By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — Cort Dennison nearly drove himself crazy last week.
When the University of Washington coaching staff forced the junior linebacker to sit out practice because of a sore left knee, it was all Dennison could do not to run out onto the field and knock somebody down.
Dennison finally got back on the practice field Saturday, and he doesn’t have any plans of taking more time off. Especially not this week.
While Dennison has been sticking with the standard just-another-opponent mantra about this Saturday’s game against Brigham Young University, it’s safe to say he’ll have plenty of motivation. He grew up in Salt Lake City, was raised by parents who both attended the University of Utah and went to Utes games throughout his youth.
Asked Saturday whether it’s safe to say that he grew up in an anti-BYU house, Dennison paused.
“I grew up being a Utah fan,” he said, leaving it at that.
BYU was one of several schools that recruited Dennison, along with UW, Washington State, Army and Stanford. His parents’ alma mater, Utah, only offered him a spot as an invited walk-on. Dennison says academics pushed him toward the Huskies, but it’s safe to say that family loyalty helped pull him away from Provo, Utah.
“Let’s just say they’re happy that I’m here,” Dennison said of his parents.
As for this week’s game, Dennison knows it will have extra meaning to his father, who happened to be at Saturday’s practice at UW.
“He has a lot of BYU friends, so he wants bragging rights,” Dennison said. “But I realize it’s going to be a really great challenge. They’ve got a lot of really great players.”
As for the injury, Dennison brushed off any talk of missing more time.
“I’m good,” he said after Saturday’s practice. “I expect to be out there versus BYU. I’m practicing all week. I’m not sitting out again.”
Especially not this week.
“It just adds fuel to the fire,” he said.
Johnson back in action
Dennison wasn’t the only UW player to return to practice Saturday.
Wide receiver James Johnson was back on the field but said he’s still trying to work his way back to 100 percent after missing most of training camp with an ankle injury.
“We’ve got practice all week, so I’ll continue to go out and practice and see how it goes,” he said. “We’ll see how the strength holds up.”
Head coach Steve Sarkisian said Johnson “looked pretty good” at Saturday’s practice but is still uncertain how much the sophomore receiver can do in next weekend’s opener at BYU.
Johnson, who was UW’s third-leading receiver last year with 39 receptions, suffered the injury early in camp. A teammate rolled onto his leg, resulting in a sprained ankle and bone bruise. He tried to come back for last weekend’s scrimmage but lasted only one play.
“Unfortunately, I re-aggravated it more, which in turn made me miss even more time out there,” he said.
Who’s in line?
The official depth chart doesn’t come out until Monday, and a few starting spots might still be up for grabs.
Senior Gregory Christine was working as the starting right guard Saturday, ahead of sophomore Mykenna Ikehara. Sarkisian said Christine may get the nod as starter this year but that nothing is official yet.
The free safety position has been the most hotly-contested, with freshman Will Shamburger and sophomore Nate Fellner battling for the starting spot. It’s likely that both will play against BYU, and the Huskies have been using three safeties in their nickel defense.
Linebacker Victor Aiyewa and defensive ends De’Shon Matthews and Talia Crichton appear to have locked up the other open spots, although senior Everette Thompson is making a late push for a starting job at defensive end.
Quarterback Jake Locker, offensive tackle Senio Kelemete, linebacker Mason Foster and safety Nate Williams were named team captains during a Friday night banquet. … The Huskies officially wrapped up camp Saturday. At the end of the morning practice, the players began jumping in the air in celebration. “They get to move out of the dorms,” Sarkisian said. “I’m sure they want to get back to their own beds and their own pillows.” … Senior linebacker Brandon Huppert, who went to Edmonds-Woodway High School, continues to sit out practice while working strength back into his surgically-repaired knee. The only other players who appeared to be limited by injuries Saturday were defensive end Kalani Aldrich, freshman linebacker Jamaal Kearse and walk-on running back Joey DeRitis.