Athletic director Scott Woodward is more realist than eternal optimist when it comes to the progress of his football program under coach Steve Sarkisian.
But a review after Year No. 2 – a third-place finish in the Pacific-10 Conference, and a 7-6 record with a recent Holiday Bowl triumph over Nebraska?
“I like incremental improvement, and I like improvement based on solid foundation,” Woodward said. “That is what I’m most impressed about in our football team – we’re doing all the right things.”
Of course, surging from 0-12 in 2008 to a winning season two years later has been pretty remarkable.
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“It was a hard job Coach Sarkisian had, and we’ve done it with flying colors so far,” Woodward said. “I really like what I see.”
So much so that Woodward has started preliminary discussions with Sarkisian and his agent, Gary Uberstine of Premier Sports, about a contract extension. Sarkisian signed a five-year deal when he was hired in December of 2008.
“Coach Sark and I have briefly discussed it,” Woodward said. “It’s something he doesn’t obsess over, and something I don’t. We gave him a good, fair contract, and we’re probably going to give him a good, fair extension. I don’t foresee it being any problem whatsoever.”
This week, Sarkisian has been on the road recruiting in Southern California. On Friday, he and his coaching staff will hold the first team meeting on campus looking toward next season.
Sarkisian was asked during his end-of-the-year teleconference with reporters on Wednesday if he thought the team was ready for the fans’ increased expectations for 2011.
“I’m not as concerned about the raising of expectations. I think that’s natural – the more you win, the better you play, so that happens naturally,” Sarkisian said. “My biggest concern is to watch the personality of this team grow.
“Expectations are expectations, but ultimately you’ve got to perform.”
Quick-hit stuff on pertinent UW football topics:
• The post-Jake Locker quarterback battle will be wide open. Backup Keith Price would appear to have a slight edge heading into spring camp, but not enough of one that Nick Montana can’t beat him out.
The likelihood that somebody emerges out of spring ball with a firm hold on the job is slim, anyway.
“Hopefully we continue to excel at running the football, where we don’t have to put as much pressure on the quarterback, especially early on,” Sarkisian said. “And I’d like to think that defensively we can continue on the path we are on ... where the quarterback doesn’t have to go out and win the games for us.”
“But ... when it comes to spring football and into fall camp, we’ll make our practice environment as hostile an environment as we can on those two young guys, to put them in some of the most difficult situations and see how they respond.”
• No word yet about which UW underclassmen – if any – would be pursuing leaving for the NFL this winter.
Of considerable interest would be running back Chris Polk, who just finished his sophomore season, and senior-to-be receiver Jermaine Kearse, out of Lakes High School.
“I don’t anticipate any of them leaving,” Sarkisian said, “but things could change here in a week or so’s time.”
• Sarkisian said he does not expect any staff departures, but will leave open to the option of redistributing the workload among his assistants.
“You look at the programs that have grown from some of the depths of where we started, I think continuity is big – big from a messaging perspective, whether it’s from me, through the assistant coaches all the way down to the players,” Sarkisian said. “We’re hopeful that we stay intact.”
• On the injury front, running back Deontae Cooper (knee) remains on course to play next season. Cornerback Quinton Richardson (hamstring) and offensive lineman Erik Kohler (leg) were injured in the Holiday Bowl but should be fine – although Kohler had emergency surgery to remove a small infection in his leg, Sarkisian said.
• Tight end and linebacker remain the two biggest concerns heading into the offseason, although the Huskies should be helped with early enrollees John Timu and Thomas Tutogi at linebacker (winter quarter); and Gig Harbor High’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins at tight end (spring quarter).
• Although he has not seen the official numbers, Woodward said he thinks the Huskies will break close to even on expenses and purse earned from the Holiday Bowl. “Maybe a little under (budget), or a little over,” Woodward said. “I think it will be close.”
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports