Washington Huskies, 2010 Pac-10 Champs: Five Reasons Why it Will Happen
The 2000s have not been kind to the Huskies. 2000 started out well with Washington capturing its seventh Rose Bowl trophy.
What followed sent a massive fan base into hiding, and a program suffered their first winless season.
It wasn't just a single disappointing season, as Washington has gone 38-70 since that Rose Bowl victory.
Last year was an improvement in terms of wins, but the most encouraging factor was the intensity the guys played with. They were starting to regain that old swagger, which said to opponents, "win or lose you WILL respect us."
Still, even with so much of the offense returning, and two solid recruiting classes to build depth, it seems a bit premature to say the Huskies have a shot at the Pac-10 title. It is a reach on paper, but here are five reasons why these Dawgs might just surprise you on the field.
One of the most hyped recruits to set foot on campus at Montlake, Locker was instantly anointed the program saver.
Unfortunately for him, and Husky fans, the previous coaching regime was satisfied with letting Locker use his natural running abilities to run for his life, and not focus much on the throwing part of being a quarterback.
In retrospect, you can that was the offenses only hope, as we got a glimpse of in '08 when he went down, but that is even more reason to broaden his game to keep him healthy.
Until the end of the '09 season, Locker appeared to be what he had been since he stepped on campus, an amazing physical specimen who was a better running than a passer.
Sarkisian got a hold of him and by the end of the season he was looking like one of the most potent dual threat QBs in the country.
With another offseason in Sarkisian's program, and an offense returning a lot of talent that was just starting to gel, and this looks like a team that could make a deep run in the Pac-10 behind their experienced senior quarterback.
Until USC's recent run, this was the recipe for a Pac-10 championship squad for many years. If Locker is on his game, it isn't hard to envision him leading his Huskies to some high scoring games.
The Running Game
For years Washington was known for their strong running game. When Rick Neuheisel took over, the focus turned to passing the ball. Part of it was depth at wide receiver, and lack of depth at the offensive line, but it was a philosophy issue too.
Since Rick left both Gilbertson and Willingham made efforts to rejuvenate the running game, but to minimal success. Assisted by Locker's running ability, Willingham did produce one thousand yard rusher in his coaching tenor in Washington.
Sarkisian is known as a coach that likes to throw the ball, a former quarterback himself, but he understands that balance makes the offense most effective. Even with Locker not being utilized as a running threat, red-shirt freshman Chris Polk provided over 1,000 yards on the ground.
With just Polk returning the running game would look in better shape than it has in some time, but with the depth building up behind him there are the pieces to be a truly dominate running game.
Polk was out for the spring allowing true freshman Deontae Cooper and returning running back Johri Fogerson to show they deserve some carries.
With depth behind Polk creating healthy competition, and a dual threat Quarterback, this running attack will be potent in 2010.
With a capable quarterback throwing to them this young wide receiving core showed a ton of promise last season. Jermaine Kearse led the group with 866 yards and eight touchdowns. Devin Augular contributed 593 with five touchdowns, and James Johnson had 422 with three touchdowns.
All of those young men are returning as well as Kavario Middleton at tight end. As we saw towards the end of the year, this group is capable of big plays and scoring touchdowns.
Considering the threat of a running game again, and the continuity of the same group returning with a Heisman candidate throwing the ball them, expect big things.
Steve Sarkisian knew when he came to Washington that there was championship potential in Seattle. It had been done before, and the Huskies have won 11 Pac-10 championships since 1959.
Sarkisian knows how to win in this conference, with his time on the USC staff he got to participate in a program that has dominated recently. Changing the culture of the program to one that felt they could play with anybody was a large part of his job in season one, and this was accomplished.
Having won another game or two and making a bowl would have set up for a run at the Pac-10 title look a bit better on paper, but you know the guys in the purple and gold jerseys believe they can do it. That is something this program has not had for many years.
At one point over 70k plus would fill Husky Stadium annually providing one of the loudest home field advantages in the country.
One might be easily fooled by the picturesque setting of the stadium, but the crowd provides some bark to the players bite, having been recorded at over 130db at a night game against Nebraska during the '90s.
Alas, the 2000s have been nothing like the '90s for Washington, and the crowd has reflected that. Sarkisian has provided a spark to the fan base, and with a big game against Nebraska in the OOC schedule early in the year, it is not hard to image the stadium filling up rather quickly by the time Pac-10 play rolls around.
How this will help the Huskies win the Pac-10, and not just make a bowl, is arguable considering they need to travel to Oregon and Southern California to play two of the conference heavyweights, having Husky Stadium returning to form may just help in those games that the Huskies SHOULD win, but have let slip away during this previous decade.