He knows he'll likely experience a few pangs of nostalgia when he walks into LaVell Edwards Stadium Friday for a walk-through before Saturday's game, the first time he'll have been back since shortly after his career ended in 1996. But he's also taking the expected position that his return is more about the Huskies winning...

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Steve Sarkisian knows he’ll likely experience a few pangs of nostalgia when he walks into BYU’s LaVell Edwards Stadium on Friday for a walk-through before Saturday’s season opener. It will be the first time the Washington football coach has returned to his alma mater since shortly after his career ended in 1996.

But he’s also taking the expected position that his return is more about the Huskies winning a game and getting a 2010 season laden with high expectations off on the right foot.

“I think it will be a unique experience for me and I’m sure Friday afternoon at our walk-through I’m going to take it in a little bit,” Sarkisian said. “But at the end of the day we are going to go play the game.”

Sarkisian has another reaction to his return, perhaps the only one someone in his position could have.

“I don’t want to say it’s not a big deal, but I don’t want to say it is a big deal,” he said.

Sarkisian arrived at Brigham Young in time for spring ball in 1995 as a transfer from El Camino (Calif.) Junior College, after also spending one year at USC playing baseball. He played two seasons as BYU’s starting QB, then was gone shortly after leading the Cougars to a win in the 1997 Cotton Bowl.

He hasn’t been back since — unable to make a reunion a few years ago for the 1996 team — first pursuing a pro football career, then getting into coaching.

And as Edwards said in an interview with The Seattle Times when Sarkisian got the UW job: “He was only there for two years, so he wasn’t in the program long enough to where you really got a chance to know everything about him.”

Sarkisian’s made it clear that attending BYU was as much a pragmatic decision as anything else. He isn’t Mormon (his family is Catholic), and had no ties to the school. But as a JC transfer with just two years left, Sarkisian said, “I just wanted to get into an environment where football was important and education was important because I had two years to get two things done. I wasn’t there to have a good time or have the college experience. I was there to win games and get a degree.”

He had offers from schools like Washington State (where he would have competed with Ryan Leaf), San Diego State and Kansas State. But he wanted a team that would throw the ball. And he also had some inside knowledge that BYU would need some immediate help at QB. He was friends with the team’s starter at the time, John Walsh, and knew that Walsh planned to leave early for the NFL.

Arriving in time for the spring helped him win the job in ’95, and as a senior he led the nation in passing efficiency and led BYU to its only win in a New Year’s Day bowl, the victory in the Cotton Bowl over Kansas State.

Sarkisian’s return helped entice BYU to hold a QB reunion this week. Sarkisian will be one of eight former BYU quarterbacks honored, including Jim McMahon, Steve Young, Marc Wilson and Ty Detmer. Sarkisian has joked that he’ll only attend the halftime ceremony if UW is ahead (and he also joked at the Raise the Woof celebration Friday that he’ll only go if UW is up by 21).

Sarkisian was a rare JC transfer quarterback, and BYU radio play-by-play man Greg Wrubell said in a live chat with the Times that his short tenure leaves him “just a notch below other BYU greats in terms of iconic status.”

Wrubell, though, predicted Sarkisian will be greeted warmly.

“BYU supporters love their great QBs and Sark was one of those,” he said.

In fact, BYU’s 14-1 record in 1996 is a school record for wins, the only loss coming in Seattle against the Huskies.

“BYU is a special place to me,” Sarkisian said. “I’ve got tremendous memories. We won a lot of football games, had big wins, and there were great experiences and I made tremendous friendships. But that was a long time ago.”

NOTES

• The Huskies have reportedly received a commitment from cornerback Joel Willis of Pacifica High in Garden Grove, Calif. He would be the 18th commitment for the Class of 2011.

• The first official depth chart of the fall revealed a couple of minor surprises. Notably, senior Greg Christine will start at right guard, where sophomore Mykenna Ikehara ended the spring as the starter. Christine has recovered fully from a leg injury suffered against Arizona, and was a starter before being sidelined. Also, sophomore Nate Fellner will start at free safety ahead of Will Shamburger, though both will play substantially. Officially, Sarkisian left unclear the backup QB job, listing both Keith Price and Nick Montana. However, conventional wisdom is that Price is likely to be the backup if one is needed.

• Sarkisian said the only two players on the roster out with injury are RB Deontae Cooper (sidelined for the season with an ACL tear suffered early in camp) and backup MLB Brandon Huppert (who has had a setback in his recovery from knee surgery last fall).

• There were 12 true freshmen listed on the two-deep, and Sarkisian said all could play this season. One surprise is Cooper Pelluer of Skyline, listed as a backup outside linebacker. He was a late addition to UW’s Class of 2010 but has impressed with his play in camp. Touted defensive end Josh Shirley is not on the two deep, but Sarkisian said he and a few other freshmen not listed on the two-deep could still play as 76 will make the trip.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com.