Aug. 19, 2011
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - No Chris Polk. Yet no change in how the Huskies will try to run the ball.
It was status quo for UW's offense during Friday's two practices, one day after its 1,400-yard rusher had arthroscopic knee surgery.
Callier says he has gained 10 pounds of strength since he rushed for 433 yards and averaged 5.6 yards per carry in 2010 as a freshman featured outside on plays such as fly sweeps. And as Sarkisian notes, Callier ran between the tackles en route to 3,000 yards as a senior at Warren High School in Downey, Calif.
"Nothing changes," Callier said. "I'm going to run like I run. Hopefully, that does its job.
"I'm still going to be the guy that laughs and jokes around. I'm still going to be me."
And the guys who block for Washington's running backs say nothing changes for them, either. They are going to work the same way whether it's Polk, Callier, Johri Fogerson or Hugh McElhenny running behind them.
"We have confidence in whoever is running the ball," center Drew Schaefer said. "The offensive line, we just execute and they go out and make the plays."
As left tackle Senio Kelemete said, "O-line, we don't really look back at who we are blocking for."
Kelemete did point out one subtle aspect in which he and his line mates will notice a difference in Callier from Polk, though.
"Jesse's more a shifty guy. So we'll have to hold onto our blocks a little bit longer and then try to go down field," the line's only senior said. "Chris, he really hits the hole fast ... and then runs over guys. With him, it's more of a one-two-three, and then go down field to find the next guy and go to the next level."
Callier thinks he's ready to go to his next level: As UW's lead, every-down runner likely for at least the Sept. 3 opener against Eastern Washington.
"I was brought up on the saying: `You stay ready, you don't have to get ready,'" Callier said.
"I've just got to step up my game, be a leader out there. Just basically do the little things."
The 2009 California state high-school rushing leader thinks he didn't do that at the end of his freshman season for the Huskies, and statistics agree with him. Callier gained just 31 yards on 12 carries - less than half his rushing average for the season - in the final three games, wins over California, Washington State and Nebraska.
"I maybe got too comfortable. I maybe thought I knew too much of the game," Callier said. "But I'm pretty sure there was a lot to know. There is still stuff I'm learning that I didn't know.
"And I feel like I'm more prepared this year because last year I played on a lot of adrenaline and excitement. This year, I can sit down and just pay attention to the details and really get to know the game and learn the game."
Callier turned down a scholarship offer from conference-champion Oregon last year two weeks before signing day. He stayed loyal to UW, which hadn't been to a bowl in eight years at that point, and specifically to Huskies assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Johnny Nansen. He was the first to offer Callier a scholarship, early in his senior season at Warren High.
Nansen was also the only coach to map out an academic success plan for Callier's final high school year that would allow him to reach NCAA qualification standards and give his talent an opportunity in big-time college football.
Nansen had Callier get with his high school guidance counselor to come up with an academic plan that would allow him to graduate and meet the NCAA's and UW's enrollment requirements. Callier was all for it. He wants to please his father James, a truck driver in Downey who raised Jesse and his six siblings and always told his kids to use sports as their way to a good education.
The middle sibling of seven kids, Callier has extra motivation to graduate from UW. He wants to equal his two older brothers. James and James played football at San Jose State and were the first in his family to earn college degrees.
"It'd be very big," Callier said. "That's what my dad raised us for, to get that piece of paper."
Now, he's getting a huge piece of the Huskies offense. For the next few weeks, anyway.
QUICK HITS: Three of Sarkisian's goals of camp were to solidify the starting offensive line, find two new starting ILBs and grow depth along the defensive front. Check. Check. And check. The starting O-line is settled, about 12 weeks earlier than it was last season when UW started seven different combinations there: Kelemete, redshirt freshman Colin Tanigawa (LG), Schaefer, Colin Porter (RG) and Erik Kohler (RT). Sarkisian said John Timu and Princeton Fuimaono are the starters at OLB. And Semisi Tokolahi's slow - as expected - recovery from last December's broken ankle plus Alameda Ta'amu's fractured bone in his hand have allowed true freshman Danny Shelton and redshirt freshman Lawrence Lagafuaina to emerge at DT. ... Starting CB Quinton Richardson was out of his walking boot that has been protecting his high left ankle sprain, six days after the injury. Sarkisian said he thinks his senior leader is perhaps ahead of schedule in his recovery. "I don't think Quinton's was as bad as we maybe initially thought," Sarkisian said. "He's moving around pretty good." He added Richardson could be back getting some limited work next week, but that "even then we don't have to rush it." ... WR Kevin Smith continued his good month, drawing a leaping hip check from receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty after he closed fast and caught a sideline pass from Keith Price, then deftly kept his foot inbounds. ... Saturday's 3:15 p.m. scrimmage is open to the public. ... The annual UW Picture Day is Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.