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Published: Thursday, November 12, 2009, 12:01 a.m.

Kearse has transformed into big-play receiver for the Huskies

SEATTLE — Jovan Kearse stopped playing football after middle school.
Thankfully for the University of Washington football program, his two younger brothers didn’t follow suit.
Jamaal Kearse is currently a senior at Lakes High School, and he’s already made a verbal commitment to attend UW next season. He’ll join middle brother Jermaine Kearse, perhaps giving the Huskies the Pacific-10 Conference’s next great brother combination.
UW, which will see the conference’s premier brothers this weekend when the Huskies travel to Corvallis, Ore., to face Oregon State’s James and Jacquizz Rodgers, is hoping that the Kearse siblings turn into a formidable 1-2 punch of the future.
Jermaine Kearse is certainly doing his part as of late. After seeing only about a dozen snaps in the Huskies’ opener this season, Kearse has gradually emerged as UW’s big-play guy as of late.
The sophomore has 14 receptions for 257 yards and two touchdowns in the past three weeks, with three catches that have done for 30 yards or more in that span.
As teammate D’Andre Goodwin put it this week: “He’s dominating right now.”
The scary part is that Kearse came dangerously close to following in his older brother’s footsteps.
Just like Jovan Kearse had done after playing one year of football in middle school, Jermaine Kearse decided that basketball was going to be his sport of choice.
He said this week that, before his freshman year at Lakes, he told his mother: “Don’t buy me cleats this year. I don’t want to play football.”
He later reconsidered.
“I came to my senses,” Kearse said Wednesday, “and finally decided to play.”
Not that the basketball player was a natural on the gridiron.
“He was a late bloomer,” said Huskies tight end Kavario Middleton, another Lakes product who has known Kearse since fifth grade. “He was a short, skinny guy. And then in high school, he kind of bulked up and got some size.”
Kearse came into his own as a junior in high school and eventually saw football, not basketball, as his ticket to a college scholarship.
His basketball skills were on display during Saturday’s loss to UCLA. Kearse caught two jump-ball touchdown passes en route to 114 receiving yards on seven catches.
“Those two (touchdown) catches he made this weekend were great plays,” quarterback Jake Locker said. “He’s a kid that, I think his confidence in himself has definitely grown in the last couple of weeks. You can see it in the way he practices, the way he carries himself when he plays.
“He has confidence that every time the ball is in the air, he’s going to come down with it.”
Middleton has also seen Kearse’s confidence grow.
“He thinks he can go over any corner(back) in the Pac-10,” his former high school teammate said.
Head coach Steve Sarkisian has been so impressed with Kearse’s ability to out-jump cornerbacks that he ranked him ahead of several All-America receivers from USC in that category.
“One thing that he does as good or better than anybody I’ve ever been around is he can really high-point the football,” Sarkisian said this week. “You’ll notice, when he’s catching the football, his arms are really extended. Some guys will wait for the ball to get into their body, well, that’s a difference of 3 feet.”
Kearse, who has never had his vertical leap measured, has earned the confidence of both his coach and quarterback. Locker threw three jump-ball passes to him in the UCLA, the third of which resulted in a tipped-ball interception. The two touchdown receptions, Sarkisian said Wednesday, were designed plays to get Kearse into a one-on-one jumping situation with the Bruins’ cornerback.
“Jake has confidence in me making those kinds of plays, and I have confidence in him making the good throws,” Kearse said. “That’s the type of relationship that we have.”
Time will tell whether Jermaine Kearse and Jamaal Kearse become the next James and Jacquizz Rodgers. But one thing that’s becoming more and more apparent is that the middle Kearse brother made the right decision in sticking with football.
“He’s making plays, going up and getting balls, running out of the slot,” Goodwin said. “He’s raising his level every game.”
Of note
Sarkisian said that defensive tackle Cameron Elisara (neck stinger) and linebacker E.J. Savannah (broken thumb) will sit out a second consecutive game this Saturday at Oregon State. De’Shon Matthews is likely to start in Elisara’s place at defensive tackle, while Cort Dennison is Savannah’s backup at linebacker. … Safety Jason Wells (plantar fasciitis) was limited at practice Wednesday, but Sarkisian has not ruled him out for the Oregon State game. Sarkisian hopes to see Wells on the practice field today, and there’s a chance he’ll start Saturday. … Senior linebacker Joshua Gage saw extended action with the first-team defense at Wednesday’s practice. … Sarkisian said that cornerback Mark Mosley, who started six total games in 2007 and 2008 but had yet to play this season, will transfer to another school. Mosley, a fourth-year junior from Arizona, is on pace to graduate in the winter quarter.
Story tags » Huskies Football

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