Aug. 24, 2011
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - The man returning the Huskies to prominence welcomed back on Wednesday the one who had them there for decades.
Steve Sarkisian hosted legendary Washington coach Don James on the annual visit for the "Dawgfather" to preseason training camp. James, who went 151-59-2 and won a national championship over 18 seasons at UW ending in 1993, talked to the current Huskies team on the field early in the full-pads, afternoon practice.
"He talked about how proud he was of them last year, what we were able to do and persevere. And what the challenge would be for them this year, especially early in the season - and what it would take to overcome those challenges," Sarkisian related from James' address.
"He was fantastic."
James, by far Washington's all-time leader in coaching wins, was inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997. He lives in the Seattle area half the year and in Palm Desert, Calif., during the other half. He was in San Diego last December for Washington's Holiday Bowl the night before his 78th birthday. He said he could tell from pregame warm-ups that Sarkisian's team was about to win.
"I was on the field for that Nebraska game. What a great game. I saw an upset coming, even before the game," James said earlier this summer. "Nebraska's players all had their head phones on. They looked like they were on vacation. Sark had his guys ready.
I saw the enthusiasm that first day (of 2010). The remarkable part of what he's done was that they were 3-6 last year with three games to go. A lot of teams would have gone into the tank. He got them playing their best ball of the season."
James won five outright conference titles and shared a sixth, in his final coaching season of 1992. He also won four Rose Bowls and an Orange Bowl after succeeding Jim Owens before the 1975 season.
Asked if he often he "picks the brain" of the best Huskies coach of them all, Sarkisian laughed and said, "Sure, sure. I picked it today.
"Anytime you have a resource like that, you have to use it."
Sarkisian, who played quarterback at Brigham Young, still remembers being a high-school passer in the Los Angeles suburb of Torrance in the early 1990s and getting UW surprise.
"I got one recruiting letter from the University of Washington with Coach James' signature on it, and it gave me goose bumps. ... I only got one (letter), though," Sarkisian said, chuckling.
"No, I loved this program. I was a sophomore in high school when our senior tailback and cornerback, Josh Moore, came to Washington. And it was a big deal. It was a big deal at our school that he was coming to the University of Washington. Very well-respected."
SHELTON OVERCOMES, SHINES
Shelton's brother was killed and another brother was wounded in a shooting in their hometown of Auburn, Wash., on May 1. Sarkisian spent most of the night at the hospital with Danny Shelton and his grieving family, and the Huskies coaching staff worried how the teenager might fare in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Now the dedicated, 6-foot-1, 334-pound Shelton has propelled himself into first-team action next to senior defensive line leader Alameda Ta'amu.
Even though Holt knew how good the heralded recruit was, the coordinator said Shelton has "far, far exceeded my expectations. I knew he was going to be good, but I didn't think he'd be this good this early."
The Huskies are now planning on using Shelton and Ta'amu together inside on running downs to give them a brick wall inside they've lacked for years.
"I was doing the math: That's just about 700 pounds in the middle of our defensive line," Sarkisian said. "It's difficult to run the ball against them."
Meanwhile, Holt and Sarkisian often check in with Shelton, just to make sure he is doing fine emotionally and all is OK at home.
"We're going to take care of him," Holt said. "He's going to graduate. And he's going to be a fantastic, fantastic player for us."
New starting quarterback Keith Price rested for some of Wednesday's practice, yielding to backup Nick Montana in special situations. Sarkisian said it was a planned rest for Price after 2½ weeks of constant throwing and running.
The sophomore said his biggest accomplishment of camp that officially ends Saturday has been "just mastering the playbook. I think I finally know the ins and outs of things. Now it's just knowing what the other teams are doing.
"I'm definitely playing faster with my reads. But I've still got to get better."
Just like he did last week, Price says he "can't wait" for the Sept. 3 opener against Eastern Washington.
QUICK HITS: Starting CB Quinton Richardson began slow steps in his recovery from a high ankle sprain --the stadium steps, in fact. The senior walked those during team drills. He vows he will try to play in the opener, which would be only three weeks after the injury, but he remains highly iffy for it. Greg Ducre has been practicing with the first-team in Richardson's place the last few days. ... Holt said the battle to start at safety between 2010 starter Nate Fellner and 2009 starter (until he broke his leg) Justin Glenn continues daily. ... Holt's son by the same name won't be the only FB in college football wearing No. 50. The converted linebacker and freshman second-teamer behind starting FB Jonathan Amosa is now wearing 49, to be eligible to go downfield as a receiver on passes. Backup MLB Thomas Tutogi has switched from 3 to 50. Coach Holt called him the most improved defender since fall camp. ... The Huskies' practice Thursday is CLOSED to the public, but will be very brief in length. They have a closed mock game Friday, the annual, sold-out "Raise the Woof" fan celebration Friday night and then the initial game-plan preparation for Eastern Washington in Saturday's practice.