Refreshing start for UW football team

SEATTLE — Up-tempo and enthusiastic.

Those were the words most players used to describe the first day of spring practice for Washington football.

An entirely new coaching staff took the field with its team for the first time Tuesday afternoon, kicking off a stretch of 15 practices that will conclude with the April 25 spring game, and the reviews were all positive after Day 1.

“It was fun to get back out and be a part of it again rather than just standing being a spectator,” said quarterback Jake Locker, who missed the final eight games of last season with a thumb injury. “I enjoyed it. It was up-tempo, it was fun; everybody was moving and always doing something, always being coached.”

New UW coach Steve Sarkisian is opening practices this spring, and a few hundred fans braved an un-spring-like afternoon to watch the practice.

“I love this atmosphere, I want people to come out here and check us out,” said linebacker E.J. Savannah. “If you mess up, you’re going to mess up in front of people and they’re going to tell you. I like the honesty.”

Savannah is one of two players back after missing last season. He was suspended indefinitely by Tyrone Willingham last season, and eventually asked for his release, though he never ended up transferring. Savannah asked the new coaching staff if he could return, and they let him. Tailback/receiver Curtis Shaw is also back after leaving last year to return home to California for personal reasons.

Other than Savannah and Shaw, there weren’t any new players on the field Tuesday, but plenty of new looks. On defense, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim spent a lot of time playing defensive tackle as well as defensive end, his position for the past three seasons.

“We’ve got to move him around,” Sarkisian said. “We’re starting him inside right now. He creates a lot of havoc when he’s internal, because he is so quick and because our defense likes to move and slant so much … We’ll see where he goes from here, but I like what he did today when he was inside.”

Across the line of scrimmage, the offensive-line was also a bit different looking than expected. Ben Ossai, who started at left tackle the past three seasons, lined up at left guard with the first-team offense, while Cody Habben, previously the right tackle, moved to left tackle. Ryan Tolar, a guard last season, was the first-team center, with former defensive tackle Senio Kelemete lined up next to him at right guard and redshirt freshman Drew Schaefer at right tackle.

“We’re just trying to be as athletic as we can be, and Ben is obviously a pretty athletic guy, he’s dropped quite a bit of weight,” Sarkisian said. “To bring him inside allows us to stay athletic on the edge and stay athletic on the inside.”

One of that unit’s biggest tasks this season will be keeping Locker healthy for his junior campaign. Locker said his surgically repaired thumb is close to 100 percent, and isn’t affecting his ability to throw.

“It felt pretty good today, felt pretty normal,” Locker said. “I was able to throw the ball down field as much as I could in the past, and I didn’t feel any different today.”

Locker and several of his teammates noted that Tuesday’s practice was more up-tempo than last year. Players also frequently ran from the Husky Stadium field to the near-by practice field for different drills.

“I think we ran 500 yards just running from field to field,” Savannah said. “It’s all good though, we’re in great shape and we’re ready to get after it.”

An energetic coaching staff, especially in-your-face defensive coordinator Nick Holt, seemed to make a good first impression on the players.

“He’s a nut, but I love it,” linebacker Mason Foster said of Holt. “You’ve got to have a guy like that on the team. He’s a great coach, and that’s a coach that everybody wants to play for. He’ll keep you hyped. I love playing for a guy like that.”

Herald Writer John Boyle: For more on UW sports, check out the Huskies blog at

Talk to us

More in Sports

Arlington’s defense stuffs Ferndale running back Talan Bungard on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, at Arlington High School in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Arlington steamrolls Ferndale in 3A Wesco North showdown

The Eagles light up offense in the first half, finish business to earn a 46-14 win.

Lake Stevens High School head football coach Tom Tri hoists his team’s championship trophy during a community parade and celebration Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022, in Lake Stevens, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
The Herald’s 2022-23 Man of the Year in Sports: Tom Tri

The Lake Stevens coach guided the Vikings to Snohomish County’s first large classification football state title in more than 30 years.

West Linn’s Ryan Vandenbrink (23) runs with the ball during a football game between Lake Stevens and West Linn at Lake Stevens High School in Lake Stevens, Washington on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. West Linn won, 49-30. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Turnovers cost Lake Stevens in loss to Oregon power West Linn

The Vikings’ run of 35 straight home wins in the regular season ends in an interstate showdown of big-school state champions.

Marysville Pilchuck’s Christian Van Natta lifts the ball in the air to celebrate a turnover during the game against Marysville Getchell on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Prep football roundup for Friday, Sept. 22

Prep football roundup for Friday, Sept. 22: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report… Continue reading

Lynnwood teammates mob senior Abbie Orr (4) after her impressive dig led to a point against Jackson during a volleyball match Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, at Lynnwood High School in Bothell, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lynnwood volleyball team continues rise to prominence

After ending a 20-year state drought last season, the Royals are surging again and have vaulted to No. 3 in Class 3A in the new WSVCA poll.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) scrambles up field during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Seahawks set to host Panthers, honor past while focused on present

Seattle will honor the 10-year anniversary of its only Super Bowl championship during Sunday’s game.

Jackson High’s Ben Lee lunges to get to the ball against Kamiak on Thursday, Sep. 22, 2022, at the Kamiak Tennis Courts in Mukilteo, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Prep boys tennis season preview: Players and teams to watch

A look at the area’s top athletes and teams on the tennis court this fall.

Fall prep sports roundup.
Prep roundup for Saturday, Sept. 23

Also, Friday’s non-football prep results.

Austin Roest prepares to take a wrist shot during the first day of Silvertips training camp on Thursday, August 31, 2023, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Dad is an NHL bigwig, but Silvertips’ Roest carving his own path

The 19-year-old forward and son of Stanley Cup-winning executive Stacy Roest leads the Silvertips into the 2023-24 season.

Most Read