The Washington Huskies went 5-7 in Steve Sarkisian’s debut as a head football coach, winning five more games with almost the same group last season under former coach Tyrone Willingham.
The Huskies upset two top-20 teams – and preseason Pacific-10 Conference co-favorites – in Southern California and California.
Four of their defeats came down to the final minute. And the UW posted its first winning record at Husky Stadium (5-2) since 2003.
Did the Huskies hire the right man to move forward in Sarkisian?
The answer after one year appears to be yes. And the man who signs Sarkisian’s paycheck gives Year One a big thumbs-up.
“My expectations are just like coach’s expectations,” UW athletic director Scott Woodward said. “They are to win, continue to win and continue to win the right way.”
Monday marked the one-year anniversary of the first team meeting the new coaching staff held with the players as they embarked on the beginning of an overhaul job.
As Sarkisian and company enter their second year, here are six questions you might be asking:
1. What are the major holes the Huskies need to fill?
One word – depth. The coaches have already conceded that more than a few members from the 2010 recruiting will have to come in and play immediately.
They also need more impact performers on both lines.
Offensive guard Ben Ossai, a four-year starter, leaves, but should be easily replaced given his up-and-down tenure.
The same cannot be said about defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, who leaves as the Huskies’ career sacks leader and leaves a major void to fill – even with youngsters Kalani Aldrich, Talia Crichton and Andru Pulu waiting in the wings.
If E.J. Savannah isn’t granted a sixth year by the NCAA, then the linebacking corps will fill the hole left by senior Donald Butler with a returner who has little or no experience – Tim Tucker or Matt Houston.
And if Jake Locker decides to forgo his senior season for the NFL, quarterback immediately becomes a pressing need, with backup Ronnie Fouch the frontrunner.
2. Who are the key returnees for the Huskies?
If Locker returns – he’s meeting with coaches this week to begin researching the pros and cons of entering the NFL draft this spring – everything slots into place on an offense that would return all but Ossai and fullback Paul Homer next season.
Receiver Jermaine Kearse of Lakes High is a budding superstar in the Pac-10.
Chris Polk anchors the rushing attack.
Tight end Kavario Middleton continues to take baby steps, but certainly the potential for a big jump is there.
By season’s end, easily the highest-impact newcomer was cornerback Desmond Trufant, the Wilson High product who now becomes a leader in the secondary along with safety Nate Williams. Big-play producer Mason Foster would be the team’s top linebacker.
Even kicker Erik Folk (18-of-21 field goals) and punter Will Mahan, both first-year starters, are back.
3. What are the Huskies’ key recruiting needs and wants?
Plain and simple, the Huskies need big men.
If Lakes High’s Sione Potoa’e sticks to his oral commitment, he is talented enough start as a true freshman at defensive tackle. Erik Kohler, out of Westlake Villege, Calif., is a highly regarded offensive tackle, and would be in the mix, as would Bothell High guard Colin Porter.
Of course, UW has to be thinking about the post-Locker era. Nick Montana, son of NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana, is part of the 2010 class, but the Huskies need another signal-caller, possibly out of the junior-college ranks.
4. Will there be any changes on the UW coaching staff?
Defensive coordinator Nick Holt is being paid $600,000 a year by the Huskies, and his work is far from over. Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier appears on the same fast track that Sarkisian was for a head-coaching position. Both will be back.
There have been no rumblings about the position coaches or support staff, but if a change came, it would be from those groups.
5. What does the 2010 schedule look like?
The nonconference schedule doesn’t get any easier (at Brigham Young, home to Nebraska in September), and the Pac-10 tilt flips next season when the Huskies will be on the road for five games and at home for four games.
Back-to-back away weekends at California (Sept. 25) and USC (Oct. 2) will get the Pac-10 schedule rolling. As of now, the Huskies have no scheduled bye weeks, but changes in the schedule have been discussed and would be announced upon conference approval.
6. What is Sarkisian’s take on his first season?
“I had a blast, to be honest with you. I had a lot of fun. I love what I do. I’m fortunate to do what I do. I love the game of college football. I love being part of it. I love the preparation side of it. I love dealing with young people. I love the pageantry of game day, that’s why I embrace Husky Stadium maybe as much or more than anybody. I love the atmosphere. It’s an experience to me Saturday evening or Saturday night at Husky Stadium …
“To me, it’s a job, yeah. But I love what I do. I love the season. I think we had some moments of learning, not just as a program, but for myself personally. We’ll learn from them. We’ll learn from the gains that we made, and we’ll learn from some of the mistakes that we made. Ultimately that will make us a better program in the long haul.”
Three Huskies were named to the all-Pac-10 second team and seven others earned honorable mention as the all-conference teams were announced Monday.
Receiver Kearse, defensive end Te’o-Nesheim and linebacker Butler were named second-team all-Pac-10 while receiver Aguilar, linebacker Foster, guard Senio Kelemete, quarterback Locker, tailback Polk, center Ryan Tolar and cornerback Trufant were given honorable mention.
Kearse, a sophomore from Lakes High School, was the Huskies’ top wide receiver, leading the team with 50 receptions, 866 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.
Te’o-Nesheim, a senior defensive end from Waikoloa, Hawaii, led the UW with 11 quarterback sacks on his way to setting a school record for sacks in a career (30). He also had 14 tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries and five forced fumbles. Te’o-Nesheim finished his career having started all 49 games.
Butler, a senior linebacker from Sacramento, led the Huskies with 94 total tackles and 15.5 tackles for loss. He also added two interceptions, a fumble recovery and three forced fumbles.
McClatchy news services contributed to this report
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442