All we are is dust in the wind, dude.
-Ted "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure"
Last season around this time, I introduced you all to the idea of the Ice Bath Time Machine. Unlike its Hot Tub cousin that has now been featured in two somewhat vulgar but hilarious movies, the Ice Bath Time Machine is inextricably linked to Washington Football. Its very existence is a secret known only to UW coaches, football alumni and the dozen or so readers who actually read my articles (yes, I know that most of you have already skipped to the comments section.)
Today, we dial our Ice Bath Time Machine into what may be best described as UW's last great team. In 2000-2001, the Huskies opened their season as a ranked team with PAC 10 championship aspirations. Built on the shoulders of an all-everything QB in Marques Tuiasosopo, a particularly nasty offensive line and an excellent defensive secondary, Rick Neuheisel's Dawgs made a run for the ages. A week 2 upset of the Miami Hurricanes and a week 3 bashing of the Big 12's Colorado let the world know that UW was for real. The Huskies would go on to roll through their PAC 10 slate with their only challenges being a week 4 loss to Oregon and, of course, the devastating injury to Curtis Williams during the monsoon game at Stanford. The Dawgs made it to the Rose Bowl as the #4 ranked team in the country and then steamrolled Drew Brees and his Purdue Boilermakers to win the Rose Bowl title.
Only three other PAC 12 teams have won a Rose Bowl since that time: USC, Oregon, and Stanford. Though it doesn't meet the standards set by the 1991 team, the 2000 Washington Huskies were the last great UW team and featured several players that, were they eligible and in their prime today, could help fill a gap on this current roster. If Chris Peteresen could jump in his Ice Bath Time Machine and take just one of those players, who should he take? And, to make this exercise even more fun, let's disqualify Marques Tuiasosopo from the discussion. He's still on my shit list as long as he's working for USC.
Option 1 - Jerramy Stevens, TE
Holding aside the personal conduct issues, the talent that Jerramy Stevens brought to the table as a football player is undeniable. Stevens was one of the better athletes on the team and, at 6'7", had an outstanding catch radius. In 2000, he was UW's second leading receiver and was second on the team with 3 TD receptions (UW was ridiculously balanced when it came to spreading around the scoring in 2000). He wasn't a perfect player - particularly when it came to giving effort in run blocking - but he played with a chip on his shoulder and he seemed to always be there when Marques needed a play to be made. He was probably the best player on the field in the Miami game when he caught seven balls on the Hurricanes D and he led the team in receiving at the Rose Bowl.
While the 2015 UW team is loaded at TE, they don't have anybody on the roster that is quite like Stevens. The combination of size, athleticism and receiving skills that Stevens boasts is a unique thing at any level of the game. Were Chris Petersen to pluck him out of the Ice Bath Time Machine - and assuming that he could help Jerramy keep his head on straight - Stevens would make a huge difference to this UW team.
Reasons for: "One for the ages" kind of talent; UW needs proven depth in receiving positions; Stevens played his best against top competition
Reasons against: To say he's not exactly an "OKG" might be an understatement; UW does have depth at TE
Option 2 - Larry Tripplett, DT
Who couldn't use a 6'2", 310 lb, run-stuffing, future-NFL-star defensive tackle? While not often cited among the best of all-time UW defensive lineman (a discussion that is skewed by the presence of names like Emtman, Holmes, Rogers, Chorak and now Shelton), Tripplett is worthy of that kind of consideration. The big man wasn't your typical "big guy in pads". He was a baller through and through.
As a player, Tripplett was a strong man with a solid base who was at his best in taking on and then breaking free of blocks. He was quick off the snap and seemed to always be in an opponent's backfield. In fact, he recorded 14 TFL's his senior year. Tripplett started 36 straight games over his career which demonstrated both his toughness and his conditioning. He was a first team All-American and a finalist for the Lombardi trophy his senior year before being drafted in the second round by the Indianapolis Colts and starting what turned out to be a long and productive NFL career.
Washington in 2015 will put on the field a young and unproven defensive line. The graduation of all-everything DT Danny Shelton leaves a gaping hole in the middle. While Chris Petersen has some elite talent in the form of Elijah Qualls, Vita Vea and Greg Gaines with which to fill that gap, a player of Tripplett's capabilities who can play in the middle would be an instant impact situation for this UW club.
Reasons for: Position of need; Tripplett is an elite, NFL caliber player; Toughness and character would definitely fit the OKG mold
Reasons against: May not be the most pressing need on the team
Option 3 - Chad Ward, OG
The recent news concerning the medical retirement of Dexter Charles has left a huge gap in that Huskies offensive line. A unit that at one time looked like it might be able to backfill the loss of "3.5" starters with a decent mix of upperclassmen and experienced players now is down its best player and facing the prospect of starting a true or redshirt freshman.
The bottom line? UW could use some experience up front.
The good news for Chris Petersen - the owner of one perfectly functional Ice Bath Time Machine - is that the 2000 Huskies had a few good ones - six seniors, in fact. My favorite of the bunch was OG Chad Ward. Ward was one nasty Dawg in his day. The 6-5, 335lb mauler was known for his aggressiveness as a run blocker, though he often rotated out to OT (a position that he played much of his senior year). Not necessarily the most athletic lineman, the Finley, WA product was a strong man who was known for his prowess in the weight room. He would be a three-year starter for the Huskies and earn first team All-American honors his senior year.
Reasons for: Huge talent in a dire position of need; Brings a nasty streak to the table; Has the size and strength to excel in this era of PAC 12 football
Reasons against: I'll get back to you
Option 4 - Todd Elstrom, WR
If' you've read this far, you might be wondering why it took me so long to get to the receiver position. It's an obvious area of need for Chris Petersen as he faces the prospect of playing up to three or four true freshman on a unit that has just one player over the 6'1" mark (but, man, watch out for Brayden Lenius in 2015!).
The 2000 Huskies were not really defined by their receiving corps. That's not to say that they didn't have some good players. But that team was more defined by Marques Tuiasosopo and his talents more so than the other playmakers that he distributed the ball too. In fact, one of Tui's greatest capabilities was his ability to make good decisions and to spread the ball around. Thirteen players were used as receivers over the course of the season with nine of them making up a core group of pass catchers who were routinely targeted.
The best of the bunch not named Jerramy Stevens may have been Todd Elstrom. The 6'4" product of Puyallup was Tui's leading receiver in two different seasons. Quick off the line and reliable with his hands, Elstrom was excellent at making the tough catch in traffic. His size allowed him to get physical with opposing defenses and gave him an advantage in the middle of the field when paired against opposing safeties. On third and long, he was Tui's go-to guy. His senior year, he led the Huskies with 43 receptions and a 14.5 yards per catch average.
Reasons for: Great size for a team that lacks big receivers; Huge position of need for UW; Would allow for another one or two players to redshirt
Reasons against: A receiver may not make a huge difference if QB doesn't get settled; May be redundant with guys like Josh Perkins, Darrell Daniels and Lenius on the team
Others Considered: CB Omare Lowe, CB/KR Derrick Johnson, S Hakim Ackbar, LB Marquis Cooper, LB Jeremiah Pharms, RB Rich Alexis, K John Anderson, OC/OG Kyle Benn
Chad Ward, OG/OT
With apologies to Larry Tripplett - the player that I thought I was going to pick when I started writing this article - I think that this UW team really could use a senior All-American who can play both tackle and guard right about now. Ward is one of the best players to have come through the program in the last 20 years and there is little doubt that were he to come out of that Ice Bath Time Machine that he'd be one of the best players on the UW roster right now. Given all of the upheaval of that Husky offensive line, the injury retirement of Dexter Charles and the question marks surrounding the entire offensive attack, I'd take Chad Ward with my Ice Bath Time Machine.