I think most of us (with the exception of maybe Gekko) would point to Stanford's rise under Jim Harbaugh as a good model to emulate - he took a team that had gone 1-11 under Walt Harris and turned them into a 12-1 team that was widely considered the most physical team in the conference last year, with a powerful running game, a terrific pro-style QB and a strong defense. Well, the good news is there seem to be a lot of similarities between the two programs, and better yet, Washington under Sark appears to be ahead of the pace set by Harbaugh at Stanford.
Let's review first the records of both of the programs under each coach:
- Prior year: 1-11 vs. 0-12
- 1st year: 4-8 vs. 5-7
- 2nd year: 5-7 vs. 7-6
- 3rd year: 8-5 vs. 5-1 (so far)
- 4th year: 12-1 vs. ???
I'm sure all of us would be ecstatic to see Sark continuing to stay ahead of Harbaugh's pace.
Another note of interest - each coach inherited a bruiser of a RB. For Harbaugh, it was Toby Gerhart, though due to injury, he didn't get to use him much his first season, losing him to injury after 1 game. But in years 2 and 3 under Harbaugh, Gerhart was the bell-cow stud RB and the offense was based off a power running game. In Gerhart's last year, Stanford broke in a new young QB who did quite well in his first season of starting.
For Sark, he inherited a RB in Chris Polk that was somewhat of an unknown quantity - he'd had an undistinguished first season under the prior staff where he looked tentative and not at all the impossible to tackle machine he'd become. Under Sark, he's blossomed, and Sark has built a strong running game utilizing his talents. And in year 3 under Sark, a new QB has been broken in who is doing quite well (so far).
Sark's offense is looking more and more like Stanford's under Harbaugh - pro-style, lots of different formations, lots of shifts, lots of motion, built off a strong running game that sets up play-action. Sark recruited a number of highly-rated OL in his 2nd class, and those guys are forming the foundation of what could very well become the best, most physical OL in the conference in the next 2-3 years, a status currently owned by Stanford.
Also worth noting for the Holt bashers that Harbaugh brought in a new DC in his 4th season in Vic Fangio, a change that some have credited with being the final key thing to turn Stanford from a good program into a great one as their defense took a major step forward. Now, I doubt Sark will get rid of Holt, but it's another interesting comparison.
Oh, and of course another similarity - both Sark & Harbaugh are former QB's.