Sept. 26, 2011
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - The first time Steve Sarkisian met Hau'oli Jamora, the confident teenager with the breezy persona of his native Hawaii cracked jokes.
The first time Sarkisian had Jamora playing for him, the true freshman burst into the starting lineup at defensive end for the final seven games of 2010. That included the Holiday Bowl, when Jamora dominated Nebraska with three tackles for a loss and one sack.
The next time the beyond-his-years Jamora will be playing for Sarkisian and the Huskies will be 2012 -- at the earliest.
Sarkisian announced Monday UW's top pass rusher -- in the estimation of his defensive coordinator -- will miss the remainder of the season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
"He's going to be missed in more ways than one, not just rushing the passer, but what he brings on a day-to-day basis for our football team," Sarkisian said as Washington (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12) began preparing for this Saturday's test at new conference member Utah (2-1, 0-1).
"It's going to be a good challenge for us to step up and replace him, not only on the field but in the meeting rooms, the locker room."
There was good news on injuries - remarkably good. John Timu was on the field wearing his helmet and running through linebacking drills in practice, two days after he was driven off the Husky Stadium turf in an ambulance while strapped to a board.
And Sarkisian isn't ruling out his freshman starting again at outside linebacker against Utah.
Sarkisian said tests at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center that began during Washington's 31-23 win over California Saturday afternoon showed no neurological or structural damage in Timu's neck. He had made a helmet-first hit on a Golden Bears' ball carrier.
"He's got a sore neck. I guess it would be equivalent to getting whiplash or something if you were in a car accident would be the best way to describe it," Sarkisian said. "It's going to be how his body responds to that.
"It's one of those moments that you are extremely concerned about as a coach. All signs are pointing to he's fine structurally."
Redshirt freshman Josh Shirley got his first extended playing time as a Husky after Jamora, named by the team as the Huskies' Most Outstanding Freshman in 2010, went down well behind the play against Cal trying to avoid a hit on a pass rush early in the second quarter.
Shirley is listed first on the depth chart for this weekend's game against the Utes. Yet Sarkisian made it clear junior Talia Crichton, redshirt freshman Andrew Hudson and potentially others will try to fill Jamora's void.
"We'll use a number of guys," Sarkisian said, reiterating that Shirley began coming on in practice last week. "You'll see Talia Crichton back over at that spot, which is what Talia played initially here his first year and a half before he got injured."
The Huskies' D-line shuffle will also include Everrette Thompson moved back out to end primarily. Thompson has been playing some inside as a quicker tackle this month.
"It will be somewhat of a re-shuffling, but guys re-shuffling to positions they are accustomed to playing," Sarkisian said.
Losing Jamora is a big blow to a defense that needs all the pressure it can muster on quarterbacks, to help the overall pass defense. Sarkisian said the first time he saw Jamora, as a havoc-wreaker at Kahuku High School on the north shore of Oahu, he thought of former Huskies and eventual NFL defensive tackle Daniel Te'o Nesheim "because of the effort that they play with, the passion."
"Unbelievable character. Great kid. Tremendous work ethic. Good student. For being such a young guy, he's a tremendous leader on and off the field," Sarkisian said of Jamora. "Then when you get to meet him he's got a very unique personality. ... From the moment I met him, his sense of humor came out of him. I thought, `That's a pretty confident kid.'
"When a head coach comes into your room and starts to visit with you and you are able to use jokes and different things ... that impressed me quite a bit about him."
Saturday's test for the defense is against John White -- who rushed for 174 yards for Utah in its most recent game, a 54-10 win at Brigham Young before last week's bye - and third-year starting quarterback Jordan Wynn. It is Washington's latest chance to show off its depth from victories in Sarkisian's first three UW recruiting classes.
That depth came through when it absolutely had to last weekend. Hudson and backup linebacker Jamaal Kearse, playing for Timu, combined to stop a second-down run by Cal from the 2. That was one play after Kearse tightly covered a tight end on a tricky end-zone route to force an incompletion.
And that was half of the four-play, goal-line stand in the final 30 seconds that beat the Bears.
"Coach Sark does a great job bringing in players who are ready to play (right away), bringing in guys whom, when depth issues occur, someone else has to step right up," said safety Justin Glenn, who made the tackle on Cal's third-down run at the 2 to help preserve UW's seventh win in eight games.
Sarkisian calls the defense's depth "encouraging, quite honestly."
"Were they perfect (Saturday)? No. But that's OK. We weren't perfect before, when they weren't playing," Sarkisian said of the defense. "It does speak volumes having young guys going in there.
"I think they're just going to get better as we continue to get them out on the field. We're just going to have to live with some of the growing pains of young guys playing, not just on defense but on offense as well."
Sarkisian has issues besides youth that he and his staff are addressing before leaving Friday for Washington's first-ever game at Utah:
He didn't like the lack of toughness along the offensive line against Cal's aggressive defensive front. It's the second time in four games he's spotted that as an issue on the O-line. This time it may result in changes to a lineup that has stayed constant since the first day of preseason training camp.
"Well, I didn't think we were nearly physical enough up front, especially on the right side of our line," Sarkisian said. "We were passive. We were tentative.
"We'll look at some things, yeah. We have to reward guys for competing and have to reward guys for doing things right and playing hard. You've got to earn your opportunities. I don't ever want guys to feel so comfortable that they don't have to perform at the standard that's been set."
He wants more his deep and talented stable of wide receivers to be more "dominant."
And he wants better ball security on offense and the creation of more turnovers on defense. Utah leads the Pac-12 and is third nationally with eight fumble recoveries. The Utes are plus-9 in turnover margin.
The Huskies are plus-1. They beat Cal despite being minus-2 for the game.
"We've got to find a way against this football team Saturday night to minimize their opportunities of getting a short field because of us turning it over. And we've got to find ways to capitalize on opportunities to create turnovers," Sarkisian said. "It will be a big point of emphasis this week."
QUICK HITS: Sarkisian said RB Johri Fogerson, who limped off against Cal after getting tackled hard in the open field, has a bruise on a nerve on the outside of his knee and was pending an MRI exam that may determine his availability. ... The Huskies have their bye week following Saturday's game.