The 2009 season was marked by great expectations for the University of Washington Huskies, and many believed that the season was a great success.
In the first article, I pinpointed 10 reasons why a Husky fan should be encouraged by the upcoming season. Now, I recall those reasons and see if they came to fruition.
(I rate each prediction from one to 10 based on how much each prediction factored into the 2009 season, one being completely untrue/never happened and 10 being completely true and a major factor in the season's outcome.)
1. Tyrone Willingham Is No Longer the Coach; The Sark Era Begins: Rating = 10
From early on in Steve Sarkisian’s tenure at the UW, it was apparent there was a new sheriff in town. Long gone are the days of closed practices and cryptic press conferences. Sarkisian brought energy and a straight-talking mentality to a program that desperately needed some mojo.
2. Returning Experience: Rating = 8
It never hurts to have a large contingent of veteran players to lead a team, but the fact of the matter is that this team was so under-coached last year that you could hardly call it experience. Nonetheless, key freshmen did see the field and accumulated valuable game experience.
Key returners included Chris Polk, Jake Locker (of course), Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Ryan Tolar, the LBs, Jason Wells, Nate Williams, and Senio Kelemete.
3. The Heart of the Defense Returns: Rating = 6
The defense struggled at times this year, but considering that they were bad in epic proportions during the Willingham era, there was improvement. The Huskies employed a “bend but not break” defense that surrendered a lot of yards but surprisingly held many opponents without touchdowns in the red zone.
Their strength was up the middle with their linebackers and strong safety. The return of Jason Wells at the end of the year made a huge difference in that they only surrendered 10 points total in the last two games.
4. Open Practices: Rating = 3
This aspect usually does not determine the success of a team, and thus I only rated it as a moderate to low factor to last season. Don James often closed practice, and he is the all-time leader in wins at the UW.
I think that it did play a part in reinforcing to the players that what they do on the field matters to many people and that they play for something more than themselves when they don the purple and gold.
5. Jake Locker: Rating = 10
Say what you will about the coaching abilities of Sarkisian, but there is no way the Huskies would win half their games if Ronnie Fouch were the starting quarterback. Jake is a once in a generation talent that can carry (literally in some cases ) a team to victory. Jake is the heart of this team and a huge part of why the 2009 season was a success.
6. Idaho: Rating = 4
A win over Idaho usually isn’t anything to write home about, but this year it ended a record-losing streak. Who knew at the time that it was a warm-up for an upset over some team from SoCal?
7. Willingham's Last Recruiting Class: Rating = 8
For all the guff that Willingham receives, he does deserve credit for finally recruiting some talent when his job was on the line. He learned that top recruits usually don’t hang around exclusive golf courses in Hawaii. But seriously, the talent in this class is going to lead this team for a few years, and the running of Chris Polk will be a marvel to watch.
8. Husky Buzz: Rating = 6
This factor was a bit of a mixed bag. The Husky nation, myself included, got a little drunk off the buzz from the upset over USC. I think this inflated the hopes of the fans and the egos of the players. This intoxication hurt the team a little bit, but a couple of humbling losses brought them back to earth.
Sarkisian and company did a great job of using the buzz they created around the program to encourage the team to finish strong. This team is now relevant again in the Pac-10, if for no other reason than the infectious buzz spreading like wildfire.
9. Turmoil Among the Rivals: Rating = 9
I would have given this a 10 had the LeGarrette Blount situation finished as expected, but you've got to give Chip Kelly a lot a credit for righting that ship and winning the Pac-10. Outside of that, the prediction was spot-on. WSU was a total train wreck like everyone expected, and the loss of Sarkisian and Nick Holt at USC may have hurt them more than they would like to admit.
10. There Is Only One Way to Go from Here: Rating = 10
I will be the first one to admit that this one was a bit of a cop-out because just the wins over WSU and Idaho would have been an improvement over the previous season. But the 2009 team was not satisfied with slight improvement; they wanted more, and they got it.
This team not only exceeded expectations—it made one of the greatest single-season improvements in Pac-10 history. Not bad for a rookie head coach.
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