Huskies start their preparation for BYU
Coach Steve Sarkisian is aware of the problems that come along with playing in the high altitude of Provo, Utah
Seattle Times staff reporter
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The page officially turned for the Washington Huskies on Saturday from training camp to game week.
After practice ended, players were let free for the rest of the weekend, with the first task to move out of the dorms that have been their homes for roughly three weeks.
When they return Monday, the focus shifts solely to the opener Saturday at Brigham Young.
Not that the Huskies haven't already undertaken some significant preparation.
On Friday, the Huskies had a closed practice at the Seahawks' facility in Renton so they could work out on a natural grass field to approximate the conditions they'll get at BYU. That "mock game" workout included spending the night before in a random hotel to replicate the feel of a road game, and wearing the white road uniforms. Music has also been turned up to earsplitting levels to try to simulate the noise that will greet the Huskies at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
One thing that's hard to replicate, however, is the campus' altitude of roughly 4,550 feet. UW coach Steve Sarkisian, though, isn't sure that's such a bad thing.
Sarkisian played quarterback at BYU in 1995 and 1996 and saw opponents take a variety of approaches for preparing for games in Provo. He says not worrying about it much may be the best way to go.
"I think altitude becomes an issue when you make it an issue," he said. "I think some of the biggest mistakes people make are trying to go up early and get acclimated to the altitude. Those are the teams that in my opinion, when we were playing, suffered the worst, kind of got caught in limbo."
What may be UW's biggest step in preparing for the game is developing more depth than the team has had in a while. Sarkisian says to expect some liberal substituting.
"We are a deep football team," he said. "We've got plenty of depth on offense, defense and special teams and generally in first games, the first few games of the year you play a lot of players, so that's going to be the plan anyway."
One UW player has ample experience in those conditions, middle linebacker Cort Dennison, who played at Judge Memorial High in Salt Lake City.
"I'm telling everybody that they need to be hydrated a lot and be prepared for the air," he said. "It's a lot different, so they are going to be breathing heavier. That's why I'm telling them to hydrate their bodies so they are comfortable with it. When you get to that altitude it's a lot harder to breathe when you start running."
Sarkisian, though, said breathing isn't the only thing altitude can impact.
"The one big thing with the altitude you need to be prepared for is that (on) punts, kickoffs, the ball is going to travel an extra 5-7 yards," he said. "You don't want to outkick your coverage, so you've got to make sure you get plenty of height on the ball and not just drive it because you can get big punt returns there if you don't get enough height and hang time."
Sarkisian also noted that passes also can tend to fly a little more. The Huskies will try to prepare for all of that during a walk-through Friday at the stadium.
"The quarterbacks on Friday we are going to throw some deep balls because the ball is going to carry a little bit more," he said.
• UW got some good injury news Saturday as Dennison was able to go the entire practice. He had been limited of late with a sprained knee but said after practice that "It's (knee) good. I'm getting treatment every day. I expect to be full-go against BYU. I'll be ready to go."
• Also taking part in all of practice Saturday was defensive end Everrette Thompson, who is working with the starting unit. He has been eased into work after suffering an Achilles injury last winter and missing spring. But he appears to be getting closer to full strength as the season nears. Fellow DE Kalani Aldrich, however, again sat out and is questionable to play against BYU. Aldrich had knee surgery and sat out the spring.
• Offensively, the one big question mark is receiver James Johnson, who missed most of the past two weeks with a sprained ankle. Johnson got some snaps in Saturday, however, and said he thinks he can play.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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