The last week has been a wild one for University of Washington football. Between the Alamo Bowl, coaching changes, and recruiting news, there have been no shortage of emotion swings. I’m going to save the recruiting talk for a future post, but I want to offer some thoughts on the rest of the news.
Plenty has already been said on the Alamo Bowl, so I’ll keep it short, but it’s hard to ask for much more out of a bowl appearance. Besides a win, that is. Everyone expected a shootout, but this one went to a completely different level. I’ve heard people say that the lack of defense was embarassing, and I suppose that it probably is. I certainly wish the Huskies would have pulled out the win. Still, I can’t get overly upset about it. That was one of the craziest things we’ll ever get to see. I talk a lot on here about how I increasingly watch sports for the chance to be amazed. Winning is great, but I want to see great performances and events that surprise me. The Alamo Bowl had both.
One quick thought on the defense. They were certainly terrible, and have been much of the season, but this isn’t the type of game that provides a fair reading on them. Sometimes these kinds of games happen, where the offenses get rolling and both defenses are so lost in the turmoil that they fall completely apart. It’s as though a huge flow of momentum builds for the offense against the defense, instead of for one team against the other. This seems more common in basketball or even baseball, but it doesn’t give a completely accurate picture of the defense. The only way to stop this kind of game is to never let the momentum build, or for one defense to pull itself together for long enough to make a stop or two. Baylor was able to do that, and the Huskies never were. That’s the real snapshot of this defense and its problems: for most of the season, they lacked the wherewithal and playmakers to get the stops and big plays when they needed them.
Disgust with Nick Holt has built all season, and before he was even back in Seattle, there was an internet report that he had been fired. It was denied, but shortly thereafter, Holt, along with two more defensive coaches, had been fired. I was one of the seemingly few who would not have minded if Holt came back. I think there is a clear lack of playmaking ability on the defense, and I don’t think Holt is as bad a coach as some would make him out to be. I could be totally wrong on that, but that’s my perception. I don’t think it would have been a guaranteed failure if he had come back for 2012. That being said, I’m glad that Sarkisian decided to move on. The talent may have been down, but there was an obvious lack of fundamentals, and the defensive scheme was aggravating to watch.
Former USC and current Seahawk coach Rocky Seto seemed like the frontrunner for the DC job, and then there were short-lived rumors that it would be Utah DC Kalani Sitake. After barely three days, however, the Huskies had a new defensive coordinator who surpassed any expectations I had for the hire. I didn’t know much about Justin Wilcox before this week, but he is quite possibly the best coach UW had any realistic shot at signing for the position. After several years as the DC at Boise State, Wilcox filled the same position at the University of Tennessee for the last two seasons. He’s considered one of the rising stars in the coaching world, and reportedly turned down the Texas DC position last year. For good measure, he’s bringing UT linebacker coach Peter Sirmon, considered an excellent recruiter and coach. The two were roommates at Oregon in the ’90’s and are coming home to the Pacific Northwest. Some people are complaining about them being Ducks, but I think this is a pretty ridiculous complaint. Tennessee’s defenses have been top 30 in the nation with similar youth and talent to the Huskies. If UW somehow made that jump, they might be playing for the Rose Bowl.
There are still two positions to be filled. This could go a few ways. Jonny Nansen, the lone defensive coach retained, has been serving as the d-line coach and special teams coordinator, as well as recruiting coordinator. It’s being speculated that he could move to just special teams and recruiting coordinator, with a new coach for the line and one coach for the secondary. Previously, the safeties and cornerbacks had individual coaches, but that could easily change. It’s even possible that Nansen is fired after recruits sign in about a month. There have been lots of names mentioned for the other positions, but nothing announced yet. Interestingly, top recruit Shaquille Thompson, a safety, tweeted that former Cal coach Al Simmons has been hired (Simmons coached Thompson’s brother at Cal). All parties have subsequently denied this, but it’s a weird thing for Thompson to say if it’s not true. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Simmons is announced soon, but it’s possible it was just some kind of miscommunication.
Lost in all this was the news that Chris Polk is turning pro. This was expected, but still disappointing. I think he made the right choice for himself and can fault him in no way. I’m just disappointed to not get to watch him next year and see him demolish all of UW’s rushing records. I’ll write more about him and what his departure means for the offense soon, but we wish him good luck in the NFL and thank him for being one of the most reliable and dominant Huskies we’ll ever see.
More soon. The season may be over, but the news won’t stop for a while still.