If Jake Locker does jump to the NFL after this season, what kind of impact will that have on Sarkisian's re-building effort?
RESPONSE: I think it'll have a definite impact, just because it's very hard to replace an athlete and leader of his caliber. But with Ronnie Fouch and Keith Price coming back with a year in Sark's system - as well as Nick Montana coming to Montlake - the damage should be mitigated somewhat. But I don't believe UW would be the same team they are capable of being in 2010 without Locker. And in my opinion, UW is still at least another recruiting class away from really knowing where the future is heading under Sark. As it stands, there's a very good chance UW will start five freshmen against UCLA, so that gives you a good idea of how much they are having to rebuild.
How surprised are you that a true freshman is the leading receiver on the team? Was this expected of James Johnson when he was recruited?
RESPONSE: It is surprising, only in the sense that D'Andre Goodwin had a really strong season last year, so he was expected to be the unquestioned leader of the receiving corps. That hasn't happened at all, and in fact it's been the younger receivers that have really stepped in to fill the void. I think people knew that Johnson was a capable athlete, especially based on the scholarship offers he had when he signed, but when he scored on his first touch against LSU - that's when everyone knew he had a chance to do some big things this year. He came in very early over the summer specifically to work with Locker and get integrated with the team as much as possible before fall camp, and it's really paid off for him.
What do you feel are the pros and cons of UW in regards to recruiting?
RESPONSE: The pros are pretty obvious - from Willingham to Sarkisian they've upgraded to a whole different level in terms of energy, enthusiasm and overall ability to evaluate and recruit to very specific systems. With Willingham you never got the feeling that 1) He ever enjoyed recruiting and 2) He really never had an overriding schematic philosophy on either side of the ball that guided his recruiting efforts. With Sarkisian, he brings a proven offensive system, and Holt the same on defense. They know the bodies and personalities they are looking for, and have been diligent in going after the guys they want. The cons have everything to do with the program itself. While recruiting is the lifeblood, if they don't win games it's only going to attract so many difference-makers. If they can win 4-5 games this year, and more the next, then they should definitely trend upward.
Rick Neuheisel has come under a good deal of criticism for being excessively conservative in his play-calling and overall game management at UCLA. What was his reputation in these areas when he was at Washington?
RESPONSE: Because Rick was pretty successful at UW, his reputation on the field was pretty solid. It was always the off-the-field stuff that got him in hot water. He had the rep of being able to do great things with McCartney's players at Colorado, and he built upon that at UW by taking Jim Lambright's kids and winning a Rose Bowl. Once he got all his guys in, they were really nothing more than a .500 ballclub, however. In hindsight - especially in looking at UCLA now and seeing their offensive struggles - Neuheisel really lucked out by having Marques Tuiasosopo around his first two years at Washington. Not only did Tuiasosopo help introduce the option elements into Neuheisel's (and Karl Dorrell's) offensive package, but he was just a natural leader and the team gravitated around him. It's simplistic to say that Neuheisel's issues stem from not having a reliable QB option, but he certainly benefited greatly from having that at Washington, at least early on.
When do you realistically feel Washington will have a winning record under Sarkisian? RESPONSE: Next year. The out-of-conference games should be a challenge, but they have a chance of winning a couple of those. If Locker comes back, it should almost be a slam-dunk; if he leaves it's going to be a bigger challenge. But they'll have enough depth along the lines to make significant improvement there, and all their skill guys will be coming back. They'll lose Daniel Te'o-Nesheim and Donald Butler, but with another off-season lifting and conditioning under Ivan Lewis, they should be even more prepared to get over that hump in 2010.
Have you heard anything in Seattle about Sarkisian being the #1 candidate to replace Pete Carroll at USC if he left the Trojans?
RESPONSE: No. That's interesting. Every step along the way so far in the 11 months since he's taken the job, Sark has never even hinted about wanting to do anything other than coach this UW team. It makes sense that he would be right up there at the top of the list if Carroll ever did leave/get fired, but there has not been any indication up here that USC is looking around - and specifically to Sarkisian.
Is Locker 100% for this game? Or will he be limited?
RESPONSE: I don't think he can possibly be 100 percent, if you go off of how conservative Sark was in his comments about Locker last week - saying flat-out that if UW didn't have a bye week last week he wouldn't have been able to play. Having seen Jake all week, I haven't been able to figure out where the problems have been, but Sark hasn't been prone to hyperbole when it's come to injury. Locker looked to run well on Thursday and seemed to be able to run all the parts of UW's offense, and Sark has also been very clear in stating he wouldn't put Jake out there unless he could do everything they need him to do. So I think the most accurate answer is to say I don't think Jake will be limited when the game starts, but let's see what happens after that first hit. That will be the most telling thing, how he responds to that. But as early as Monday, when I saw him practicing I never doubted for one second that he wouldn't be starting.