Chris Fetters: It's really been nothing but positive so far. This week has been a bit of an anomaly, just because they are taking this game pretty seriously and just don't want any more bulletin board material going out - but for the most part the staff has been completely available and Sarkisian specifically has been very accommodating and straightforward - something the media has had to get used to. It hasn't been that way in quite some time.
But when it comes to the fans, especially the hardcore ones, it's still a matter of 'what have you done for me lately', so until Sarkisian can win on a consistent basis, the jury will still be out.
Q: What is the expectation about what Steve Sarkisian and his staff is bringing to UW?
Fetters: The expectation is to win and to bring the program back to where it was in the 80's and early 90's under Don James. That would be the expectation of any head coach that is hired by the Huskies. That was the expectation for Tyrone Willingham, and he turned out to be an unmitigated disaster.
The key here is that UW's Athletic Director - Scott Woodward - saw a chance to kill two birds with one hire. By hiring away two top coordinators from inside your own conference you strengthen your own program, while at the same time temporarily taking away something from one of your top league rivals. Granted, it looks like Jeremy Bates has picked right up where Sarkisian left off, but getting a strong recruiter and magnetic personality in Sarkisian seems to have already paid off. The culture surrounding the program has already taken a 180, and it sure feels like all the right things are happening once again on Montlake.
Q: How has the reception been for Sarkisian's program now that the Huskies are almost 3 games into his tenure?
Fetters: I think the reception has been strong. There was plenty of applause after the LSU loss, and it became a bit of a story because Sarkisian admitted he wasn't sure how to respond to so much support after a loss. That was certainly new for him. But he's clearly grasped just how important UW football is to the school, the city and the region, and he knows that Washington is a sleeping giant. The resources are there, and the support will come back full-force once Sark shows he can win on a consistant basis. If that happens, the sky is the limit.
Q: Is Locker coming back enough to get them to a bowl game this year?
Fetters: I'm not predicting that, but there's definitely enough evidence to suggest - at least early on - that Locker is back to his old self again. He seems to have separated himself from the rest of the QB's in the Pac (although I guess Kevin Riley may take exception with that), and if he continues to make smart decisions and let his playmakers share the burden of moving the chains, the Huskies have a chance. I have UW winning five games this year, and that's even with a surprise or two mixed in. I don't think it's going to take too long for Washington to get back to bowl games, but injuries are bound to take their toll. And I'm not convinced their depth is going to allow them to get where they need to in order to become bowl-eligible.
Q: Aside from Locker, who else on UDub should we keep an eye on? I know they have an All-Conference DE and Chris Polk. Anyone else that will turn heads on Saturday?
Fetters: There are definitely a few players. Offensively, Polk will be the star at RB, but Johri Fogerson has been making waves as a versatile playmaker. He had a 51-yard catch and run to jump-start UW against LSU early, and scored a TD against Idaho too. He's a nice compliment to Polk. At TE, Kavario Middleton has a chance to be something special if he can stay healthy. He's a rangy kid with great hands and a real competitor. At receiver, their top guy so far has been a true freshman, James Johnson. His first catch went for a touchdown against LSU, and he also scored on a 31-yard pass play from Locker against the Vandals.
Defensively, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim is the All-Conference DE of which you speak. His motor never shuts off, but for all his effort and work rate, he's not getting a ton of results when it comes to sacks and TFL's. Holt and the UW defensive coaches are trying to get him more productive in that sense. UW's starting linebackers - E.J. Savannah, Donald Butler and Mason Foster - are all very experienced. They are the heart of the Huskies' defense. In the secondary, Nate Williams is the key. He's UW's version of Taylor Mays. He's been a little dinged up this week, and has been resting basically the whole time. They need him to be fresh and healthy in order to make that secondary tick. The Huskies will also run in a true freshman at corner - Desmond Trufant. He's Marcus Trufant's youngest brother, and he's very good. But I suspect Damian Williams, David Ausberry and Brice Butler are licking their chops at the thought of going up against a youngster like Trufant.