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Sarkisian, Huskies begin spring practice today

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Defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim answers questions at a press conference yesterday. Head football coach Steve Sarkisian and select players answered questions on the eve of the team’s first spring practice.

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Steve Sarkisian answers questions on how he will conduct his first practices as Washington's head football coach. Sarkisian said that he wants practices to be as competitive as possible at all times.

Before he even said a word at Monday’s spring football introductory press conference, UW head coach Steve Sarkisian had already made it clear that things have changed drastically from the military-strict Tyrone Willingham era.

Sarkisian wore a purple Husky windbreaker and jeans — a loose, casual appearance that would have been out of place on Willingham.

Daniel Te’o Nesheim, UW’s standout defensive end, said that chief among the differences from last season during such a media gathering was, “I’m not wearing a polo.”

But don’t expect Sarkisian’s practices to be as lax as his dress code.

Daily team competitions will highlight the Huskies’ 15-day spring practice schedule, which begins today and ends with the annual spring game April 25.

And Sarkisian’s competitive streak may be the starkest change to UW’s spring sessions, as he said he’ll keep a running score between the offense and the defense, mixing in different themes on each day to foster an environment as competitive as the one on game days.

“I’m a very competitive guy,” Sarkisian said. “We keep score every day. There’s going to be a winner or a loser every day.”

Last season, Washington recorded the worst record in school history, going 0-12 in what ended up being Willingham’s fourth and final season at the helm.

But Sarkisian hopes to turn his players into competitors, using themes such as “No Turnover Wednesday” and “Competition Tuesday” to mold a downtrodden program into the energetic, smack-talking squad that Husky fans have long envisioned.

Sarkisian emphasized that this season will be a clean slate for all players returning from last year’s awful showing.

“I haven’t put that much credence into last year,” Sarkisian said. “I looked at a kid to look at a talent level. I looked at a kid to find maybe a little bit about his character. For me to look at the Cal game [UW’s season finale] and gauge a kid’s work ethic or competitive nature, that’s not fair to that kid.”

So the Huskies will begin spring practice with no depth chart, no starters named and no idea who is going to finish the spring with their identity forged.

Sarkisian said that Senio Kelemete will move from defensive tackle to the offensive line in an attempt to add athleticism at that position. Sarkisian has lamented the UW’s lack of quickness on the offensive line but said that the offensive front has lost a combined total of more than 200 pounds during offseason conditioning drills.

Other than that, Sarkisian announced no real position changes, besides that Curtis Shaw will likely play running back and spend some time split out as well, and Chris Polk will again be a tailback. Polk is not expected to be limited by his offseason shoulder surgery, and Sarkisian said he’s good to go for the spring. Linebacker E.J. Savannah is back after sitting out last season due to unresolved and undisclosed issues with the former coaching staff.

But even if none of the personnel issues have been ironed out, Sarkisian’s message will not change.

“You bring it day in and day out,” Sarkisian said. “You compete down in and down out. You don’t get to take downs off. We can get to that mentality as a football team; that it doesn’t matter the drill, it doesn’t matter what uniform we’re wearing, it doesn’t matter who we’re playing against.”

Reach sports editor Christian Caple at sports@dailyuw.com.

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