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 "Look for Steve Sarkisian to Turn Around Washington's..." 
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Post "Look for Steve Sarkisian to Turn Around Washington's..."
Look for Steve Sarkisian to Turn Around Washington's Woeful Football Program
by: Ed Bagley

Just as thinking heads argue about whether leaders are born or made, so do college football fanatics argue about whether the coach or the players make the team.

Let's settle the latter argument once and for all—coaches make the team, not the players. If it were not so, then players would recruit the players, whereas it is the coaches who recruit the players that—with great coaching up of players—make the team successful as the program progresses.

Yes, it is true that even great coaches cannot do a lot with duds for players—that is why they immediately recruit better players and coach them up to speed.

My turf is Western Washington, the state, not the Beltway to DC. Let me share with you not what I think, but what I know about coaches and players on any team.

When the Seattle Mariners were going nowhere at 1,000 miles an hour, I immediately predicted success with the hiring of head coach Lou Piniella. Piniella came in and announced that the Mariners were going to start winning but, unfortunately, three-quarters of the players on the roster would not be there to enjoy the success. Within two years, 5 players were left from his original roster, and the Mariners winning streak starting in 1995 is a happy history for Seattle fans.

When the Seattle Seahawks were sloshing around doing nothing but taking up space, acting like a football team but not playing like one, I immediately predicted success with the hiring of head coach Mike Holmgren. Holmgren was much bigger than a lot of his players, and he was not interested in excuses; you were accountable, and you performed or you were gone. The Seahawks started winning right away and dominated their division.

When the University of Washington Huskies went winless last year in 12 games and had some of the worst performance statistics among all NCAA teams, I immediately predicted success with the hiring of new head coach Steve Sarkisian.

Nicknamed "Sark", Sarkisian is half-Armenian, half-Irish and all winner. Sarkisian and his hand-picked staff, including defensive coordinator Nick Holt, will get the Huskies back on the winning track, and he will not make a career out of it. It will happen. You will witness a giant step forward in his first year.

Sarkisian takes over a team that rung up these crummy national ratings last year—rushing offense (106th among 119 teams), passing offense (101st), total offense (116th), scoring offense (118th), rushing defense (117th), passing defense (62nd), total defense (110th) and scoring defense (116th). Washington scored 13 points a game and gave up an average of 38 points a game.

There is no way you can win games with these lame numbers. Was Washington's coaching staff last year the worst in the nation? You better believe it; that's why they have vacated the premises.

This is not a pretty picture for Sarkisian to inherit. However, you have to remember that Sark is a winner from the top of his head to the bottom of his toes. He spent 7 of his last 8 years at Southern California, first as a quarterbacks coach, then as the offensive coordinator and assistant head coach.

During his tenure with head coach Pete Carroll, USC was in a BCS game EVERY year for the past 7 years, unmatched by any team in college football. USC also has the best winning percentage among BCS teams—85% (6-1). Sarkisian's record as the offensive coordinator for 2 years was 22-3, and he called the offensive plays on the sideline.

Sark also coached up two Heisman Trophy winners—Carson Palmer in 2002 and Matt Leinart in 2004. He has also mentored additional NFL-draft picks John David Booty and Mark Sanchez.

Washington's newest head coach was also a standout quarterback at Brigham Young University. As a senior, he led the nation in passing efficiency as the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) champion Cougars went 14-1 and won the 1997 Cotton Bowl.

Sark has been an outstanding winner as a player and coach. He knows how to win. He is not going to surround himself with a bunch of losers at the University of Washington.

Virtually all players want to win, but far fewer have the will to prepare to win. Sark will quickly find out who will pay the price to improve and have fun in the process. Those who cannot cut the mustard will be watching a lot of football games instead of playing in them.

At 35, Steve Sarkisian is one of the youngest head coaches of a major college football program. No matter. Just because a head coach has 15 years of experience does not make him good. Competency, direction, judgment, focus and enthusiasm all count for more.

The Pac 10 Conference media types recently came out with their preseason poll, picking Washington to finish 9th, just ahead of 10th-place Washington State.

The more I hear about head coach Steve Sarkisian and assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Nick Holt, the better I like Washington's chances to exceed expectations with a better than 9th-place finish.

The latest word from the practice field is that the Husky offensive players are going to legally cut block, a very important element in zone-blocking schemes. Holt is going to find out who can knock players down and who can't. Those that can't will be spending less time on the field.

Cut-blocking is legal when the blocker goes below a defender's knees with the helmet out in front of the defender. It is illegal when the blocker comes at the defender from the side or back, or when the defender is blocking another offensive player.

Doug Nussmeier will be the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Huskies. Washington opens its season at home Saturday, Sept. 5, against Louisiana State (LSU), 1 of 6 preseason top 25 teams the Huskies will face this season (the others are USC, Notre Dame, Oregon, Oregon State and California). Yikes!

Washington fans and boosters are fired up for improvement; they are sick and tired of getting slapped around by teams the Huskies used to dominate, especially when Don James was at the helm. The Dawgfather's career mark at Washington was 153-57-2 (73%) from 1975 to 1992, and the team went to 14 bowl games, winning 10. They also went to bowl games 9 consecutive years.

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

About The Author
Read more of my football coverage, including:
"Not Being Selected Among the Top 25 in the Preseason Coaches' Poll Is the Kiss of Death - You Have No BCS Title Shot"
Individual Articles on All 34 of College Football's 2008 Bowl Games.
15 Weekly Wrap-Up Articles on College Football's 2008 Regular Season Games.

The author invites you to visit:

Copyright © 2001-Present
[Note: Due to a size limitation, the title, above, had to be abbreviated. Apologies to the author and - Admin]
This article was posted by permission.

Sun Feb 20, 2011 11:11 am
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