In reviewing the 2009 results for the Washington Huskies football team, two things stand out: They scored an average of 26 points per game, and they also gave up 26 per game. If you remove the fantastic Apple Cup results, they gave up 29 points a game. In contrast, USC, Arizona, and UCLA gave up less than 22 per game.
With Locker, Polk, Kearse, Aguilar, and James Johnson all returning for a second year under Sark, the offense looks to be in good hands for another run. If the Dawgs can improve their scoring defense on top of that, the impact on their overall record could be significant.
After graduating 25 percent of their defensive players last year, the Huskies defense clearly needs to reload. Not all of those seniors were starters, but three of their top 10 solo tacklers—Donald Butler, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, and EJ Savannah—will be missed.
Every departure from the team creates an opportunity for someone to become not just a starter, but to make their mark. Players like Mason Foster and Cort Dennison will get a chance to collect some of Butler’s 72 tackles and potentially be at next year’s NFL combine. A player like Alameda Ta’amu can work hard and fill in Te’o-Nesheim’s shoes.
The remainder of the Huskies defense will go through their second year under Nick Holt, and if the improvements he made last year can be even partially replicated, the unit should improve significantly. As every player learns his role and gets game time to reinforce the coaching, the team will strengthen even further.
When re-building a program, the first step is in coaching, and the second is in recruiting. Sark has done a great job in his first year with 16 defensive recruits. For the long term, the vast majority of them should redshirt, a luxury that good programs have, which the Huskies have not enjoyed of late. However, in this class, there are three players who could add some depth to this year’s team.
Victor Burnett and Cooper Pelluer bring solid experience from high school and have potential to crack the starting lineup. In addition, Gregory Ducre could see playing time and may well learn a lot from the two battle-scarred sophomores—Long and Trufant.
The 2010 Huskies have a tough schedule, and to survive it, the defense will need to improve. They’re positioned well with a significant number of starters returning. They also have talent in the wings to drive them forward. The first year of the Huskies' rebuilding depended on Sark and his ability to change the culture. The second year will depend on Nick Holt’s ability to mold the defense into a championship one.