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The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

January 13, 2012 at 1:39 PM

Sarkisian teleconference notes and quotes

UW coach Steve Sarkisian talked to the media on a teleconference for about 20 minutes this morning, his first chance to discuss the firing of Nick Holt as defensive coordinator, hiring of Justin Wilcox, and lots of other topics.

Judging by my e-mail, the number one topic for most of you is how Sarkisian plans to fill the last remaining spot on the defensive coaching staff. Here’s Sarkisian’s answer:

“The goal is to hire somebody to work with our defensive front. Johnny Nansen will still be part of that, but obviously Johnny working with special teams that’s a great deal of time and energy that is taken to work with the special teams, so we are going to hire somebody to work with the defensive front that has good pedigree as far as from a recruiting standpoint and has a good knowledge base of the kinds of things Justin wants to teach on the defensive side of the ball up front, as well. So there are a lot of factors that go into it and we are trying to be patient and do our homework to hire the best guy for the job.”

That answer does nothing to dispel the rumors that the Huskies are making a hard push for Cal defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi, who played at Cal when Wilcox was a coach there, and who has a reputation as one of the better recruiters in the Pac-12 and the country.

The rumor mill has only gotten more heated of late that the Huskies may be trying to make Lupoi an offer he can’t refuse. Sarkisian cites a willingness to be patient in his answer above, and also notes desiring a coach familiar with what Wilcox does and having a good pedigree for recruiting. As discussed yesterday, Lupoi has long ties to Cal and it’s been thought he’d be unlikely to leave. But for now, the rumors persist.

Here’s the transcript of Sarkisian’s interview today:

On what the last month has been like: “I would probably say it’s been a pretty active month, to say the least. You think about almost a month ago at this time we are getting ready to head to San Antonio for a bowl game where we essentially have to move our entire football organization to the hotel down there, from equipment room to training room to the administration side of it, and then ultimately to play that game and what an exciting game it was on national television. And then to turn around and come back and have some changes to our staff and still continue to recruit and make some new hires to our staff and ultimately try to close here the last couple of weeks in recruiting, it’s been very active. But that’s part of the profession. This job is so unique in that we have moments where we are just focused on football, we have moments where we are just focused on our kids and their schoolwork and what they are doing here, we have moments when we are focused on recruiting and moments when we are focused on our staff. There’s a lot of different hats to this job, but that’s what makes this job so enjoyable.”

On how hard it was to fire Nick Holt and the other defensive coaches: “It’s extremely difficult. And I think that as you go through this, you have to try to take your personal emotions out of it the best you can and put on the CEO hat of the organization and what’s best for our football organization. And again, I think the world of Nick Holt as a person, I think the world of Nick Holt as a coach. But it didn’t work and it just wasn’t right for a variety of reasons and we just felt like the time was right to make a change.”

On the process of identifying when he knew there was a problem with the defense and when he knew he had to make a change: “No, I don’t need to.”

On bringing on coaches who all have previous experience in the Pac-12 and if that’s something he takes into consideration in making these hires: “I think there’s a lot to take into consideration. You want people who are familiar with this conference and have a great deal of respect for this conference and a great deal of respect for this university, that are very good coaches and are very good recruiters and can deal well with our current players. So there is a lot that goes into this and that definitely is one of the factors.”

On Justin Wilcox and Peter Sirmon: “I’ll start with Justin. Obviously very excited about Justin and the pedigree that he brings in here. I think not only is he a fantastic football coach and a great football mind on the defensive side of the ball, I really have embraced his personality, his ability to teach, his ability to communicate was something that is very attractive to me on that end. I think he brings a wealth of knowledge but also a real sense of energy and excitement and one that I think our players will be excited to play for him. By doing that we are able to bring in a guy who knows his system well in Peter Sirmon, with the linebacker coaching spot. I think again Peter, a younger coach but a great deal of experience playing in the National Football League. Knows the Northwest really well, he’s a Washingtonian at heart. So I think there are a lot of things from those two guys to come back here to come back here and be part of this program we couldn’t be more excited about, and as their futures unfold here and what they bring to our football program now and into the future we are going to see even more that these guys are fantastic football coaches and good people and have bright futures in front of them.”

On how he was able to make the transition so quickly from Holt’s departure to their arrival: “I didn’t sleep, quite honestly. It was 48 straight hours of trying to find the right guy to fit what we wanted to do here, of where I felt like I needed our program to go. It was a dead period in recruiting and I wanted to work diligently, quickly but yet make sure we made the right hire and I think we hit a home run with Justin and I couldn’t be more happy about it.”

On if he had any previous relationship with Justin: “I had played in the East-West All-Star game with his brother (Josh, a former tight end at Oregon) coming out of college. That was about the extent of it.”

On how big it was to get a guy like Wilcox given his reputation: “I think it’s big. It speaks volumes about the perception of what Washington Husky football is about around the country. You talk about a guy who is a defensive coordinator in the SEC and did a fantastic job and had opportunities to go to some other very high profile universities and didn’t go. And so to have him come back and be part of our program at the University of Washington I think speaks volumes to where he thinks we are headed as a program and what the perception of what this program is around the country right now.”

On what Wilcox’s system is: “I think it’s multiple in a sense, but what it does for me and for Justin to come here with some of the personnel that we have here it allows us to get into a little bit more of a 3-4-type mold, underfront defense with maybe a standup defensive end and take some of the things that we have in place already with some of your younger players and so we will be multiple but I think we will see more of a 3-4-type wrinkle to what we are doing and allow us to be a little more aggressive in coming after the quarterback and utilizing some of the strengths we have in our younger players.”

On the hiring of Keith Heyward as defensive backs coach: “Well I think Keith brings obviously a great deal of knowledge of the conference when it comes to competing against the other 11 teams. He obviously has played in this conference, coached in this conference and recruited in this conference. He knows the West Coast extremely well. He went to high school in Los Angeles and has recruited in Los Angeles for years which was critical for us from a recruiting standpoint. And I think that you look at the body of work of the players that he has had, he’s produced tremendous players in a short amount of time, guys that have been All-Pac-10, All-Pac-12 performers and have gone on and now play in the NFL. Again, I think we have some young players in place here, and a senior in Desmond Trufant, who has a chance to be pretty special, and I think Keith has the ability to bring out the special qualities in all of those guys.”

On when he hopes to complete the staff: “Ultimately we’d love to do it sooner rather than later. But ultimately we have to make sure it’s right and we are not going to rush it to fill the spot if it’s not right. And so there is patience involved in this and there is a lot of due diligence that is being done to make sure that this last hire is the right hire. But again, sure I’d love to do it sooner rather than later. But I’m not going to rush to do this thing and it not be right.”

On when he had the first conversation with Wilcox about the job: “Probably almost 24 hours after the bowl game.”

On if he could get a sense of whether Wilcox was looking back to get to the West Coast or if this was just a good opportunity for him: “I think it’s a combination of both, quite honestly. I think he recognized what we are doing at the University of Washington. I think deep down he’s a Northwest guy. I think he likes the lifestyle here in the Northwest, and I think ultimately he sees this job as something that we can be really successful at and he can put his stamp on it, his mark on it and that ultimately for him can lead to bigger and better things. Ultimately down the road Justin is going to want to become a head football coach — I don’t doubt that about him. But to do that you’ve got to continue to grow and I think this gives him that opportunity to do that. Hopefully we can keep him here for years and years and years. But we’ve got to be successful before that can happen.”

On if Wilcox was the first coach he had talks with about the DC job: “I’m not going to get into that.”

On if the players have met Wilcox and what are their thoughts: “We introduced him to the team when we got back to school and all the players had a chance to introduce themselves. It’s obviously a little bit difficult when you are meeting almost 85 guys at one time to remember everybody’s name and who they are all and that. They’ve had a chance a little bit now that we’ve had a dead period in recruiting for a few days to come in and kind of say hello. I think there is a great deal of excitement around it. Players, they just want to be successful and they see a guy who has been at Boise and been successful and been at Tennessee and been successful and I think they are excited about the opportunities to learn his defense and ultimately go out and play it and play it well.”

On UW fans worrying about the fact Wilcox is an Oregon Duck: “I don’t even care about it, quite honestly. This is about our football team now. You can’t, because I went to BYU I don’t think everyone is upset that I went to BYU. I don’t think that, we go to school where we go to school and at some point we have to be grown men and do the job we are asked to do. I’m not really concerned. I think our boosters are more concerned about us playing good football and winning games.”

On the commitment of UW athletic director Scott Woodward to give him the resources the school needs to win at football: “I think the state of college football and where we’re headed it’s almost the going rate for successful programs and I think Scott recognizes that and if you want to get a top tier defensive coordinator that’s where we’re headed. I think you’re going to continue to see that around our conference now, especially with the new TV money coming in and we’re obviously already seeing it from the head coaches salaries that are going on around the conference now and I think we’ll continue to see that as it works its way, a trick down affect in a sense, down to the assistants in our conference.”

On Chris Polk’s decision to leave for the NFL: “I don’t think it was an easy decision for Chris to turn himself over to the national football league, but in a way I think it was the right thing for him. You’re talking about a guy who has already earned his degree, he gave us three tremendous years carrying the football and some special moments and I couldn’t be more thankful to Chris for what he brought to our program. I think he was one of the catalysts that had turned this program around and we’ll be here for him every step of the way. He’s done so much for us and we’ll continue to support him. I think he’s got a bright, bright future ahead of him in the national football league and we’ll continue to see that physical running style on Sunday’s as we move forward these next few years.”

On Austin Seferian-Jenkins playing basketball:“I think it’s a good experiment for him. Austin is an extremely talented kid and he’s very, very competitive. He believes in himself, he believes in his abilities. The one thing when you have a guy that’s doing both sports like this you look at all aspects of it, Austin’s been a tremendous student from Day 1. He’s well over a 3.0 GPA for us right now. He can handle himself in the classroom. He’s handled himself extremely well on campus as a person and he has the work ethic and desire to try it. As the season wears down here with 10-12 games remaining in their season when all that’s said and done that will give him a real perspective if this is something he wants to continue to pursue of if he just wants to continue to focus on football. But I think it’s a great effort by him right now and we’re supporting him every step of the way.”

On what the additions of Antavius Sims and Marvin Hall mean:
“They’re going to bring speed, I know that. Both of them are tremendous return men in the punt and kickoff return game. Obviously Marvin at the wide receiver what he brings is a little bit unique from a body building style. We don’t’ have that type of body at the wide receiver spot which is encouraging. Sims we’re going to look at at the corner spot initially and see how that plays out. He’s a tremendous athlete. That’s what he naturally is. He played junior college quarterback just out of necessity for his college and ended up being the player of the year. That just gives you an idea of the type of athlete he is, but I think he has a very bright future at defensive back and we might see sprinkles of him on the offensive side of the ball. He brings a great deal of uniqueness to our football team.

On all the scoring in bowl games, and whether that influenced his decision on Holt: “Well, ultimately that was a tough matchup for us. Baylor coming in as the No. 2 rated offense in the country at 507 yards a game is a little bit of a tough matchup. I think the state of college football, in a sense, has changed some. You look at LSU in the Alabama game and what Alabama did to hold those guys to 92 yards, I don’t know if that’s the norm in college football right now. I think teams have dedicated themselves to no-huddle offense. Teams have dedicated themselves to scoring points and not as concerned about time of possession and taking care of the ball and limiting snaps. It’s almost like teams are trying to outscore each other. So there’s an idea there, and a philosophy is starting to take over college football, in a sense. And we’re trying to figure out what route we’re going, and where we’re headed. That’s part of the evaluation process of our program: who are we, what’s our identity, and where are we headed. I think you’re seeing the scores around the country are really just in a nutshell of what’s gone on in college football this entire season. You look at the offensive numbers around the season and they’re getting higher and higher and higher, in yardage and points and different things. We’re just trying to make sure that where we fit in this thing is right for us and not necessarily what everybody else is doing. Sure, we want to score points. Sure, we want to have yards. But we also want to stop people, we also want to create turnovers, and ultimately we want to win. So we’re just trying to figure out what’s best for us to win games.

On if the Husky Stadium is impacting recruiting: “I think it’s great for recruiting. It gives a sense of reality that we’re doing this. I’m kind of blown away now every day going to work, seeing the south stands. It’s a fascinating process. It’s one I’m loving being a part of and seeing this thing go through.”

On needing a kicker for 2012: “It’s something we’re working on here in recruiting, without a doubt.”

On players who will need surgery in the off-season: “We’ve got a few guys that are taking care of some things. Colin Porter is going to have a shoulder surgery to repair a shoulder. Travis Feeney had shoulder surgery to take care of a shoulder. Kevin Smith had knee surgery so he will be out for some time. I think that’s about the extent of it. There are a few other things we are still getting evaluated but that’s kind of the three major ones.”

On if Keith Price needs surgery: “Not as of right now, no.”

On redshirts: “We were unsuccessful with the try to get Erik (Folk) an extra year so he will be moving on and we’ll wish him the best of luck. He’s earned his degree and hopefully he gets a shot in the NFL. It looks as though we are going to get James Sample’s year back, which is encouraging, so he used his redshirt year this fall and he’ll have four years to play, which is a great thing. And it looks as though we are going to get Johri Fogerson’s year back so he is going to have one year of eligibility left.”

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