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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

December 20, 2012 at 4:01 PM

Time to cool the “Sark brought them back from 0-12” argument

On the occasion of Washington’s bowl game against Boise State Saturday, we need to understand something about Steve Sarkisian.

There’s a fair amount of debate about Sark, whether he has the Huskies where they ought to be after four years, etc. But this is not about that; I think we’ll have a much better idea a year from now about the whole regime.

Nor do I want to spend a lot of time on whether 2012 has been fulfilling or underachieving, or jammed in neutral. Absent the result from the bowl game, I tend to think 7-5 has been a satisfactory season, given a significant amount of injuries that a lot of people don’t want to entertain when assessing the big picture.

Here are the words that should ring hollow to every Husky follower, whether you’re an ardent Sark supporter or a severe skeptic:

” . . . he brought them back from 0-12.”

As if.

I suppose in the strictest sense, yes, he led them back from 0-12. He took over Tyrone Willingham’s ruins and shepherded the Huskies back to the post-season.
It’s just that that summary is so incomplete, so lacking in detail and perspective.
An 0-12 season implies not only complete failure on the field, but an absence of any resources on the roster – an operation devoid of hope for the future.
Do these names mean anything to you? Jake Locker, Chris Polk, Jermaine Kearse, Daniel Te’o Nesheim, Mason Foster, Donald Butler, Devin Aguilar, Alameda Ta’amu, Senio Kelemete, Cort Dennison, Victor Aiyewa.
Those were young players on the UW roster that Sarkisian assumed. I’d argue that’s a boatload of talent – at least enough to point the program back in the right direction.
Locker was a top-10 NFL pick, Polk left Washington on the doorstep of the UW career rushing record. Foster and Butler have been starting in the NFL at linebacker, Te’o Nesheim has been a fill-in starter in the League. Kelemete is a backup guard at that level, Kearse has made a cameo with the Seahawks. Ta’amu is on the Steelers practice squad. Aiyewa had 21 tackles for loss for the 2010 Huskies, and I can’t find anybody in the last four years of Pac-12 football with more.
That’s a destitute program?
As I think back to that misbegotten 2008 Apple Cup — the one that featured two teams with a combined one victory — nobody really knew the relative strengths of the two programs, as in, their immediate prospects for getting out of the abyss. Although the Cougars won that day, the Huskies were in far, far better shape going forward with a talent base WSU didn’t have.
I know what you’re howling: Without Sarkisian and his staff, none of these guys would have blossomed to this degree. Well, I guess we’ll never know. Certainly Sarkisian has had a way with quarterbacks (at least until this year), and he nurtured Locker well. He and his staff have to get at least some credit for the development of that talent.
And Sarkisian has to be credited with helping the Huskies rid themselves of the psychological baggage that came with such staccato losing before he arrived.
Beyond all that, let’s not kid ourselves. You don’t make chicken salad without some pretty good ingredients. Willingham and Co. – for all the flak he took for spending all his time on the golf course, not hitting the recruiting trail – left Sarkisian the makings of a pretty nice foundation.



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