By Doug Pacey The News Tribune
On the fifth day of practice — the first day with full pads — the Washington Huskies football team didn’t see a player get carted off the practice field with an injury.
But the Huskies learned that starting safety/linebacker Nate Fellner would miss at least four weeks with a broken foot and that reserve linebacker Garret Gilliland has left the team.
The losses of Fellner, who started four games last season, and Gilliland, who played in 12 games, creates a hole at linebacker. But coach Steve Sarkisian believes the team won’t have a problem filling the void.
“We actually have decent numbers at the position,” he said. “It’s just getting the right guys on the field at the right spots.”
With Fellner out, sophomore linebacker Jamaal Kearse and redshirt freshman Scott Lawyer saw an increase in their first-team reps. Freshman Cory Littleton and junior Thomas Tutogi also will get more opportunities, Sarkisian said.
Freshman linebacker Blake Rodgers could find himself in the mix, too, when his knee is healthy enough to allow him to return to the practice field.
The coach said the younger players will welcome the opportunity to compete for more playing time.
“They embrace it,” Sarkisian said. “We talked about it last night as a team. One guy goes down, the reason they recruited those guys is to come here and play.”
Fellner suffered his injury Thursday and was found to have broken the fifth metatarsal in his right foot.
“Most guys, that’s about a 4-week recovery,” Sarkisian said. “We know what it is. It’s nothing worse. Hopefully he’s back sooner rather than later.”
Fellner was the third player to suffer a significant injury in the first week of practice. On Tuesday, redshirt sophomore running back Deontae Cooper tore the ACL in his right knee and defensive end Hau’oli Jamora on Wednesday sprained a knee that he had offseason ACL surgery on and will miss at least two weeks.
Gilliland, a junior from Anaheim, Calif., will remain at UW, but will not be on a scholarship, Sarkiskian said.
“We want him to play football and he doesn’t want to,” Sarkisian said. “It’s unfortunate.”