BY WARREN MAINARD
As a diehard Washington Husky fan, I have found myself asking myself the question, “What if?” an awful lot the past 12 months. While every year and every team has injuries and on-field challenges that lead to missed opportunities and mixed results, this year for the Huskies has been fraught with non-injury related questions of what might have been.
“What if … Steve Sarkisian had stayed?” While I am not a Sarkisian apologist and have thoroughly enjoyed watching his USC Trojans get creamed this year, I have wondered if this season would have been another major step forward for the UW program with the continuity of coaching and recruiting under his leadership. Long term, I am a Chris Petersen believer, so this “what if” is the least of my concerns.
“What if … Bishop Sankey and Austin Seferian-Jenkins had chosen to stay for their senior seasons?” This one was a longshot, but it is fun to imagine Sankey shattering all of the Huskies’ (and many Pac-12) rushing records while leading a potent running attack. Sefarian-Jenkins – along with Damore’ea Stringfellow (see below), Jaydon Mickens and John Ross – would have combined to make one of the most gifted collection of pass catchers in Huskies history.
“What if … Cyler Miles and Stringfellow had not acted like hoodlums on the night of the Super Bowl?” Cyler Miles appears to finally be getting comfortable within the offense after being suspended throughout spring practice and the first game of the season. He really didn’t look like a Pac-12 caliber quarterback until Week 11 this season, and one cannot help but wonder what a difference it would have made if he had gotten all of the spring reps. The dismissal of Stringfellow by Coach Pete has been bigger than anyone could have imagined. Losing Sefarian-Jenkins and the inability of Kasen Williams to fully recover from injury has left the Huskies with few big receiving targets. Stringfellow was clearly the Huskies’ best returning receiver entering this year, and the offense has struggled mightily to find a suitable replacement for his combination of size and skill.
“What if … Marcus Peters had fallen in line?” Losing a cornerback with first-round NFL talent in the pass-happy Pac-12 is never easy to overcome. Losing Peters for disciplinary reasons with a defensive backfield of true freshmen and first-year starters was like a sucker punch to the groin. The defensive backfield was a glaring weakness coming into the season, and losing a shutdown corner made life that much harder for the Huskies’ defense. Coach Pete had to protect the culture he is trying to create, so I do not blame him for his decision, but it is a shame that Peters and Petersen could not have resolved the conflict.
“What if … Chris Petersen had not made two dumb calls this year?” Clearly, in the Stanford game, Coach Petersen’s decision to attempt a fake punt was an admission that he had zero confidence in his offense. The terrible result of that play was the final blow to the Huskies’ chances of beating Stanford in a season when the Cardinal has been vulnerable. In the game against the Arizona Wildcats, simply taking the knee may not have been quite enough to run out the clock, but it certainly would have left the Wildcats with virtually no chance of mounting a comeback. The “what if” on those two calls alone would have us talking about the possibility of reaching 11 wins for the first time since the Huskies’ 2000 Rose Bowl season.
Every team has challenges to overcome, but more than any other recent year, this one leaves me leaves me asking “what if …”
Warren Mainard attended King’s High School in Shoreline and played tennis for Cascade High School in Everett. He recently returned to the Seattle area after 20 years in the South to serve as the lead pastor of Essential Church in Bellevue.
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