I have a story in the Tuesday paper comparing the current Huskies with the 2004 team -- the one that cost Keith Gilberson his job and resulted in the hiring of coach Tyrone Willingham.
In preparation, I looked back at Willingham's opening statement from his opening press conference when hired in December of 2004, just to get an idea on what priorities he had for area's of improvement.
Here's how Willingham began that day:
"For me to stand before you as the head coach of the University of Washington, is a special opportunity and a special honor. I have watched this program for many a year, and the things that President Emmert, Todd (Turner) have said, are the things that have rung true in my mind, my vision of what this football program is all about. It is tradition-laden, when you think about that tradition you think of a great deal of success, you think about great players, you think of Rose Bowls. I couldn't be prouder at this moment to be head coach. What I would hope to do in my time here is to go back to all those great things and great accomplishments that this program has achieved. That will be my focus to get back to the toughness. I remember walking in to this stadium on numerous occasions, and walking out saddened, because not only had we been defeated, we had also been beaten."
So, Willingham's first stated priority for the Huskies was toughness.
I asked him Monday how he thinks he's come along on that goal.
"That one's always a very difficult quality to measure," he said. "I would probably say we still haven't reached the level that I would like us to. Are we better in some areas than others? I would probably say yes. I think we have improved some of our mental toughness. Physically, yes, we have some guys that I think across the board are physically tougher."
I followed up asking in what ways the current team is clearly better than the one he inherited.
"I would say our approach to the game is definitely one of those things that you talk about," he said. "The mentality it takes to develop and be a good football team – absolutely. I think we've improved a lot of our athleticism across the board on this football team."