March 30, 2009
BY JEREMY COTHRAN
SEATTLE - Steve Sarkisian has been the head football coach at the University of Washington for a little over three months. But he's spent most of that time recruiting new athletes, coordinating the winter conditioning program and attempting to restock a program coming off an 0-12 season.
"We're cranking up and ready to go," Sarkisian said. "It's exciting for us. For us as a coaching staff, this is a clean slate. It's not about how many catches a guy had last year or how many starts a guy had at another position. Every kid is going to get a great opportunity to compete and show what they're about, to battle in a very competitive environment and get coached by very good coaches."
Sarkisian repeated several times that he would not judge any player based on their performances last year. Nor is he carrying a depth chart into spring practices. Sarkisian does ensure, though, that each practice will be an up-tempo, high-energy session. Part of the challenge for the coaching staff, Sarkisian said, will be reprogramming the players to adapt to that level of work. Every practice will also have a theme, such as "Competitive Tuesday" and "No Repeat Friday."
"The goal for us is that we're better by the 15th practice than we were at No. 1," Sarkisian said. "That we get better progressively as we move forward."
During an expansive Q&A session with the local media, Sarkisian also addressed a number of topics swirling around the Huskies.
**Quarterback Jake Locker is 100 percent healthy going into spring practices. A big topic on Monday was whether Sarkisian was going to tailor his pro-style system around Locker's talents, or if he planned to have the junior adapt. Sarkisian admitted there would have to be some hedging on both sides.
"I think it's both," Sarkisian said. "I think there's a challenge as a coach. You can be stubborn. `This is my scheme and I'm going to recruit everybody and take these guys and they're going to take these guys and they're going to be in my system. We have to understand what we have as a football team."
One area where Sarkisian wants Locker to improve is his completion percentage. In four games last season, Locker connected on almost 54 percent of his passes. Sarkisian wants that number to climb over 60 percent.
**After the 10-week winter conditioning program ended, Sarkisian was happy to report the offensive line combined to lose over 200 pounds. The goal for the coaching staff is to remold the line into a sleeker, more athletic unit.
"To me, we've inherited a team that was a big, physical football team, that maybe didn't move as well as we liked," Sarkisian said. "...I think we're starting to shape this team in the way we wanted it to be shaped."
**Some player who won't be participating in spring practices include: free safety Jason Wells, running back Brandon Yakaboski and offensive lineman Terence Thomas. Those who are limited will be cornerback Vonzell McDowell Jr., linebacker Kurt Mangum, strong safety Victor Aiyewa, tight end Marek Domanski and tight end Romeo Savant.
**Sarkisian also reiterated his love for social networking tools such as Twitter and his personal Web site, www.coachsark.com. He lauded both sites for continuing a "buzz" about the Husky football team. Both have been immensely popular, especially Sarkisian's Twitter page, where the Coach has over 2,000 followers on the micro-blogging site.
"It's a great university; we want people to know it," Sarkisian said. "We want people's interest levels to be high. We want people to know how hard our coaches are working, how hard our kids are working, and I think we're getting our message across."
**There was only one position change of note announced at Monday's press conference, which was the move of Senio Kelemete from the defensive line to the offensive line. Sarkisian said there could be more position changes this spring, but he wants to withhold judgment until practices are underway.
**All Spring Practices are open to the public. Fans are asked to check into Husky Stadium at the Northeast corner by the Husky Softball Fields. The Huskies will hold three scrimmages -- all on Saturdays: April 11, 18 and the Spring Game on the 25th.