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Washington must placate its restive fans this season

A potential-student-athlete's tour of the Washington campus should first visit Gilmour Dobie, his likeness, and his meaning to the glory of Washington.

Washington's schedule is brutal next season, with the Huskies playing four of last year's top ten teams in their first six games. (LSU, Stanford, Oregon and USC). The Huskies could easily be 4 for 13 on October 13, after playing USC in Seattle, that is, having won just four of their last thirteen games dating back to the last seven games played in 2011 when they won just two of them.  

Coach Steve Sarkisian (19-19) has been on a mission over the last three years, rebuilding the Huskies from their disastrous season in 2008 when they went 0-12 under former coach Tyrone Willingham. But some fans have become impatient, and being 4 for 13 next October won't play well with them. In order to dodge the barbs thrown by restive fans, Sark needs to win at least one of the four games against those top ten teams from 2011 (See the final AP poll).

In doing so, the first order of business is stopping the run. The Dawgs gave up an average of 340.2 rushing yards per game against five ranked opponents in 2011. (See Table 1). Against its eight unranked opponents, UW yielded 61.5 rushing yards a game, winning seven of them. (See Table 2).

The disparity in yards surrendered on the ground (278.7) speaks volumes for having a better run defense. Known for his recruiting ability, Tosh Lupoi was hired away from Cal and named defensive run coordinator and defensive line coach at Washington. Cal's defensive line has been considered as one of the best in the conference over the past few seasons under Lupoi's leadership.

As far as I know, the defensive-run-coordinator position is a new one at Washington, which illustrates that a renewed emphasis is being placed on stopping the run. It won't be easy.

Lupoi must rebuild a defensive line that will sorely miss Alameda Ta'mu (photo above) and Everette Thompson, both of whom have graduated. Each has started every game over the last two years and together they have a combined 74 career starts. Ta'mu was also named defensive lineman of the year at UW over the past two seasons.

However, there is hope.

According to Bob Condotta of  the Seattle Times (Position overview -- defensive line), "While Ta'amu and Thompson will have to be replaced, there also appears to be a lot of talent at this spot (if the number of stars in front of a recruits (sic) name means anything, anyway), even if much of it is still young and relatively inexperienced. If Lupoi's as good as his rep, (Hau'oli) Jamora comes back healthy and the young guys mature, this could be a position of improvement in 2012."

Washington's returning linebacker corps will be crucial in helping stop the run, whether defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox stays with the 4-3 defense or moves to a 3-4 next season. Newly hired linebacker coach Peter Simon must find a replacement for middle linebacker Cort Dennison. Condotta says that linebacker is one of the most unsettled positions among the Huskies' position groupings. (Condotta: linebacker position).

Adding to its tough early schedule, Washington must play five of its nine  conference games on the road.

Addressing a group of us alums at Dawg Days in the Desert this week (held at the Hyatt Grand Champions Resort and Spa located in Indian Wells), Sarkisian who commented on the early schedule as much as said: bring it on.

The coach has a certain tenacity about him that is appealing but will he be ready for some uncompromising fans in mid-October if his defense can't stop the run, which, heretofore, has been like stopping an 18 wheeler running down hill.

Table 1. Against teams ranked in the top 25 appearing in the final AP poll in 2011, Washington gave up an average of 340.2 rushing yards per game.

Team

Rank

UW Rushing Defense

Score

Nebraska

24

309

L 38-56

Stanford

7

446

L 21-65

Oregon

4

212

L 17-34

USC

6

252

L 17-40

Baylor

13

482

L 56-67

Table 2. Against unranked teams in 2011, Washington gave up an average of 61.5 rushing yards per game.

Team

Score

UW Rushing Defense

Eastern Washington

W 30-27

31

Hawaii

W 40-32

55

California

W 31-23

108

Utah

W 31-14

17

Colorado

W 52-24

62

Arizona

W 42-31

36

Oregon State

L 21-38

145

Washington State

W 38-21

38

Richard Linde can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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