Step No. 1: Being competitive.
Where the Huskies landed in 2009: 5-7, and on the doorstep of a postseason bid.
Step No. 2: Winning.
Where UW coach Steve Sarkisian sees the Huskies landing in 2010: On the doorstep of a Pacific-10 Conference champion.
It's that simple. That's at least the way Sarkisian conveyed the message Thursday in his annual pre-fall camp press conference in the Founders Club at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
"Last year was kind of the appetizer," Sarkisian said. "People are excited about what is in store next."
Fall camp, which opens Sunday for the players, and Monday for the public and media with a 3 p.m. practice, is critical. He has 30 newcomers to break into the team, so efficient evaluation is crucial. The second-year coach said every one of the incoming true freshmen have a chance to earn playing time.
With the roster now a little more than half of Sarkisian's guys in his 20 months on the job, he feels he has more options with whom to work, especially creating depth.
He's annoyingly antsy.
"Been annoying my wife enough. I'm up at night, writing down notes. Assistants who are … on vacation, I'm calling them four or five times," Sarkisian said. "I was ready for ball mid-vacation."
In other UW-related news, per position group:
Backups Nick Montana and Keith Price both had great offseasons. No No. 2 play-caller behind Jake Locker will be named – at least not yet. … Two walkons will join the team starting Sunday. One is California's Erik Wilson, of Rodondo Beach, Calif. The other is a semi-local product – Aberdeen High's Mike King.
King was three-sport captain last season, and left the school with 10 varsity letters. He's big (6-foot-3, 210 pounds), and has added 20 pounds of good weight in the summer.
"After the season, I sent out 20 videos to (NCAA Division I) to Div. II programs this side of the Rocky Mountains," said Ron Clark, the Aberdeen coach. "First video I sent was to the UW, not to be a scholarship player, but just to get an opinion from Coach (Joel) Thomas. They told me he could be a walk-on."
King is a mobile athlete. He's also high-intelligence, and could "run the scout team the way a Stanford quarterback would."
Oh yeah, King's favorite quarterback? Locker.
Chris Polk (shoulder) is fully healthy, and should practice without limitation. He's up to 216 pounds, too.
"Looks perfect," Sarkisian said.
Group is deep with additions of super-freshmen Deontae Cooper and Jesse Callier, and a bigger, quicker Johri Fogerson.
Also, Lakes High product Willis Wilson is walking onto the team.
"Willis had offers to go to lower-level schools, but felt like he wanted to challenge himself at the highest level," Lakes coach Dave Miller said. "(Coach) Thomas said he could walk on. He's going to get in there, get in line. He knows it's an uphill battle, but he'll compete."
Fullback Austin Sylvester has developed into one of the team leaders, Sarkisian said.
Not surprisingly, Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar lead the way, and are legitimate all-Pac-10 level receivers. James Johnson has really been a workout fiend, and his body shows it (I know, saw him Wednesday and he looks great). … More playing time is available to the trio of Cody Bruns, D'Andre Goodwin and Jordan Polk, and Sarkisian hopes one emerges to give them a speed threat.
Gone is Kavario Middleton, who was dismissed because of failed drug tests. Sarkisian now leans on Chris Izbicki, a junior.
"I love Chris Izbicki right now," Sarkisian said. "I don't know if anybody had a better offseason. … He's bigger. His weight is up 15 pounds. ... He's assumed leadership role."
Marlion Bennett is still in the mix, and intrigues the coaches. Dorson Boyce will play both tight end and fullback.
By Sarkisian's count, with the returners (seven, of which, started from time to time in 2009), and a large group of incoming freshmen, the UW has "16 linemen who are big, physical, athletic."
Bodies will rotate in and out constantly, but heading into fall camp, the four starters include Talia Crichton and De'Shon Matthews on the outside, and Cameron Elisara and Alameda Ta'amu inside.
"Alameda is a new man," Sarkisian said. "He dominated the spring game, playing like a guys who is 330 pounds with his size and speed."
Controversial newcomer Josh Shirley, who still has to deal with theft charges stemming from earlier in the summer in Los Angeles and a late arrival to the UW, is slated to the team's 'Leo" position (stand up and drop back into coverage), which will enable Crichton to play some more conventional defensive end, too.
A new conference rule now allows 70 players to travel. Sarkisian said that will give the team a bigger opportunity to allow more defensive linemen to go on the road.
Up for grabs, and wide open, is the No. 3 starting position alongside Mason Foster and Cort Dennison. Converted safety Victor Aiyewa is healthy, is up to 221 pounds and should get first crack at it, followed by Matt Houston and Jordan Wallace.
The staff would like to see Wallace get time at 'Will" linebacker, so Foster can be moved around the field.
Store this name in the back of your mind – Gregory Ducre, a true freshman from Crenshaw High in Los Angeles.
Of all the newcomers, Sarkisian seems most interested in seeing how Ducre makes the transition. If he does well, it could create an interesting dynamic at the cornerback spot opposite Desmond Trufant, who is far-and-away the team's top cover man (and healthy from a nagging groin injury).
As camp opens, Trufant and Quinton Richardson are the starting tandem.
Strong safety Nate Williams is locked and loaded, and a guy who's "knowledge of the defense is superior to anybody on the team." Nate Fellner and Will Shamburger will duke it out at free safety, and don't forget Sean Parker and Taz Stevenson, a pair of true freshmen.
Free safety Justin Glenn (leg, ankle) won't be fully healthy, and will be eased into action in the coming weeks.
Despite some up-and-downs during the spring, Erik Folk, who was 18-of-21 on field goals last season, is a dependable placekicker who has added length on kickoffs. … Will Mahan remains the punter, backed up by walk-on Sean Halligan, of Puyallup.
Brendan Lopez is the long-snapper, and the Bruns/Mahan survivor will be the holder on kicks. … Polk and Cooper will operate as the starting kickoff returners at the outset of camp. … Aguilar is the No. 1 punt returner.