The Sarkisian Era begins for UW football
Four months after being hired as Washington's football coach, Steve Sarkisian will finally get to do what he, first and foremost, is paid to do: coach football. Spring practice begins at Husky Stadium today, and over the course of 15 practices between now and April 25, Sarkisian hopes to begin the process of turning around a once-proud program that bottomed out with an 0-12 record last season.
"We finally get to do football," Sarkisian said Monday. "We've been here now for upwards of over three months ... It's been a long time coming. When you're out there doing winter conditioning or you're in the classroom or recruiting, this is why we're here: to coach football and to mold and shape these kids the way we want them to be shaped, and the way we want them to be shaped is to be tough, competitive football players and a football team that has fun doing it."
Sarkisian plans to start fresh with this team. He has talked on multiple occasions about a clean slate for the players. There is no pre-spring depth chart, just a roster. Sure he's seen the film of a downtrodden team losing by double digits last season, but he'll start to evaluate his team this week, and not on what he has seen in the past.
"I haven't put that much credence into last year," Sarkisian said. "I look at a kid to look at talent level. I look at a kid to find maybe a little bit about his character. But for me to look at the Cal game and to gauge a kid's competitive nature or work ethic, that's not fair to that kid."
But while Sarkisian will offer a clean slate and not judge on past performances, he knows he needs to change the mentality of players who became accustomed to losing over the past few seasons.
"That's something we have to re-instill in these kids, because these are highly competitive kids, they're kids that come from great programs," he said. "The challenge is to find that fuse back in them and light that fuse."
In addition to changing the mentality of his team, Sarkisian and his staff also have to install a new system. While he hopes to teach everything this spring, he said installing 75 percent of the system is a realistic goal for this month.
Sarkisian expects to make progress in teaching Xs and Os as well as in changing the culture of the team.
"They're both pretty important," he said. "We've got to, one, teach our systems so that these kids can keep practicing on their own going into summer, because we're limited until fall camp, and two, we obviously need to get a mentality heading into the summer of belief and expectations and expecting to win and mental toughness. I think they both go hand in hand. If we get one and neglect the other, we're not getting done what we need to get done. These two things need to work together and go hand in hand, no question."
One way Sarkisian plans to achieve both of those goals is to emphasize competition in practice.
"We keep score every day," he said. "It's offense vs. defense, and there's going to be a winner every day."
Sarkisian said there are no rewards for the winners or penalties for the losers, but that players seeing each other compete on film every day will serve as a motivator.
"When the entire team is watching you win or lose, there's a motivational factor there," he said. "That creates a little banter and a little chatter, which I think is good.
"We're not going out to practice just for the sake of practicing and running plays and being monotonous. We're trying to make it to where these guys feel like they have to perform, because they either win or they lose, and everybody is going to know it."
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com. For more on UW sports, check out the Huskies blog at heraldnet.com/huskiesblog
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