Huskies’ Wilcox puts emphasis on tackling

SEATTLE — Justin Wilcox wasn’t passing judgment, not even on opponents’ passing yardage, when he took over as defensive coordinator at the University of Washington three months ago.

So when the former Boise State and Tennessee assistant brought an emphasis on tackling to UW spring practices, it wasn’t necessarily an indictment of the 2011 unit that put up historically bad numbers. It was a simple philosophy based on how to build a defense.

“You’ve got to become numb to contact,” Wilcox said last week. “You’ve got to be able to train your body to do that, so we’re going to do it every single day. Tackling drills are not always the most popular thing in the world, but you’ve got to learn to like it. It’s the No. 1 thing you’ve got to be to be good on defense: You’ve got to be a good tackling team.”

In addition to altering UW’s defensive scheme to feature more 3-4 formations, Wilcox vows to make better tacklers out of the 2012 Huskies. Without that, he said, things such as recruiting and schemes and in-game adjustments won’t make much difference.

“You can draw up every defense in the world, but if you can’t get the guy on the ground, what’s the point?” he said last week, his first while installing new tackling drills. “So we’re going to tackle every day. We’ve got to improve. You’ve got to be a good tackling team to play good defense.”

Quick turnaround

His power forward shoes back in the closet, Huskies tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins was back in his football cleats six days after the conclusion of the UW basketball season. And despite the non-stop schedule of being a two-sport athlete, the 6-foot-6 freshman was feeling as energetic as ever.

“I feel like basketball really, really helped me,” he said last week. “Running routes out there (this camp), I felt really, really smooth. I just felt a lot quicker, a lot faster than last year.

“I feel like my conditioning’s a lot better than last year. I appreciate the basketball coach (Lorenzo Romar) getting me in shape running all those 17s (a sideline-to-sideline sprinting drill).”

Heading into spring ball, head coach Steve Sarkisian didn’t quite know what to expect from his tight end so soon after the basketball season.

“We’ll see,” Sarkisian said 11 days ago. “This is a great experiment for us as a program as we grow.”

After four practices, Sarkisian said Seferian-Jenkins has kept his energy level up despite the quick turnaround.

“For him to show up and be able to compete at this level doesn’t surprise me,” Sarkisian said, “because I know the level that he holds himself to.”

Brown in spotlight

In the fall, current freshman Derrick Brown could see some stiff competition in the battle to become primary backup to starting quarterback Keith Price. That’s when true freshmen Jeff Lindquist and Cyler Miles enter school and begin fighting for roles.

Until then, Brown has a leg up on the competition. He’s been running the No. 2 offense all spring and has a unique chance to show the coaching staff that he should be given an inside track on the job.

“I’m out here, so it is kind of an advantage,” Brown said Monday morning. “But I’ll do the same exact thing in the fall, when they get here: I’m going to compete for my spot. Nothing’s going to be given to me.”

Short yardage

Starting free safety Sean Parker suffered what appeared to be a minor leg injury during Monday’s practice and didn’t finish the session. But he was able to walk off the field without a noticeable limp after the 21/2-hour practice was over. … Sarkisian was not pleased with the effort of his offense at Monday morning’s practice. “I thought the offense lacked a little juice today,” he said after putting the offensive players through a post-practice up-down session to send a message. “In general, I’ve seen us more competitive than we were today.”

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