Note: This is part three of an ongoing series that will take you all the way up to the start of fall camp.
2008 record: 0-12 (0-9 PAC 10)
Head coach: Steve Sarkisian (1st year)
Returning Starters: 16; 7 offense, 9 defense
Leaders on Each Side of the Ball: QB Jake Locker; DE Daniel Te’o-Nesheim
When Steve Sarkisian backed out of the Oakland Raiders’ hunt for a new head coach in 2007, he was named to replace Lane Kiffin as USC’s offensive coordinator (Kiffin took the Raiders job).
The California-native had taken over one of the most storied offenses in college football history, and the future for the Trojans seemed bright. Yet, just before Christmas in 2008, Sarkisian was ready to make a move.
The good news: Sarkisian had landed his first head-coaching job, and it was in the Pacific-10. The bad news: He was the new headman at Washington, a school that had not won a game since Nov. 17, 2007.
Success, needless to say, would take plenty of time and effort. The Huskies were among the worst teams on paper – ranking 118th in scoring and 117th in defense among all NCAA teams in 2008.
As if the 14-game losing streak was not enough, the Huskies draw both LSU and USC within the opening three weekends of their 2009 season.
With the Tigers traveling to the Pacific Northwest first, what will head coach Les Miles and the Tigers have waiting on them?
Jake Locker – 6’3”, 222-pounds, Jr.
Locker is considered the Tim Tebow of the West, combining unique speed to a 220-plus pound frame. After Locker broke his thumb last fall, sophomore Ronnie Fouch took the snaps from October in. Healthy again, Sarkisian likes the prospect of the big-man back under center. Yet, will he be the same Locker that gritted out 2,062 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2007?
Chris Polk – 5’11”, 200, Fr.
Willie Griffin – 5’8”, 198, So.
At one point, running back looked to be one of the lone bright spots for the Huskies. Fast-forward to two months prior to kickoff against LSU, the position looks like one that holds the most questions.
Terrance Dailey, who led the team in rushing in 2008, will sit out due to grades. In early July, David Freeman and Brandon Johnson joined Dailey as academic casualties, while Brandon Yakaboski will miss the entire season due to a knee injury.
That leaves Chris Polk and Willie Griffin as the men carrying the weight, which is not good news for a struggling offense. The pair combined for 252 rushing yards and one touchdown in their freshman campaigns last fall.
Wide Receiver and Tight Ends
D’Andre Goodwin – 5’11”, 175, Jr.
Jermaine Kearse – 6’1”, 180, So.
Devin Aguilar – 6’0”, 195, So.
Cody Bruns – 5’11”, 168, So.
Kavario Middleton – 6’5”, 255, So.
With Sarkisian bringing in a pro-style attack, look for Locker to catch up with junior D’Andre Goodwin on the regular. Goodwin grabbed 60 passes for 692 yards last season – both marks good for best on the team.
Sophomore Jermaine Kearse will line up opposite Goodwin, with Devin Aguilar filling in as the primary third receiver. Kearse recorded a team-high two touchdowns through the air in 2008.
Kavario Middleton, who jumped out to a hot start in his freshman campaign last fall - grabbing four passes for over 30 yards in the opening two games of the season, will get the start at tight end.
Cody Habben – 6’6”, 316, Jr.
Ben Ossai – 6’6”, 332, Sr.
Ryan Tolar – 6’5”, 321, Jr.
Senio Kelemete – 6’4”, 260, So.
Drew Schaefer – 6’5”, 275, Fr.
The Huskies were bad in the trenches in 2008, averaging just 99.3 rushing yards per game – good for 107th in the nation. Add to it that Sarkisian will have to fill holes at two of the five spots, and the road looks bumpy once more.
Ryan Tolar, who spent the offseason rotating between guard and center, will likely get the nod to snap the ball. That leaves the right side of the line with a pair of newcomers, sophomore Senio Kelemete and freshman Drew Schaefer.
A veteran LSU defensive front, which ranked 15th in the nation against the run last season, will likely give the unit fits throughout.
Daniel Te’o-Nesheim – 6’4”, 263, Sr.
Alameda Ta’amu – 6’2”, 348, So.
Cameron Elisara – 6’3”, 289, Jr.
Darrion Jones – 6’2”, 245, Sr.
As a unit, the Huskies defense gave up 451.8 yards per game in 2008 - one of the worst marks in the nation. Fortunately, Sarkisian lured Nick Holt away from USC – giving him total control of the defense in Washington, as he was ceding the play-calling duties to Pete Carroll in Los Angeles.
Holt will begin his reconstruction with Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, the Mr. Everything defensive end. The senior logged 41 solo tackles, including 11.5 tackles for a loss of 52 yards. Te’o-Nesheim also recorded eight of the Huskies 16 sacks on the season.
With three starters returning to a defense that will take on a 4-3 base look; Sarkisian hopes that the defensive front will see improvement come quickly.
E.J. Savannah – 6’1”, 230, Sr.
Donald Butler – 6’1”, 242, Sr.
Mason Foster – 6’1”. 229, Jr.
Mason Foster, who logged a team-high 58 solo tackles, 105 total tackles and 12 tackles for a loss in 2008, is the Huskies go-to-guy on the defensive side – and the one hope outside of Te’o-Nesheim to earn All-Conference honors by the end of the year.
Foster will line up on the outside, with Donald Butler in the middle and E.J. Savannah on the opposite side. Savannah, who missed all of 2008 with an injury, was the Huskies leading tackler in 2007. With three starters on board, linebacker might be Sarkisian’s strongest suit.
CB – Quinton Richardson – 6’0”, 200, So.
CB – Justin Glenn – 5’11”, 185, Fr.
CB – Matt Mosley – 5’10”, 180, Jr.
S – Nate Williams – 6’0”, 207, Jr.
S – Johri Fogerson – 6’2”, 190, So.
Cornerback Quinton Richardson and strong safety Nate Williams are the two returning starters to the unit. Williams logged 76 tackles to lead the group in 2008, while Richardson recorded 32 tackles and an interception.
Freshman Justin Glenn – a three-star prospect and the nation’s No. 33 ranked cornerback in 2009 according to Scout.com – will likely get the start opposite Richardson, while sophomore Johri Fogerson will get his first taste at free safety.
K – Erik Folk – 5’11”, 199, So.
P – Will Mahan – 5’11”, 200, Jr.
The special teams unit in 2008 was no different than the rest, recording the lowest net punting average (31.7 yards) in the conference. One worse, the Huskies hit on just 9-of-17 field goals – also worst in the conference.
Help is on the way. Sarkisian has brought in Erik Folk, the younger brother of Dallas Cowboys kicker Nick Folk, and junior college punter Will Mahan. Folk, who has been with the Huskies since 2007, has missed most of the past two years with injuries.