The cupboards are no longer bare. It's just that the product is new – years from its expiration date.
Fall camp opens Monday for the public. One of Steve Sarkisian's immediate goals when he took over the University of Washington football job 20 months ago was filling gaps – creating depth – for a program that was quickly disappearing in quicksand.
I agree with Sarkisian on a couple points from his pre-training camp press conference Thursday, which might go against the grain of public opinion:
• The offensive line, reconfigured in the spring and now with more bodies this fall after a huge recruiting class, should not be a real concern (especially with Ben Ossai gone). It should adequately protect for Jake Locker, and hopefully create bigger gaps for the running backs, led by Chris Polk, to get going.
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• The defensive line isn't going to 'Wow' with accomplished names. Alameda Ta'amu appears to have the most upside inside, and if Cameron Elisara can keep his shoulder/neck feeling right, that duo should be OK to go.
Defensive end will be a revolving door, loaded with speedy, undersized pass-rushers who can step back into coverage. Not really sure who I'd tab as the most dependable performer at that position.
Where is the concern?
I think it's at linebacker. Mason Foster is a versatile piece to this defense, and has to be on the field for 12 regular-season games for this unit to go efficiently. He led the Pacific-10 Conference a season ago in takeaways, including the game-winning interception against Arizona.
As much as coaches rave about Cort Dennison – he's tough, smart and rarely gets out of position – I'm not sure a half-season of action automatically signals he's a sure-fire weapon. He has to do it over the long haul, like Foster has.
Then comes the No. 3 linebacker spot. Whose is it?
Up first is Victor Aiyewa. Where have we heard this one before? Oh yeah, at safety – until the injuries started piling up. He's had groin issues. He's had shoulder issues – enough to keep him out of most of spring camp while Alvin Logan looked to solidify his spot on the outside.
Logan, because of nagging knee problems, has now left the program, which I think creates a huge void because he was quickly acclimating to his new position.
Can Aiyewa finally become dependable? I think it's arguably the biggest question that remains to be answered heading into 2010?
Beyond that, nobody is really certain what to expect from the second unit. Matt Houston had a billing coming in, and certainly fits the part. He's physical enough to handle the strong-side outside position. But why has it taken him so long to become a factor (seven tackles in three seasons)?
Jordan Wallace? Victor Burnett? Brandon Huppert?
Any of those names grab you in August?
One of them better grab hold of a job and run with it.