When Steve Sarkisian sat down for his preseason press conference Monday, he talked about the growth of his program. He talked about elevated expectations. He talked about how far Washington has come and where it is headed.
“I feel like we’re becoming a more mature football team,” said Sarkisian, who is in his fourth year as the Huskies' head coach. “I know sometimes age is the issue and we don’t have many seniors and all of those things, but I think we have experience.
“I really feel like this is a tight-knit group, probably our closest, tightest team that we’ve had where the last four classes have come in together with the sole purpose of winning a championship and have been recruited by myself and the coaches on this staff.”
Heading into the first fall practice, Sarkisian talked about the continuity that comes when players have matured under a consistent message and philosophy. He talked about the sense of urgency that comes with a young, but experienced roster he referred to as “a focused group with a purpose and maybe a little bit of a chip on their shoulders.”
He covered everything from digital playbooks to backup quarterbacks. Here is look at some of the highlights from Sarkisian’s meeting with the media:
QB Keith Price takes next step as a leader
As good as Keith Price was in his first season as Washington’s starter, Sarkisian was curious to see how his quarterback would continue to develop.
“You can go out and have a great year, but how are you going to get better?” Sarkisian said. “What are you going to do to take the next step to get better?”
After watching Price build his body – he weighs more than 200 pounds – and continue to grow as a leader, Sarkisian continues to be impressed with the passer who threw for 3,063 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2011.
“Keith has a great deal of confidence,” Sarkisian said. “He’s a tremendous leader. We’ve all seen his ability, what he brings to practice, the way he practices. Keith has put in the time and I think his teammates recognize that. He just continues to get stronger and look better and better.”
When it comes to freshmen, Washington will wait and see
When asked about his expectations for highly-touted freshman safety Shaq Thompson, Sarkisian said, “He’s here. He looks in shape. He cleared his physical.”
But, as far as the impact he will have in his first year, well, that remains to be seen.
“You’ve got to give me a couple days. I don’t know exactly what we’re getting. We’re going to put him out there in different scenarios and different situations just like all of our freshmen will.”
Freshmen defensive backs Brandon Beaver, Cleveland Wallace and Darien Washington will all get opportunities but, as Washington builds depth, there isn’t as much of a need to push players onto the field before they prove they are ready.
“I think it’s getting harder for them to get on the field, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not going to give them the opportunity to show what they can do and if they’re the best player for the spot to make us the most successful team, then they’ll earn that job,” Sarkisian said.
Battle at backup quarterback
Keith Price is the unquestioned starting quarterback at Washington, but who will emerge as the backup?
“We’re going to give Cyler and Jeff as much as we can, especially early, to get a gauge for where they are,” Sarkisian said. “We’re going to give them as much as we can.”
Playbook goes digital
The days of the paper playbook are a thing of the past for Washington, as Sarkisian revealed the Huskies have transferred everything over to the iPad.
“We’ve gone totally digital from a playbook standpoint,” Sarkisian said. “Everything is on the iPad now, which I know the players embrace. We’re cutting down on the big notebook, but also I think it’s something they relate to."
In addition to being able to access the playbook, players can now access film and receive messages from the coaching staff.
“This is a digital world that we’re living in and I think the players probably understand the iPads better than we do,” Sarkisian said.
Expectations elevated on offense
Whether it’s sophomores Kasen Williams and Austin Seferian-Jenkins or running backs Jesse Callier and Bishop Sankey, Sarkisian said the expectations have been elevated for some of his younger skill-position players.
“We have some players on our roster whose expectations have risen, just as our program has,” Sarkisian said. “I know the bar that we’re setting for them is higher and it’s higher from within.”
• Running back Ryan McDaniel has yet to be completely cleared as he continues to recover from an ACL injury. Cooper Pelluer also continues recover from shoulder surgery.
• Matt Lyons, a redshirt freshman linebacker, has decided to transfer.
• Dwayne Washington, a freshman receiver, is yet to be cleared by the NCAA. His case is still being reviewed by the NCAA.
• Cory Littleton, a freshman linebacker, has been cleared by the NCAA.