A month ago, we were still debating what the problem was with our Husky defense. Was it a lack of experienced players? Was it coaching? Were we getting enough top level recruits for the defense? It was left to Baylor to quickly settle the debate, they made it known that everyone of us were right! The answer became blatantly obvious: All of the above.
In the last month Coach Sark has completely remodeled the defensive side of his coaching staff. The way he did it reminds me of the Husky Stadium remodel, completely tear down any structure that is old and replace it with the latest and greatest. After Demetrice Martin left of his own accord (smart move), Sark completely gutted the defensive staff. Holt, Cox, and Mills were fired, while Nansen was reassigned to other duties. After the complete demolition of the coaching staff, Sark made waves throughout the college football world by hiring one of the top groups of assistant coaches in the nation.
Without saying a word, Sark told us that coaching was a big problem with our defense. The subsequent hires also told us that Sark thought that recruiting was also a problem. The addition of Wilcox, Sirmon, Heyward and Lupoi will be a big boost to recruiting for the entire team, but especially the defense.
Now that we have figured out what all the variables will be, what are your expectations for the 2012 Husky defense? Before we can attempt to predict the future, we must take a look at the past.
The 2011 defense was flat out terrible. We were 106th in the nation in Total Defense (453 yards per game), 108th in the nation in Points Per game (36 points per game), 116th in the nation in Passing Defense (285 yards per game), 76th in the nation in Rushing Defense (169 yards per game), and 108th in the nation in 3rd Down Defense (49% conversion rate).
The next step in predicting the future is evaluating the talent we have on hand. Unfortunately we lose some of our best players, the good news is that there weren't many senior and they were spread throughout the different position groups. We lose Ta'amu and Thompson from the defensive line, Dennison from the linebackers, and Richardson from the defensive backs.
Losing Ta'amu is a big blow to the defensive line, but we do have a lot of players returning. The big question is can the new coaches get more out of some of the players who are in danger of being passed over for younger players. It would really help if we could get more production out of Tokalahi, Potaoe, and Crichton, and give some of the younger guys more time to learn the system and put on more muscle.
The linebacker position is also going to take a big blow with the loss of Dennison. There is a lot of young talent coming up, but most all of them are quite young. I'm hoping Thomas Tutogi will have a breakout season and add some age to the group.
The defensive backs should be a bright spot for the defense. The only player we lose (Richardson), had basically been passed over by Greg Ducre. We return just about every player, most of which were young and should be able to make good progress this season.
I honestly think our defense has a ton of potential, but we all know that potential doesn't mean anything if you don't perform. The biggest question is how quickly can our new defensive coaching staff get the players to buy in and perform as a unit. There will definitely be growing pains, we still don't have elite talent, but I think we have plenty of talent to be successful.
The question remains, what should we expect out of our defense this year? As many of you know, I've been preaching steady improvement. My biggest complaint with the defense the past two years was the lack of improvement. I don't expect us to suddenly be a top 25 defense, but I do expect improvement. For the 2012 season (and any other season), any ranking over 100th is not acceptable. We simply have too much talent and a good enough offense, that we should never be that bad. I'd be more than satisfied if most of our defensive stats were in the 75th-80th range. If I were a coach setting a goal for the defense, I'd aim for the top half of the rankings. In other words, I'd be thrilled if we could be ranked 60th or best in most stats.
Now for the fun part, what are your expectations for the Husky defense in 2012?