"The expectations are high and my expectations are high," coach Dennis Erickson declared. "That's just how it is. We've got a lot of returners coming back and we have a chance to be real good but we have to do it. We have to do it in practice, we can't turn it over and execute like we did today and win a championship, but that's what our expectations are and I feel like we've got guys that can do that if we stay healthy so you just deal with them and win."
One of the players that will be heavily relied on to achieve these expectations is junior starting quarterback Brock Osweiler, who this week was mentioned in an ESPN article as a "dark horse" in the Heisman race.
"I love it," Osweiler mentioned. "Finally we're in a position as a football team where we are getting some recognition in the offseason. People understand how hard the football team has worked the last couple years, and what we are capable of doing next year. Now once again, capable, we've still got to go out and earn that and earn those wins and that begins right now in spring ball and carries over into the summer, but in saying that I definitely feel this football team has what it takes to put in that work in the offseason and get those wins next fall."
While winning the Heisman is a long shot, I wouldn't count Osweiler out of anything given his mind-set and work ethic, two things that haven't gone unnoticed by his head coach.
"In three days, not counting the couple games that we saw, from what I've seen he's taken things over extremely well and executing really well," Erickson said of Osweiler. "He's a big-time leader out there for us and that's what you need at that position, and we'll keep him within the contents of what he does real well. We'll throw it up the field a little bit more with him, but he's really adjusted. I like where he's at and I like where the two young guys are at too."
Talk to anyone around the team about who the leader is and there is no question what the response will be. Osweiler has taken to that role quicker than anyone can imagine and in my few years covering the team I haven't seen a player this respected by so many of his teammates.
"It's just something that comes natural to me," Osweiler said of being a leader. "This team really is under my arms and I fully take on that responsibility. I make sure I'm the hardest working person on this football team and spend the most time in the facility every single day, and it's a role that I really enjoy having and take great pride in having."
While the media attention is nice, it doesn't take a psychologist to realize these players are proud, and the last two seasons haven't sit well with anyone in a maroon and gold uniform. These guys don't just want to win for themselves; they want it for everyone involved with this team, past, present, and future.
"They are tired of getting beat. I don't have to tell them anything," Erickson pointed out. "They've been around here the last couple years and even some of the little success we've had this last year was good for them, but they want to get this program turned around. They want to go into the Pac-12 and start making a difference in the tradition of this program and that's what they talk about and that's what I talk about.
"The tradition hasn't been here. It's been here off and on, but that's what we want to establish and that's my goal, that's what I came here for and that's my sole reason to be here is to get this turned around and going in the right direction. Hopefully we can do that this year."