Aug. 15, 2011
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - It wasn't quite a game setting, just a practice on a weeknight in mid-August. Yet the Huskies just learned something about Greg Ducre.
Monday, the sophomore's first two practices since replacing injured starting cornerback Quinton Richardson, ended with Ducre charging in unblocked on a blitz and helping Danny Shelton dump a ball carrier for a loss.
The sophomore also stood taller than his listed 5-feet-10 and stood up a wide receiver at the goal line after a catch to deny the offense a score and end a drive triumphantly for the defense.
Ducre's time is now -- and perhaps for the next few weeks into the regular season. Richardson watched both practice Monday while on crutches and in a walking boot over his lower left leg.
X-rays taken on Richardson's leg Saturday night were negative. That was minutes after one of the Huskies' four senior starters on defense - and only one in the secondary -- got tangled with freshman receiver Kasen Williams in practice.
Coach Steve Sarkisian said Monday night that results of the MRI exam his leader in the secondary got hours earlier were not yet in - but that he was more comfortable with Ducre for the interim than he was when he woke up Monday.
"You never like losing a starter at any position, but I was encouraged by what Ducre brought tonight," Sarkisian said, after the defense mostly dominated the evening session.
"I don't think Quinton's deal is a long, long-term thing. If it's a few weeks, it's a few weeks. But I don't think it's anything like months."
Yet given there are fewer than three weeks until Washington opens Sarkisian's third season at UW against Eastern Washington, there is a real possibility Ducre will still be in for Richardson when the season opens.
"Oh, by the time we play, he'll be plenty ready to play," defensive coordinator Nick Holt said of Ducre, who was one of UW's record 14 freshman to play in 2010.
"We're always concerned for the young guy (replacing a veteran). But he's had a lot of reps in the spring."
So now the depth of what had become one of UW's strongest position will be tested.
Ducre says he's ready for that test.
"This feels like a good opportunity, yes," he said.
He turned down scholarship offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, and Oregon State to play for Washington, then played in all 13 games in 2010 mostly on special teams. He intercepted a pass in the win against Syracuse in September.
"As soon as I came up here, the atmosphere was great. The coaches, very hyped up. Very enthusiastic. I felt like, `Yeah, this is home,'" Ducre said. "Coach Sark? Probably the best coach I ever had encountered, just on my recruiting visit."
Speedy opposing receivers flying by him aren't usually a problem for Ducre. He was a cornerback and wide receiver on a powerful Crenshaw High School team that won the California Interscholastic Federation's Los Angeles Section. And he zoomed as a sprinter on Crenshaw's track team, reporting he ran the 100 meters in 10.69 seconds, and the 400 in an outstanding 47 seconds flat.
He thought about running for Greg Metcalf and the Huskies' track team after last season, but then UW orthopedic surgeon Dr. Chris Wahl operated on Ducre's shoulder after December's Holiday Bowl to repair an old high-school rotator-cuff injury.
The operation limited Ducre somewhat in spring practice through April, but Sarkisian and Holt noted the young cornerback got leg workouts in and stayed involved in the defensive playbook. And Monday's thudding hits showed his shoulder is good to go now.
That, plus the game experience in 2010 Ducre now says was invaluable, has him primed for this chance.
"I feel like I'll be very ready. `Q' and `Tru' (fellow starting cornerback Desmond Trufant) have been teaching me a lot of things," Ducre said. "Confidence is the key. They just tell me, `If you get beat, forget that play. Focus on the play at hand, everything that is happening right now.'
"They always say, `DBs forget the last play.'"
QUICK HITS: Freshman TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins put on another dazzling show, snaring in stride a dart of a pass thrown down the hashmark by Keith Price with his left hand. The 6-6, 258-pound Seferian-Jenkins then outraced the defensive secondary over the final 50 yards of a 75-yard score in a 7-on-7 passing drill. He just shrugged when asked about it later. He is, after all, left handed. ... Sarkisian loves how Seferian-Jenkins and Williams have gotten after their chances with the first-team offense through seven practice days. "You know, it's hard when you are a true freshman and you are fighting the fight mentally, physically, with the playbook. It's a grind," Sarkisian said. "These two guys are competitive suckers, man. They don't like not making plays." ... Williams, a track star as well at Skyline High School in Sammamish, Wash., continues to get long looks as a potential punt returner. ... Senior DT Alameda Ta'amu watched the practices with a wrap over his right hand up his arm. Sarkisian thinks the back of his hand may have been fractured in practice Saturday but said he should be back to practice soon and that the anchor to the defensive line could play a game if one was held today. ... Rush end Josh Shirley and backup DT Lawrence Lagafuaina got mobbed by coaches and teammates for dumping a running back in the end zone. It was the only safety of the offense's drill moving the ball off its goal line. ... Tuesday's 3:15 p.m. practice is open to the public and will feature a full-tackle scrimmage in certain game-like situations. There will be a similar open scrimmage Saturday afternoon. ... Thursday's practice (Aug. 18) has been moved to a 4:30 p.m. start.