Huskies eager to get started vs. San Diego St.

Last season’s opener was considered a lock for Washington

against lower-division Eastern Washington.

Then it took an end zone interception from cornerback Desmond

Trufant in the final moments to preserve Washington’s 30-27 win,

allowing everyone to escape with a reduced heart rate.

It was also Keith Price’s debut as the starting quarterback –

the beginning of what turned out to be a record-setting season.

This Saturday’s season opener against San Diego State and its

tricky defense will present the first challenge for a Washington

program hoping to get to its third consecutive bowl game.

”You can feel the eagerness from everybody,” sophomore wide

receiver Kasen Williams said.

Much of the offense’s excitement should be dedicated to watching

tape. The Aztecs use a 3-3-5 defense earmarked by multiple shifts

up front meant to confuse and hurry a quarterback. San Diego State

was plus-12 in turnover margin last season when it went 8-5 and

made an appearance in the New Orleans Bowl.

”From an identification standpoint, they can be challenging,”

Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian said. ”You can’t worry about

the numbers. They’ve got guys moving around, playing different

spots. A guy might be free safety one snap, the next snap he’s

blitzing off the edge. They can cause some hesitation for you. They

can create errant throws and in turn create turnovers.”

An important element to slowing San Diego State’s rush will be

Washington’s new co-starters at running back. Jesse Callier and

Bishop Sankey will alternate series in the backfield as the Huskies

try to replace record-setting back Chris Polk, who declared for the

NFL draft following his junior season. Polk has the most carries in

Washington history.

”I wouldn’t say pressure; I would say opportunity,” Callier

said of replacing Polk. ”How many carries I get, I’ll make the

best of them.”

The Aztecs will also be trying to baffle a revamped offensive

line and two freshman receivers. Washington’s first depth chart has

three sophomores – Micah Hatchie at left tackle, Colin Tanigawa at

left guard, and Ben Riva at right tackle – among the starters. Only

Tanigawa started multiple times last season.

Two Huskies youngsters will be split out wide, as well as

freshmen Jaydon Mickens and Kendyl Taylor atop the wide receiver

depth chart with Williams.

”I always tell them, if you don’t understand something, just

tell me,” Price said. ”Once they get hit, banged around a couple

times, they’ll wake up.”

Saturday will also be the first opportunity for the Huskies

defense to create a new impression than their last, when they gave

up 67 points to Baylor in the Alamo Bowl. Former Oregon State

quarterback Ryan Katz transferred to San Diego State and will start

Saturday. The Aztecs like to take deep shots in their pro-style

offense and are likely to do so against an unproven defense.

”I think the reality of it is, I think they want to play well.

I don’t know if it’s about proving anybody wrong or right,”

Sarkisian said.

Junior transfer Tre Watson is on top of the depth chart at

corner opposite senior Desmond Trufant. New Washington defensive

coordinator Justin Wilcox has changed the Huskies’ scheme, allowing

speedy talents like Josh Shirley and touted freshman Shaq Thompson

room to roam.

Most of Washington’s injury issues headed into the opener rest

on the defensive side. Defensive end Hau’oli Jamora will have

surgery Thursday on the same knee he injured last season, which

caused him to miss the rest of the season after four games.

Sarkisian would not commit to a timeframe for Jamora’s return.

Linebackers Nate Fellner, Cooper Pelluer and Jamaal Kearse are

all out Saturday.