April 2, 2011
By Gregg Bell
Director of Writing
SEATTLE - Want to see Zach Fogerson's eyes and smile both get as big as Husky Stadium?
Mention the name Stanley Havili.
"That's my guy," Fogerson said, beaming, after UW's third spring practice on Saturday. "My favorite college player."
Entering his sophomore season, Fogerson is finally clear of a neck injury that all but ruined the final two months of his Huskies debut in 2010. He is also is poised to become for Washington what Havili was for USC, starting when current Dawgs coach Steve Sarkisian was the Trojans' offensive coordinator.
Havili had 116 catches and 12 receiving touchdowns, the most ever by a USC fullback, in his college career that ended this past winter. As a redshirt freshman, he set career highs of 34 receptions and five touchdowns in 2007. That was the first season he had Sarkisian as his offensive coordinator.
Havili ultimately became USC's captain and was considered the Trojans' most complete and versatile player. Now he is three weeks away from getting drafted into the NFL.
Fogerson was offered Havili's 31 at Seattle's O'Dea High School because his coaches knew how much he liked him, but he wore 8 instead to carve out his own identity. After committing as a high school junior to UW, then turning down late interest from Michigan, Fogerson is in the beginning stages of Sarkisian's "Havili North" plan at UW.
The 6-foot, 238-pound Fogerson, whom Scout.com rated as the No. 3 fullback recruit in the nation last year, lined up outside as a slot receiver. He went in motion and caught a quick pass in the flat from Keith Price. Then he lined up at fullback and ran a "wheel" route deep down the sideline. He ran out of the backfield, ran an out route, caught a throw from Nick Montana and sprinted past a linebacker to the sideline for a touchdown. Then he lined up at tailback for some other plays.
"Just another day," Fogerson said, chuckling.
All that was only a snapshot of his final 30 minutes of practice. Multiply that by four, and that was how Fogerson spent his Saturday.
"That fullback position traditionally for me has been one of versatility, a guy who can do a lot of things really, really well," Sarkisian said. "And he has that ability. Everything we've asked him to do so far, he's answered the call."
Asked if he intends to use Fogerson at UW this season as he used Havili at USC until he became Washington's coach in January 2009, Sarkisian said: "I hope so. ... That's the idea, to be versatile at that position with a guy who attacks the defense. So you don't know, just because there are two backs on the field, you don't know where the other guy is going to line up.
"I'm hopeful of that, but we've got a long way to go."
Fogerson emerging as a possible do-it-all fullback, plus the early arrival of heralded, 250-pound freshman tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins to join fellow 6-foot-6 redshirt Michael Hartvigson at tight end, are the latest steps in Sarkisian's implementation of his full USC-style offense at Washington.
"I think we're close," Sarkisian said. "We're still young, that's the problem. You're talking about two freshmen at tight end and a true sophomore at fullback. But we're young, but the idea is we're evolving to where we want to be, what we want to be come."
That evolution showed on the final play Saturday. Seferian-Jenkins, one of the nation's top recruits this past winter, was covered by a safety and a linebacker at the goal line during a red-zone drill. Price threw the ball over the middle for him anyway. The huge freshman leaped, reached up and plucked the ball over the two defenders like an apple off the top of a tree. The touchdown hinted at the potential for new scoring options in UW's offense this season.
Fogerson, the younger brother by 2½ years of Huskies senior running back Johri Fogerson, is another new option. He can run and shake like a tailback, bull like a fullback, catch passes like a ... well, like a Havili.
He, of course, would love for Sarkisian to use him like the coach used his former USC multi-dimensional threat.
"Man, that'd be spectacular," he said, before relishing the thought with a pause.
Fogerson, who has never met Havili but would like to, played mostly on special teams in only seven of Washington's 13 games last season. The reason is another similarity to Havili.
Havili`s first, big season as a versatile fullback in 2007 at USC under Sarkisian came months after he lost his freshman year to a broken leg and got a medical redshirt.
Fogerson missed much of his senior year at O'Dea because of injury. Then last October, he hurt his neck playing special teams in UW's sixth game, the double-overtime win over Oregon State. He learned he had three bulging discs that was pinching his spine and causing nerve pain in his neck.
"Every time I would hit, I would go numb on my whole left side," Fogerson said.
Doctors began discussing alternatives - the kind of alternatives a teenage athlete doesn't want to hear.
"I was getting so many options as to what was after football," Fogerson said. "I hadn't really thought about it. As a 19-year-old college player, you don't think about `after football.'"
He didn't feel right again until February, when he could finally bench press in the weight room again after four month of being unable to. It didn't take long for his strength to come back.
So now, whether it's April or September, whether in full pads or half, whether at slot receiver or fullback, Fogerson will do whatever, whenever. He has a new lease on his Huskies career.
"I'm just trying to play," he said. "Whether it's fullback with the 1s, tailback with the 1s, 2s, 3s, it doesn't really matter. I'm just trying to see the field.
"Man, last year, with my neck, I'm just glad to be out here with my team.
"I didn't think I was physically ready then. Now, I think I've got the tools to play big-time college football."