By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — The sun blazed high on a clear, late-August afternoon Monday, reflecting off the waters that border the University of Washington and making it nearly impossible for the mind to start thinking about the gloom of fall that’s just around the corner.
It served as an appropriate metaphor for a UW football team that is squarely focused on Saturday’s season opener against San Diego State.
No. 3-ranked LSU, No. 21 Stanford, No. 5 Oregon and No. 1 USC are among the Huskies’ next five opponents, so the storm clouds could easily blow through Montlake by early October. Just don’t tell anyone at UW.
Wearing his trademark smile as the sun peeked through an overhead window at the UW Founders Club, junior quarterback Keith Price wasn’t going to let anyone ruin his sunshine with talk about what comes next.
“We’re worried about San Diego State,” he said. “We’ll worry about Week 2, Week 3 and Week 4 later on.”
The mood as UW opened its first game week of the 2012 season was fit for rose-colored glasses. A star quarterback, a rejuvenated defense and a home date against a rebuilding opponent had the Huskies licking their chops as the hours toward kickoff ticked away.
“It feels a lot different. It’s game time, it’s game week,” running back Jesse Callier said. “We’re not going to go practice against ourselves; we’re going to go practice for San Diego State.”
Of course, the Huskies were pretty excited about last year’s opener as well, and they barely escaped with a win over Eastern Washington. Whether that lesson was learned will be revealed Saturday night at CenturyLink Field.
As sophomore wide receiver Kasen Williams said Monday afternoon: “We don’t want that to happen again.”
Williams is one of six new starters projected for the UW offense, which has plenty of question marks surrounding Price. The wrist injury that could keep senior receiver James Johnson out for another two to four weeks means the Huskies could feature Williams and a pair of true freshmen — Kendyl Taylor and Jaydon Mickens — in three-receiver sets. The rushing load left behind by workhorse Chris Polk will fall on Callier and Bishop Sankey, neither of whom is expected to get a Polk-like 25 to 30 carries a game.
It could be telling that the UW offense never really caught up to the defense through spring and training camp, although that might bode well for a rebuilt defense that was gouged all too often last season.
A home game against San Diego State will certainly answer some questions, but the following weekend’s game against national heavyweight LSU in Baton Rouge, should be an even greater barometer of what this UW team could be.
The talk in these parts has been that the Huskies aren’t willing to settle for another seven-win season and second-tier bowl. Price said as much Monday when asked about the team’s goals for 2012.
“Obviously, we’re trying to win the Pac-12; that’s our goal,” he said. “Obviously, we have to earn respect, and (to do that) we have to win games.”
So what kind of UW team will be on display this season?
“You’re going to see a fast team, a passionate team,” Callier said. “But you’re just going to have to see that on Saturday.”
For the Huskies, Saturday can’t come soon enough.
“We like to say the volume gets turned up on game week,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said Monday afternoon, “and I think that was definitely evident (at Monday’s morning practice).”