Coach's Corner

What an absolutely great effort and performance by the Husky team in their Fight Hunger Bowl victory. Their win over BYU was a huge statement about their character and athletic abilities as a team, a team that literally had the rug pulled out from under them almost immediately after their Apple Cup win over Washington State.

A team that posted its best record in over a decade. A team that lost their head coach and three assistants but rallied behind a true "Husky" when Marques Tuiasosopo stepped in and let the system take over.

To watch these kids enjoying each other after both the WSU and the BYU victories was personally very heartwarming. I have to admit that getting to go on the field after both wins was simply energizing and electric. Those kids had been through the ringer and came out a better team at the end of the season. They were simply the best Husky team since coach Tuiasosopo was the 2001 Rose Bowl MVP and Pac-10 Conference Player of the Year. Their nine wins put them in the top-5 for all Husky teams since 1990.

They proved the program is right on the cusp of again contending for a championship. They proved that games are won by players not coaches, and their last three wins to finish the season might have been the best three-game run of the whole Steve Sarkisian era. They even won the final game of the trifecta without him. Their win against Oregon State on the road might have been the finest outing by a Husky team in over a decade.

When you look at the roster now, realize that these Huskies return not just their whole offensive line but two offensive lines plus two defensive lines of lettermen players. Even with the loss of Bishop Sankey they return five-deep at tailback with Deontae Cooper, Jesse Callier, Dwayne Washington, Ryan McDaniel, and freshman Lavon Coleman - who I promise you will be a good player.

Even without Austin Seferian-Jenkins, there are also four tight ends returning. Maybe none are NFL guys now but all are good looking prospects.

They lose a great leader and quarterback in Keith Price, but return three very talented backups in Cyler Miles, Jeff Lindquist, and freshman Troy Williams, who holds the same promise as Coleman.

At wide receiver they lose Kevin Smith and DiAndre Campbell but return Kasen Williams, Jaydon Mickens, Damore'ea Stringfellow, John Ross, and at least four others who can all play at this level, which means great depth in all of the offensive position areas.

Defensively, Danny Shelton, Hau'oli Kikaha, and Evan Hudson represent an experienced front that could be the best at Washington in years. If Shelton comes back next fall in shape, he could be the equivalent of ASU's Will Sutton and a sure first-round pick in the 2015 NFL draft. He is that good and is a monster in waiting.

The returning edge players like Cory Littleton, Josh Shirley, Joe Mathis, and Marcus Farria are all long, quick, and rangy. With another year in the weight room, all of them will be creatures by next fall.

They join returning proven linebackers like Shaq Thompson, John Timu, and Travis Feeney, who along with freshmen Azeem Victor and Keishawn Bierra (same promise), as well as Sean Constantine and Connor O'Brien, represent a marked improvement in the second layer of the defense.

The secondary returns a corner with NFL potential in Marcus Peters and a redshirt freshman corner, Jermaine Kelly, who should be just as good (same promise). Two true freshmen safeties, Kevin King and Trevor Walker, played this year and both should likewise benefit from a year in the weight room.

In the kicking game, even though they will lose Travis Coons as an all-around great kicker/punter, they return an explosive kick returner in John Ross, who promises to be the most exciting and fastest Husky since Napoleon Kaufman.

The point is obvious; even though Coach Steve Sarkisian left the program for the glitter of home and an LA job, he left the team in great shape and certainly much better than he found it. He completely rebuilt the expectations of both the players and the fans. He added a foundation of players and an up-tempo approach to offense, which set all kinds of school records.

This team is easily bigger, faster, and stronger than the team was five years ago. These Huskies are going to contend.

So start with a 9-4 team and add to it the best possible coaching replacement in the western part of America, Chris Petersen, and those expectations of finally winning a conference championship and returning to the Rose Bowl are more than the dream that they were when Sarkisian first arrived.

Coach Petersen is a proven commodity who brings his own system and his own coaches to implement it. Sure it would've been nice to retain some former coaches, especially Tuiasosopo, but unfortunately that is just the way it works in today's television-driven market. Out with the old and in with the new, but fret not about the adjustment for the players. Kids are resilient and adaptive. They would, and will embrace anyone who brings in a 92-12 record. They are excited to find those key ingredients that will make them champions.

They expect Coach Peterson to help them win and that includes championships.

Those of you who worry about recruiting can rest assured that coach Petersen and his staff are probably better at the evaluation process than we've had here in years. They are not concerned with the number of "stars" kids have but more so about the quality of character they have. They know their own system and will get their kind of guys (OKG).

This year it will be tough but maybe, just maybe we will see the Huskies doing a better job of recruiting the Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, BC, Alaska and Hawaii).

Who knows, but we may also eliminate those yearly three-game losing streaks. It's almost a given the Huskies will be less penalized.

Change can be as stimulating as it is unknown. For someone who watches the personnel closely, I think this coaching change will prove in its record to be the best hire since coach James was hired in 1975. Certainly no Husky head coach going back to Jim Lambright and Rick Neuheisel comes into a better situation personnel-wise than does Chris Petersen. Then throw into consideration the new and remodeled Husky Stadium and it's almost too good to be true.

Maybe it was just time for Sark to move on and let the Huskies move in another direction, one that will include championships, continued graduation, and more discipline - and maybe a win over the Oregon Ducks.

Funny how a simple bowl win and an unexpected coaching change can hold such great promise for the future. I am so happy for the kids on this year's team for finishing their season as they did.

So a Happy New Year to all of us, but especially to a Husky football team that picked itself up and won a bowl game despite all the distractions and desertions of some of their coaches. They proved to themselves that they can compete with anyone. They proved they were the best Husky team of the past decade and they finished the season just as they started it, with Chris Petersen.


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