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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

July 21, 2010 at 9:11 AM

Wednesday morning news and notes

Had all kinds of other stuff to attend to last night, so wasn’t able to get anything else on the blog on what was an especially busy day for a Tuesday in July. So here are some assorted notes, links and thoughts:
— It’s been easy, especially for those not really paying close attention, to compare Steve Sarkisian with Rick Neuheisel — each young, energetic, aggressive recruiting, former quarterbacks with LA coaching pedigrees when they took over at UW.
But the swift manner in which Sarkisian axed Kavario Middleton from the team yesterday — for indiscretions no one outside the team really knew about — indicates Sarkisian is running a much tighter ship, and maybe is exhibiting the firmest hand at UW since the Don James era.
Middleton obviously wasn’t just some third-teamer who is easy to sacrifice to make a point. He was potentially the best UW tight end since Jerramy Stevens (a player whose UW career helps illustrate the differing manner in which the program appears to be being run now), and potentially a first-day NFL Draft pick.
On the field, his departure creates what is unquestionably an immediate hole. Chris Izbicki had a nice spring, but even if he can fill the starting void, Sarkisian likes to use two tight ends, and as detailed yesterday, other than Middleton and Izbicki, there’s no one on the roster who has seen game action other than Dorson Boyce, who was moved to fullback in the spring (and I guess could be moved back now, if needed). The H-back spot performs some of the same functions, so maybe they just incorporate some of those players in tight-end-type roles (such as Austin Sylvester, who at 241 could handle some of the tight-end-style pounding).
So this obviously comes with consequences not just for MIddleton, but for UW — and in a profession in which winning is everything, it’s easy to figure many coaches wouldn’t have taken this kind of action at this point, first practice less than three weeks away.
But we now see a pattern of swift and unwavering action by Sarkisian on such matters — David Batts was dismissed last year in a similar manner for apparently somewhat similar reasons (there was nothing legal or academic) and Andru Pulu was suspended indefinitely the minute word of his legal issues surfaced, almost certain never to play for UW again.
The situations for guys like David Freeman and Terrance Dailey — while apparently related strictly to academics — were also dealt with swiftly, the point being made early that the program is bigger than any player and will move on easily without you.
Such moves also help illustrate a clear vision Sarkisian has had for the program from day one. Among the traits UW officials said they liked in him during the hiring process was his confidence and belief in his philosophies — despite the fact he’d never been a head coach before, they didn’t feel he was someone who would spend a lot of time grasping for how he wanted to run the program. And indeed, he has made numerous changes from day one — opening up practices, revamping the strength and conditioning program and the behind-the-scenes discipline that is becoming more obvious.
And early returns indicate it’s paying off on the field as UW won five more games in 2009 than it did in 2008, and seems poised for a breakthrough to a winning record in 2010. Whether all of this will truly return UW to the glory days still remains to be seen. What we do know is that it’s Sarkisian’s way or the highway.
— Given that both Middleton and Izbicki would have been seniors in 2011 (and with Middleton, who knows if he might have just up and declared for the draft after this season depending on how things might have gone) getting a top-flight tight end I think was already a priority for the Class of 2011. It’s obviously even more so now and will put more of a spotlight on UW’s efforts with Austin Sefarian-Jenkins of Gig Harbor, the highest-rated tight end to come out of Washington since Middleton.
Sefarian-Jenkins said in a recent interview with ESPN.com’s Greg Biggins that he considered himself a silent commit to UCLA for a while. But rumblings have been that he is now a little more keen on the idea of staying home, and some think it’s a battle between UW, UCLA and Texas. He recently told Scout.com he plans to visit UCLA in late July (next week) and Texas in early August.
Scout.com also lists UW as having an offer out to Raymond Nelson of Modesto, Calif. — the younger brother of UCLA basketball player Reeves Nelson.
And two players who have already committed — Aubrey Coleman of Walnut, Calif.; and Jarett Finau of Juanita High — could end up at tight end.
— Here’s my post-spring review of the tight ends which should help you understand what remains at that position.
— There was a lot of other big news around the conference yesterday — specifically, Pat Haden taking over as AD at USC and Cal losing touted recruit Chris Martin — that on a normal day I might have highlighted in this space. In case you missed any of it, Ted Miller has items on everything in his blog.
The move to Haden shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, and hard to imagine he won’t be a substantial improvement.
All for now.

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