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Originally published September 13, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 13, 2008 at 10:44 PM

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Good and bad in first action for UW safety Johri Fogerson

Hours before playing and starting in his first collegiate game, Washington free safety Johri Fogerson spoke with an old friend who knew all about the anxiety he was feeling.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Hours before playing and starting in his first collegiate game, Washington free safety Johri Fogerson spoke with an old friend who knew all about the anxiety he was feeling.

He called USC safety Taylor Mays.

"I talked to him and his dad on a three-way and they gave me some tips," Fogerson said of Taylor and his father, Stafford Mays, a former Washington player.

His former O'Dea High School teammate's advice was simple: "Don't let the energy get to you. Sometimes you get so pumped up that you forget your responsibilities. You've got to play your responsibilities."

If pushed, Fogerson will admit he emulates Mays, a preseason All-American at USC. Their collegiate careers also have similar beginnings.

Mays started 12 games as a true freshman and took over at free safety in 2006 when the starter suffered a season-ending injury in the opener. Fogerson also started in his collegiate debut and finished with a two-steps-forward-two-steps-back performance during Washington's 55-14 defeat to No. 3 Oklahoma on Saturday at Husky Stadium.

If these were ideal times, Fogerson would redshirt this season. But things are far from perfect for the winless Huskies, who fell to 0-3. Injuries have decimated the secondary and forced secondary coach J.D. Williams to rely on an 18-year-old who started the season two weeks ago buried on the depth chart at running back.

The secondary, which is without projected starters Jason Wells, Victory Aiyewa and Byron Davenport, also lost safety Darin Harris last week to a concussion.

"In an ideal world you'd like to have a veteran group," Williams said. "Here, we're forced to play some young players. The good part about it is I know they are going to be good players. You don't like to take your lumps, but as they take their lumps they're gaining experience."

Fogerson took his lumps while surrendering three touchdowns.

Oklahoma junior tight end Jermaine Gresham burned him on a catch in the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown with 53 seconds left in the first quarter. Early in the third quarter, Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles broke Fogerson's tackle and slipped past safety Nate Williams before racing 77 yards for a touchdown.

Late in the third, Gresham took advantage of Fogerson again, breaking a tackle and scoring on a 64-yard play.

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Still, if not for Fogerson's game-high-tying nine tackles, the most lopsided home defeat since a 48-0 loss to USC in 1929 might have been worse.

"I think it was tough for him to open up with your first game against such a great team like Oklahoma," UW safety Nate Williams said. "He has a lot of learning to do. He has a lot of progress to make still. We're just going to work with him.

"This is all new to him. He'll definitely be great. He has a bright future ahead of him. I was just trying to tell him to relax."

Fogerson is leaning on almost everybody for advice, including Mays.

"He took me under his wing in high school and unfortunately, we split up and went our different ways," Fogerson said. "He's a great guy to follow. He was All-Pac-10 as a freshman. Hopefully, I can do that, too. That would be amazing."

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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