By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — A lot has happened to the University of Washington football program since Adam Long last played a game for the Huskies. And even longer since he was a part of the program’s long-term plans.
Coaches and players have come and gone. The defensive scheme has shifted. And the starting job Long earned, then lost, is back up for grabs as the Huskies head into their final week of spring practices.
Despite joining projected starter Desmond Trufant as the only seniors among UW’s cornerbacks, Long has to be seen as — excuse the pun — a long shot as he enters his final year as a Husky. He took Quinton Richardson’s starting job midway through the 2010 season, desperately held onto the position for the final six games of that season, then suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament that ended his 2011 season before it even started.
Now he’s back on the practice field, just hoping to find a role on a secondary filled with young competition.
“Right now, it’s just about rebuilding,” he said of being back in action. “It’s great.”
While Long proclaims his injured left knee to be pain-free despite a cumbersome knee brace, his long road back to action still has a few hurdles. There’s the obvious rust that comes from being sidelined more than a year, there’s a new group of defensive assistants who are trying to turn the page on the past and build on a young group of talented freshmen and sophomores, and there’s also the fresh competition that includes Greg Ducre, Marcus Peters and Tre Watson.
Coach Steve Sarkisian said it’s too early to tell how Long might factor into the competition when it heats up this fall.
“That’s going to be up to him to make that happen,” Sarkisian said. “I don’t think the other guys are just going to move out of the way and let that happen. So he’s going to have to battle and compete to make it work.”
Long said that the rehabilitation process was grueling but added that he never wanted to give up.
“I stayed positive throughout the whole thing,” he said. “I was just waiting to run again, until it was like it is now. I never looked at it negatively.”
The change in coaching staff probably won’t affect Long one way or the other. On the one hand, he won over UW’s former assistants enough to earn a starting job midway through the 2010 season — thanks in large part to Richardson’s pension for mistakes. On the other hand, Long hardly did enough during his six-game stint to cement his place moving forward.
Long said he likes what he’s seen from the new coaching staff.
“I like how the coaches are doing now,” he said. “Anything that’s going on, I’m just working hard to be the best that I can. And whoever’s going to be playing will be playing. I can’t wait. It’s all great competition.”
Long will take whatever competition he can get right about now. Just being back on the field is a good enough first step after what he went through.
“I’ve been working to get back out there,” he said. “I’ve been working on my skills, my techniques — everything. It feels great just to be able to move again. My leg’s great. I feel like I’m making progress every day, and I just want to keep it up.”
Cornerback Greg Ducre was back practicing Wednesday after missing the past two sessions with a concussion. … Guard/tackle Erik Kohler added to his repertoire Wednesday, working at center. Sarkisian said the Huskies were just making themselves more flexible in case starter Drew Schaefer, who is currently out with a sore knee, and backup Mike Criste are hobbled during the regular season. Sarkisian added that Kohler’s best position is probably at guard, which bodes well for the prospects of current first-string tackles Ben Riva and Micah Hatchie in terms of battling for starting spots. … Nate Fellner, who is working at a nickel back position once filled by Justin Glenn while Glenn runs with the first team, had his best practice of the spring Wednesday. He intercepted one pass and broke up another. Long also had a nice pass breakup of a ball intended for William Chandler.