torn ligaments (ACL, MCL) in his left knee. Sarkisian said the university will apply to the NCAA for a medical redshirt ruling. In the meantime, Nathan Hale High product Kiel Rasp is the starting punter. “He’s got a great leg, and he’s been terrific all camp,” Sarkisian said. … Don’t be surprised, the coach added later, to see a position player or two take their turn at punting as well. “We’ll keep that in our back pocket,” Sarkisian said. … Running back Johri Fogerson (upper leg) did not practice for a second consecutive day with a hip flexor/strained quadriceps, and is doubtful to play Saturday. … Cornerback Anthony Boyles (previously a receiver) and safety Taz Stevenson (running back) were working out at new positions. .

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

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