By John Agovino, Associate College Football Editor
2009 SEASON IN REVIEW: The Huskies came into the 2009 season with a new coach in Steve Sarkisian and one of the top quarterbacks in the nation in Jake Locker, so the hope in Seattle was the Huskies would finally post a winning record.
However, the season began with a loss, as the Huskies fell at home to LSU,
31-23. Washington rebounded quickly though with a 42-23 win over Idaho,
followed by an impressive 16-13 decision over USC. The win over the Trojans
must have drained the Huskies however, as they went into a terrible funk,
losing six of their next seven games, with the lone victory coming against
Arizona (36-33). Despite the long skid, the team fought hard in some of those
matchups, taking Notre Dame to overtime before losing by seven, and also
falling to UCLA on the road by just one point. At 2-5 in Pac-10 action, the
Huskies remained focused and closed out their regular season with back-to-back
victories over Washington State and California, winning those contests by a
combined 72-10 margin. A 5-7 finish may not have been what Sarkisian wanted,
but had to be viewed as a step in the right direction for a Washington program
that had been stagnant for years.
OFFENSE: The Huskies finished seventh in scoring, rushing and total offense in
the Pac-10 last season, but nine starters from that offense return, including
Jake Locker, possibly the best quarterback in the country. Locker has only won
eight games while under center for Washington, but he has the leadership and
the skill set to make this offense very dangerous.
"Historically in this Conference, the teams that have won Pac-10 Championships
or have been in that race at the end have had veteran leadership at that
position," said coach Sarkisian. "Ultimately, if you really want to win a
Pac-10 Championship, you have to find a way to win on the road. We will take
the advantage of having that senior quarterback who has been in those
Locker is clearly the main attraction to this offense, and if Washington is
going to score, the senior signal caller will have to remain under center and
avoid injuries. What will make Locker even more dangerous is the trio of
receivers he has at his disposal, including junior Jermaine Kearse. Kearse,
who grabbed 50 receptions and eight touchdowns last season, has proven to be a
dangerous receiving threat and should build great chemistry with Locker this
year, creating one of the best QB/WR combinations in the conference.
What will keep opposing teams honest is sophomore tailback Chris Polk. Polk,
who is the first freshman to run for a 1,000 yards at Washington, gives the
Huskies a true running game, and with his game-breaking speed he is a sure bet
to break a few long runs this year.
DEFENSE: Last season Washington suffered defensively, finishing near the
bottom in the Pac-10 in points allowed, rushing, passing yards allowed and
total defense. Unfortunately with only six starters returning, including two
in the front seven, there could be similar struggles this year for Washington.
Alameda Ta'amu is the best returning player up front for Washington, but other
than him the team is riddled with inexperience and question marks. The hope is
sophomore Talia Crichton and senior De'Shon Matthews can create something off
the ends, eventually giving Ta'amu more space to work with in the middle.
The best player on this defense is without question linebacker Mason Foster,
but other than him, there is not much experience at this position. Fortunately
Foster is one of the best in the conference and the senior does a little of
everything on the field, including being one of the best tacklers in the
Pac-10. Foster, who finished with 85 tackles, three interceptions and a Pac-10
record six forced fumbles, feels that defensive coordinator Nick Holt is the
perfect person to fix the holes on the defense.
"He brings intensity and enthusiasm to our defense," said Foster. "As a
defense, we embody his personality. We understand what he's trying to do with
the defenses in his blitzes. I am looking for great things out of our
The most experience is in the secondary, which was filled with freshmen last
year. However, those players now have a year under their belts and should be
in store for a much better season. The best of the group is sophomore corner
Desmond Trufant, who might develop into a shut down corner very soon.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Finally healthy last season, kicker Erik Folk proved his worth
by nailing 18-of-21 field goals, including a game-winning kick against the USC
Trojans, showing he can make the big kick when it counts most. Punter Will
Mahan is also back and he will try to improve on his 40.6 yards per punt
average. The return game will be handled by Quinton Richardson and Devin
Aguilar, who both spent time in that role last year, while doing an admirable
OUTLOOK: The fans at Washington are excited to see this offense take the field
when the season kicks off, but at the same time those fans will be holding
their breath in hopes the defense can do its job.
There is no question that if healthy Locker is going to put up some great
numbers and lead the Huskies to some victories, but the defense will have to
gel quickly under Holt's gameplan. Washington, which has suffered seven
straight losing seasons (the longest streak in school history) was not given
an easy road to post a winning ledger this year, with early clashes with BYU
and Nebraska. The road slate is daunting, as coach Sarkisian's squad will have
to battle USC at the Coliseum, while closing out the year with three road
contests in four matchups. Those three games will come against Oregon,
California and Washington State. If Washington is able to play well away from
home, than there is a chance for this team to finish above .500 and earn a
bowl berth. A shot at the league title is a little far fetched though, even
with Locker at the helm.