Recently the PAC-12 network replayed all of the Husky victories this year, edited down to an hour. I've been watching them the last few days and considering next season. I've concluded that a lot of changes are in order if the team hopes to improve.
For starters, I'm beginning to question the coaching staff. Two of the biggest symptoms of poor coaching are penalties and turnovers. The Huskies finished 2012 ranked 118 out of 120 in penalties committed, seemingly every game having at least one penalty that cost the team a score one way or the other, or extended a drive. Similarly abysmal is the team ending the season 101st in turnovers lost. And I can say for certain that turnovers cost wins. While the defense was much improved in 2012, there were still a significant amount of missed tackles. All in all, the fundamentals were dismal. And the team frequently tried to get cute by running up to the line and quick snapping the ball to try catch the defense unprepared, but more often than not it caught the Huskies unprepared and ended in disaster. Every time I saw the offense sprint out of the huddle, my immediate reaction was, "oh no....". In regards to Steve Sarkisian in particular, in 4 years as head coach, he's managed records of 5-7, 7-6, 7-6, and one more 7-6. To go along with this, his bowl record has been 1-2. The team is no longer showing any signs of improvement, and I think it's fair to question whether Sark has taken them as far as he can.
The biggest concern on both sides of the ball was the line. The offensive line was plagued by injury throughout the season, however that doesn't excuse them from finishing 104th in sacks allowed, but at least they were better than the Washington State line who finished dead lase, and it wasn't even close. Keith Price spent most of the season running for his life. The defensive line took a big hit in week 1 losing Hau'oli Jamora for the season, but even had he been healthy I'm not sure he much difference he would have made. The line was terribly undersized and pushed all over the field by bigger offensive lines all season, the worst coming in the LSU game where they were absolutely mauled. I don't know why the team is no longer able to recruit big men, but that has to be the biggest focus for the coaching staff. In the glory days of the UW, the team brought in a lot of talent from the Pacific islands, however in recent years, recruiting there has fallen to virtually nothing. After a quick once over on the roster, it looks like the UW has 6 players from Hawaii, which is actually more than I thought there were, but still not enough. The UW really needs to step up the recruiting in Hawaii, Samoa, and Guam if they want to succeed, they can't let the other west coast schools steal those players.
On offense, Bishop Sankey performed better than I think anyone expected and was the engine that kept the offense running. I still have trouble wrapping my mind around him being named player of the game in the Las Vegas Bowl despite losing the game. It's scary to think what he could accomplish behind a quality offensive line and a balanced offensive attack. He's the guy the offense should build around in 2013. WR should be high on the recruiting to do list though. Awesome Seferian-Jenkins and Kasen Williams were reliable targets, but no one else could be counted on to catch a pass. As a matter of fact, I can't recall if Jaydon Mickens caught a pass all season or if he dropped every single one thrown his way. That kid needs to be moved to the defensive side of the ball ASAP to limit how much he can hurt the team.
I don't know what happened to Keith Price in 2012, his performance can best be described as terrible. Sure, he was running for his life a lot of the time, but he still locked onto receivers, held onto the ball too long, ran around in the pocket and took sacks instead of taking the 5 yard dump off pass, and repeatedly made inaccurate and ill advised throws. As a matter of fact, his accuracy and arm strength were bad enough that I can't help wondering if he had an arm injury. He couldn't get any zip on the ball, and passes over about 20 yards were an adventure - the ball would float enough to give the defense plenty of time to react, and often missed the target significantly. At this point, I don't know if he can be salvaged and return to his 2011 level of play, or if it's time to look for a replacement.
A year ago, I couldn't imagine saying this, but right now the defense looks like much less of a project. I already mentioned that the line needs an overhaul, but the young linebacking corp actually looked very good by the end of the season. That's a group that should really be good for the next couple years. And the defensive backs were serviceable, which is something I haven't been able to say in about a decade. Desmond Trufant will be difficult to replace, and Parker and the Shamburgler were prone to getting burned on occasion, but this isn't a unit that will cause me to lose sleep. All of the DBs showed improvement throughout the season and should continue to improve next year.
Things may change after the offseason recruiting is done, but at this point there are so many holes to fill that it's hard to imagine that the Huskies will have anything to look forward to in 2013 other than another 7-5 year punctuated by another bowl loss. The coaching issues are significant enough that I think it's time to question whether Sarkisian is part of the problem or part of the solution. I honestly don't know at this point. Maybe a new strength and conditioning coach is in order too, since there were so many injuries. There are enough pieces in place that the team could potentially win 9 or 10 games in 2013, but the coaching staff has a lot of work to get there.