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Originally published Monday, August 9, 2010 at 9:15 PM

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Optimism runs high as Huskies open fall practice

After going from 0-12 to 5-7, some Huskies believe sky is limit this season, the second under coach Steve Sarkisian.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Latest from the Husky Football & Basketball blogs

The first practice of the second season for Washington coach Steve Sarkisian opened at Husky Stadium on Monday with increased comfort and renewed optimism.

"It's easy to say it was a much better practice this year than last year, if we had to compare," said UW coach Steve Sarkisian, citing the faster speed at which his players were able to function due to a better knowledge of the system.

And after taking the initial step a year ago from the basement to respectability (UW went 0-12 in 2008 improving to 5-7 last season), some players think the sky is now the limit.

"I don't have any individual goals," said sophomore running back Chris Polk, who a year ago rushed for 1,113 yards. "The only goal I have is the Rose Bowl. That's what we're focusing on. We've just got to keep pushing and go out there and make each other better.

"If we do our job, then it should be pretty realistic. The only people that can stop us is us, so we've got to stay focused and not become complacent."

There were few apparent glitches on the first day as everyone who was expected to participate did so. That included 23 true freshmen who make up the rest of the Class of 2010, notably defensive end Josh Shirley, who originally signed with UCLA before being dismissed after being arrested on suspicion of theft. That number also included seven offensive linemen, giving the team depth at that position it hasn't had in years.

"All in all I was very impressed with this group," Sarkisian said. "From the skill guys to the big guys, I thought they competed extremely well. They made plays. They made mistakes, but I think before I look at the film, I think they learned from them. They understood what we were trying to do and it's a very athletic-looking group. All in all, if I can make one quick assessment after this practice — if they can't help us on offense and defense, they surely are going to help us on special teams. These guys are an athletic group of kids."

2011 Apple Cup

at Qwest Field?

In his first public comments since the Friday announcement that the school has settled on Wright Runstad & Company as the developer for a renovation of Husky Stadium, UW athletic director Scott Woodward floated the possibility that the 2011 Apple Cup could be played at Qwest Field. UW's statement on Friday said that construction will begin after the 2011 season. But Woodward said that if it makes sense to start earlier, the school could move up the timeline a few weeks and play the final game of the 2011 season — the Apple Cup, currently set for Nov. 19 — at Qwest.

"If we can save a bunch of dough, we might do it," he said.

UW has only one home game scheduled for after October in 2011. However, Woodward noted that the pending expansion of the conference could change schedules and complicate things. He also said that if construction lasts into fall 2013, UW could delay moving into its new stadium and play a game or two in 2013 at Qwest.

The tentative price of the renovation is $250 million — all details likely won't be official until December, when a final agreement with the developer is signed. He said UW might again try to get some public money but is prepared to pay for it all privately.

Asked how, Woodward said: "It's been the same thing all along — it will be a three-pronged approach of philanthropic donations, premium seating and from our current season ticket holders and Tyee (Club members). Prices will obviously go up."

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