Basically the Huskies must go to a bowl game for head coach Tyrone Willingham to keep his job.
Reasons To Be Optimistic About the 2008 Season
1) Jake Locker is Back and More Experienced
Though there is no contact, Locker’s numbers in the Spring Game (13/17 for 159 yards and a TD) show an improvement in passing accuracy – an area he struggled with (47% completion percentage) last year. He also played a little baseball over the summer which hopefully will have a Dennis Dixon-like effect on his quarterbacking.
Jake managed to hit a 600-foot home run while being intentionally walked. With the bat ring on. On one leg. While on fire.
2) New Assistants
Kent “What am I doing in football?” Baer was finally kicked to the curb and replaced with former NFL defensive coordinator Ed Donatell. Hopefully Donatell can lead the defense to a nice rebound from the program’s worst ever defensive performance last year.
Coaching retread, Bob Simmons, was also let go after another disappointing season of bad special teams and tight end play. His replacement is former Syracuse offensive coordinator, Brian White. Yes, White was fired last year after Syracuse’s offense struggled, but he has been earning solid reviews for his work with the Huskies so far.
Another intriguing hire is former Skyline High School head coach Steve Gervais. With 31 years of high school head coaching experience, Gervais is an offensive specialist who should add some spice to the playbook. Gervais has won six Washington State high school championships including a thrilling 42-35 win against O’Dea in the 3A title game last year.
Oh, and I made that up.
3) More Talent
While it is debatable that the ’08 team will have more talent than the ’07 team, I would make this argument. Losing RB Louis Rankin, WRs Anthony Russo and Marcel Reese, CB Roy Lewis, and four members of the defensive line (Greyson Gunheim, Wilson Afoa, Jordan Reffett, and Caesar Rayford) hurts, however the overall talent level and particularly the depth of talent is greater.
For example, the secondary struggled mightily last season and it appears the unit might be completely redone for the upcoming season. Nate Williams and Victor Aiyewa had breakout springs and are poised to become the new starting safeties (though a recent injury to Aiyewa has Darin Harris looking like the starter against Oregon) pushing former safety Mesphin Forrester to cornerback alongside fellow former safety Quinton Richardson. Forrester and Richardson are both listed at 205 pounds making them the two biggest cornerbacks on the team. The Huskies lack of size in the secondary hurt them last year, so it’s possible that even with the loss of Roy Lewis, the secondary unit could be much improved.
On the other side of the ball, UW lost their five most productive wide receivers last year, however the ’08 team has more speed at this position in quite a few years. D’Andre Goodwin, Alvin Logan figure to be starters and all possess great speed. Freshman Devin Aguilar, Jermaine Kearse, Jordan Polk, and Anthony Boyles also could see time.
The running back position also has some depth (albeit youthful) and is headlined by Chris Polk, who is earning rave reviews and will be the starter against Oregon. Polk is a true freshman who turned down an offer from USC, graduated early to come to Seattle for spring practice, and has been drawing comparisons to a young Reggie Bush (minus the banging Kim Kardashian part).
Sophomore Brandon Johnson (who rushed for over 100 yards against Cal last year) will also see significant time along with another true freshman, 5’7 speedster David Freeman.
4) Juan Garcia May See Significant Time
The prospects of the ’08 season took a serious hit when Juan Garcia suffered a Lisfranc foot injury during a scrimmage on April 18th. However, he elected not to have surgery which would have ended his Husky career and instead let his foot heal on its own. After only four months, Garcia has made a remarkable recovery and will play significantly in the opener in Eugene.
Garcia, who has battled through more injuries than Evil Knievel, was granted a sixth year of eligibility after he missed the entire 2004 and 2005 seasons with a broken fibula, a dislocated ankle, and a shoulder injury. Garcia graduated last year and could have gone pro, but chose to play another season with the Huskies.
Juan Garcia eats a heaping portion of Lisfranc injuries for breakfast. Without a napkin.