It’s just the first week of March but the Washington Huskies head football coach is already thinking about the last day in August. That’s when Steve Sarkisian’s squad christens a brand spanking new Husky Stadium against Boise State. It also launches the 5th, and arguably the most important season of “Sark’s” tenure. Expectations have never been greater.
Gone are all of Tyrone Willingham’s players. Sarkisian has assembled a solid coaching staff, returns 18 starters from last season, and has depth at most positions. While his UW teams have won more games than they’ve lost, finishing in the middle of the Pac-12, and going to mediocre bowl games is not good enough any more.
Losing the Apple Cup to the Cougs, and Las Vegas Bowl to Boise State left a sour taste in the Dawgs mouths according to Sarkisian.
“I don’t think that taste is going to go anywhere for awhile, which is ok,” admitted Sarkisian. “If we would have won those last two games and finished 9 and 4, I don’t know what January and February would have been like around here for us as a football team. We might have still been hungry, I would like to think that. What I do know is there is zero complacency in our locker room right now.”
Washington played competitive football in its temporary home CenturyLink Field last season. They were good enough to upset Stanford and Oregon State, and hang with USC.
On the road, an entirely different story, with mistakes galore and lopsided defeats. Sarkisian is changing spring practice times to early mornings and late nights to try and shake his players out of their comfort zone. The offense will use more “no-huddle” to increase tempo, and prepare the Husky defense for teams like Oregon and Arizona.
More important, Sark will get back to doing what he does best; coming up with creative pass plays and utilizing the talents of a senior quarterback, All American tight end, and three experienced receivers. Marques Tuiasosopo will work directly with Keith Price and the other quarterbacks. Eric Kiesau will concentrate on wide receivers.
Getting Keith Price to play free and happy like he did two years ago is a priority. While Price gets the starting job in spring drills, Sarkisian made it clear Cyler Miles and Jeff Lindquist will get plenty of snaps to both improve, and push Price.
While Price was the victim of an injury-plagued, inexperienced offensive line, some of the sacks, hits, and mistakes were solely on the quarterback. Sarkisian has challenged Price to get stronger and quicker so he avoids going down with a one-armed tackle.
Sarkisian wants more leadership and impact plays from his defensive stars Sean Parker, Shaq Thompson and Josh Shirley. Marcus Peters must develop into a lock-down corner to replace the graduated Desmond Trufant.
Washington’s 2013 home opener is about six months away. The crucial work for a break through season is right now, and Sarkisian is keenly aware.
“We know what August 31st is when we play Boise. We know how big that day is going to be, not only for us, but for our community and our university. We have a journey that’s starting March 5th to get us to that point, and we cant’ get caught staring at that date and letting a day go by where we’re not getting better.”
-Bill Swartz, 1090 The Fan