Washington Football 2011: 11 Reasons Why the Huskies Make a Second Straight Bowl
The Washington Huskies are coming into the 2011 NCAA football season with booming momentum.
After getting dominated by Nebraska in the regular season 56-21, they pulled off a stellar 19-7 Holiday Bowl win over the Huskers.
The Huskies finished at 7-6, capping off an impressive individual career for Jake Locker.
Washington will look to continue to build its program, and here are 11 reasons the Huskies will make a second straight bowl game in 2011.
The Washington Huskies literally pulled off a miracle in the Holiday Bowl last season.
At home Sept.18, they were brutally demolished 56-21 by the Huskers.
A little more than three months later, they held the same team to only seven points in a 12-point win.
While momentum may not literally carry over from season to season, this program must be more optimistic going into 2011 than if it had a repeat performance of the Sept. 18 fiasco.
That definitely cannot hurt in the pursuit of a second straight bowl appearance.
10. Jake Locker Is Gone
Most people look at the departure of Jake Locker as a negative occurrence for the Washington Huskies program. However, it can be looked at in a positive light fairly easily.
The Huskies have not had a quarterback competition in a long time, and now that Locker is gone it will be an open battle for the starting job.
According to Scout.com, the duel will likely be between sophomore Keith Price and redshirt freshman Nick Montana.
Yes, he is the son of Joe Montana.
Whoever wins the job will hopefully keep it for the entire season, taking the role of new leader for this program.
9. Cort Dennison
Cort Dennison is a great college middle linebacker, who will be anchoring the defense for the second straight year.
With the departure of both his outside linebackers, he will have to carry an extra heavy load this season.
In 2010, he was fourth in the Pac-10 with eight tackles per game. He also won the Huskies' defensive Weight Lifting Award at the postseason banquet.
This man is definitely up to the task of carrying this defense throughout the year, and he will need to live up to expectations in order to make a second straight bowl game.
8. Jermaine Kearse
Jermaine Kearse has developed into one of the best wide receivers in the Pac-12.
Last year Kearse ranked third in the Pac-10 in both catchers and receiving yards per game, totaling 1,005 yards on 63 receptions as a junior.
However, Kearse returns now without his quarterback, Jake Locker.
But his experience and steady hands will ease the new starting quarterback into the position and help this team pursue a second straight bowl appearance.
7. Chris Polk
Chris Polk has turned into one of the best running backs in recent memory for the Washington program.
Last season, he accumulated 1,415 yards on an average of 5.4 yards per carry, along with nine touchdowns.
He was named to the All-Pac-10 second team with the second-best YPG average in the conference.
Polk is turning into a force in the conference. Teams will shift their gameplan focus from what used to be Jake Locker to stopping Washington's running game.
Polk needs to continue to perform to take pressure of the first-year starting quarterback because this team will likely only go as far as the running game takes them.
6. Returning Front Four
Experience is extremely valuable in college football.
When projecting how a team will do, experts usually look at how many returning starters there are on each side of the ball.
The Huskies return eight on both offense and defense. That includes their entire defensive line.
Everrette Thompson, Alameda Ta'amu, Semisi Tokolahi, and Hau'oli Jamora will make up the starting front four for the second straight year.
This defense was 97th in rushing yards allowed per game and tied for 47th in sacks per game last season.
It will need to improve in both of these areas to make a second bowl game, but with the experience coming back, the defense should be able to do it.
5. Experienced Cornerbacks
The Washington Huskies have a cornerback tandem that is one of the most experienced in the country.
Both of their returning starters, senior Quinton Richardson and junior Desmond Trufant, have had starting experience in every year they've been at Washington.
There are not many teams that can say this.
However, both players did not have huge impact seasons last year, recording a combined three interceptions.
Still, their experience will undoubtedly help them navigate through this season.
Along with the returning front four, both the front line and secondary will be anchored by guys that have played a significant role in a bowl game.
This can only help them as they attempt to make it two in a row in 2011-12.
4. Talented Freshmen Receivers
As aforementioned, Jermaine Kearse is an asset to the Huskies offense.
He will provide senior leadership for the offense and will help stabilize the psyche of the new starting quarterback.
The list of helpful receivers does not end at Kearse.
Washington has a very nice recruiting class, and according to Scout.com it is top-heavy with receivers.
Wide receiver Kasen Williams is Scout.com's second rated receiver, and is one of two 4-star receiving recruits, along with tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, according to Rivals.com.
As rated by Rivals.com, they have also lured in three more 3-star receiving options in Jamaal Jones, Josh Perkins and Marvin Hall.
At least one of these freshmen is bound to break out and help this team make a run at another bowl game.
Odds are Williams or Seferian-Jenkins will be on the field this season.
3. A Manageable Schedule
The schedule can, at times, decide the destiny of a college football team's season.
This year, the Huskies can definitely survive through their schedule en route to six wins.
Washington should breeze to 1-0 against Eastern Washington.
Then it will be a bit tested against Hawaii, who did lose against two current Pac-12 teams last year in USC and Colorado.
If Washington can move to 2-0, it will be okay with going to into conference play with a loss at Nebraska.
Then the Huskies will need four conference wins to become bowl eligible. They will have very winnable games at home against Cal, Colorado, Arizona and Washington State. They may be able to steal a win on the road at Utah or Oregon State as well.
If the Huskies can pull off four of these wins, they will find themselves in another bowl game.
2. Strength of the Recruiting Class
We have already discussed the receiving talent in the 2011 class of Washington recruits.
The class is ranked No. 23 in the country by Rivals.com and No. 24 by ESPN.
This impressive class is made of 23 commits, including two ESPNU 150 commits and five 4-star recruits as rated by Rivals.com.
Every program benefits from a solid recruiting class, but usually it takes a few years for these players to make an impact.
In the Huskies' case, they return a lot of experience and will likely redshirt a large portion of this class.
Still, they will need depth, and an outstanding recruiting class will provide a jolt of energy to this team.
1. Steve Sarkisian
At 37, Steve Sarkisian is an up-and-coming head coach in college football.
This is his first head coaching position, and he showed strong improvement from his first year to his second.
After a porous 5-7 season in 2009, the Huskies took the next step by not only making it to a legitimate bowl but avenging their regular season loss over Nebraska in a 19-7 Holiday Bowl win.
Sarkisian has brought energy and promise to this program for the first time in years.
In his third season at the helm, he will look to make his second bowl game.
With his experience as a quarterbacks' coach in multiple places, including USC, he will be able to address the single biggest glaring need for the program.
They need a new leader at quarterback, and Sarkisian will find and develop the right man for the job.
He will emerge as one of the best young college head coaches in the future, but for this year Sarkisian will simply try to lead his team to its second straight bowl game.