Steve Sarkisian said it best.
What a difference a year makes.
The Dawgs kicked off year two of the Sark era with spring practices on March 30th with both exciting and concerning story lines.
If you were judging what expectations might be like entering the year, counting the amount of fans that showed up for the first practice probably wouldn’t be the best barometer. Windy and soggy weather put a damper on attendance, but didn’t affect the intensity the Dawgs had on the field.
It’s hard to make assessments based off of just one, or even a couple of practices, however, some story lines look blatantly obvious moving forward.
The spirit of competition was alive and well, as the Huskies enter the year with depth at most every position, the Huskies new philosophy is competition, and earning snaps.
Confidently, I can say only Jake Locker and Mason Foster have a choke hold on their jobs, and nearly every position is going to be interesting to watch as the spring unfolds. If last year taught us anything about how Sark works, and a trait he might’ve picked up from his mentor who is now across town, it’s that he’s not afraid to shake up his starting line-ups based on who’s worked harder, and who has earned it.
There are several critical areas of competition to keep a close eye on for the Dawgs as the spring unfolds.
The most publicized area of concern for Washington has to be in the trenches, where the Huskies have just 10 available offensive linemen, only five of which had any significant playing time last year. As well as a limited number of defensive linemen, where Cameron Elisara leads the group in experience.
Re-enforcements will arrive in the fall when the seven offensive linemen that signed Letters of Intent will arrive, the most heralded of which is Oaks Christian’s Erik Kohler, who has an opportunity to start right away at an OT spot. On the defensive side of the ball, Lakes HS’s Sinoe Patoae will look to lock down playing time at one of the defensive tackles spot, and is more likely to do so as Nick Holt likes to rotate his linemen.
Offensive linemen Ryan Tolar, Senio Kelemente and Greg Christine looked good, and are likely to earn a leg up by the time fall practices roll around, but that’s really all these guys are competing for right now, leg up points by fall. This was a group that probably cost Washington a bowl game last year, and Sark hit the class of 2010 hard for linemen for a reason.
Keeping it on the offensive side of the ball, Sarkisian is going to be particularly interested in who stands out in the running game. Chris Polk is out until the fall, and the Dawgs are looking for runners who can consistently spell Polk, be a change of pace, and really, bring to Washington what Sark had at USC, which was a platoon of two or three runners at least, each of whom equally struck fear into the opposing defense.
Right off the bat, Freshman Jesse Callier, who graduated High school early to be a UW for the spring, was explosive and powerful. Johri Fogerson would be the favorite to once again be the back-up runningback, but looked slowed. Freshman Dontae Cooper and Sophomore Demetrius Bronson will round out the heavy weight competitors for carries, and this is a picture that should be more clear come time for the spring game.
Defensively, Nick Holt’s biggest dilemma outside of the trenches, is finding the replacement to Donald Butler. Mason Foster was moved into the inside, and Cort Dennison will fill in the strong side LB spot. On the outside, converted WR Alvin Logan spent a lot of time playing WLB, while freshman Victor Burnett also spent some time auditioning for the spot.
Of course, the biggest attraction was probably the debut of Nick Montana. He’s the son of that Joe Montana guy. You might’ve heard of him. The initial reaction for Nick Montana, is that he’s the real deal. His mechanics are real sound, shows the velocity and arm strength to make most of the throws. The iffy moments where it was clear that he needs work, was when Nick Holt brought the pressure on offense vs. defense drills.
Montana probably didn’t see too many guys in his face with the offensive line he had to work with in high school. One also has to wonder how much of a pounding Montana would be able to take if hit multiple times. A redshirt year in the weight room could do wonders for this kid.
The talent and ability is there, polishing will make him dangerous. His progression throughout the spring, and even into the fall, will be interesting.
The dilemma that Sarkisian faces with Montana, now, however, is, if the unthinkable happens. The Huskies have only three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster(technically two, Jake Locker’s baseball contract pays his tuition), with two walk ons to re enforce in the fall. But, if the Huskies encounter a 2008 situation where Locker is lost for the year, and the Huskies are in a realistic position to compete for a bowl game, does Sark burn Montana’s red shirt and accelerate the future?
This is again where competition comes into play. Sarkisian is high on his redshirt freshman QB Keith Price, and has been working with him on his mechanics and throwing motion. But based on what I saw from practice, Price still needs some work, and it’s conceivable that Montana would easily be able to beat him out for the back up duties.
But, I would also bet that, if Locker were to only miss one or two games, whether a bowl game is on the line or not, Keith Price would get the call.