Sarkisian anxious for season's start

First-year Washington head football coach and former USC offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, spoke to a large group of media members today at his first Pac-10 Media Day held at the LAX Sheraton Gateway Hotel. He said Washington was going to be a different and better football team in 2009.

"We got better as a team in the spring," Sarkisian said. "There will be a lot of similarities to the USC offense and a lot of differences. We need to play to our strengths."

One of Washington's biggest strengths will be quarterback Jake Locker, who sat out most of last year after breaking his thumb against Stanford on Sept. 27. But he's back and anxious for the 2009 season to begin. We asked Sark what his plans for Locker are considering he's such a uniquely talented quarterback.

"First of all, I owe it to Jake to prepare himself for the National Football League," Sarkisian said. "I felt like that's something we did at SC at all positions, especially quarterback. We tried to get our kids prepared for the National Football League and we'll do the same with Jake. Some of that is new to him, but at the end of the day when we're competing and battling, there's going to be some give and take. We're going to have to do some things that fit to his strengths and he's going to do some things that fit to our team's strength. It's going to be important that Jake understands and our coaches understand, that Jake is a part of our offense and not our entire offense. So, it's going to be a fun ride with him because he is extremely talented."

Washington does have some talented players, but nowhere near the talent Sarkisian was accustomed to having during at least seven of his years at USC. So, he will encounter numerous challenges he didn't face as Pete Carroll's quarterbacks coach and eventually as offensive coordinator.

"I really don't think it's that much different than when we officially took over at USC," said Sarkisian. "I don't know how loaded we were with talent back then, but we have to recruit really well to try and fill those cupboards and we need to enable our kids to compete, deal with adversity and keep fighting the battle. I think those are the two key areas that Pete (Carroll) obviously addressed early and I think it shaped the program to where he's gotten SC's football program now, eight years later."

Nick Holt often gets mentioned as the most important addition to the Husky staff, and rightfully so, but there are two other extremely valuable staff members Sarkisian brought with him to Washington from USC.

"It was huge because I thought I almost grew up in this profession with Slu, Jared and guys like that," said Sarkisian when asked how important it was to convince Dennis Slutak (assistant AD for football operations) and Jared Blank (director of player personnel) to leave USC and join his staff. "They are the glue that keeps things together. Fortunately Jared has Northwest ties being from Portland and was willing to move up there, and Slu brings a lot to the table from an experience standpoint of running a football operation. So, it was big for me to take a few things off my plate and focus on football, recruiting and things that need to be focused on."

I've come in contact with numerous Washington alums/fans since Sarkisian was hired and all of them seemed to be excited about the energy, enthusiasm and the change in mindset Sarkisian and his staff have brought to Washington. It simply seems, from an outsiders point of view, that there's once again a truly positive outlook for Husky football.

"There's no question," said Sarkisian about a sense of renewed enthusiasm with the Husky faithful. "I think people from the day we got hired to where we are today, there's been an energy, a buzz and I don't know if that's because of us or not, but the sense of pride the community has is back. People are wearing purple again and I think they're anxious to get to football games at Husky Stadium."

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