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Originally published Saturday, April 10, 2010 at 5:51 PM

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Freshman running backs Jesse Callier and Deontae Cooper making a good early impression at Washington

Running backs Jesse Callier and Deontae Cooper finished high school in California early so they could enroll at Washington in time for spring practice.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Jesse Callier and Deontae Cooper could each still be finishing their senior year of high school, the thought of playing college football still looming in the distance.

Instead, the two spent Saturday mostly running far into the distance as the Washington Huskies held their first scrimmage of the spring, prompting coach Steve Sarkisian to make an early declaration about their college futures.

"If we were playing Saturday, they would play," Sarkisian said. "There is no question."

Cooper and Callier are each members of the recruiting class of 2010 who graduated from high school early to enroll at UW in time for spring practice.

They were the two leading rushers in the state of California last season, the 5-foot-10, 187-pound Callier gaining for 3,010 yards at Warren High in Downey, the 6-foot, 191-pound Cooper going for 2,863 yards at Perris High in Citrus Hill.

So expectations weren't exactly small upon arrival.

Still, as Sarkisian said, "You just don't know from a developmental standpoint."

He does now.

Each player had been impressive in the first five spring practices and only reinforced what the coaches had seen earlier during Saturday's practice, especially during the scrimmage portion — a 41-play session that lasted about 40 minutes.

Cooper had a 32-yard touchdown run — one of two scores during the scrimmage — on a fourth-down play to finish with 43 yards on five carries. Callier gained 55 yards on eight carries, including a 26-yard gain in which he juked past UW defenders with a move that drew the loudest oohs and aahs from a crowd of about 2,000.

"They are real elusive, real good hips, real flexible," said senior linebacker Mason Foster. "Just great athletes, catching passes, everything."

The two intentionally got the bulk of the carries as Sarkisian wanted to assess how they would do in a game-type setting.

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Asked later if he saw what he expected, Sarkisian said: "I don't know if you could ever anticipate that. They are making a lot of plays and doing it in a variety of fashions.

"They are running the ball, catching the ball, they are blocking pretty well. So I'm encouraged by them."

The Huskies are set at tailback for next season with sophomore Chris Polk returning — he's not taking part in contact work this spring after having offseason shoulder surgery.

But Cooper and Callier — who are not allowed to speak to the media as part of Sarkisian's policy regarding newcomers — could work their way into the rotation this fall.

Already, they appear to have moved past sophomore Demitrius Bronson, who is being tried at fullback.

Sarkisian also arranged the scrimmage to get long looks at freshman quarterbacks Keith Price and Nick Montana, the latter also having graduated early from high school to enroll in time for the spring.

The two are battling for the backup spot to Jake Locker. The Huskies have just three quarterbacks on the roster this spring with last year's backup, Ronnie Fouch, having transferred.

Locker played just two series, capping one with a 29-yard TD pass to Devin Aguilar and moving the team on the other drive before a holding penalty derailed things. He completed 3 of 6 passes for 70 yards.

Neither of the freshmen put up huge numbers on what was a windy day. Price was unofficially 5 of 7 for 27 yards and Montana 4 of 8 for 36.

Most important to Sarkisian, neither threw an interception or tried to force passes into holes that weren't there (though each also took sacks Sarkisian thought could have been avoided).

"The two young quarterbacks did some things that are encouraging," Sarkisian said. "It doesn't always look that way numbers wise, but certain things they did in terms of handling things, they are doing some nice things."

Price lamented a couple missed passes and said, "I think I could have done a lot better. I'm kind of disappointed with myself right now because there are some throws I should have made that I didn't make. It's just me not getting my feet under me. My arm is fine. I just have to make those throws, make my reads quicker, and just do a better job at that."

Notes

• There were no significant injuries. Among those who sat out were starting safety Nate Williams and receiver Cody Bruns, who each have suffered head injuries in recent days. DE De'Shon Matthews remains out with an Achilles injury.

• Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and son Brennan attended and were warmly greeted by Sarkisian and other members of the UW staff who worked for Carroll at USC.

Alvin Logan, attempting to make the transition from safety to linebacker and currently running as the starter at strongside linebacker, had two sacks.

• The Huskies return to practice Tuesday afternoon.

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

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