By Todd Dybas The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Just more than four months from now, Washington quarterback Keith Price will enter revamped Husky Stadium with his full arsenal.
He says he rediscovered some of his swagger this spring, so he’ll have that in tow. All the injured Huskies — many of them potential starters — who missed the spring practices are expected to be ready. Washington will rev up its offensive pace. And, at some point, tight end and All-American candidate Austin Seferian-Jenkins is expected to rejoin the team.
But just the swagger was around Saturday in Seattle’s Memorial Stadium for Washington’s 15th and final practice of the spring. The Huskies took a precautionary and festive approach to what was labeled a spring game, though there was just a trio of scrimmage portions.
At the end, Price contended next year’s offense will take its place next to things that go bump in the night.
“We’re going to be a scary offense,” Price said.
Price’s fluctuations from last season have been discussed at length. The dismay of fans was only trumped by Price’s personal disappointment.
“(Last year) didn’t end the way I wanted it to end,” Price said. “I had my bumps and bruises. I figured they would come, especially after 2011. It felt too easy.
“I knew my time was to come and last year was my time. I learned from it, I dealt with a fair share of criticism, but it’s nothing I can’t handle. I’ll be back to myself.”
Saturday, little of what the fall could bring was being shown. The playbook was minimized because of public and television audiences. The Huskies ran things at a considerably slower pace than the other spring practices.
They also were without a litany of players on Saturday. Among those were offensive lineman Colin Tanigawa (knee), running back Jesse Callier (knee), defensive end Hau’oli Jamora (knee) and linebacker Travis Feeney (shoulder). Defensive tackles Lawrence Lagafuaina (knee) and Pio Vatuvei (knee) missed the entire spring. All are expected to be back in the fall.
Wide receiver James Johnson practiced most of the spring after missing last season with a wrist injury, but did not participate Saturday. Neither did running back Erich Wilson II.
Running back Deontae Cooper, who is trying to rally from his second ACL injury since he arrived at Washington, is a wildcard. Cooper was dynamic in practice when he first landed on campus, but, now a redshirt junior to be, he is yet to have a carry. Saturday, he worked in light non-contact drills and ran on the side with fellow injured players Tanigawa and Callier.
The anticipated return of Cooper and Callier provides Washington with running back depth it hasn’t had since Sarkisian took over. Bishop Sankey (1,439 rushing yards) was vaulted to the starting spot after Callier’s injury last season and had a spectacular year. Callier is viewed as a versatile receiving option out of the backfield.
Wilson had received a lot of spring carries before Saturday, with Callier out and Sankey taking occasional time off in practice. Redshirt freshman Dwayne Washington also had several spring carries. Kendyl Taylor is a hybrid running back/receiver who played last season and Ryan McDaniel is in the back-end mix, too.
That group will be looking for space with a more settled offensive line in front of it. Last spring and throughout last fall, Washington shuffled its offensive line because of injury and ineffective play. Much of the spring, Mike Criste played center for the departed Drew Schaefer. He had some snap problems Saturday.
Offensive lineman Erik Kohler, who missed almost all of last season because of a knee injury, returned in the second half of this year’s spring sessions. He was the starting right guard Saturday and can play center or tackle after starting much of 2011.
The defense finished the spring knowing it has one void that to be filled, and the same two questions it had to start spring ball. Linebacker Travis Feeney, a starter last year, didn’t participate in the spring because of shoulder surgery. He is expected back in the fall.
The starting cornerback spot left available by Desmond Trufant’s graduation has not been settled. Nor has the second safety spot that Kamiak High alum Justin Glenn held much of last season.
With so many missing parts, the Huskies shirked a formal game in favor of practice and entertainment.
Head coach Steve Sarkisian was one of three participants in the quarterbacks’ competition to hit the field-goal crossbar with a pass from 40 yards out. Redshirt freshman Cyler Miles — who worked as the backup Saturday — and fellow redshirt freshman Jeff Lindquist also hit the bar. No dice for Huskies legend Warren Moon.
“I think sometimes the spring game can get over-valued,” Sarkisian said. “We had 14 really good practices and today was another good one.”
Now, they head toward fall.