You have to say this about Steve Sarkisian. The man knows how to create offseason buzz.
Sark's arrival in Washington was preceded with a huge spending frenzy to try and attract the best coaches throughout the conference. Most notable was the hiring of, who came with him from his stint at USC to try and be his defensive foil. Sark paid top-dollar to ensure Holt would be able to take a defense and make it hum accordingly.
The result was a fiasco. Holt's defenses might not have been supremely talented, but they weren't exactly deficient units. But three years running they were horrendous, giving up touchdowns game after game. They'd have a good performance here and there, but for the most part Washington had to win in spite of the horrid performances those defenses put out on the field.
Thus began a system-wide purge to rid the program of any of its biggest inefficiencies.
- Holt was finally jettisoned after a historic meltdown in the Alamo Bowl, and Washington started over. Sark went deep into the coffers this time.
- UW also let go of other defensive staffers like Mike Cox (linebackers) and Jeff Mills (safeties).
- Demetrice Martin leaves for UCLA, to be replaced by Oregon State DB coach Keith Heyward.
In the first steps to replace the Holt stench, defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox is lured over from Tennessee. Peter Sirmon joins him to coach the linebackers.
- Who knows what he has planned for the departing offensive coordinator/QBs coach Doug Nussmeier (to Alabama).
- In perhaps the most critical hire of all, defensive line coach and ace recruiter Tosh Lupoi is lured from Cal.
People seem to forget that in the decade before Washington sucked, they were a great program, perhaps the second most successful in the conference behind only USC. The Huskies are very good at lining their pockets to try and find the best possible coaches for their staff, and probably are right up there with the Trojans in trying to land quality hires. Considering the staff they just landed, it's looking like a slam dunk hire.
Grabbing two known quantities in Lupoi and Wilcox (who've known each other since their Cal days) is a huge deal, as both are known to be solid coaches who know how to handle defensive talent. Lupoi has had some of the best defensive lines in the Pac-12, and Wilcox has had solid success at both Boise State and Tennessee in keeping opposing defenses down.
Sarkisian knows now that this staff is the one that he needs to compete with Oregon and USC for control of the conference. He has all the coaching talent in the world with the recruiting mettle to really give conference foes something to fear. Pair it up with that potent offense, and Washington could be a team to fear.
The big question: Is the defense talented enough to actually be that good in a short period of time? In college football, it's not easy to turn bones into fresh meat. The process of rebuilding UW defensively could take time. If it flames out, this could be the last stand; Washington has spent a lot of money on football lately, and only have two seven win seasons to show for it. The progress has to continue upward in a hurry.
Nevertheless, Sark is making his mark, and everyone is standing up and taking notice.