What a difference a coaching staff makes. Half way through the Sark Administration's first season at the helm the Dawgs are a surprising 3-3. They could easily be 4-2 or 2-4. 3-3 is a vast improvement over the disaster that was Willingham. He could not glean one win from this same core group in 12 tries last season? He should be punished for the damage he did to the program and the kids.
Overall grad for this team at the mid-season point: C+/B-. Huge improvements, but there is work to be done to get this program back to its place among the football elite.
Coaching Staff: B. Sark and Holt have done a solid job of getting these kids to play hard for four quarters and have instilled a swagger and confidence that went MIA under the previous regime. The defense has been slow to make adjustments at times. The Husky defense had no answer for the Arizona offense which moved the ball at will. Adjustmetns were non-existant. Not until the final 30 seconds did they pressure Foles. UW played safe and conservative, albiet expectedly. Against ND they could not stop Tate who had a career day. Sark has remade this team's image. He has missed some strategic opportunities (goal line offense vs. ND) to prove he can excel with lesser talent. USC is loaded - UW is not. Over all a very impressive turnaround with a team that is not talent-laden - but there is work to be done as we discover this team and its' coaches learning curve. UW has gone from a laughingstock to a respectable and formidable unit that is clearly on the rise. Expect a monster recruiting class next year, a by-product of the turnaround. This staff’s stock is soaring as this team ascends.
Defense: C+. This is not an overly talented unit. They rely on emotion and momentum and play their best when backed up against the wall. They give up yardage but are feisty when it counts. The linebackers are strong and the secondary, led by Trufant and hero du jour Mason Foster, is maturing rapidly but has a ways to go. The line needs to find ways to get pressure inside (aggressive scheming will help) and become more stout against the run. This unit is improving and is taking on Holt's fiery persona - thankfully. They compete for four quarters as seen in all six games.
Offense: B. Locker is improving as a pocket passer and remains a threat on the ground to be reckoned with. He needs to improve accuracy but that will come with time and under the proper coaching, which he is getting. The running game is a work in progress and needs to improve it's consistency to keep pressure off Locker so he can flourish. The O-line is playing above its head despite injuries and often being outmatched. They play hard and do a pretty good job of pass protection, but it needs to improve, and it will.
The major problem on offense is a receiving corp (C-)that continues to drop passes they need to catch. For as many quality catches this group makes, just as many fall incomplete. These are opportunities that need to be taken advantage of if this team is to reach its offensive potential.
Special teams: C-. Another area of concern. Kickoff coverage is poor. Stanford opened with a return for a TD. Bad coverage and poor strategy - why kick it to their most dangerous threat? Bad planning and worse execution. This unit consistently gives up long returns which set up opponents with strong field position. Happened every time against Arizona - giving an offense they could not stop an extra advantage. This area needs to improve quickly. Punting game is good as is the place-kicking team.
Based on last year's F grade, this team has shown vast improvements. With the next Husky win you can start the "Sark for PAC-10 Coach of the Year" hype machine. If they get to a bowl game we're talking National Coach of the Year. Locker is on pace to be the PAC-10's Offensive Player of the Year.
Overall this team and staff are a C+/B- and are likely to only improve as the system takes hold, players naturally improve, confidence soars and they expect to win. This is a a huge improvement in all areas from last year. Purple Pride is back!
6-0 gets all A grades. 0-6 gets F's.