Aug. 9, 2010
SEATTLE - It's starting to sink in.
The Huskies have taken on Steve Sarkisian's personality at Washington since he arrived on campus last year. The student-athletes are buying into his philosophies, they're absorbing the schemes and they're embracing the competition. When the team took the field at Husky Stadium for the first day of Fall Camp, there was a sense of urgency and trickle-down leadership from upperclassmen.
Sarkisian was impressed with the tone of practice right from the get-go. For not having pads on, he noted, it was physical. It appeared to him that everyone is dialed in, starting with the seniors.
"They really are. It's coming a lot from the senior leadership," Sarkisian said. "It's the (guys like) Cort Dennison, Mason Foster, Jake Locker, Senio Kelemete; Jermaine Kearse. Those guys are really setting the tone for what we want out of practice. And it's kind of falling in line with the younger guys."
For a little more than two hours, the Huskies ran through drills in front of a throng of spectators who ran two- and three-deep on the sidelines. As usual, the practice had the elevated tempo Sarkisian preaches. But there was also a greater understanding. Even the freshmen, who were blinded at first by the speed and intensity of everything, settled into grooves and began to make plays. Even though the team held a walk-through earlier on Monday afternoon so the newcomers wouldn't be completely lost, the coach was surprised with how well the young players acclimated. Several freshmen received kudos for their work in practice, including safety Sean Parker and wide receiver Kevin Smith, who made a couple of nice catches during one-on-one drills.
"All in all, I was very impressed with this group," Sarkisian said.
When Sarkisian took over at Washington, he brought along a noticeable change in energy to a program that was coming off a winless season. A solid campaign in 2009 has reignited expectations that the Huskies could be contenders in a stacked Pac-10 Conference, a challenge Sarkisian embraced last week when he met with the assembled media.
What impressed Sarkisian the most was the athleticism his team brought to the first practice.
The group is coming off a summer working with strength coach Ivan Lewis, who worked on expanding their athletic ability with plyometric exercises. The result was a more explosive group, and that was evident to practice observers during drills. Sarkisian offered notable praise for the offensive line, a unit which is now able to run in 2's and 3's with the newly acquired depth.
Over the course of August, the Huskies will gradually work on installing the playbook schemes, and then executing them at full speed. Then the pads come out, and the competition aspect of Sarkisian's program will really begin to show itself. Not that the competition wasn't evident on Monday. In terms of a first practice after a summer off, it was hard to ask for anything better.
"I thought all in all it was a good first day," Sarkisian said. "It would be easy to say that it was a much better first practice this year than last year, if I needed to compare, but I thought our kids played fast, we were competitive, and by no means were we perfect, but I liked the energy that they brought."