May 5, 2010

Is Nick Holt Husky Resurgence Key?

Well written article on the upcoming 2010 Husky season that I'd like to share.

Is Nick Holt Husky Resurgence Key?
Bill Hare, Bleacher Report

During the agonizing 2008 season when Washington football fans endured the school’s worst season ever with an 0-12 record, and a funeral silence would envelop Husky Stadium, a sudden change would occur.

Suddenly a roar would be heard and the cheering would reach a soaring crescendo. How did this happen amid tragic fortunes?

A picture would flash on the video screen of a popular on scene figure who reminded Husky fans of a glossier era resulting in a national championship and Rose Bowl victories.

The image of Husky Hall of Fame coach Don James prompted the faithful to cheer relentlessly. Desperate for something to cheer about at such a bleak moment of U-Dub history, the enthusiasm involved a fervent desire for a resurgence to the successes of the James era.

The Husky spring game Friday reminded fans of the charismatic enthusiasm of the James years. They called the game “Friday Night Lights,” and despite the cold winds from Mount Washington, the stadium patrons were ablaze with excitement and enthusiasm as the Husky band played and cheerleaders danced.

Steve Sarkisian has brought the spirit back. Recently, spring games had become more clinical affairs, a chance to look at the athletes, but this atmosphere was more like an important contest with Washington State, Oregon, or USC.

The crowd, as well as more enthusiastic than usual, was also notably bigger than in recent years. The announced figure was 15,000, but many were skeptical, believing that attendance may have surpassed 20,000. On the Husky side the seats were filled from goal to goal with a large contingent of students along with season ticket fan types.

Sarkisian last season, his first at the head coaching helm, made a five hundred percent improvement over the 2008 0-12 campaign, finishing at 5-7. His most impressive victory came in the last game, a decisive romp over Jeff Tedford’s highly regarded California Golden Bears.

The 2010 campaign is sparked by the prospect of a strong Heisman Trophy candidate in Jake Locker, who spurned a chance to enter the NFL to play his senior season at Montlake.

On Friday Locker quarterbacked the White team, and freshman super recruit Nick Montana, son of Joe, the San Francisco 49er Hall of Famer, was under center for the Purple squad.

The game was decided by a late scoring drive by Montana’s team that resulted in a 14-13 victory, but the important factor was observing the overall work product, determining how the team looks and what one can anticipate for 2010.

One factor that emerged, and that diverged from what one sees in so many spring games at Washington and elsewhere, was how tough it was for the offense to achieve significant gains.

What jumped out was the quick reaction off of blocks by the Husky defense on running plays. Swift defensive reactions surfaced on pass plays as well. A good defense holds teams down on yardage after catches. Defensive backs and linebackers were quick to sniff out screens and flares, making tackles immediately.

The defensive effort made one think back to the James regime and his national championship team of 1991. The cornerstone of that Purple Gang edition was a stout defense that shut down the opposition.

Teammate Demarco Farr has long contended that the greatest Husky player in history is not Hugh “The King” McElhenny, but Steve Entman, perpetual source of frustration for opposing ball carriers and offensive lines.

Nick Holt commandeers the Husky defense. His bubbling enthusiasm, something he says was always a part of him, is reminiscent of such great defensive coordinators as USC’s Marv Goux and Florida State’s Mickey Andrews, who emerged as major figures under championship dynasties of John McKay and Bobby Bowden respectively.

It is no small wonder that Pete Carroll argued this most persuasively when he became aware that Holt was considering joining fellow USC assistant Steve Sarkisian in coming to Washington.

A major element in the Huskies jumping from zero wins to five last season was the fact that Holt’s defense kept the team in games. In 2008 Washington would give up touchdowns and huge chunks of yards early in contests.

This put tremendous pressure on the Husky offense. Before Locker sustained his season ending injury against Stanford, and for the rest of the campaign under Ronnie Fouch, Washington quarterbacks would sustain terrible beatings.

Put an offense under such pressure, when defense coordinators know that a team must throw to have any chance of competing, and all kinds of blitz packages will be employed. The result is quarterbacks under constant siege.

For the Huskies to emerge as a Pac 10 contender and major game bowl threat, it is necessary to develop a sturdy defense to allow an offense to employ a more patient and balanced attack rather than to be under compulsion to score fast and often.

If Jake Locker is to win a Heisman Trophy or be in solid contention for one, the key is a sturdy defense that eliminates the kind of pressure a quarterback is under when large numbers of points are yielded.


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UW 2010 Football Schedule

09/04/10 at BYU
09/11/10 vs. Syracuse
09/18/10 vs. Nebraska
10/02/10 at USC
10/09/10 vs. Arizona State
10/16/10 vs. Oregon State
10/23/10 at Arizona
10/30/10 vs. Stanford
11/06/10 at Oregon
11/13/10 vs. UCLA
11/27/10 at California
12/04/10 at Washington State

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Jeff is the writer / owner of UW Teamstrannon. He is a long time Husky supporter, Tyee member and Alumni of the University of Washington (UW). He is passionate about University of Washington sports and has been attending games for over 35 years with his father and now with his wife.


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