Washington Huskies' Steve Sarkisian Is Early Contender for Coach of the Year

Ian PetersonCorrespondent IOctober 14, 2009

SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 19:  Head coach Steve Sarkisian of the Washington Huskies watches the action during the game against the USC Trojans on September 19, 2009 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. The Huskies defeated the Trojans 16-13. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

It's the halfway point of the season and a good time to start looking at the progress being made by programs around the country. 

One of the most surprising statistics is that the Washington Huskies are sitting at 3-3 at the midway point, and look like a good value.

A lot of credit has to go to head coach Steve Sarkisian and the belief he has bred into the program. He brought in an excellent coaching staff and changed the work ethic of the entire conditioning program.

He also brought new offensive schemes and a top-notch defensive coordinator in USC's Nick Holt. 

At the end of the day, though, a lot of us wondered if that would be enough to overcome a perception of abysmal talent level. The team had gone 0-12 last year and didn't even look competitive doing it. 

A competitive outing against LSU was lauded as a moral victory, but it wasn't until the win against USC that believers were made out of the fans.

The team followed that win with a pitiful performance against Stanford and a heartbreaking overtime loss to Notre Dame.

However, following the wild win against Arizona on Saturday, the Huskies have crawled halfway to a bowl game with winnable games still left on the schedule.

It would be an unprecedented event if Sarkisian steers the Huskies to a bowl game, for reasons that should be painfully obvious. 

Jeff Tedford owns the record for turnarounds in the the Pac-10, steering a 1-10 Cal Bears team to a 7-5 record in his first season. Sarkisian would tie that record if he makes it to bowl eligibility at 6-6.

However, Tedford didn't go to a bowl game in his first season, and that is a mark that Sarkisian is sure to be shooting for.

Records like that aside, Sarkisian has done a masterful thing just to pick these players up from last season.

Jake Locker is playing probably the best football of his life, and could be a top-10 draft pick in the next NFL draft. The offense is fifth in the nation in converting third downs. The defense has bent but hasn't broken often, yielding touchdowns only a third of the time in the red zone.

For once in a long while, it's okay to be a Husky fan in Seattle. No more need to hide in shame from the abysmal Saturday performances. Instead of laughing because the only other choice is crying, fans are starting to cheer again.

If there was a Coach of the Year given halfway through, there is no doubt that Sarkisian would be one of the leading contenders.

You just have to look at how the team played last year and how they have played this year for your proof.