Huskies have Shirley playing bigger role
Defensive end isn't just a pass-rush specialist
With the play essentially dead and unable to hit Price, Shirley instead slapped him on the backside and let out a yell along with the rest of his defensive cohorts.
On his way back to the huddle, screamed to no one and everyone: “Even when they hold me, they can’t hold me.”
For the Washington Huskies, the hope is that opposing offensive linemen can’t hold their pass rushing specialist back this season.
A year ago, Shirley started to come into his own as a pass rusher. He led the team with 8.5 sacks in mostly pass rush only situations.
“He’s so fast off the edge,” Huskies head coach Steve Sarkisisan said. “He’s stronger than people give him credit for. He can drive guys back. And he plays with such good pad level.”
Coming into this season, it’s reasonable to expect Shirley to want to get 12 or 13 or maybe double the output. But he wouldn’t speak of such individual goals.
“I want to win,’ he said. “Whatever the coaches need me to do to help us win, I will do it. That’s the only goal for everyone on the field.”
After being forced to start with his hand on the ground in a three-point stance last season, Shirley finds himself standing and rushing from an upright position in defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox’s new scheme. He’s also dropping into coverage and playing in run situations. He’s growing into an every-down player.
“My role has emerged,” Shirley said. “I think coaches trust me more now with my maturity on the field. They are letting me drop more, letting me rush more, freeing me up.”
One sees Shirley playing in space more.
“I’m very comfortable playing in space,” Shirley said. “It’s something I’ve done in the past and it’s something I’m getting re-adjusted to.”
Shirley has all the ability to be a playmaker on a defense that needs it. But he isn’t about to declare himself one.
“Everybody wants to be viewed as a playmaker,” he said. “But each week everyone’s roles change. So if I can’t make a play, anybody else is going to make that play. These coaches put us in those situations or predicaments and we now excel at it.”
Play of the day
The best pass of the day wasn’t the two deep passes Keith Price threw to James Johnson late in practice. Both were fantastic throws by Price and Johnson made a ridiculous catch on a post pattern on the first one.
But the best pass belonged to wide receiver Cody Bruns. The fifth-year senior from Prosser took a reverse flip from Price and just when it looked like he was ready to head up field, he pulled up and fired a perfect spiral to a streaking Kasen Williams, who was behind the defense. Williams never broke stride, hauling in the pass and running into the end zone as the offensive players watching broke into a wild celebration.
“The beauty of Cody is he can just about play anywhere,” Sarkisian said. “The versatility he brought today. Obviously you saw it with the pass. He can return punts. He holds on field goals. He’s the emergency punter. The guy just does it all.”
Kohler out for a few weeks
Junior Erik Kohler was able to smile, but he wasn’t able to walk normally. The returning starting left guard was unable to practice on Tuesday and was instead hobbling around with a bulky brace that immobilized his injured right knee and would not allow it to bend.
Kohler suffered a dislocated knee cap in Monday’s practice. He went for an MRI as a precaution but the results were not back.
Still, Sarkisian admitted that Kohler likely won’t practice for a few weeks, but thought he would be ready for the Sept. 1 opener against San Diego State. His confidence comes from dealing with a similar situation at USC when Mark Sanchez suffered a similar injury on the first day of fall camp.
“It’s the exact same thing,” Sarkisian said. “He dislocated his knee cap in the first day of training camp. So the timetable realistically with him (Kohler) full go is probably more to a couple of weeks. We’ll probably work him back in, but he should be fine the first game. Mark played in the first game and he was great. We know what it is. Now it’s just a matter of how his body is going to respond.”
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