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UW Notebook: More chances for Callier

Add kickoff returns to freshman’s growing list of duties

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By Scott M. Johnson
Herald Writer
  • UWs Jesse Callier runs for a first down against BYU earlier this season.

    George Frey / Associated Press

    UWs Jesse Callier runs for a first down against BYU earlier this season.

SEATTLE — Freshman running back Jesse Callier impressed the University of Washington football coaches when he enrolled early for school and put on a show at the Huskies’ spring practices.
He made a splash on the field when he was used sparingly as the primary backup to Chris Polk.
And when the Huskies featured a fly-sweep play that allowed Callier to make multiple big runs after lining up wide against USC on Saturday, it served as another way the freshman tailback could shine.
Now, upon getting word that freshman Kevin Smith will miss multiple weeks with a fractured thumb, the Huskies are ready to let Callier expand his repertoire again. Callier will fill in for Smith as UW’s primary kickoff return man, beginning Saturday.
“I love Jesse,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said Monday. “I love Jesse in all aspects.”
Through the first four games of his collegiate career, Callier is averaging 5.8 yards per carry, has caught five passes out of the backfield and has returned one kickoff for 16 yards.
Smith, a wide receiver from outside of Los Angeles, was averaging 20.5 yards per kickoff return before breaking his thumb in the 32-31 win over the Trojans on Saturday. Sarkisian said he would probably miss “a couple weeks.”
That was the only significant injury to come out of Saturday’s game. Defensive tackle Cameron Elisara missed most of the game, and Monday’s practice, because of a shoulder stinger, but Sarkisian said he would “be OK.” Quarterback Jake Locker came out of Saturday’s game for one play after getting knocked woozy and losing his breath, but he returned to action and has shown no signs of lingering effects.
Price is right
Even after completing the most important pass of his college career, redshirt freshman Keith Price still has to carry a “co-“ before his title.
Price and true freshman Nick Montana are still listed as co-No. 2 quarterbacks behind Locker, even though the question about who the primary backup would be was answered in Saturday’s game.
Price came on in relief of Locker and completed a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Chris Izbicki on his only official snap Saturday.
“I love that kid,” Sarkisian said of Price. “Every time he goes in, he keeps doing good things in practice.”
Sarkisian admitted that there were a few raised eyebrows among his assistant coaches when he called for a pass play on Price’s first official snap.
“I just didn’t want to put him under center,” Sarkisian said in explaining the reasoning for the call. “He hadn’t gotten a real snap yet, I wanted to put him in the (shot)gun, and felt like it was a good call for him. He made a good play; it was a nice throw.”
Calling for a better replay
Even after game officials looked at an instant replay of one of the most important calls in Saturday’s win over USC, Sarkisian still isn’t buying their conclusion.
UW’s coach said Monday that the play that saw Locker fumble the football out of bounds at the end of a long run should have resulted in the Huskies retaining possession. Officials ruled that Locker’s fumble went into and out of the end zone, but Sarkisian said that he could clearly see from the opposite sideline that the ball crossed the plane of the sideline before it got to the end zone.
“And then looking at the coaches’ copy of the film, it’s clear,” he said Monday. “Big turning point in the game, really. That puts us up 24-14 (if Locker had scored). In turn, they go down and score and we fall behind.”
While Sarkisian challenged the call on the field, the television angle was inconclusive and therefore the original call was upheld.
Sun Devils a title contender?
Six days after USC coach Lane Kiffin was accusing his friend and former co-assistant coach of pulling a Lou Holtz, Sarkisian was at it again Monday.
The Huskies coach, who last week called the Trojans “the most talented football team in our conference from top to bottom,” said this week’s opponent was quite a handful. In fact, he made it sound like the Arizona State Sun Devils (2-3 overall, 0-2 in the Pac-10) were a national contender.
“They’re a scary football team,” Sarkisian said. “The quarterback is throwing it all over the field, the running backs are running, the defense is opportunistic. They’re physical; they create turnovers.
“They could easily be 2-0 in our conference. They could be undefeated on the year — they (lost) in a tight one to Wisconsin as well.”
ASU beat the Huskies on a last-minute hail-mary pass last season. But other than their games against UW, the Sun Devils are 9-18 since the beginning of the 2008 season.
Not playing not to lose
UW’s bye week was spent working on fundamentals and, just as important, rebuilding the team’s psyche after a bad loss to Nebraska. Sarkisian used a “play without fear” motto to help regain the confidence of a broken team.
And using the win over USC as evidence, the plan seems to have worked.
“We weren’t worried about losing; we weren’t worried about making a mistake,” Sarkisian said Monday. “I just thought we played football. … That’s the best mentality for us to be in right now.”
Asked Monday whether the Huskies played with a “worried” mindset in losses to BYU and Nebraska earlier this season, Sarkisian said: “Yeah, in all three of them. I felt we played that way (in the win over) Syracuse as well.”
Short yardage
Sarkisian and USC coach Lane Kiffin shared only a few words after Saturday’s game. But the good friends caught up in an hour-long phone conversation Sunday night, Sarkisian said. “Now that that hurdle’s over, that we played each other, now we can really share with each other thoughts about each other’s teams and upcoming opponents,” Sarkisian said Monday. … After going two consecutive games without a dropped pass, the Huskies dropped four Saturday. “Physical errors are physical errors,” Sarkisian said without any audible concern in his voice. “That’s going to happen sometimes. What I was pleased with that it didn’t affect our psyche. The guys kept battling.”
Punter added
The Huskies, who lost primary punter Will Mahan to a season-ending knee injury last month, have added depth behind Kiel Rasp at the position.
Evan Steinruck, a walk-on from Lake Stevens, practiced with the Huskies on Monday afternoon. Steinruck played football, basketball and soccer at Lake Stevens High School and was a second-team all-Western Conference punter as a senior in the fall of 2006.
Story tags » SportsHuskies Football

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