Week Two for the Washington Husky Football Camp is just about done. Coach Sarkisian has been making a lot of positive remarks about the state of the team this year as opposed to last year. Practices have been getting more intense and the returning players are able to move faster based on their knowledge of the system. Below are a few thoughts on what we've seen so far.
Strength of the Team
Last year, both Sarkisian and Holt made comments around the conditioning and strength of the team. In effect, the prior regime's entire workout program was thrown away, and started from scratch with new Strength coach Ivan Lewis. Lewis has brought his experience from the NFL and USC to bear for the Dawgs, and it's visible in many of the players.
Both the offensive and defensive lines are stronger in their legs and shoulders, and has also shown improvements in the speed players at running back, defensive back, and linebacker. It will be interesting to see how much better the returning players can do against Pac-10 opponents with another year of Coach Lewis' program under their belts, biceps, and quadriceps.
In 2009, the coaching staff had to do the best they could with a roster built for a different system, plus their first recruiting class. This year, the coaches have a good chunk of the team returning and a second recruiting class.
For the wide receivers, the three amigos—Aguilar, Kearse and Johnson—return, but behind them are Bruns, Goodwin and Jordan Polk. just waiting for a chance. The loss of Deontae Cooper for the year could have been more damaging to the running backs, but behind Polk, the Dawgs have Callier, Bronson, and even a couple Fogersons.
On defense, the linebackers and corners are pretty well set, but behind them, there are several options for the defensive coaching staff to leverage.
The Huskies even have two viable backup quarterbacks in Price and Montana. Yes, there's a dropoff from Locker to them, but these two have performed very well throughout camp in terms of accuracy and leading their teammates.
In addition to Erik Folk's kicking (and a nice 58-yarder at practice yesterday), the Dawgs are working to improve on special teams. Many fans have expressed concerns at seeing Chris Polk returning kicks, and would prefer to see some of that depth mentioned above put to use to protect him from injury.
On the other side, the philosophy shown by the Patriots and several other pro teams is putting the best players on the field at all times, especially on special teams. In either case, the Huskies appear to be putting significant focus on special teams, given the potential impact it can have on any game.
Beyond of the questions of who should play special teams, the Huskies have spent a significant time in camp working through extended scenarios around both punts and field goals. This additional preparation with Special Teams Coach Johnny Nansen can only help the Huskies shore up their special teams performance over 2009.
These three areas are just some of the highlights from fall camp, so far. In the next couple of weeks, the Huskies will actually close a couple of practices, as they shift out of team assessment mode and into preparation for BYU on September fourth—a game that cannot come soon enough for Husky fans!