A good friend of mine asked me last week where I thought the Husky football team currently was in the overall rebuilding process.
My answer was a little over halfway when it came to overall talent, depth, and experience on the roster. Dick Baird agrees. He feels the Huskies are about thirty quality bodies short of where they need to be which sounds just about right.
When Sark was hired I commented that it would be at least a five year project to rebuild this program into a national title contender. Just for example both of the lines had to be completely rebuilt from top to bottom and that takes 4-5 years to do it right when you don't have the luxury of using JC talent.
So lets start off by comparing the 2009 roster Sark started with to the anticipated fall 2012 roster which should give us a pretty good idea of how productivity, talent, and depth have progressed.
Offensive Line - Improving
The 2009 offensive line that Sark inherited listed Jr. Cody Habben (Starter), Sr. Ben Ossai (Starter), So. Greg Christine (Walk-On), So. Senio Kelemete (Three Year Starter), and Jr. Ryan Tolar (Starter) as starters. Just as today So. Nick Wood (Depth) was the unlikely first player off the bench.
So. Scott Fancher (Leg Injury), So. Mark Armelin (Quit), So. Scott Shugert (Transfer), RS Mykena Ikehara, RS Drew Shaeffer (Starter), Sr. Morgan Rosborough (Bust) , RS Alan Carroll (Quit), and RS Terrence Thomas (Medical RS) made up the rest of the depth.
Heading into 2012 three year starting center Sr. Drew Shaeffer is the only survivor from the 2009 group. Talented third year guards Jr. Colin Porter and So. Colin Tanigawa will flank him. Jr. Erik Kohler, So. Ben Riva, So. Micah Hatchie, and RS Dexter Charles will fight it out for the starting tackle jobs. So. James Atoe, So. Mike Christe, and RS Siosifa Tutunga fill out the depth inside and get their first serious looks at playing time this spring.
We keep hammering the proven theory that you win most often with fourth and fifth year players on your offensive and defensive line. The Huskies are getting closer to doing that. In 2012 they will be starting one fifth year senior, two third year juniors, and two third year sophomores.
Overall it is a huge improvement in overall talent and depth compared to 2009. Nothing against Habben, Ossai, and Tolar but kids like Porter, Tanigawa, and Kohler have way more upside.
Back in 2009 there was a lot of dead wood...not so much in 2012. I think the overall quality and athletic ability of the line has done a 180 since Sark arrived. They still are a year or two a way from fully maturing not to mention completely filling out the depth until this unit becomes an assembly line that pops out fourth and fifth year starters a very season.
If the Huskies can add the likes of Zach Banner, Josh Garnett, Shane Brostek, Nathan Dean, Cody English, and Lacy Westbrook to the squad in 2012 the foundation for the future is pretty much complete. Sark and Cozzetto can start recruiting with the goal to reload each year rather than rebuild.
Tight End - Improved
Washington was once known as TE University but the position basically disappeared under Rick Neuheisel. Ty Willingham responded by recruiting two of the top TE's in the country to attend UW and they both ended up being busts.
So. Kavario Middleton (Transfer) had all the tools but he never got on the same page as Sark. His career ended in a flurry of failed drug tests, weight gain, and a transfer to Montana. So. Chris Izbicki (Quit) never came close to living up to his potential either. A set of stone hands didn't help him. Jr. Dorson Boyce (Bust) and Fr. Marlion Bennett (Bust) were both Sark recruits brought in during his first year who didn't play much.
Middleton left the team prior to the 2010 season and Washington ended up using walk-on OT Daniel Kanzcugowski as a blocking TE for most of the season. Izbicki quit over playing time before the end of the season. The versatile Kanzcugowski was ineligible due to grades last season.
TE never got truly untracked until last season with the arrival of Fr. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, RS Michael Hartvigson, and RS Andrew Hudson. All three of these guys are capable of being All Pac 12 players. Production at the position has finally returned to where it used to be during the glory days.
The Huskies would love to add a TE to the 2012 class but it isn't a strong year for TE's out West. With three young players sharing time UW can wait another year if necessary to being in more depth.
Wide Receiver - About to take it to the next level
Jermaine Kearse So (All Pac 12), Devin Aguilar So (Starter), James Johnson Fr (Starter). were the starters in 2009 and for the most part have held on to those jobs over the past three seasons when they have been healthy.
Kearse flashed AA potential at times but a series of drops over the past couple of years dimmed his star. Aguilar was a steady presence and a very good down field blocker. Johnson had an impressive frosh season but lost most of his sophomore year to a nagging injury. He came back strong last season to reclaim his starting job once again only to lose it late in the season because of injury.
Cody Bruns So (Depth), DeAndre Goodwin Jr (Starter), Jordan Polk So (Transfer), Luther Leonard RS (Depth), Vince Taylor RS (Quit) provided the depth in 2009.
The Huskies will be led in 2012 by So. Kasen Williams who has the potential to be one of the best receivers in Husky history. Sr. James Johnson and Jr. Kevin Smith are very talented. I am really interested to see what Smith will do with his extra chances in 2012.
Sr. Cody Bruns is the first guy off the bench. He sat out last season to help his mom after his dad passed away unexpectedly. This is a good move which adds some experience and maturity to the unit. So. DiAndre Campbell is promising but needs to hold onto the ball better. RS Josh Perkins and RS Jamal Jones get their first shots at playing time and providing quality depth.
Fr. Marvin Hall joins the team winter quarter after sitting the fall out to improve his grades and qualify. Hall is an explosive player who will add a lot of excitement immediately to the return game.
The Huskies have recruited the position well so far in 2012. Fr. Michael Rector, Fr. Kendyl Taylor, Fr. Dwayne Washington join the team in the fall. UW might still take another if the right kid wants to call Montlake home.
Sark had a lot of talent to work with when he arrived but most of those guys had similar size and talents. Over the past three years Sark has recruited bigger more physical kids while keeping the speed while cutting back on the smurf size players.
Running Back - Deeper
Sarkisian had personally recruited RS Chris Polk (All Pac 12) when he was at USC. The staff immediately went to work bringing out the physical side of Polk who responded by picking up over 1000 yards in his first full season toting the ball.
Demetrius Bronson Fr (Transfer), Johri Fogerson So, Curtis Shaw So (Transfer), Willie Griffin So (Transfer), Brandon Johnson So (Transfer), Brandon Yakabowski RS (Medical RS) where the backups in 2009. Not a single one of those guys are left on the roster (thank god).
Chris Polk has one more year of eligibility at Washington but he is probably headed to the NFL in 2012. Chris has distinguished himself as being a hard worker. Nobody in the conference gets as many yards after contact than Polk. He will be missed in 2012 but the Huskies have some talent in the stable to replace him if needed.
So. Bishop Sankey is the heir apparent and he looked really good in limited action last season. He has more of a burst than Polk does and he has the ability to run well between the tackles. Jr. Jessie Callier has spent the past two years backing up Chris Polk and being a key player on special teams. Talented So. Deontae Cooper has sat out the last two seasons with knee injuries.
Washington will bring in up to four running backs in 2012. Fr. Tairen Owens and Fr. Erich Wilson are already committed. UW is also hot on the trail of Keivarae Russell, Chris Brown, and Kelvin York who is described as a Polk type clone.
Quarterback - Loaded
One big reason for Washington's problems last decade was the lack of talent at QB on the roster after Cody Pickett (NFL) graduated in 2003. Rick Neuheisel and Keith Gilbertson get to take the blame for that one. Neither were able to recruit a big time QB to Washington that was ever capable of performing at a high level.
Ty Willingham attempted to remedy the situation in 2006 when he recruited Jake Locker (NFL First Round) who went on to become a four year starter after sitting out his first season. Locker had a lot of talent but he wasn't a natural passing QB. He came from a Wing T offense in HS which required him to run the ball and hand off most of the time.
Locker was far from a finished product when Sark arrived in 2009. He was one of the most feared runners in the conference, but his touch, accuracy, and ability to make reads down field needed a lot of work. So. Ronnie Fouch (Transfer) was his back up. Unheralded Fr. Keith Price (Starter) was starting his first spring.
Jr. Keith Price is the unquestioned starter heading into 2012. He tossed a school record 29 TD passes in 2010 and actually made the fan base forget about Jake Locker for the most part. The only knock on Price is size and strength. He could use another 15-20 solid pounds to become mire durable.
So. Nick Montana is the current back up. He had mixed results in one start and a bit of back up duty in 2010. He needs to improve his arm strength and play faster if he has any hopes of becoming a starter some day at Washington.
RS Derrick Brown has the ability to pass Montana on the depth chart next season. At 6'3 236 he is built more like a LB than a QB. A number of folks who watched practice this season commented that he reminded them of Jake Locker with a more accurate arm.
The Huskies are bringing in two top 12 QB recruits for 2012. Jeff Lindquist and Cyler Miles have the tools to become excellent QB's while at Washington.