The rain making it easier to get through a few more of these today. …
Q: The O-line is a mess, and without (Chris) Polk, will (Keith) Price be able to put up similar numbers this year?
A: Well, I wish I could see into the future better than the next guy — my financial portfolio is proof that I can’t — and then I could give you a better answer. But there’s so many variables at play here that it’s impossible for anyone to do anything but just take a stab in the dark at a question like this.
For one thing, lower numbers could be a good thing — maybe the running game becomes so good that he doesn’t have to do anything but hand the ball off and throw at opportune times, etc.
But as you point out, there are some well-documented questions about the offense that could force Price to have to carry a heavier load this season — assuming he has the skill people around him to handle it (you could also mention the loss of the top two leading WRs from last year as another potential factor).
One person who sees some potential pitfalls for Price this year is former UW QB Brock Huard, who wrote this piece in April saying to not be surprised to see Price “take a step back” this year. I’d argue that headline is a little misleading — it might not be Price himself taking a step back in his own play as much as the supporting cast around him not allowing his numbers to climb to the same level. If you read our live chat with Steve Sarkisian a few days later, you know what he thinks of that theory (he said they’d already taped that story up in the locker room).
If I had to guess, I’d say that given the uncertainty of the OL and some growing needed among the skill guys, it would probably be unrealistic to expect Price to better last year’s numbers. The year when that might happen is 2013, when just about everyone off the offense could be back (the only seniors on what would be the likely offensive starting lineup right now are receiver James Johnson and center Drew Schaefer).
Q: What will it take for the ADs to agree to an eight-game conference schedule? Seems like the requirements to make the playoffs might eventually push them over the edge and the coaches (from what I have read) are already for it.
A: You are correct that the coaches are for it — remember Rick Neuheisel’s statement last year that the conference was “sold a bill of goods” in keeping with a nine-game conference schedule because it thought the Big Ten was also going to stay at nine?
The reason ADs want to play nine games is, surprise, mostly financial — it’s harder than ever to schedule non-conference games and dropping a conference game and then attempting to add another non-conference game of equal or better potential revenue-generating capacity would only make things that much more challenging. For many teams, it might mean subtracting what would be a good conference game (say UCLA or something) for a not-so-attractive non-conference foe (and also would mean even more instances where a team like UW might not make a trip to a regional area it used to visit annually, such as LA or Phoenix).
What might change things is if the conference is really able to secure a yearly game with a Big Ten team (as is the tentative plan), basically adding another conference-quality game for every school each year. Certainly, it’s something I think will be constantly evaluated. But for right now, the preference appears to be to stay with nine conference games.
If you are really an advocate of going to eight conference games, though, also be on board with paying conference-game-type money for a ticket to see what could easily end up being another Portland State-type opponent.
Q: Assuming there are no injuries against SDSU in game 1, what do you think the UW starting offensive line will be against LSU (game 2).
A: I’m a little confused by this — are you assuming something might happen to make them change the line against LSU? Anyway, I’ll answer this more by projecting what I think the line will be for game one, which assuming no injuries against San Diego State would then be the same for the LSU game.
UW left the spring with what appeared to be fairly set situations at center (Schaefer), left tackle (Micah Hatchie) and right tackle (Ben Riva). Obviously, there will be competition everywhere in fall camp. But those guys are the leaders at those spots heading into camp and as such, the odds-on favorites there.
The bigger questions are at guard with Colin Tanigawa still rehabbing an ACL injury. But coaches say he will be back in time for the fall. So we’ll assume he will be. Sarkisian also addressed what happens when Tanigawa returns in his live chat with us, saying the preference is that he will go to left guard and Erik Kohler and James Atoe will battle at right guard. I would assume Kohler wins that battle, giving a starting line, from left to right, of Hatchie, Tanigawa, Schaefer, Kohler and Riva.
Q: Hoping not to be trite, but do you think Sark should be held accountable to fans and AD if the team is not measurably better this season? Considering the opportunity for recruitment and the ENORMOUS salary the football staff has, wouldn’t results be mandatory?
A: Sure, I always think coaches should be held accountable — and I think they are held accountable daily in any number of ways, from the number of tickets sold (which ultimately speaks as loudly as anything about what the public thinks) to having to answer questions from the media.
Sarkisian also sent a loud message that he understands more is expected with the changes he made to the defensive coaching staff.
I assume in your question you may really be wanting to ask if he’d be fired if this season turned exceedingly bad in some manner. I don’t see a scenario where that would happen. First, he has the progress of the last three years to fall back on to indicate that overall, the program is on a lot firmer footing than it was when he took over. There’s also the aforementioned defensive coaching changes — you’d obviously give that staff more than a year to turn around that side of the ball. UW also is still a young team overall and realistically appears set to only improve over the course of the next few seasons, assuming the young talent is as advertised. There’s also Sarkisian’s contract, which runs through 2016, and the unfailing support he has from UW AD Scott Woodward.
Because of how few games there are in a college football season, every single contest often feels like a litmus test of where the program is at that time. And obviously, as Sarkisian enters year four, his ownership of the program is greater than ever. So will be the credit, and or blame, he receives from here on out.