SEATTLE — Amid high expectations and a growing Heisman campaign for their quarterback’s senior season in the fall, the University of Washington football team will be back on the field this afternoon.
The Huskies begin spring practice this afternoon, with open practices at Husky Stadium. The team will generally practice on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays through the end of April.
The revised schedule fits under NCAA guidelines because UW will practice 15 times within the 34 consecutive days allowed. In the past, the Huskies have compacted the 15 practices into a three-week period, while they will now be spread out over five weeks.
“It’s a format that allows us to stay fresh as a football team,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said of why he chose the day-on, day-off format.
Sarkisian said that running back Chris Polk (shoulder surgery) is one of six players who are not expected to participate while nursing injuries. Also sidelined will be tackle Cody Habben (shoulder), cornerback Desmond Trufant (groin), defensive end Kalani Aldrich (knee), defensive lineman Everette Thompson (Achilles) and safety Victor Aiyewa (shoulder).
Safety Justin Glenn (ankle) and running back Brandon Yakaboski (knee) will be limited in their participation.
Today’s practice will mark the UW debut for four freshmen currently enrolled in school. Running back Deontae Cooper has been in school since January, while quarterback Nick Montana, linebacker Victor Burnett and running back Jesse Callier started classes on Monday.
The practices are open to the public, although parking around the stadium is limited because of ongoing construction. The school is advising that fans visit GoHuskies.com to read about the parking options.
This year’s Huskies will have a slightly different look.
Sixteen underclassmen from last year’s team have quit or transferred, while several others have changed positions.
Senior tight end Dorson Boyce moved to fullback, cornerback Marquis Persley moved to safety and safety Alvin Logan will play linebacker and defensive end.
Most of the bigger changes were on the offensive line. Guard Senio Kelemete will go into camp as the starting left tackle, senior Ryan Tolar has moved from center to left guard and Drew Schaefer will move from tackle to center. Sarkisian said Mykenna Ikehara (right guard) and Skyler Fancher (right tackle, where Habben started last year) will round out the starting line when practice opens.
The 17 players who have left the program are cornerback Matt Mosley, linebacker Kurt Mangum, linebacker Fred Wiggs, running back Curtis Shaw, running back Willie Griffin, quarterback Ronnie Fouch, quarterback Taylor Bean, wide receiver Vince Taylor, linebacker Reece Anderson, wide receiver Tony Chidiac, defensive back Taylor Lappano, long snapper Ben Hayes, tight end Romeo Savant and punter Kiel Rasp.
Freshman defensive end Andru Pulu is also not on the roster because he was indefinitely suspended after turning himself in to the police and being charged with second-degree assault earlier this month.
“Until that situation gets resolved,” Sarkisian said, “he won’t be participating in spring practice.”
With Huskies quarterback Jake Locker taking some batting practice at the Anaheim Angels’ spring training facility this month, the natural questions arose about his summer plans.
Sarkisian said Locker is making football “the priority,” but added that “there’s a chance” Locker could spend a few weeks playing baseball this summer.
“I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing,” Sarkisian said. “A guy can grow, maturity-wise” by playing another sport.
And speaking of two-sport stars
Sarkisian used a joke to fend off the overtures of UW basketball player Isaiah Thomas’s attempt to play football.
“Lorenzo (Romar) was just in my office,” Sarkisian said of the Huskies’ basketball coach. “We agreed it’s probably not a great idea.”