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Originally published October 27, 2009 at 7:11 PM | Page modified October 27, 2009 at 10:16 PM

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Another tough break for Huskies' E.J. Savannah

Washington linebacker suffers third broken bone in left hand during loss to Oregon.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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When it comes to getting breaks, E.J. Savannah just can't catch one.

The senior linebacker for the Washington Huskies broke a bone in his left thumb in Saturday's 43-19 loss to Oregon, the third break he has suffered this season.

"All in the same hand," he said Tuesday after practice. "I'm kind of cursed this year."

Savannah first broke a bone in his hand in mid-August, requiring a cast, and broke another one in the win over USC on Sept. 19, just when he had begun to get over the first break. He also missed the Oct. 3 game at Notre Dame with plantar fasciitis, a foot injury.

"It's just unlucky," he said. "But it's part of football."

And it's also made this season just a little less than he hoped for. Savannah returned this season after being away from the team last year when he was initially suspended, then left. He was reinstated to the team shortly after Steve Sarkisian became coach.

Savannah, third on the team in tackles with 43, says his play has definitely been impacted by the hand injuries.

"Tackling people, I can't wrap up," he said. "I've got to just bang him to the ground. That's my philosophy right now."

Savannah hoped he was getting over his injuries, and his hand felt good enough Saturday that he reduced the cast he had been wearing to a splint shortly before kickoff. But then he felt more pain in the third quarter, learning later it was indeed yet another break.

"It's the base of the joint," he said, pointing to his thumb. "That's why it's a little worse than the rest of the breaks."

Still, he said he vows to continue playing, and defensive coordinator Nick Holt said he appreciates the effort.

"I've never seen a guy break his hand so many times and have so many injuries," Holt said. "He is one tough kid. My hat is off to him. He keeps battling. It's too bad. I feel really bad."

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Holt said there's little question the injuries have taken a toll on Savannah's play.

"It's so hard to play linebacker with a big cast," he said. "Golly, as a linebacker you need your hands to position yourself and deliver blows on blockers and tackle guys. It's hard, and he's done a nice job."

Boyles makes switch

With the Huskies having a bye this week, practices are being used in part to rest some veteran players with ailments — such as quarterback Jake Locker, who continues to sit out with a quad bruise — and give some younger players more practice time. There's also a little bit of experimentation, the most noteworthy of which is receiver Anthony Boyles getting a look at cornerback.

Boyles, a redshirt freshman, was one of the higher-rated recruits in the Class of 2008 but has had trouble cracking the rotation at receiver and has played only on special teams this year. But at 6 feet 3, 190 pounds, he could provide an intriguing option for UW at cornerback if he can make the switch. He played safety at Serra High in Compton, Calif., as well as receiver.

"We're just trying to get him where he's helping the team out," Holt said. "He just can't get on the field at receiver because the starters are so good and they are set in stone and we are just always looking for ways to help out our kids and our football team. Maybe this is something that can help him get on the field."

Tuesday was Boyles' first day at cornerback and while he made a couple of deflections during the team period, Holt said it was far too early to make any conclusions whether the move will become permanent.

"He looks the part," Holt said. "He's a tall kid who can run and is athletic, so we'll wait and see."

Notes

• DE Kalani Aldrich is not in pads this week as he continues to deal with what Holt said are "chronic knee problems." Aldrich had one of the best games of his career Saturday with 1.5 tackles for loss, but Holt said the activity aggravated his knee trouble.

• Also sitting out Tuesday were OL Mykenna Ikehara (knee), WR James Johnson (sick) and LB Cort Dennison (stinger). The extent of Ikehara's injury was not known. He split time with Nick Wood at guard Saturday in the most extensive action for the redshirt freshman.

• Safety Jason Wells, a senior who has not played in more than two years while battling knee and Achilles tendon injuries, got a lot of work with the first unit and could return to action when UW plays next on Nov. 7 at UCLA.

• The Huskies will practice Wednesday, then take three days off before returning to practice Sunday night.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com.

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