By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
SEATTLE — The third day of the Washington Huskies’ fall camp came with what Steve Sarkisian and his head coaching brethren like to label “teachable moments.”
Of course, at the time it doesn’t seem like teaching to the players, who are on the receiving end of a loud lecture or punishment.
But in the end, if the 2012 version of the Huskies has consistent on-field success, correcting the mistakes will be paramount.
“What’s cool about this training camp, there’s bright moments from each side, but there’s moments to learn from as well,” Sarkisian said.
The third day brought the introduction of shoulder pads to practice. And with the extra armor, extra physicality also came with it. That’s a good thing for football teams. But not so good when that hard contact comes after the whistle. Sarkisian loves the energy and aggressiveness, but it needs to be controlled.
“They’ve really brought it every chance we’ve gotten, but we really have to harness it,” he said.
On a few different occasions, Sarkisian sent players to the sidelines after they got physical after the whistle.
Chronic repeat offender Nate Fellner got sent off the field for a few plays when he hit running back Willis Wilson after he dropped a pass during an 11-on-11 red zone period. Fellner received a stern lecture from Sarkisian on the sideline. Also guilty of similar things were offensive tackle Ben Riva, who tossed defensive linemen Jarrett Finau to the ground after the whistle. Meanwhile, linebacker Scott Lawyer got a little physical late with tight end Michael Hartvigson.
All three incidents could have been penalties in a game. And Sarkisian simply won’t accept mistakes like that.
“You just can’t hit late,” Sarkisian said. “We try to pride ourselves in being a smart football team. They are teachable moments we have to learn from. Hopefully, everyone can learn from them, not just that individual.”
Fellner has been guilty of such hits and being a little too physical in practice for the last few years. He was banished off the field for a few snaps in Monday’s opening practice after knocking quarterback Keith Price to the ground.
“It’s a point of emphasis with him,” Sarkisian said. “Not that I’m trying to take Nate’s stinger. He’s a physical player. We love that about him. That’s why we moved him to linebacker. But dumb penalties are dumb penalties and we can’t have them.”
But Fellner wasn’t the only one to take some heated criticism from Sarkisian in practice.
Price heard it from Sarkisian in the same 11-on-11 drill. Price dropped back and saw nothing on a play-action pass. Price tried to extend the play when nothing was open downfield. He scrambled around for a few moments, eluding a rusher.
But after a few seconds, Sarkisian screamed at Price to throw the ball away — using slightly different verbiage.
“I was short and sweet and to the point,” Sarkisian said with grin.
Price flashed his usual bright smile when asked about the play.
“Sark was kind of on today,” Price said. “He was kind of on everyone’s case. I don’t take it personally. I understood his message and he came over later in practice and talked to me. I understood.”
While Price does so many things right, and making plays is his forte, there are times when the best play is to give up and throw it out of bounds.
“That’s just natural,” Price said. “A lot of quarterbacks have that issue. We are just trying to make the play. But some times you just have to burn the ball and live to see another play.”
Sarkisian is going to preach it to Price all fall camp.
“It’s obviously a point of emphasis that we aren’t going to take sacks,” Sarkisian said. “We are not going to take unnecessary hits, especially in the red zone. It’s a point of emphasis with him and for our offense. We have to get better.”
Sarkisian knows that Price’s instinct is to make plays out of seemingly nothing, and he’s quite good at it. But he doesn’t want his star quarterback to take the type of abuse he did last season. The Huskies season would suffer if they can’t keep Price healthy and on the field.
“Innately in the games, he’s going to revert back to his old self,” Sarkisian said. “I’m being a bit more conservative now in practice, just to try to give him those reminders that will click in on game day.”
The Huskies debuted their “jumbo” personnel package on defense, used primarily in short yardage situations. It was a 5-2 look featuring Josh Shirley, Andrew Hudson, Danny Shelton, Talia Crichton and Hau’oli Jamora on the defensive line with John Timu and Thomas Tutogi as the linebackers. … Freshman QB Cyler Miles threw a pair of touchdown passes in the last 11-on-11 period. The first came after Miles was flushed from the pocket and threw to the end zone on the run. The ball was a little underthrown, but senior Cody Bruns adjusted quickly and came back to the ball, while freshman safety Shaq Thompson couldn’t adjust. Miles connected with Josh Perkins on a pretty pass on a fade route for another score. … Price connected with Austin Seferian-Jenkins on a red-zone touchdown pass. Seferian-Jenkins pulled the ball down between three defenders with an impressive grab. … Sarkisian said Bruns will be the holder for field goals and extra points, replacing his roommate and last year’s holder William Chandler. Kicker Travis Coons, a junior-college transfer, looked solid on field goals, hitting all four of his attempts, including a final one from 53 yards. Coons missed a pair of 52-yarders on Tuesday.