Freshmen get head start

SEATTLE — If two players on Washington’s spring football roster look like they should still be in high school, it’s because, well, they should.

Two members of Washington’s 2008 recruiting class, Kurt Mangum and Chris Polk, graduated high school early and came to Washington ahead of schedule, allowing them to participate in spring practice.

On Thursday, the two joined the rest of the Huskies in the team’s first practice of the spring.

Polk, a receiver/running back from Redlands, Calif., has been on campus since early January, while Mangum, a linebacker from Chandler, Ariz., arrived last Friday and started class Monday.

By enrolling early and participating in spring practice, Polk and Mangum will have a big head start on the rest of Washington’s incoming freshman when practice begins in August.

“I just came out early because I think it’s really going to benefit me to come early and really get a chance to bond with my teammates and learn the system,” said Mangum.

Mangum plans to return home for his high school graduation, but he’s otherwise OK with missing the end of his senior year.

“I’m going to go back to walk, but really it’s all about the future,” he said. “High school is kind of the past for me, so I’m really just keeping moving forward, and the social aspect doesn’t really affect me that much.”

Players graduating early isn’t common, but it’s certainly not unheard of. Ronnie Fouch, who like Polk graduated from Redlands East Valley High School, came to Washington early last year to give the Huskies a much-needed extra quarterback for spring practice.

Polk, who originally gave a verbal commitment to USC, is seen as one of the Huskies most promising recruits, and someone who could make an impact right away. In fact, on Washington’s pre-spring depth chart, he was listed as the starting slotback despite having never practiced with the Huskies.

“That really didn’t affect me because I didn’t do anything to earn it yet,” Polk said. “It all starts today.”

Polk said that in addition to learning the playbook, his biggest challenge has been adjusting to life away from home.

“Getting used to doing everything on my own,” he said. “My mom used to baby me a little, used to do everything for me.”

Kirton happy on defense: Jackson High grad Johnie Kirton, who is switching from tight end to defensive tackle for his senior season, said he was excited to be moving to defense.

Kirton, who spent winter quarter studying abroad in South Africa with three other football players, said he was not forced into a position change.

“We started talking about it before I left for Africa,” said Kirton, who reports he currently weighs 280 pounds. “It was up to me at that point. I did some talking with family and friends and some of the old players that have been around here. Basically what it came down to was asking the coach what he needed from me. I made the switch to tight end because he needed it for the team. [Defensive line experience] is something we lack so I made the switch.”

Kirton came to Washington as a running back, but eventually moved to tight end. He has spent the last three years at tight end, but said there is no frustration over moving positions again.

“It’s just all excitement,” he said. “I need this team to win as much as anybody else does. Going five years and not really doing much per se isn’t any fun. I want to at least leave a trademark or a spot on the beginning of this legacy of us coming back.”

Hasty and Savannah on the side: Linebacker E.J. Savannah and tailback J.R. Hasty, who are currently suspended from spring drills for unspecified reasons, watched from the sideline while their teammates warmed up. Once practice began, Savannah, Hasty and freshman receiver Anthony Boyles began running stairs.

Contact Herald Writer John Boyle at For more on University of Washington sports, check out the Huskies blog at /huskiesblog

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