Aug. 13, 2011
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - John Timu bolted through the line, plowed through the running back for a 5-yard loss - and got mobbed by his defensive teammates. The festive crowd ringing the sidelines cheered.
"Bring the physicality, man," the freshman linebacker who is vying for a starting job said later. "As the coaches say, either bring the hit, or be hit."
Minutes later, the first-team offense and defense hopped up and down and roared from behind the huddles for the final play of this full-go, goal-line scrimmage. Then Jesse Callier buried his head into a mass of purple and white jerseys at the goal line. He inched across the pile for the decisive score to clinch the offense's win. Callier's offensive mates, including coaches, swarmed him in the end zone.
It was the most physical and rollicking moment in the first six days of Huskies' preseason camp. And it's exactly how Steve Sarkisian wants his Dawgs to play.
The third-year coach wants even more physicality and energy in the 2011 season than he got when Washington won the final four games of '10, including the Holiday Bowl. He told the team this week he doesn't want mere competitors, he wants "dominators."
On a festive Saturday night that ended with a full moon rising above Lake Washington and the east end zone of Husky Stadium, he got some.
"This is exactly what we were hoping for," Sarkisian said after the one hour and 55 minutes of the kind of football that brings out the best in his team. "The short-yardage and the goal-line (scrimmages), the intensity, I think our kids really embraced it. This was a very good practice.
"And the guys had fun doing it - as a team. Yeah, it easy for the 11 guys on the field (to have fun). I thought it was pretty special to see both the offense and the defense really into the drill. Not just the guys who were in but everyone who was there was having fun. ... It was just great."
The intensity did come at a price, though no one was sure late Saturday night how much of one.
Starting cornerback Quinton Richardson left midway through the evening practice to get X-rays on his lower leg. Those X-rays were negative, and the initial word late Saturday night was that he has a contusion or possibly a sprain.
He appeared to get tangled with freshman wide receiver Kasen Williams during a passing drill a few minutes after the goal-line scrimmage. Sarkisian said his senior leader of the secondary was still getting examined late Saturday night.
"We can't tell quite yet if it is a high-ankle sprain (with a ligament above the ankle) or something to do with the bone," Sarkisian said before he knew the X-ray results. "But it's definitely a lower-leg injury. It's not up in the knee region, which is a good thing."
The coach added that fellow defensive leader Alameda Ta'amu may have fractured a bone on the back of his right hand, though Sarkisian is not concerned about something like that slowing down his anchoring, 337-pound tackle.
"He's a defensive lineman," Sarkisian said wryly. "He'll be OK."
The intensity came at the end of Washington's first two-practice day of the preseason. The Huskies went over special situations for 90 minutes in a closed, morning practice.
It also came a day after Sarkisian wasn't pleased with what he sensed was a relative lack of energy.
"As we said (Friday), we've set a very high standard here, to practice at a uniquely high level," he said. "They brought that tonight."
QUICK HITS: When asked to assess this first week of camp for the three true freshmen that are getting first-team snaps - Williams, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins and DT Danny Shelton - Sarkisian glowed. "All three have had an impact on training camp, meaning you feel their presence. They have all made plays that make you say, `Wow.' And then you realize they are freshmen, and they do make mistakes. They are still learning. At times they play slower than they are because they are thinking a little bit. But without a doubt you see the potential that is there." ... Shelton, the 6-foot-1 , 334-pounder from Auburn, Wash., who has legs as wide as Husky Stadium's corner light stanchions, has been teamed some with Ta'amu inside on the defensive line, with Hau'oli Jamora and versatile Everrette Thompson at ends. The Huskies are exploring that front as an option against big, physical offenses such as Stanford's. ... After no practice Sunday, the team will have another two-practice day on Monday. The latter session is again open to the public at 7:00 p.m.