Huskies’ receivers have room for improvement

SEATTLE — Steve Sarkisian’s offense promises to give the University of Washington receivers plenty of opportunities to catch the ball.

So far in training camp, they’ve hardly made the most of their chances.

Dropped passes have been a common thread throughout the Huskies’ camp, and it’s an area that the coaches hope to get cleaned up before the Sept. 5 opener against LSU.

“Some guys right now are struggling from a confidence standpoint,” receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty said. “They’re thinking too hard. They’re pressing, whether that’s to impress us (as the coaches) or just trying to get the plays down straight.

“I think a lot of times, that just works itself out as you’re playing ball.”

Sarkisian, who is in his first year at UW after previously serving as USC’s offensive coordinator, played down the significance of the drops this time of the year.

“Dropped passes happen at camp because it’s a grind,” a visibly unconcerned Sarkisian said after Friday’s morning practice. “It’s not a physical thing; it’s a mental thing.”

The drops have become a position-wide problem this camp, seeming to affect a new receiver every day.

Sophomore Jordan Polk, who had been one of the team’s most sure-handed receivers at fall practices, dropped a pass in the end zone Thursday and couldn’t corral a deep ball Friday after beating cornerback Desmond Trufant by two or three steps. Redshirt freshman Anthony Boyles, sophomore Jermaine Kearse and leading returning receiver D’Andre Goodwin have also had their share of drops.

“I definitely think the mental side of it is an issue,” Dougherty said. “When you know what you’re doing, and you know it down pat, you play faster. That’s when your natural ability takes over. When you’re thinking too much, that’s when you don’t play fast, and that’s when you make mistakes.”

Friday’s morning practice served as a frustrating reminder of the Huskies’ struggles. During one drill in the two-minute offense, star freshman James Johnson dropped a pass over the middle. A few plays later, Goodwin mishandled a Jake Locker pass. A few minutes after that, sophomore Devin Aguilar had a pass bounce off his hands and into the waiting arms of linebacker E.J. Savannah, bringing an end to the drill.

“You never want to see (drops) happen,” Dougherty said. “Obviously, in the two-minute drill, it’s critical. You’ve really got to be perfect in that situation. But anytime we don’t execute, it’s important.”

Sarkisian said he’s been somewhat encouraged by the receivers’ ability to work their way out of funks. Boyles was plagued by drops throughout the first week of camp, but he proved to be sure-handed while filling in for an injured Johnson earlier this week. Kearse went through a similar progression from the beginning of the week to Friday.

“It’s all mental,” Sarkisian said. “It’s grinding, it’s hard, it’s about focus and energy. So I’m not as concerned about it. We’ve yet to be mentally fresh. When we’re not grinding these guys all day long, I think it’ll be fine.”

Just to make sure, several UW receivers were spending extra time on the JUGS machine after practice.

Said Dougherty: “We’re just going to keep on working on it.”

Of note

Reserve linebacker Matt Houston tore his biceps at practice earlier this week and is expected to be out three to four weeks. … Running back Johri Fogerson (ankle) returned to practice Friday night and broke a 60-yard run in an 11-on-11 drill. … Starting center Ryan Tolar is wearing a boot on his right foot after injuring his toe on Thursday. Sarkisian said the trainers are being cautious with the injury so that it does not develop into turf toe. … Reserve cornerback Matt Mosley did not practice Friday because of swelling in his knee. Reserve offensive lineman Skyler Fancher appeared to hurt his right ankle in Friday’s night session. … Defensive tackle Craig Noble (knee), safeties Jason Wells (Achilles) and Victor Aiyewa (head) and offensive linemen Morgan Rosborough (shoulder) and Terence Thomas (foot) continue to rest injuries. … Linebacker Brandon Huppert, from Edmonds-Woodway, saw action with the No. 1 defense during goal-line drills Friday. … Friday’s morning practice included a badly missed field goal by Erik Folk, but Sarkisian said a clock malfunction forced the kicking unit to hurry the kick. … The Huskies second, and final, scrimmage of training camp will be held this afternoon at Husky Stadium. The session begins at 3 p.m. and is open to the public.

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