Huskies have senior leadership
17 Dawgs are preparing for their final season at Washington
As far as the upcoming season is concerned, the most important thing might be simple chronology.
When one group of seniors moves on, it's time for the next class to take on the leadership role. And because of all the hours he spent picking Butler's brain over the last three years, Foster feels like he's ready for the promotion.
"He told me that, no matter what you do, people are going to follow you," said Foster, one of 17 seniors who are entering their final season at UW. "So whatever you do, on and off the field, your actions are going to speak louder than your words. Whatever you tell people, you're definitely going to have to do it yourself."
After spending the 2009 season in the hands of a small group of seniors -- and an even more select group of vocal ones -- the Huskies should be in pretty good hands this fall.
Nine seniors expect to be in the starting lineup when the season opens Sept. 4 at Brigham Young, and several of them have found the leadership role to be a natural one.
Foster, quarterback Jake Locker, guard Ryan Tolar, wide receiver D'Andre Goodwin, defensive tackle Cameron Elisara and safety Nate Williams are among the more vocal veterans on this year's roster. Fullback Austin Sylvester, defensive end De'Shon Matthews and linebackers Victor Aiyewa and Matt Houston are among the seniors who have already taken on more leadership qualities this year.
Finding someone to step up and lead the team won't be a problem for the 2010 Huskies.
"I think that will help us in the long run," Williams said. "We've experienced the worst of the worst, and I think now we're going to experience some of those amazing times we've been waiting for. We've got that experience under our belts, so we can just help out the younger kids and lead them in the right way."
There were times during the 2009 season when the defense would wait for its only two established seniors -- Butler and defensive end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim -- to set the tone. The offense had so few vocal seniors that a pair of juniors -- Locker and Tolar -- served as captains.
With so many seniors on this year's roster, the Huskies should have more voices to go around.
"The whole team in general, there's a lot more energy and a lot more swagger about them," Elisara said this week. "As a defense, we're real vocal now. It's fun. We get each other going. It's something I can't put my finger on. It's just that the vibe is better."
Elisara is one of several seniors who have been waiting patiently for this moment.
"That's just how football teams work," he said when asked about senior leadership. "When you grow up in the program, you look up to the older guys. And then when it's your turn, you naturally step into that role. These young guys have done a good job of knowing their place and respecting the older guys. It's working out really well."
Some of UW's seniors have quietly been filling the leadership role for years.
Locker has provided a steady presence for most of his career, and he showed at times last season that he could get on his teammates when needed. And Williams, due in part to his position at safety, was generally regarded as the leader of UW's young secondary as a junior last year.
"The harder you work, and the more plays you make out here, the more respect you earn," Williams said. "I think that's how you earn that spot (as a leader). It can be me, in my fourth year here, it can be Cameron, in his fifth year here, or it could be (sophomore Desmond) Trufant, who's in his second year but who I consider one of our leaders.
"I never set out to be a leader. It just happened that way, I guess."
Head coach Steve Sarkisian said this year's team is chock full of leaders, including underclassmen like Trufant, junior wide receiver Jermaine Kearse and junior linebacker Cort Dennison. But the bulk of the leadership will come from this year's senior class.
And for the most visible senior on the UW roster, leadership comes with the territory.
"After you've put in four years (and) you've put in your time, you've earned the right to be vocal and challenge guys -- in the practice setting, game setting, wherever it may be," Locker said. "That responsibility is kind of exciting. It's something you look forward to."
Foster, who'll finally be stepping out of his friend and former teammate's shadow, is pretty excited about the role as well.
"I'm in a place now where whatever I say, a lot of guys will follow," he said. "So I have to say the right thing.
"But we have a lot of guys: Cort Dennison, Nate Williams, Jake Locker. The seniors want everyone to do well, even when they leave, so we want to keep these young guys rolling for the next few years."
The Huskies donned full pads for the first time Friday afternoon. The biggest hit came when cornerback Quinton Richardson knocked freshman tight end Michael Hartvigson off his feet on a pass in the flat. ... Williams and running back Chris Polk took the day off but aren't nursing any major injuries. ... Friday's practice included some scrimmage-like work, with Kearse, Hartvigson and Cody Bruns all catching touchdown passes. But the catch of the day came earlier in practice, when Jordan Polk used one hand to snare a Keith Price pass in the end zone despite pass interference on cornerback Gregory Ducre. ... Locker was 10-of-12 for 164 yards and a touchdown during the scrimmage part of practice, and afterward Sarkisian called it "probably Jake's best day." ... Tonight's late practice, which begins at 6:45 p.m., will include some scrimmage-like segments. Today also marks the first of the two-a-day practices, with an earlier session beginning at 8:45 a.m. Both practices are open to the public.
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