UW running back Chris Polk
The Washington Huskies march into the 2011 season with hopes of improving upon last year's 7-6 record and Holiday Bowl win.
With last week's release of the Associated Press's Preseason Top 25, the Huskies are not among the ranked. Indeed, it's a strange sight to see Washington not receiving any votes, but Division II Eastern Washington receiving honorable mention recognition with a single vote.
Here's a quick look at why Washington failed to receive recognition as a ranked team heading into this season and why it could change by December.
Jake Locker (right) hugs D'Andre Goodwin
AP writers have associated Jake Locker as being the heart and soul of the Washington Huskies for the past four years. While a much-beloved figure in Seattle, the dirty little secret was that Locker only led Washington to 14 wins in four years. He was also plagued by poor coaching and decision-making.
Nevertheless, he was drafted in the first round by the Tennessee Titans, and AP writers perceive this to have left a gaping hole in Washington's offense.
UW's premiere offensive weapon, Chris Polk, is back and ready for an explosive year.
From left-to-right: former UW athletic director Todd Turner, former coach Tyrone Willingham and former universty president Mark Emmert
When stepping back to look at the big picture, a primary reason Washington is unranked stems from three men. When UW president Mark Emmert arrived in 2004, the Huskies hadn't had a losing football season since 1976. Over his first six months on the job, he would hire Todd Turner as athletic director and Tyrone Willingham as head football coach.
Under Willingham, the team would go 11-37 over the next four seasons, while Turner overlooked incompetence and transgressions by Willingham and backed him ferociously.
In December 2007, when given the opportunity to fire Willingham and hire Jim L Mora, Emmert caved to pressure and decided to bring Willingham back for a fourth season...a season that ended in 0-12 in 2008.
Current athletic director Scott Woodward and head coach Steve Sarkisian have done a solid job rescuing Washington from the abyss. But not enough to garner votes from the AP yet.
Oregon head coach Chip Kelly recently made comments disparaging the belief in a so-called "East Coast Media Bias." But maybe Kelly hasn't lived in the Pacific Northwest long enough. Be it from actual bias or simply from West Coast teams not getting exposure, East Coast writers aren't always privy to what happens up here.
Long-time Husky fans will always point to the 1984 and 1991 seasons for evidence of teams that were snubbed all or part of a deserved national championship.
BYU quarterback Jake Heaps
Despite the fact that his own son was a high school teammate, former UW coach Tyrone Willingham exerted very little effort to recruit the nation's No. 1 high school recruit, Jake Heaps. Heaps ended up signing with BYU.
Current UW coach Steve Sarkisian was hired too late to change Heaps' mind. But Heaps loved Sarkisian. A source close to the Heaps family said: "If Sark had had another four months, he would have gotten him to go to Washington."
Had the highly-touted Heaps been in place for the 2011 season, more attention would have been on the Washington program.
Alameda Ta'amu grasping for Nebraska's Taylor Martinez
In Washington's stunning 19-7 win over Nebraska in the 2010 Holiday Bowl, one of the things that stood out was what a monster Alameda Ta'amu has become at defensive tackle. He's built like a mountain, sheds blocks, shows quickness and was dominantly strong late in 2010.
If he stays healthy, he should be prominently honored by season's end.
WIde receiver Jermaine Kearse
Senior-to-be wide receiver Jermaine Kearse is one of the most underrated wide receivers in the country. His 1,006 receiving yards ranked seventh in Washington history. He accumulates big numbers on a regular basis, as shown by his nine catches for 179 yards and three TDs against Syracuse, as well as his nine catches for 146 yards and four TDs against Oregon State. Good quickness, great separation skills and the tendency to make the big-time acrobatic catch.
Like Polk and Ta'amu, Kearse should be well-honored at season's end. But his relatively unknown status is one of several reasons that Washington is unrecognized in the preseason polls.