Coach's Corner

What a sweet and total team victory. Big plays, big defense, and a really big kicking game carried the Huskies to their upset win over Cougars. What was really cool to me was that there were lots of big plays by lots of different players. It was a team victory comprising of players and coaches who knew they were better than they had played the last few weeks.

It was as though the Huskies had just saved all of their emotion and best plays for the Cougars. They never acted like underdogs and it was obvious they learned one great lesson from this season.

They can play with anyone.

They certainly learned how to play on the road this year as most of their best performances were in hostile territory. They played Oklahoma tough in Norman, USC tough in LA, won in Tucson, pushed Cal into overtime at Berkeley, before finishing their season with a strong victory over the Cougars in Pullman. Their only real flop away from Seattle was in Eugene to the dreaded Duckies, a team they just didn't match with.

Picked to finish last in the conference, they won five games and took two others into overtime. They won their state rivalry game as the underdog. This is more than just tallying moral victories. This program turned the corner and became a competitive hard hitting football team.

They honestly improved is most areas of the game. They continually responded to adversity, something that had overwhelmed them in the past.

Their record and overall performance, in my opinion, also far exceeded their talent level. The overall depth and roster was so thin that injuries literally robbed this team in terms of reaching their goal of becoming bowl eligible. Certainly, injury took away their very best player in Isaiah Stanback, so who knows how good they could've been with him?

I would imagine they would probably have played in that bowl game.

I believe this team needs two more back-to-back full recruiting classes (of 25 players each) before they are really going to become Coach Willingham's team.

I also think that they should just recruit across the board, as it is obvious that they need help at every position area.

Looking at the two deep, it is clear that the majority of the starters are all returning next year. What is most significant about the Cougar win was that almost all those big plays were made by returning players.

The Huskies started 5 seniors on both sides of the ball as well as their two kicking specialists. They only played two (3 counting the snapper) of their true freshmen this season and therefore saved all the others' eligibility. They are not, however, deep by any means. In fact, based upon the total team number, (102 on their published roster), they were probably the smallest team, number wise, with the exception of maybe Stanford. Most of the other programs carry at least 115 and I personally think those extra bodies could really have helped Coach Willingham for preparation purposes.

For example, it is obvious Washington needs another whole group of offensive linemen. Although none will actually play in games, their value in practice can't be underestimated and the development of linemen simply takes longer. They realistically could use 10 linemen added to the team over the next two years in addition to about 4-5 big walk-ons.

Granted, quantity doesn't always mean quality, but the lack of depth at all positions resulted in them running out of playable bodies the last few games of the season. They, like the Cougars, limped into the last game. What was so positive for Washington is that those who stepped up to fill the void were many in numbers.

Cody Ellis makes the catch of the year, Caesar Rayford makes the game winning play to end the game for the second time this season, Marcel Reece catches a short pass and takes it to the house, Michael Gottlieb makes two great seam catches, Louis Rankin turns it on in the second half with game breaking runs for touchdowns, Carl Bonnell stays healthy the whole game and makes some big passes, Ben Ossai pretty much nullifies Mkristo Bruce as a pass rusher, Chris Stevens turns in the play of the game with a blocked punt for a touchdown, safety Mesphin Forrester plays the corner in a pinch, while the defensive front of Wilson Afoa, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Jordan Reffett, and Greyson Gunheim controlled the line of scrimmage and stopped the Cougars time and again from trying to run the football.

All of these guys return next year.

The position area of biggest need appears to be the secondary where Dashon Goldson, Matt Fountaine, CJ Wallace, and Chris Hemphill all are departing. Only one starter returns on the back end and that is Roy Lewis. They will need to add at least a half-dozen players to the secondary and they really need cover corners.

It is not hard to fathom somebody starting on the backend of the defense who is not even in the program right now. Maybe more than one player.

There also appears to be a need to recruit more than one quarterback mainly because they are losing Felix Sweetman along with Isaiah Stanback, and Johnny DuRocher's days are over due to an illness. Look for them to at add two this year.

There are lots of returning wide receivers but it never hurts you to add more because they can often become corners, and you can play as many as four at a time in some sets. They still could use a tall target. A kid in the 6-4 to 6-5 range would be ideal, and getting more than two in each class never hurts as speed is always a premium.

The young returning linebackers have a tremendous upside because of their overall speed. Dan Howell, Chris Stevens, EJ Savannah, and freshman Donald Butler all have excellent speed and will offset loss of Tahj Bomar and Scott White.

Add Trenton Tuiasosopo, redshirt freshman Matt Houston and Kyle Trew and the returning depth at linebacker looks pretty good. However, because you use linebackers so much in the kicking game they still need to bring in 3-4 more with the bigger ones maybe putting their hand on the ground someday.

Fast, tough kids, who like to hit are always in demand for the defensive side of the ball and don't be surprised if the Huskies load up on these sorts of kids.

That takes us to the skilled positions where it is obvious that the Huskies really needed a punter and a kicker - they appear to have gotten commitments to fill those positions already.

They really need to add at least 2-3 more running backs as the graduation of Kenny James and Shelton Sampson will really deplete that position. Assuming they will get back JR Hasty, and Michael Houston settles his off the field problems, those two kids appear to be couple of tough inside running kids. Obviously, adding a speed burner here would be great. Rankin has good speed but he is going to be a senior.

So you bring in one kid at every position, which adds to 22 scholarships, and then adding two kickers and you are nearly at a full class. They can only sign 25, but may sign more, thinking they can delay enrollment on some or have time to get JC kids eligible.

This will be the year that becomes the corner stone recruiting class in the Willingham era. This has to be the biggest and best recruiting class Washington has brought into the program since the turn of the century. The program is going to be identified as a hard working, hard hitting, team- oriented type of program, with kids that buy into the team concept. If you talk with the younger players in the program, it is obvious.

Washington Football is a blue collar, hard working type of program. These kids now know what is expected of them and what they expect of themselves.

This February, they will bring in the keys to the future. They have finally got the ladder in place and are climbing it together. It's wonderful that they got to taste victory one last time this season. With the obvious exception of the Stanford debacle, they have progressively gotten better under Coach Willingham. The program is indeed on the rise, and that is what they have to sell to the recruits.

That, and a chance to play. Top Stories