Monday, March 11, 2013
Is Washington ready to take next step?
By Mason Kelley
Kasen Williams and the Huskies are a veteran group poised to make a breakthrough in 2013.
SEATTLE -- On the day before Washington opened spring practice, Steve Sarkisian sat down at a table and asked the assembled media members if they would be willing to take the news conference outside.
It was sunny afternoon in Seattle and the Huskies’ coach took the weather as a positive sign of what his program has to look forward to in 2013.
“It’s always good to wake up with the sun shining to start football again,” Sarkisian said.
As Sarkisian embarks on his fifth season with the program, the coach has reason to see a sunnier side of things to come for his football team.
Washington has put together four consecutive top-25 recruiting classes, earning trips to bowl games in each of the last three seasons. The assembled talent has reached a point in which young players have been in the system long enough to be considered veterans.
“This is a football team that we’ve talked for the last few years about youth,” Sarkisian said. “Well, now all of a sudden, that youth has become veteran leadership.”
As the Huskies work through spring football, this is the year the program needs to take a significant step forward.
“We’re excited about this team that we have in place,” Sarkisian said. “We’re poised for a great run. We have a lot of work to do, obviously, but we’re poised for a great run.”
The pieces are in place for Washington to make a move in the Pac-12 North. Quarterback Keith Price is a senior. Receiver Kasen Williams and running back Bishop Sankey are juniors. The offensive line has played in meaningful games and the defense is pointed in the right direction under defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox.
“This is a hungry football team,” Sarkisian said. “One that, like I said, is champing at the bit to get back on the field, compete and play football and, ultimately, get back on the field for the fall season in 2013.”
Sarkisian isn’t making any bold claims about where the program is headed. He isn’t guaranteeing a trip to the Pac-12 title game and a spot in the Rose Bowl. But he knows the talent is in the program to make a move. He considers a division title a realistic goal for the Huskies.
Safety Sean Parker is developing into a senior leader. James Johnson is healthy and, as a senior, provides a veteran presence at receiver. Safety Shaq Thompson has a year of experience behind him and defensive tackle Danny Shelton will be counted on to have a big season.
All of the pieces are in place.
“I think we have the roster in place to take that step and to do it consistently,” Sarkisian said.
After ending the 2012 season with back-to-back losses, the Huskies are determined to show something this season. Washington wants to take a significant step forward.
That journey starts this spring.
“What I do know is there is zero complacency in our locker room right now,” Sarkisian said. “This is a hungry group that wants to redeem themselves for the opportunities that we let get away from us.”