The 2009 season was the beginning of a new era for not only the Washington Huskies , but also for Head Coach Steve Sarkisian .
This is his first job running his own program, and throughout the year we did see some bumps along the road. Bumps on the road both figuratively, and literally, as Washington was winless away from Seattle.
We did, however, see a ton of improvement on both sides of the ball. From the opening game Washington proved that last season’s 0-12 record was in the past, and that this was a new season. After an offseason trying to bring back a winning culture to a downtrodden program, Sarkisian and his staff had the players believing in themselves.
While being only one game away from bowl eligibility, the stated goal for all in the program, it was a positive year in retrospect, and one that could lead to much bigger and better things as we move forward.
Although Sarkisian was a rookie head coach, he had a staff full of people with experience and that he was very familiar with. He lured away former USC Defensive Coordinator Nick Holt so, in theory, he could run the offense as the coordinator like he is used to, and let Holt basically man the defense.
Like all coaches going through their first season as the head man, there were some bumps in the road.
You could tell in some situations where Sarkisian wanted to go for it in a close situation, but had to step back and look at the overall picture instead of just from an OC standpoint.
The year started out looking very promising as they Huskies played visiting Louisiana State very well, and had an upset of the USC Trojans. From there, the bumps in the road began.
A couple of close losses and arguable play calling/decisions made some Washington fans wonder how well Sarkisian could handle the job as the head man.
With the improvement we saw by the end of the year, it is clear, it was a young coaching staff with young players learning as they go.
It all came together during the last two weeks of the season. Locker and his core of playmaking young wide receivers and outstanding running back looked unstoppable on offense, and Holt’s defense started to show a style of aggression that Husky fans have been yearning for since the days of Jim Lambright.
If this was based off of potential for next year, and how the last two weeks played out, the coaching staff would get an A.
With all things considered, this coaching staff had a good, not great, first year, and we should look forward to watching the staff and team grow together. We could very well be watching the beginning of something very special!
Quarterbacks = B+
The most frustrating part of the middle of the season for fans was watching Jake Locker's indecision when it came to running or buying more time in the pocket.
While everyone was firmly behind Locker’s improvement as a pocket passer early on, as the season progressed and Locker would not take advantage of open field, there were cries from the fanbase to let Jake run.
By the end of the year it all came together. It was frustrating to watch, but so often development of a player can be.
While it had to be hard to resist the urge to let Locker run free, Sarkisian and his staff was patient and knew it was best for the offense to have him develop as a passer.
Once he was able to resist the urge to run first, it was time to turn on the green light to run and we all saw the result against California.
It can be argued we shouldn’t have waited until that late of the season, but the end result is hard to argue with. Sarkisian has taken an exceptional athlete and made him a top NFL quarterback prospect. A lot of that is becausre of Locker's natural ability, but there is no question Sarkisian's coaching has greatly increased his stock as quarterback.
Chris Polk provided a record breaking season on the ground for Washington this year, and was one of the many bright spots on the offense.
Polk was consistent through the entire year, and even though the coaching staff spoke of a stable of running backs, Polk took the job and never gave it back.
A redshirt freshman, Polk has three years of eligibility remaining and it will be exciting to watch this young back build off his 1,000 yard performance this year. There is the depth behind him to push him, so we should expect no drop off going forward.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends=A
There were a lot of bright spots this year for the offense, but there is no forgetting the development of the wide receiving core for the Huskies. All of the main contributors were either freshman or sophomores, and grew exponentially as the season progressed.
Lead by Jermaine Kearse and his 866 yards this young group is full of playmakers. The receiving core is full of playmakers as even tight end Kavario Middleton was special as a pass catcher coming in fourth on the team in receptions.
As quarterback Jake Locker put it all together, these wide receivers responded in kind, and considering the youth, it is hard not to get excited about this groups performance this year.
One of the biggest question marks coming into the season was on the offensive line. The line has been much maligned over the last few years, and not without some reasoning.
This season the Huskies had only one senior starting, and a lot of younger players providing depth.
There were certainly frustrations this year. The goal line stand where Notre Dame held the Huskies out of the end zone comes immediately to mind. This line did start to come into its own a bit more as the season progressed.
While still not one of the top lines in the league, this group made solid strides to becoming a much more effective group moving forward.
Overall Offensive Grade=B
Overall the offense was good enough to stay in striking distance in all but two games. With improvement in all areas, this offense is a solid offensive line away from becoming a scarily effective offense.
As the line came together throughout the season, we started to see this more and more. There were a few tough games that keeps the grade from being higher, but overall a much better year than most expected going in.
If everyone returns next year, this means you Locker, this could be one of the most potent offenses in the PAC-10 next year.