Hola! No, I haven’t been in ruins on an isolated island or desert the past few months, away from the uncivilized world of football.
The University of Washington went to its offseason. So did I (sort of).
I’m sure most of you just happened to jump to my May-July blogging adventure – the “Green Scene” – which focuses on all the golf activity in the Northwest, including the U.S. Open, U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Amateur (try that for a demanding trifecta).
In fact, after a couple days at Sahalee Country Club talking to the 50-and-over golfers, I jumped on a plane this morning to Burbank, Calif. (Bob Hope International Airport), then on to my comfy lodging in the hills of Pasadena where the Pacific-10 Conference football media day will be held Thursday at The Rose Bowl.
To recap: All 10 coaches, including UW’s Steve Sarkisian, will be attending with one player off their respective teams. On Thursday, it will be senior linebacker Mason Foster in tow.
Unlike previous years when the coaches would fly down from their residences to the one-day conference media festivities, on the orders of new and aggressively-strategic Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott, the headmasters have been back East since Monday, entertaining some of the national media back there.
My guess is by Thursday, the coaches will be a bit tired, testy and urgently ready to go home to get ready for the start of fall camp Aug. 8.
This is Sarkisian’s second go-round at Pac-10 media day. What a year for the Torrence, Calif. native, helping the Huskies to a 5-7 mark in 2009. The preseason media poll will officially come out Thursday, but for the record, I voted the UW second behind Oregon (and last time I checked, the No. 2 team from the Pac-10 DOES go to a pretty sweet bowl game).
Here is my midsummer wish list for Sarkisian and the boys as they wait out the final days before getting back to practice:
1, “I’LL HAVE WHAT HE’S HAVING!”
The football renaissance around Montlake has been astounding, no question. That is a credit to Sarkisian. And about the only man around the conference who can boast a steeper arc of aggressive change is Scott.
All Scott did was nearly break up the Big 12 Conference entirely by taking national powerhouse Texas. He did land Colorado and Utah to the newly-realigned Pac-12. And his minions debuted a new conference logo.
This is just the start of it. Scott knows business, and he thrives in marketing a product. Wait until the UW volleyball team opens its season in the Far East against a Nebraska or Ohio State in 2013.
If I were Sarkisian, I would find my way on one of Scott’s advisory board. Both are pretty forward-thinking strategists. Neither wastes time in getting tasks accomplished.
2, CLEAR THE CHARGES, CLEAR A SPOT
Did I mention I selected the UW as my No. 2 preseason team in the conference for 2010?
I wasn’t fuzzy on pills when I did that.
Without question, the UW has the make-up to fire off as the best offense in the conference: Quarterback is solid. Receivers make plays. Running back won’t carry it 500 times like he did last season because he now has help. And changes on the offensive line have been a revelation.
The back seven (linebackers and secondary) should be the defense’s strength. That is why the addition of true freshman Josh Shirley could make the action very interesting in August.
Defensive end has been a revolving door (I mean, even Clarence Trent was given a tryout, for goodness sake). It might be like that all season, rotating a large number of guys in and out. Would be nice to see one of the West Coast’s best recruits – Shirley – take a crack at it.
Yes, Shirley comes with baggage: He was released from his letter-of-intent by UCLA in July after theft charges were filed against him and two teammates in Los Angeles. Does he have character issues? If you solely count this mindless and stupid three-minute account against him, yes.
Do we really know about Shirley? No. But if the fan base truly trusts in Sarkisian’s read on people, and his own level of character, could Shirley work out handsomely in a UW uniform given another chance? Absolutely.
I mean, the guy isn’t the combustible wreck Vontaze Burfict, is he?
Make no mistake, it would not surprise me by midseason, Shirley was not only among the team’s sack leaders, he could be the biggest impact newcomer on the defensive side of the ball.
3, DESTINATION POINT? “AUSTIN”
Sarkisian aims to win battles – arguments with his assistants, heated discussions with officials and taking a victory from a fellow coach.
Right now, the biggest battle heading into early August isn’t with this UW team. It’s on the recruiting battlefield.
Now that Kavario Middleton has been dismissed, and only Chris Izbicki stands in the way, the coast is clear for the Huskies to get their biggest-need recruit in the Sarkisian era – Gig Harbor’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
By the end of this season, Seferian-Jenkins will be the nation’s No. 1 tight end prospect – and it won’t be even close.
He’s 6-foot-7 and 270 pounds. Running at you, he’s a freight train about to explode. And with legitimate 4.65-second speed in the 100 meters, he can run away from all but a handful of linebackers.
And he presents Sarkisian with a unique opportunity: A bona fide threat at tight end for the future.
Nick Montana has been an important recruit for the UW simply because his name resonates throughout the country. He’ll attract other players just by who he is, and by the position he plays at quarterback.
But if you could corner Sarkisian in the bowels of Hec Edmundson Pavilion and lay a squirt-gun to his temple, demanding him to admit who would be the one recruit he’d like to have most, based on need, my guess is he’d mutter three letters.
The decision looms, and should come soon. The big man from Gig Harbor has narrowed his list to the UW, Texas and UCLA, in no particular order – except for the fact he spends more hours in Seattle than he does in his own bedroom at home, getting to know this program inside-out.
When – not if – it happens, it will be a glorious summer Christmas present for Sarkisian and the staff to celebrate.