Lots of mixing as Washington spring ball ends

April 30, 2010


SEATTLE -- Sophomore Daniel Kanczugowski might best define what Steve Sarkisian tried to accomplish during his second season of spring practices at Washington.

A walk-on who wasn't really on the radar, Kanczugowski has spent the latter part of the Huskies' 15 spring practices working with the starters on the offensive line in place of an injured teammate.

Kanczugowski highlights the mixing and matching Sarkisian and his staff have done with the Huskies roster this spring, a five-week session that concludes Friday night with the annual spring game. With a number of players out due to injuries and some contributors not arriving until fall camp opens, the Huskies have tried some different looks this month.

The result, Sarkisian hopes, is more flexibility with how his players can be used by the time Sept. 4 arrives and the Huskies open their season at Brigham Young.

'Like I've said, the competition is on. It's not about what you did before, it's not about a guy getting anointed,' Sarkisian said. 'You are going to earn your way on this team.'

A year ago, the Huskies were in their infancy of learning Sarkisian's new system coming off an 0-12 2008 season and the dismissal of former coach Tyrone Willingham. Spring 2009 was a time of instruction and installation of the foundation that helped Washington rebound to a 5-7 campaign that could have ended in a bowl game if not for late collapses at Notre Dame, Arizona State and UCLA.

Fast-forward 12 months and Sarkisian's staff can get away with tinkering because most key contributors have the baseline knowledge they lacked a year ago. That's why Kanczugowski is seeing time with the No. 1 offense while starting right tackle Cody Habben misses time with injury.

'I never thought I'd be getting a shot to play,' Kanczugowski said. 'All I can say is I'm just happy to be running around and getting reps.'

One area where Sarkisian doesn't need to tinker is quarterback. Jake Locker hasn't once questioned his decision to bypass the NFL and remain in school for his senior season.

His performance during spring practices has displayed an increased grasp of the Huskies playbook and improved touch on deep throws.

Who ends up being Locker's backup is one of the questions that won't be solved until the fall, but will get attention Friday. Redshirt freshman Keith Price has the advantage already with a year in Sarkisian's system, but he is being pushed by true freshman Nick Montana.

Also expected to be featured is freshman running back Deontae Cooper. With starter Chris Polk recovering from shoulder surgery, Cooper has looked impressive in scrimmages leading into the spring game.

'I want to see our kids play and play free, fun, physical football and play fast. Not play concerned. I want to see them just go out and play ball in the absence of fear and not be concerned about making a mistake and have fun playing football,' Sarkisian said. 'They get to be in Husky Stadium on a Friday night and hopefully we get a great crowd out here.'

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