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August 11, 2009

With Sark comes new beginnings

With arrival of head coach Steve Sarkisian came new life for a select few, who for one reason or another, veered off the path they set for themselves upon their arrival on Montlake.

From senior linebacker E.J. Savannah, who due to poor performance in the classroom missed all of last season, to sophomore tight end Chris Izbicki, who earned a spot in Tyrone Willingham's doghouse after being charged with two misdemeanor crimes last Summer while attending a concert - a handful of Huskies are using this new opportunity to it's fullest.

"I think they're enjoying the opportunity," said Sarkisian. "We have to remind ourselves, that these are still kids in a sort. They're 18, 19, 20-year old guys still trying to find their way. Everybody can make a mistake here and there.

"I think sometimes you feel like you've made so many wrong decisions or things aren't going your way, that it's doom and gloom," explained Sarkisian. "When you get a ray of hope, an opportunity, it can motivate you. With our team right now, we've got quite a few guys that have been motivated to the point of making the most of their opportunity.

"Obviously there's been some guys with off the field things that they had to work through, but they've been great," exclaimed Sarkisian. "Since the day we've been here, I've commended our football team. They've been fantastic on the field and they've been great off the field."

Even for those who avoided trouble off the field, last season was one they'd like to forget. The hiring of Sarkisian has provided them that opportunity.

"We have a lot of guys that put some things on film last year, especially in the second half of the year, that they'd be the first to tell you they're not proud of," stated Sarkisian. "We wiped the slate clean of that, and we're going to give them every opportunity to show who they are on this field every day."

For Izbicki, the clean slate is a welcomed one. The former four-star prospect is involved in one of the more heated position battles of Fall Camp, challenging former blue-chipper Kavario Middleton and JUCO transfer Dorson Boyce for the billing of top tight end.

"For Chris, it's a good challenge because now he's battling to stay in the top two spots," said Sarkisian.

"I think Kavario has come to camp in really good shape. He's doing a nice job in the run game and in the pass game," expressed Sarkisian. "He's showing up more and he's being more of an impact guy. His blocks are more critical in both the run game and the pass game. You can feel his presence. A guy of his talent, that's how you want him to be, because he can be that player.

"I've really been encouraged by Dorson," said Sarkisian. "He's a guy that we initially recruited to come in here and be a blocking type guy, but he's shown athleticism and play making ability, as well as the blocking ability, which is exciting."

And in Sarkisian's pro-style offense, which utilizes tight ends in many different ways, earning that top billing could mean great things in the future.

"Tight ends are a big deal, because we don't want to be a team that has to line up with three or four wide receivers all of the time," explained Sarkisian. "We like to have multiple tight ends on the field because of the run threat, but to have the ability to still throw the ball at those guys down the field is critical in our system."

Notes:

- The defense bounced back on day two, earning the win in a tiebreaker scenario, in which redshirt freshman Justin Glenn knocked the ball out of sophomore wide receiver Jermaine Kearse's hands.

"The offense won yesterday, but the defense battled back and won today," said Sarkisian. "They were down 10-to-8 with two plays to go. They won the last two plays to get to the tie breaker, and then finished strong with a great play at the end by Justin. It wasn't an easy play, but Justin made it, and that's exciting.

- Junior cornerback Dominique Gaisie and freshman defensive end Talia Crichton were held out of practice - Gaisie with NCAA Clearinghouse issues and Crichton with injury.

"Crichton has a groin injury that he's working through. We don't want to force him back, because those things can linger if we don't," explained Sarkisian. "Gaisie has a Clearinghouse issue, kind of similar to Trufant. [With Gaisie, it's a] wait and see how it goes. He could be back tomorrow, could be any time. I wish I knew more, because that part of it gets frustrating. You don't always know, so you kind of sit here in limbo."

- Sophomore wide receiver Devin Aguilar was also held out of practice, while he nurses a minor ankle injury.

"It's frustrating, because he rolled his ankle early in practice yesterday, but then had a great practice," said Sarkisian. "He came out today and it was a little tight.

"We're taking the mindset with our entire football team, that there's no point in pushing a guy too hard, too early, when we have the depth that we have, especially at those spots," explained Sarkisian. "We gave him the day off, and hopefully he can come back tomorrow and be full-go."

- True freshman wide receiver James Johnson had a strong day one and continued to impress on day two.

"I don't know if he was as dynamic as yesterday, but I thought he had a nice day," expressed Sarkisian. "For a true freshman, [and it being] his second practice - I couldn't have asked for more."

- Although redshirt freshman Chris Polk is the odds-on favorite to win the starting tailback job, the position is still open. According to Sarkisian, the depth chart will begin to sort itself out when his players put on pads.

"We're letting them role," said Sarkisian of the running backs. "The big thing with those guys, is that until you get the full pads on, it's really hard to tell. We're in, as we call in the football world, underwear right now. Once we get into full pads and see how they handle the physicality of the game, [the depth chart] will separate itself a bit."

- Sarkisian discussed further the importance of the players wearing pads, as it gives the coaches a way to gauge a player's physicality. The Huskies will sport half pads on Wednesday.

"It's exciting, because for us, there's a huge emphasis on being a physical football team," expressed Sarkisian. "[Our team is about] being physical up front on the defensive side of the ball, stopping the run, and being physical up front on offense, being able to run the football.

"I know the guys are excited for tomorrow, but we're excited as a coaching staff," said Sarkisian. "It's our first step of emphasizing that we're a physical football team, and making those strides to becoming that."


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