Pac-10 Preview: A New Coach Means a Fresh Start In Washington

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Pac-10 Preview: A New Coach Means a Fresh Start In Washington
(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Programs as prominent as the University of Washington's may fall from grace every once and a while, but never to the severity that the UW program has crippled to.

Changes were imminent following another disappointing season in Seattle. Tyrone Willingham was relieved of his duties as head coach and was replaced by USC's Steve Sarkisian.

With a new landscape under construction in the Northwest, here is a preview of the 2009 Washington Huskies.

 

Offense

Besides the addition of Steve Sarkisian to the staff, the greatest sigh of relief may have occurred when Jake Locker began taking snaps again at quarterback.

Simply put, the offense goes as Locker goes.

The junior quarterback will be critical to Sarkisian's overhaul of the offense this fall. Many know that Locker presents defenses with a dual threat at the position, but Sarkisian will be pushing for more of a pass first mentality.

This will allow the offense to reach its maximum potential while preventing any unwanted injuries to their star quarterback.

Finding weapons to spread the ball to may be a different story.

At running back, redshirt freshman Chris Polk will return to the backfield after his season was cut short due to injury.

Many believe Polk can not only be a great runner, but a receiving threat out of the backfield for the Huskies.

During the dominant years of Washington football, the offensive line was just as critical to that success as any skill player.

For the Huskies to turn it around and achieve any success on offense, expect the line to be key in protection of both Locker, Polk, and the rest of the backfield.

Young talent will flank the offense this fall, as true sophomores Kavario Middleton and Jermaine Kearse return as starters with a year under each of their belts. The Lakes High graduates showed flashes of talent last season.

Kearse provides Locker with great speed on the outside while Middleton presents himself as a large, sure-handed target at the tight end position.

Junior D'Andre Goodwin will play opposite of Kearse at receiver, bringing the most experience to the wide receiver group.

 

Defense

It is hard to argue the effort that the defensive unit put out each time it was on the field.

But that may be all you could argue.

The Huskies defense found themselves mismatched and severely under talented every Saturday in the Pac-10 last season.

It may be a never ending work in progress, but expect the Huskies defense to enter 2009 with a new attitude.

The front four may be the brightest spot on defense, as senior Daniel Te'o-Neseim returns at end. Te'o-Neseim totaled 16.5 sacks over the last two seasons in Seattle.

After sitting out last season due to academic issues, E.J. Savannah will return to his outside linebacker position, solidifying a veteran group.

Savannah was the leading tackler for the Huskies in 2007 after recording 111 tackles during that campaign.

The secondary will be a major concern for Washington.

Boasting only one upperclassman—junior safety Nate Williams—the Huskies will face an onslaught of aerial attacks from the pass-happy offenses in the conference this year.

 

Special Teams

True sophomores will handle the kicking duties this season. Erik Folk will be responsible for field goals and kickoffs, and Kiel Rasp will handle all of the punting duties to start the season.

After showing some stability as a punt returner, Devin Aguilar will return punts once again this season.

After hitting rock bottom and going winless during the 2008 season, the only place for the Washington Huskies to go is up.

A new coach will change the culture of losing almost immediately—especially when he is a coach from Southern California. A healthy roster can only help in the process as well.

Don't expect miracles from the 2009 Huskies, but you can expect to see a much improved team take the field in the fall. Four or five wins is not a stretch for this group.

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