When the Washington football coaches put their heads together, there are three quarterbacks in the huddle.
Three former quarterbacks, at least.
There’s head coach Steve Sarkisian, former quarterback at Brigham Young; offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, former quarterback at Idaho; and receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty, former quarterback at Missouri.
And while Sarkisian and Nussmeier get to work directly with the UW quarterbacks, Dougherty said he is able to put his QB experience to work with the receivers.
“That’s how I try to teach my guys, like I’d be coaching a quarterback, where you’ve got to see everything,” Dougherty said Tuesday after the Huskies finished practice for their Saturday game at Stanford. “… That’s what I’m striving for every day, is to get these guys football smart. And you only get that from seeing the big picture and being able to read defenses just like a quarterback can.”
Dougherty began his coaching career at the University of San Diego under Jim Harbaugh, now head coach at Stanford. He climbed through the ranks for five seasons: moving from coaching receivers and tight ends, to passing game coordinator and then to offensive coordinator before being invited onto the UW staff.
“I like having a quarterback at that position because he’s not just teaching the position of wide receiver, he’s teaching the game and understanding the game,” Sarkisian said. “In our offense, you need to understand man defenses, zone defenses, how the quarterback’s reading the play, how to run the routes and time it up so that we do have a rhythm passing attack. And I think Jimmie’s done a nice job with those kids. They’ve responded extremely well in all areas.”
After three games, the Huskies rank seventh in the Pacific-10 Conference in passing efficiency and ninth in passing offense. However, they’ve played a pair of nationally ranked teams. Sarkisian said the receivers also have done some things that don’t show up in the stats, such as blocking downfield. And more importantly, the Huskies have won two of those three games, climbing into the national rankings at No. 24.
Freshman James Johnson leads the Huskies with 16 catches for 183 yards and two touchdowns. But it’s a deep group, and Dougherty likes their team focus.
“It’s one of the big challenges of coaching this position, I think, is getting guys to buy into the group,” he said. “It’s not really how many balls you catch. You might go a game and catch no balls but you still played well: You blocked well, you ran good routes, you did everything else. And then sometimes it does require you to catch 10 balls in a game and score a couple of touchdowns. That’s kind of the message I’ve tried to get across to these guys. This group is great. They really root for each other.”
There may be no better example than D’Andre Goodwin. He started 11 out of 12 games last season, was UW’s leading receiver, finished fourth in the Pac-10 with an average of five catches per game and received all-conference honorable mention.
Now, starting his junior season, he’s fifth on the team in receptions and hasn’t started a game. Yet, he’s got no complaints.
“All of us get fair looks,” he said. “We go out there and we compete every day. Anybody’s spot can be taken at any time, so if you’re not performing or if you’re not playing time, you’ll get replaced. That’s how we practice every day, trying to take each other’s spots. As you can see on Saturdays our receivers look a lot better. We know every play, everything’s being watched. So you go hard every play.”
That’s the message Sarkisian and Dougherty want to send: Saturdays are what matter.
Goodwin believes. After all, he had 60 catches last season, but zero victories.
“Beating USC – I don’t want to look on the past, I want to focus on Stanford – but that was the first time I have ever been in a situation where the crowd stormed the field,” Goodwin said. “It felt great.”
The News Tribune’s Todd Milles contributed to this report.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808