UW coach Steve Sarkisian was asked Monday, and then again today during the Pac-12 Conference coaches’ call, about the national perception of the conference with five teams ranked in the top 25:
“I’ve been in this league I think now 13 years and I’ve never seen it this deep, I’ve never seen it this competitive where week in and week out … if you’re not ready to play, you’re going to get beat,” Sarkisian said Monday. “The conference in general and the universities have made a real financial commitment to hiring good coaches. They’ve made financial commitments to building football facilities that matter in recruiting. And, in turn, it’s tough. It’s as tough as I’ve seen it. … It’s great to see. It’s fun, it’s competitive.”
(on national perception) I don’t think we’re there yet, quite honestly, to getting all the respect the conference deserves. But I think that we’re improving … I think people are probably taking more notice and paying attention. I think it’s a good thing that not all of our kickoff times are at 7:30 at night. Games are getting spread throughout the day so that people are having an opportunity to see our teams play.”
Here are highlights from Sark’s 10-minute period on the Pac-12 call today:
(on the offensive line) They’ve played really well. I thought they played against a really good Boise front and then turned around and played well against a very active Illinois front. The biggest key for us right now is the cohesiveness that they’re all playing with. They’re playing very well together, they’re communicating well with one another and they’re in excellent physical condition. The tempo that we’re playing at requires that they’re in great shape, and I really feel that they’re stronger in the second half than they are in the first half, and I think that’s why you see our production increase in the second half … and it’s a real tribute to the condition they’re in.
(on Keith Price and his offseason strengthening) I think it’s a real credit to Keith and to our strength and conditioning coach, Ivan Lewis, and their work together. We really got back to working Keith’s lower body with squats, power lifts, cleans — things of that nature — to get the explosiveness back in his legs. That’s when he’s really at his best, when he can get out of the pocket and improvise and make those things of plays. He’s just playing at a very high level for us right now. I don’t know if he can do much more than what we’ve asked of him at this point, and the whole key for him is to maintain the health that he’s in and stay strong and explosive, and then continue to allow the system to work and distribute the football.
(on whether trip to Chicago was more “business-like” for this team) I really felt good about it. Our team, the same way that we’ve matured on the field — which I think we have — we’ve matured off the field. I think we handled things really well in our preparation and our focus and not trying to rely on external motivating factors and just motivating ourselves because of the process and the game. I feel good about our ability to go on the road; I think that was important for us to do that, to go to Chicago and play at Solider Field against a very hot Illinois team at the time. And then to be faced with some adversity, to have a 21-point lead and then having that lead cut down to 7 in the fourth quarter, and then find a way to finish the ballgame off and win by 10 I thought was big for us. I thought it showed a lot of maturity.
(on being a head coach who calls the offensive plays) Half the reason I coach is because I call plays. I think when I got hired here at the University of Washington, I got hired for a variety of reasons, one of which I felt was my play-calling ability. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way, I just feel like we all have strengths and we all have weaknesses and I feel like calling plays is one of my strengths. We’ve been a multiple offense here now for the last five years and had to adjust and change to the personnel we have, but I love being attached and a part of the ballgame. To do that, you have to have a good staff and guys around you (who) you can count on. Obviously, not only on the offensive side but on the defensive side of the football. And we’re real fortunate that we have that here in Justin Wilcox, a guy who just does a great job of coordinating and running our defense. I love the opportunity of calling plays — that’s what it’s all about, of having your fingertips on the game and being in control of it to some degree. So I don’t see giving that up here, at least not in the near future.
(are there risks being a head coach who calls plays in terms of overall game management?) I think we’ve got a good format in the way we do things. I obviously rely heavily on our offensive staff between series to get some of the issues fixed that we need to get fixed, whether it’s up front or types of plays or different things that we like to go to. So I’m gathering that information, but I’m on with our defense while our defense is on the field as well. For me, I was fortunate. Obviously I worked with Pete Carroll for seven years. Pete was the same way. He called the defense every game that we went out and he did a good job utilizing his staff on defense to get things fixed (and) he was on the headset with us on offense, so he knew what plays were going in. He was the one deciding if we’d go for it on fourth down or punt or take a penalty or not. That’s, it’s not the only way I know it, but that’s just the way I’ve known it. The one year I spent in the NFL was with Norv Turner, and Norv Turner called the plays. So I’ve seen it work in my experience and that’s the format that we’ve chosen to use.