By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — Steve Sarkisian’s philosophy for the newcomers in his University of Washington football program is not unlike that of children in a 1950s family.
They’re better seen, but not heard.
The UW’s new head coach has a non-negotiable, open-ended policy regarding new players in the program and their inability to talk to the media.
So, freshman wide receiver James Johnson can make all the acrobatic catches he wants; he’s just not going to drop any memorable sound bites.
Tight end Dorson Boyce and safety David Batts, two junior-college transfers, might be in line to see significant playing time against LSU in 10 days, but as of now they won’t be discussing their NCAA debuts with reporters.
And cornerback Desmond Trufant, another member of Johnson’s class of true freshmen, might have spent most of Tuesday’s morning practice working with the No. 1 defense, but he didn’t get any work in front of the microphones.
“I just want them to understand what we’re about and how we’re about,” Sarkisian said Tuesday when asked about his policy. “Until they’re around enough to the point where they’re not speaking their own opinion — they’re speaking our opinion — they don’t need to be talking.”
For now, the Husky newcomers will have to do their talking on the field. And so far in fall camp, several of them have done just that.
The most obvious standout has been Johnson. The freshman receiver from San Diego has proven to have reliable hands, has played through pain and has been quick to pick up the offense.
“He’s in the right place at the right time,” quarterback Jake Locker said. “He makes plays. When the ball’s up in the air, he goes up and gets it.”
Johnson has outshone his older teammates so far in camp. Sarkisian has said on a number of occasions that Johnson has played his way into a UW receiver rotation that’s filled with experienced players.
“I think you can feel his presence on the field,” Sarkisian said. “He’s extremely competitive. He makes all the tough catches; I mean, he just catches the ball.”
Boyce also has emerged as a possible target in the Huskies’ offense. Originally signed to give UW a blocking presence at tight end, the Allan Hancock College transfer has surprised Sarkisian with his ability to catch the ball. He’s part of the mix, along with Kavario Middleton and Chris Izbicki, in the first-team offense.
Most of the new Huskies expected to contribute right away are on the defensive side of the ball.
Defensive linemen like Lakewood’s Talia Crichton and Andre Pulu have done enough to become part of the rotation at end, while linebackers Tim Tucker and Jordan Wallace are likely to help out on special teams.
Batts looks like he’s in line for the most playing time, as he’s already part of the Huskies’ nickel package. Batts might be better known for being the first player to wear the No. 25 since the school took a tribute to Curtis Williams’s number off the playing surface, and his physical style brings back memories of the former Husky. But Batts is also a versatile player who has seen time at cornerback this camp and appears to be best suited to play in the nickel and dime defenses.
The late bloomer of the group is Trufant. The younger brother of Seattle Seahawks cornerback Marcus Trufant, the UW freshman joined the team a week into camp because of an NCAA clearinghouse issue. Trufant was quick to move up the pecking order at cornerback, so much so that the team had him playing exclusively with the No. 1 defense on Tuesday morning, relegating projected starter Justin Glenn to second-string duty.
Defensive coordinator Nick Holt said the move is not a permanent one. Rather, the coaches wanted to get a good look at Trufant against top competition.
“It’s about him showing up and showing that he can do it or not,” Holt said. “If you don’t put him in, then you’ll never know. So we put him in with the ones, and it’s not too much for him. Quite honestly, I know we’re not in full gear, but he looks like he belongs there.”
Because he became eligible so late, Trufant has seen limited action. Quarterbacks tested him early and often on his first day, but Trufant rebounded from a shaky start to work his way into consideration for a starting spot.
Sarkisian said he could push Glenn for the job.
“He’s doing some really nice things,” Sarkisian said. “I’m anxious to watch him as we get into some full-contact things. He’s got a really natural feel out there. He’s very savvy for a freshman. He’s got a great feel. That probably just comes from being around football his whole life.”
Many of the Huskies’ newcomers have been quick to pick up the system and assert themselves as likely contributors.
“No question,” Holt said when asked whether some true freshmen would be playing this season. “On offense, one of our best receivers (Johnson) is a true freshman. On defense, we have two really good defensive ends that I see playing, we have a couple of linebackers that I see playing on special teams, and I see a couple of these corners helping us out. They’re going to help out, even if they’re not starting — as backups or special teams guys.”
Freshman quarterback Keith Price returned to practice after missing Monday’s session while the NCAA cleared up his eligibility. Two other freshmen _ defensive end Talia Crichton and linebacker Tim Tucker _ are still awaiting word from the NCAA. Sarkisian called it a “really, really frustrating situation.” … Adam Long continues to work as a starting cornerback while Quinton Richardson recovers from a hip pointer. Richardson does not appear to be in danger of missing the LSU game. … Batts (hamstring) returned to practice Tuesday after being unable to finish Monday’s session. … Glenn finished strong after working with the No. 2 defense all day. The Kamiak product returned an interception 50 yards for a touchdown in an 11-on-11 scrimmage Tuesday night. … Among the attendees at Tuesday night’s practice was former Huskies coach Don James, who addressed the team afterward. James said he has been impressed with the direction of the program. “They’re making good decisions,” he said of the UW coaching staff. … Jake Locker threw two touchdown passes to Jordan Polk during the night session. After one of them, Long and safety Greg Walker got de moted to the second team for the remainder of practice.