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Published: Friday, April 16, 2010, 12:01 a.m.

Huskies’ Shamburger, Fancher try to bounce back

SEATTLE — It’s hard to say which one has been the greater source of annoyance at University of Washington football practices this spring: Will Shamburger’s knee brace, or Dan Cozzetto’s mouth.
For Shamburger, the cumbersome brace protecting his right knee is a necessary evil, albeit one that the freshman safety is willing to tolerate after being out of action for a year-and-a-half.
And for offensive lineman Skyler Fancher, the sound of Cozzetto’s never-ending, R-rated motivational tactics is something he’s willing to accept as well.
“It’s definitely a lot better than not being yelled at,” said Fancher, who broke his fibula about this time last year and sat out the entire 2009 season.
For all the returning Huskies who were excited to get back on the practice field this spring, no one appreciates the experience quite like Shamburger and Fancher. Being away from the game has given them a new love for the game of football.
“Definitely,” Fancher said. “And I have a new appreciation, too, for guys who get injured and come back. I didn’t think it was that tough, but it is.”
Fancher, who will be a fourth-year junior in the fall, saw his 2009 season come to an end long before it started. Last April, while running a relatively benign practice drill, Fancher felt a teammate fall on him from behind and roll his ankle. The broken bone ended spring ball and kept Fancher out for the entire season.
“That was pretty tough,” he said Thursday. “I’m very excited to be back out here.”
Fancher has been working with the No. 1 offense this spring. Starter Cody Habben is resting a sore shoulder, so Fancher has been holding down the right tackle job and showing the coaches what he can do.
“It’s tough,” he said of getting thrown right back into the center of the action. “I try to take the coaching as best I can. But I know we don’t have very many options because we’re limited in depth.”
Of course, taking coaching means having to listen to Cozzetto. The veteran line coach is easily the most vocal, and critical, assistant on the UW staff.
“He’s a great coach,” Fancher said. “He’s taught me so much. I know he wants his stuff done the way he wants it done.”
Like Fancher, Shamburger has been running mostly with the No. 1 unit this spring. While Nate Williams and Justin Glenn have been hobbled by injuries, Shamburger has gotten his first action in a UW uniform.
“I feel good right now,” he said. “I haven’t felt this good in a long time. I’m thankful to the coaches for giving me the opportunity. I was hurt last year, and they still offered me a scholarship. So I want to show what I can do.”
Shamburger tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right leg while playing basketball as a senior at St. John Bosco High School in southern California. After having originally signed with Boise State, Shamburger backed out upon getting mixed signals from that coaching staff. He said UW was the only school to stick with him through the injury and continue to offer a scholarship.
Head coach Steve Sarkisian said Thursday that the Huskies weren’t too worried about Shamburger’s recovery time.
“You look at 16-, 17-year-old kids with knee injuries, and their bodies are still growing, they heal so quickly,” he said. “To me, that was not a factor. We knew the type of player he was at St. John Bosco, and now that he’s back and healthy, he’s showing it.”
Shamburger, who had his best practice of the spring on Thursday, said the 2009 season was tough on him — so much so that he felt guilty for having a scholarship.
“I felt bad sitting on the sideline,” he said. “I felt like I wasn’t contributing to the team. I felt terrible. I was down and depressed.”
Several teammates helped raise his spirits, and during the course of the 2009 season Shamburger tried to return the favor.
“My role on the sideline was to help keep everybody up during games,” he said.
This fall, both Shamburger and Fancher might finally get to trade in the pom-poms for some on-field action.
“Right now,” Shamburger said, “I’ve just got to prove to the coaches that I’m worthy of being on the field.”
Story tags » Huskies Football

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