Aug. 15, 2009
by Michael Jeremiah
SEATTLE -- As he charges toward the sideline, vying to gain the proper angle on the opposing player, Johri Fogerson looks like he thrives with the ball in his hands. But as the collision nears, it's easy to see the roots of Fogerson's time spent hitting ball carriers, instead of carrying it himself. Fogerson lays the hit on the defensive player and gains another yard before going down.
The move from safety to running back is only a few days old, but Fogerson is showing signs of adjusting to his new role. Running with a physical presence and natural instincts has helped the transition to running back, and it's going well. Coach Steve Sarkisian named Fogerson his Player of the Day during the first week of camp.
Excelling at running back is nothing new to Fogerson, and he's happy to be back in his comfort zone after playing safety as a freshman.
"It just feels natural to be over here [on offense]," said Fogerson. "Instinctively, I just feel a lot more comfortable with the ball and I feel like I can do a lot with the ball right now."
Fogerson honed those instincts at O'Dea High in Seattle, where he starred on both sides of the ball but was heralded for the gaudy numbers he produced on offense. After splitting carries for most of high school, Fogerson took the reigns as a senior and led the Irish to the state championship game. O'Dea eventually lost to Skyline, but Fogerson shined, rushing for a state-record 297 yards and scoring four touchdowns. That performance capped a senior year that drew such accolades AP State Player of the Year and All-State selections to go along with 2,545 yards and 36 touchdowns.
That was his last game at running back, almost two years ago, but he is eager to get back in a game situation with the ball in his hands. Natural ability has to be paired with knowledge of the offense, and that is the hurdle that he has to overcome during fall camp.
"I just need to pick up that plays as fast as I can and get as many reps as I can get," said Fogerson. "I have to get more relaxed and comfortable with the offense."
At 6-foot-1, Fogerson has the big body and the mentality to be a physical presence in Sarkisian's pro-style offense. His addition gives Washington an impressive group of young running backs with Chris Polk, Willie Griffin, Curtis Shaw and Demitrius Bronson being some of the other players getting reps in the backfield.
What he lacks in experience over the last two years, Fogerson should be able to make up by being a good fit for the new rushing attack that is being implemented.
"I'm a downhill runner and that's the kind of offense we are running," said Fogerson. "It fits me well.
Four weeks to learn a new offense at first seems too short. But with every crack of the pads and the ensuing struggle for an extra few inches on a play Fogerson shows anyone watching that he will give his all to help the team, especially if it means he gets to carry the ball again.
The switch to offense will mean a new outlook and altered mindset for the 2009 season. Along with that comes the optimism that he sees the same good play in his teammates that others have noticed in him during fall camp.
"Right now, we are on track to have a good season," said Fogerson. "I think that we are going to do really well and we will just see how it goes."
SATURDAY MORNING POST-PRACTICE UPDATE: A day after their first full-pads practice Friday afternoon, the Dawgs were back on the field early Saturday morning for a relatively light, helmets-only session.
In his post-practice talk with the media, Coach Steve Sarkisian said that the emphasis of the day was the two-minute drill. With no pads on, the general advantage tends to favor the offense, and there was no shortage of nice plays on that side of the ball.
Sophomore wideout Cody Bruns turned in a couple of highlight receptions, including a long touchdown pass and, later, a diving grab. Ronnie Fouch also connected with Devin Aguilar on several occasions and fullback Austin Sylvester made one of the longest plays of the day, catching a pass in the flank and rambling downfield.
The Dawgs will break for lunch, meetings and then dinner before returning to the turf this evening at 6:45 p.m. for a full-pads practice. Sunday's schedules does not include any practices, but the Dawgs will be back on the field at Husky Stadium for the traditional Picture Day, which gets going at 10:00 a.m.
LATE SATURDAY UPDATE: The UW can confirm that quarterback Jake Locker has agreed to a contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Saturday. Jake's father, Scott Locker, who was handling the negotiations, confirmed that the deal was signed Saturday afternoon.
Locker, who has two seasons of football eligibility remaining (2009 and 2010), will have to relinquish his scholarship, but his football eligibility is otherwise unaffected.
The Angels selected Locker with their 10th round selection, 321st overall. After his senior year at Ferndale High, Locker was chosen by the Angels in the 40th round, but did not sign at that time. He hasn't played baseball at the college level, but did play for the Bellingham (Wash.) Bells in the West Coast Collegiate Baseball League in the summer of 2008.
With Sunday a scheduled off day for the team -- other than the annual Picture Day -- Locker's next scheduled press availability will be after Monday morning's 8:45 a.m. practice.