Hundreds turn out for first UW football practice of the season
"Intense" practice is the first one under new Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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The standing around Tuesday at Husky Stadium was left solely to the fans, 400 or so who turned out to see the first practice of the Steve Sarkisian era.
The players, meanwhile, were in constant motion, moving swiftly from one drill to the next.
"It was intense," said linebacker E.J. Savannah, taking part in his first UW practice since last spring. "We are running. We ran, like, 500 yards out there just running from field to field."
Often times they had to dodge spectators who were taking in the first fully open practice, other than the spring game, in four years.
Maybe only 100 or so were still there by the end of it as the day grew wetter and colder.
Still, Sarkisian — whose idea it was to reopen practices to the public — seemed pleased with the turnout.
"Not bad," he said. "I was a little nervous when people would look at the forecast and it was supposed to be raining that we wouldn't quite get the crowd we wanted, but it was pretty good."
He also liked the pace, thinking the players seemed to adjust to it better as the practice progressed.
"We are still learning the flow of practice, but I thought our guys responded well and as we moved through practice the tempo picked up more and more and more and I'm anticipating that will only get better as we move forward," he said.
Dick Baird, a former UW assistant and recruiting coordinator compared it to practices he remembers from the Don James era. "They are getting more reps, the tempo is higher," Baird said.
Said quarterback Jake Locker: "I personally didn't have a time where I was just standing around doing nothing. I was always doing something. Always being coached on something."
And obviously, it's a team that needs all the practice it can get after an 0-12 season that resulted in the coaching change.
But the first day of spring is always a time for optimism. And there may have been no bigger reason than the sight of Locker again in the pocket, just about fully recovered from the broken thumb suffered in the fourth game of last season against Stanford.
Locker said he's not quite 100 percent — he said the cold weather helped remind him of the injury. But he said overall that, "I felt pretty good today. It was fun to be able to get back out there again and be part of it and not just be a spectator."
Sarkisian seems to think the thumb such a dead issue he didn't even mention it when asked for an assessment of Locker's play, instead focusing on the quarterback's adjustment to the new pro-style offense.
"Obviously some things we are doing are new to him and he's working his way through it," Sarkisian said. "I thought he did some really nice things today. He was fighting the urge to take off [and run] and he will get more and more comfortable in the pocket and then his accuracy will only increase."
Another sign was the presence of Savannah, who sat out last season after being suspended, then quitting the team in frustration, asking to return after the coaching change.
"It felt great running around, being with the team," said Savannah, who worked with the first unit at one outside linebacking spot and was cited for his play by Sarkisian on a day when the defense won the points competition with the offense.
"Savannah got in the backfield a couple of times, made some plays," Sarkisian said.
Weighing 247 pounds when he arrived back at UW last December, he said he's now down to 234 and that, "I'm moving right now."
Also making some tracks Tuesday was another player who had a lost season a year ago, tight end Chris Izbicki, who never saw the field after being arrested on two misdemeanor charges after an alcohol-related incident at the KUBE Summer Jam.
He worked as the backup tight end and had a couple of nice catches, also earning mention from Sarkisian.
"That [his arrest] was one of the worst things that ever happened to me," Izbicki said. "It was my fault and I take the [blame] for it. But I'm in a lot better situation now and looking forward to it. Today's practice was like a whole new rebirth of Chris Izbicki."
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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