Huskies open fall training camp
As the University of Washington football team opens the fourth training camp of coach Steve Sarkisian's tenure, most of the groundwork and heavy lifting is already in the past. Rebuilding a program from the bottom up is no longer the prerogative of the UW coaching staff, which already has the Huskies back in the top half of the Pacific-12 Conference.
The trick now is finding the rare air that has too often been occupied by Oregon, Stanford and USC in recent years.
Posting seven-win seasons and qualifying for second-tier bowl games won't be enough to satisfy Husky Nation for long. Sarkisian finally has a roster filled almost primarily of his own recruits, and the bar has been raised.
And yet today, as the 2012 Huskies head into another training camp, the landscape looks very familiar for UW. Oregon and USC look like national-title contenders and likely opponents in the Pac-12 championship game, while the Huskies are among several teams battling for third place again. UW just missed out on a national ranking and is projected in that six-to-eight-win category that would have been a huge milestone five years ago but seems awfully familiar now.
What the Huskies have working for them this time around is junior quarterback Keith Price, who is coming off one of the most productive seasons in the history of the program. Price solidified his place on the national radar with 438 passing yards and four touchdowns in the December Alamo Bowl and will start generating Heisman buzz if he starts the season off well.
The big question offensively has to do with the Huskies' other weapons. Tailback Chris Polk and both of UW's starting receivers are gone, meaning young players like Jesse Callier, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Kasen Williams need to live up to the hype. The Huskies' offensive line also has some serious question marks following the graduation of left tackle Senio Kelemete and the injury-related retirement of guard Colin Porter.
Solidifying the line will be a priority at camp, with several spots up for grabs on both sides of center Drew Schaefer. Stanwood product Dexter Charles is hoping to get into the mix at either guard or tackle, while the team is also trying to find a long-term position for starter Erik Kohler.
The defensive line has plenty of big shoes to fill as well, and the coaches are hoping that young players like Danny Shelton and Andrew Hudson can thrive as full-time starters. Junior Hau'oli Jamora could also be back at some point this camp after undergoing knee surgery early in the 2011 season, and defensive end Josh Shirley could see more action as a hybrid linebacker/end in UW's new 3-4 scheme.
The linebacker positions are also up for grabs, while safety Sean Parker and cornerback Desmond Trufant give UW some veteran savvy at defensive back.
This camp will also mark the UW debut of some incoming freshmen, the most notable of which are safety Shaq Thompson and quarterbacks Jeff Lindquist and Cyler Miles. Lindquist and Miles will be given a legitimate shot to earn the No. 2 spot behind Price. Thompson was one of the top recruits in the nation but might have a hard time unseating Kamiak High graduate Justin Glenn for the starting safety spot before the season opener.
Because of ongoing construction at Husky Stadium, the Huskies will practice on an adjacent field east of the stadium and play their games at CenturyLink Field in downtown Seattle. Because the Huskies are practicing on the smaller field, where they also held spring ball, the sessions will not be open to the public like they were in years past.
This year's camp will also include at least five 7 p.m. practices leading up to the Sept. 1 season opener, which begins at 7:30 p.m. against San Diego State at CenturyLink Field.
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