Aug. 12, 2011
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - Anyone thinking the Huskies are satisfied with how far they've come in just two seasons wasn't in a meeting room beneath Husky Stadium earlier this week.
Just days into camp, coach Steve Sarkisian brought the team to a point of reckoning.
Sarkisian gathered all his players and assistant coaches a couple practices into fall camp. Months after making Washington just the fifth of 74 winless teams in the last century of college football to win a bowl game within two seasons, Sarkisian made clear where he wants his revitalized Huskies program to go next.
"You are either a survivor, a competitor, a true competitor -- or you dominate," Sarkisian told his team at the evening meeting.
Sarkisian then went on to give examples of each type of person, famous people the players would recognize, and what they've gone on to do in their personal careers.
The message was clear: a 7-6 record including a Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska in December is great - especially two years removed from 0-12 under a previous regime. But that's not the standard Sarkisian has set for these Dawgs.
"Our goal is to maximize as many dominators as we can out this group," the third-year coach said Friday, inside the stadium tunnel following the first full-pads practice of 2011's fall camp.
"We want to add about one dominator a day. We are competing at a high level. But the challenge is we have to be dominant as coaches in order for the players to be dominant. I don't know if we were all the way there (Friday).
"And I don't like taking a step back."
Sarkisian thought the high level of energy his Huskies had in each of the first four days of practice waned Friday, even though the music was still pumping through loud speakers and the largest turnout of fans this week ringed the fields.
And a team without energy ... well, it isn't a Sarkisian team.
"For whatever reason, I don't know if it's because it was Day 5, I don't know that we had the energy we're quite accustomed to," Sarkisian said. "We hold these guys to high standards. We've got to do a better job of bringing it every day."
How difficult is it for players, coaches and staffers to "bring it" every single day of the preseason and regular season, from August through the December and early January bowl seasons?
"I don't care how tough it is," Sarkisian said, flatly.
Offensive line coach Dan Cozzetto got Sarkisian's message. But that reception was easy -- it is in step with the nails-tough line coach's personality and style of coaching.
The demanding, 30-year veteran of college and NFL coaching was amplifying the head coach in his own, unique way again on Friday, roaring at his lineman to get the most out of them.
"That's the only way you can develop a football team. You have to work the hell out of them, then they can develop character," Cozzetto said.
He is still trying to round out his five starting blockers plus build tough depth behind them. Senio Kelemete, the O-line's only senior, is the left tackle, junior Drew Schaefer is the center and sophomore Colin Porter is the right guard. But left guard and right tackle are still to be determined, with redshirt freshman Colin Tanigawa and sophomore Erik Kohler on the inside tracks at each position, respectively.
With strength coach Ivan Lewis straddling the line of scrimmage as the judge, the offensive line won the one-on-one, pass-blocking grudge matches against the defensive front for the second consecutive day.
Sarkisian said he wants the shoulder pads to be lower on both sides of the line of scrimmage than it was Friday, to fulfill one of his preseason goals of continuing the physicality with which the Huskies won the final four games of 2010.
"We've got to play lower football, better pad-level football, to be the physical football team I think we can be," the head man said.
One of the key men to carry out that demand is on board with his message.
"Where are we going to go with this? Where are we at now?" Cozzetto said, relating what he got out of Sarkisian's meeting the other night.
Like Sarkisian, Cozzetto believes the Huskies are competing, but that that's not good enough. He wants supreme selflessness, saying to truly be dominant UW needs all 11 players on offense and the 11 on defense to commit to playing together and for each other.
"That's when you'd have something special," he said.
So rest assured, between Sarkisian's evening meeting, the hard-driving Cozzetto's daily demands - plus the intense fire that burns within defensive coordinator Nick Holt, seemingly in his sleep -the Huskies' 2011 expectations are as high or higher than yours.
Returning starting CB Desmond Trufant made the defensive play of camp so far, racing from deep in the secondary to slam shoulder first into TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins' chest to break-up a seemingly easy completion from Keith Price.
It was one of the few times since the mammoth freshman tight end enrolled in March for spring practice that Seferian-Jenkins has had a pass knocked away from his mitts.
"That was a great play, just a tremendous play. I think Keith though Jenkins was wide open and just laid him the ball, and here comes Desmond covering 40 yards in 4.3 (seconds) and gives him a pretty good lick," Sarkisian said. "It was good.
"Welcome to college football, right?"
Friday wasn't supposed to be a full-contact day - that will come Saturday in the first two-a-day session, including short-yardage and goal-line scrimmaging in the 7 p.m. public practice.
Yet don't bother trying to tell Trufant it's not full go. He was flying all over the field.
"I'm always just running though people, regardless," Trufant said. "It was a good day."
QUICK HITS: Coach Holt's son, a walk-on fullback of the same name who also played QB at Seattle Prep, caught a short touchdown pass from Nick Montana then got mobbed by offensive teammates. His fiery, defensive coordinator dad was talking to him on his way back to the sidelines -- though it wasn't apparent whether Holt was congratulating his boy, or railing on him for scoring against his defense. ... The athletic Price turned a pass batted down by a defensive lineman into a reception when he caught the deflection and ran for a few yards. "Oh, OK," Trufant said to the QB as he met him on the sidelines, as if Price was creating a new play. ... FYI: Teammates and coaches call the 6-foot-3, 297-pound Tanigawa "Panda."