Washington Huskies: Can Nick Holt Bring Back the Purple Reign Defense?

Todd WilliamsCorrespondent INovember 15, 2009

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 03: Desmond Trufant #6 of the Washington Huskies breaks up a pass intended for Kyle Rudolph #9 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish as teammate Justin Glenn #20 also defends on October 3, 2009 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

For a program which made a name for itself with a stifling defense, Washington has become a team that opposing offenses love to face. It has been the biggest frustration during this down period for the Washington Huskies; watching their defense struggle so much.

Going into 2009, Washington spent a lot of money to lure away defensive coordinator Nick Holt from the USC Trojans. An intense guy, who wears his emotions on his sleeve, seemed to be exactly what the Washington defense needed to reclaim its glory.

Has he really made a difference for Huskies though?

Obviously, it is too early to be making any sort of final judgment on him as a coordinator. It is interesting to look and see how his unit has fared when compared to recent Husky teams.

Comparing to 2008 is pointless, considering that was a team that flat gave up on their coaching staff, so 2007 is a more apt comparison when looking for any sort of improvement.

Before looking at the numbers, it is also important to consider how USC has done this year without him. It is no secret that Pete Carroll is a defensive guy, and in theory is really the defensive coordinator for that squad.

There have been losses to leaders on defense, especially in the line backing crew for USC, but even that considered they have twice given up more points than had previously been done during Carroll’s reign in L.A.

That isn’t to say the drop off is a direct result of losing Holt, but there can be an argument that perhaps Carroll was leaning on Holt more than people thought, while he managed the overall program.

I have no doubt Carroll was and still is the most important part of their Defense, but Holt might have deserved a little more respect than he got from a lot of USC fans.

With all that said, the numbers are not pretty when it comes to looking for improvement from 2007 to 2009. Through 10 games the 2007 squad gave up 441 yards per game, and had 37 touchdowns scored against them.

When compared to this year through 10 games, which has yielded 421 yards per game, and given up 35 touchdowns.

For all his passion and intensity, it appears that Holt’s defensive is eerily similar to the Washington defense of 2007. Both ranking in the 100’s for overall defensive in Division 1 football.

Stats don’t always tell the whole story. Going into this game there was a six touchdown differential between the two teams, and a blow out in Corvallis today evened up the numbers a bit.

What Holt has done with this defensive is an extreme bend but not absolutely bust style, which has kept most of the games within reach. Untimely turnovers and short fields have greatly affected the performance of the defense, and the unit played stronger at the beginning of the year.

What does that mean? It could mean a lot of things. Holt could be having trouble adjusting his schemes to the personnel on the field, as in he doesn’t have near the athletes he had at USC to attack with, and the defense is noticeably softer.

The question is should he be able to do more, or is it just a matter of young players and lack of depth?

That question will be answered when he has more time to get his players into the squad, and build a little bit of depth. At this point it doesn’t seem like any coordinator has been able to get a stellar performance out of that defense lately, but the fact that they have been keeping the team within striking distance for most games is a sign of improvement.

As highly paid as he is, we should see a larger improvement next year. It is hard to expect anyone to turn around a defense that has been as porous as Washington’s has the last several years.

I’m not willing to throw him under the bus for this year, as the offense, while not terrible in terms of yardage, does struggle mightily in the red zone.

This team has been in position to win games, and have simply not finished. That is the difference between a 6-4 team and the 3-7 team UW is.

Holt has not lit the world on fire as D-Coordinator, but like Sarkisian he deserves a second year to adjust and get his guys in there. It hasn’t been pretty watching the growing pains for Huskies fans, but there has been improvement.

A program does not go from five losing seasons in a row to a perennial bowl team in one year’s time. We all want to see the purple reign defense return, and while Holt hasn’t shown he is bringing it back, he hasn’t proven that he can’t do it yet either.

It is hard to hear after five years of being sub par, but we need to have patience with this coaching staff. Just not as much patience as was given to Willingham.