Most of the focus right now is on recruiting and who is going to be hired as assistant coaches. Even more important is what type of moves the new staff is going to make with the existing team.
The most important thing you can do to help your football team win is to get the best eleven players on offense and defense on the field as much as possible. It sounds easy but Tyrone Willingham had a hard time getting that done during his tenure at Washington. To put it lightly Willingham never seemed to have a good feel on what position his players could best excel in.
I have heard many knowledgeable people say that Pete Carroll can watch a kid for thirty minutes and figure out where he needs to play the next five years. They said exactly the same thing about Don James. You hope that type of talent evaluation rubbed off on Steve Sarkisian over the last seven years.
One of the the things Sarkisian will be doing with his staff over the next month or two is going to be watching a lot of film of the 2008 Huskies in practices and games. It should give him a good feel for what type of personnel moves he needs to make or experiment with going into spring practice.
Lets take a quick look at the roster and make a few early guesses about some players that could end up being moved around.
RS Luther Leonard is one of only three QB's on the roster heading into spring. Leonard is a good athlete with decent wheels and a strong arm. He arrived at Washington pretty green and was recruited as more of an athlete rather than a true QB. Willingham's staff was going to move him to either WR or DB this spring and I think Sarkisian follows through with that move. I see a waste fo athletic talent if Leonard stays at QB.
With Curtis Shaw returning with 20 extra pounds of muscle and the best overall speed on the squad the log jam at this position continues to build. UW has some talent at RB but they all had one thing in common last year and that was a lack of durability. The extra muscle gives Shaw the edge going into spring ball.
Terrance Dailey was last seasons leading rusher but with a year in the weight room he could be moving to FB to become a Richard Thomas type of FB option. Paul Homer is a bruiser but he isn't any type of threat when he runs the ball. Dailey would give the Huskies a good tool to use between the 20's. He can run catch and block. Give him twenty more punds of muscle and you may develop another potent weapon.
Brandon Yakaboski has been hurt ever since he arrived on campus. He did make a TD catch this season in limited action but durability could be a congenital problem for him. I think he is a candidate to see time over at LB if he can find a way to stay healthy. If he can't stay healthy he may be a candidate for early retirement.
Chris Polk was the top recruit in last years class and he fizzled after two slow starting games and a shoulder injury. Polk's biggest problem was not being ready for prime time on a physical basis. I think he would have done fine in the slot but asking him to carry the rock 25 times a game without any time in the weight room was a mistake. Polk is definitely one of those top eleven guys you need on the field as much as possible and I think WR is the best place for him in 2009. Sarkisian is pretty familar with this kid and I think he will be able to find the right spot for him.
Alvin Logan had a decent debut at WR last season but where he really made noise was on special teams with his hitting ability and making defensive plays on offense when Washington turned the ball over. I think Logan's best position is safety and I bet the coaches come to the same conclusion this spring. Logan could just be the hammer we need in the secondary.
Most of us had Vince Taylor penciled in for safety last season and it was puzzling with he lack of depth over there that Willingham never gave him a shot. One good thing is that he got a RS year and still has four to play. Taylor is a great athlete who can make an impact on either side of the ball. If there is need at safety I can see him making the move.
Dave Samek of Dawgman raised the speculation that defensive linemen Tyrone Duncan and Nick Wood would be better off if they moved over th the offensive guard positions. I think it makes quite a bit of sense since they were both passed up by true frosh last season for playing time. There is need for depth at offensive guard and I think these guys could provide some depth and quickness to the position.
We already talked about the possibility of moving Tyrone Duncan and Nick Wood over to offense. Another move that might help is moving Cameron Elisara outside. Elisara who was a blue chip recruit was pounded inside all season and I don't see that changing in the future. If Elisara is ever going to be a player it isn't going to be inside. The problem with this move is finding enough depth to take his place inside.
The return of EJ Savannah is going to help this unit if he can stay eligible and out of trouble. Those are a couple of pretty big if's for this young man. Trenton Tuiasosopo has been granted an extra year but hasn't decided if he wants to play one more year. Those two additions could be huge in 2009 for the Huskies.
UW needs to start thinking about the future and adding some speed. Brandon Yakaboski, Quinton Richardson, and Johri Fogerson all come to mind as potential additions to the LB unit.
Washington really didn't have a true CB that was able to play last season. Byron Davenport was probably the closest thing they had and he was injured all year. Quinton Richardson had a good first year but he proved one thing to me and that he will never be a QB. The Huskies need to move him to safety or LB where his speed and strength can be used.
Johri Fogerson is an impressive athlete. I think he will do some great things while he is at Washington. Bob Condotta of the Times suggested moving him back to TB but I like him better as a LB or Safety. If you don't move Richardson you need to move Fogerson. I could actually see them moving both depending on the type of defense we run next season but that is whole different story waiting to be told after we hire a defensive coordinator.
Victor Aiyewa had a tough season and should have redshirted because of various injuries. He didn't and played sparingly which was just ridiculous. He is another kid that could move to LB if needed. He is a big time hitter.
Marquis Persley started off last season as a big corner and the coaches liked his potential. Injuries moved him over to safety and honesty that is where he needs to stay. Everyone loves big CB's but UW is better off with little guys that can back peddle and elevate.
Who are the true cornerbacks on this roster? Sarkisian is concerned enough that he is looking for a JC that can come in and play right away. I think the answer to that question may lie with three players who didn't see action last year. Justin Glenn, Anthony Gobern, and Adam Long all had the talent to play last season but luckily spent a year getting stronger. Gobern actually deferred his enrollment after shoulder surgery so he still has five years left to play.
When I look at the overall talent on this squad and the lack of depth and experience on the defensive line I can see Sarkisian going with a 3-4 to get his best players on the field. It all depends on what the philosophy of the new DC is but the personnel is pointing more in that direction even than last season when it was obvious before Ty decided not to let EJ back on the team.
Once again that is a decision the new DC will make with Sarkisian but the personnel coming back seems to make me think they will go in that direction.