The Huskies will close spring drills Friday with a new "Friday Night Lights" theme, the game beginning at 6:30 p.m. instead of the usual Saturday afternoon.
The success of Washington’s new structure to its annual spring football game isn’t based so much on the game itself, but the 14 spring practices that come before it.
The Huskies will close spring drills Friday with a new “Friday Night Lights” theme, the game beginning at 6:30 p.m. instead of the usual Saturday afternoon.
The change is the result of coach Steve Sarkisian deciding to spread out spring practices over five weeks instead of four. With spring football not starting until the beginning of spring quarter, that meant that the spring game would have fallen on the same Saturday as the Windermere Cup and the opening day of boating season.
The school wanted to avoid that.
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“So the decision came to ‘do we move it to a Sunday or can we do something unique and different?’ ” Sarkisian said. “And when the thought came to doing a ‘Friday Night Lights’ theme and really getting our students involved and getting the community involved and making it interactive — we’ll have some fun events throughout the game to get the crowd involved in the game and some different contests — it just seemed to make sense.”
UW athletic director Scott Woodward said he isn’t anticipating that the event will draw much more than the 8,000-10,000 that has been the norm at the spring game in recent years, reiterating that the main reason for the move off Saturday was to not conflict with the Windermere Cup.
Sarkisian’s main reason for spreading out the spring over five weeks was to avoid back-to-back practices to lessen the risk of injury and also keep the team fresh so it could work longer and better when it did practice.
He said he thinks both goals have been accomplished as UW has not suffered a significant injury this spring.
“I’ve loved it,” he said. “I think we have been extremely healthy. We really haven’t lost guys this spring — had some things here and there — but for the most part we’ve been extremely healthy, been fresh in practice, practiced fast and physical, and our kids have been excited to practice. My one concern was stretching it over five weeks and drawing it out a little too long and maybe losing the interest of all the kids. But I thought our guys, even today (in practice), it came down to the last play and the defense won and you could see the excitement and intensity. So I think all in all it was a success.”
The team has remained healthy enough that Sarkisian said the Huskies will be able to play a game Friday. He hasn’t decided yet how the teams will be divided, but said there will be a Purple and a White team with 15-minute quarters with running clocks. There will be no live kickoffs or punts to prevent injury, but there will be field goals and PATs.
“I want to make sure it’s entertaining for our fans but that it’s competitive, and I want to give our kids the best opportunity to perform,” he said.
• The Huskies will practice Thursday at 4 p.m., which Sarkisian said will be helmets-only, and then close out the spring on Friday.
• Redshirt freshman Will Shamburger ran as the No. 1 free safety much of the day and after practice Sarkisian said “he’s probably our most improved player this spring; from day one through day 13 now he is really our most improved guy. He’s a very bright kid and he’s got great physical ability and is a very good athlete. He’s just making plays.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org