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August 28, 2012
This weekend, the Washington Huskies will take on the San Diego State Aztecs at CenturyLink Field for their first game of the season.
On Monday, head coach Steve Sarkisian addressed the media.
"It's always nice to have training camp to get young players better, develop as a team and go through some of the adversity we've had to go through already, but I think that helps shape your team," Sarkisian said.
Sarkisian recognizes that the team has already been through a good amount of challenges during fall camp through injuries and moving players around to various positions.
In the end, he doesn't think these challenges have been all-around negatives.
"I believe we're better for it and excited to go play," Sarkisian said. "I thought the guys brought a real sense of energy and enthusiasm and a little bit of an edge to practice today. We like to say that the volume gets turned up on game week and I think that was definitely evident today."
Looking toward the San Diego State game on Saturday, Sarkisian said the Aztecs have a nice core of receivers, a very attacking, aggressive defense that does a great job of making plays and a capable quarterback in Ryan Katz.
Sarkisian said Katz can throw deep balls well and has a quick release and that defensively, there's a multitude of fronts.
So what's the key to pulling out a win?
The Huskies need to remain who they are, stay aggressive, stay multiple and do it all with a real sense of urgency, Sarkisian said.
Because he knows what to except out of quarterback Keith Price, Sarkisian said, "I know that we won't be nearly as conservative this year the first game as we were last year."
With a defensively aggressive team like the Aztecs, Sarkisian said this will be a big game for Price to recognize pressures while keeping up the tempo.
Then there's the defense.
This will be the first game since their loss to Baylor in the Alamo Bowl to end last season. This will be their chance to show everyone how they've improved through spring and fall camps. This will be their time to ask back, "what chip on my shoulder?"
Sarkisian said the defense wants to play well because they feel like they're better than they were last year. He also said they have a great respect for the coaches and the style of the defense, embracing that the program is more about where they're going than where they've been.
One of the players on defense who showed up in fall camp is linebacker John Timu. Sarkisian said Timu is a really mature guy and has a calming effect, which is why he's been able to persevere.
It's also why he's been a leader on that side of the ball.
Another leader on the defense is safety Sean Parker. During Monday's press conference, and really throughout fall camp in general, Sarkisian had nothing but good things to say about Parker as a playmaker, as a teammate and as a player who wants to be special.
"He's a big factor for us," Sarkisian said. "We need him for sure."
During Saturday's game, viewers will most likely get their first chance to see the much anticipated freshmen, too.
Wide receivers Jaydon Mickens and Kendyl Taylor are both listed as starters on the depth chart with Kasen Williams. Sarkisian said the two freshmen receivers have big play potential and earned their right to start, but he knows they will have to go through some growing pains during the first game.
And then there's the running back position where competition continues.
Tailbacks Jesse Callier and Bishop Sankey are both listed as starters on the depth chart for Saturday's game.
Sarkisian said they have a good plan in place to "put them in a position to do what they do to be successful." Games will serve as evaluations for them becoming every down players.
It's difficult to compare Callier and Sankey too much. Even their coach thinks they're very similar, complete backs.
"They run with power, they get behind their pads, they're excellent pass protectors," they have a high football IQ and they can catch the ball, Sarkisian said.
Throughout his years at the UW, Sarkisian said his message has been steady, and now they have leaders on the team in place who have heard the consistent messaging and can relay it to the other players.
"We have some hard and fast beliefs that we live by," Sarkisian said.
So Husky Nation will travel down to CenturyLink Field on Saturday to show everyone watching what they took away from their coaches and teammates.
Sarkisian even did some counting to get in the spirit of heading down to their new home field.
That's how many false starts he counted that the Seahawks created at CenturyLink since 2005.
Sarkisian said he hopes they can feed off the crowd noise and utilize the home field advantage they've been given this season.
We'll see in just a few short days how it all plays out.
Hau'oli Jamora, Deontae Cooper, Nate Fellner, James Johnson, Jamaal Kearse and Cooper Pelluer will all be out for Saturday's game. Jamora and Cooper will be having their respective surgeries on Thursday.
Korey Durkee, Shaq Thompson, Jaydon Mickens, Kendyl Taylor and Pio Vatuvei are all freshmen that will see playing time this season, Sarkisian said. The rest of the freshmen will be assessed as the season continues.
Although not all starters, there are eight true freshmen listed on the depth chart for Saturday's game: Shane Brostek (behind Erik Kohler and James Atoe at right guard), Cyler Miles (tied with Derrick Brown behind Keith Price at quarterback), Jaydon Mickens (starter at wide receiver), Kendyl Taylor (starter at wide receiver), Pio Vatuvei (behind Talia Crichton at defensive end), Shaq Thompson (starter in the nickel), Korey Durkee (starter at punter) and Ryan Masel (tied with David Butler at long snapper).
Tre Watson got the starter spot at cornerback opposite Desmond Trufant. Sarkisian said Watson keeps making plays and "even when he might get beat, he has the ability to punch the ball out."
Travis Coons will be the Huskies' place kicker.
Here's the offensive line: LT Micah Hatchie, LG Colin Tanigawa, C Drew Schaefer, RG Erik Kohler, RT Ben Riva.
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