Friday, August 31, 2012
Sounders defeat Caledonia AIA 3-1; Close in on a second straight Champions League Quarterfinal birth
The Seattle Sounders have inched closer to a second straight CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal birth. Last night, the Sounders defeated Caledonia AIA 3-1 and are only one win away from clinching a place in the Quarterfinal stage of the Champions League. The Sounders next Champions League match won't be until September 19th when they travel to Honduras to take on C.D. Marathon. Both these teams have faced eachother twice in the group stage of the 2010-11 Champions League. The first meeting was in Honduras with Marathon coming out on top 2-1. The second match was here in Seattle with the Sounders returning the favor and winning 2-0.
In the 10th minute of the match, the Sounders should've been a goal up. Mario Martinez was making his first competitive start for the Sounders and he whipped in a great cross to the far post for a free header from Sammy Ochoa, but his header was saved by Glenroy Samuel as it bounced off his face.
In the 25th minute, Caledonia failed to clear the danger and they gave the ball away in their own area as Ozzie Alonso stepped in and from about 19 yards away fired his shot low and hard with his left foot, but it didn't trouble the goalkeeper and it was an easy save for Samuel.
A few minutes later, Alex Caskey took the corner kick for the Sounders. Glenroy Samuel came out and tried to punch the ball away and the ball bounced to Marc Burch at the far post. Burch looked to take advantage of the goalkeeping mistake but his shot was blocked as Caledonia had four guys on the line to clear the ball away.
About five minutes into the second half, Caledonia should've pulled level. There was nice through ball played into the area. I don't know who played that ball, I think it might have been Stephan David. Anyway, there was a ball played through and Cornelius Stewart got onto it, but somehow he put it wide.
That was until the 67th minute when Caledonia were awarded a penalty. There was a chip into the penalty area that was intended for Jamaal Gay and Zach Scott appeared to have pulled him down in the area. Referee Javier Santos pointed to the spot immediately, but I didn't think there was enough for that to be a penalty. I thought Gay went down rather easily there. Much like in MLS, CCL officiating has been controversial to say the least. And just like the first Champions League match, Kareem Joseph stepped up to the spot and took the honors for Caledonia AIA and he put his kick inside the left post to cut the Sounders lead in half.
The Sounders responded quickly however and in the 69th minute, they would add a third goal. Alex Caskey made a nice move to get away from Aubrey David and squared the ball across toward the near and Fredy Montero was right there once again to add to his goalscoring tally in all competitions this season and that was the decisive goal for the Sounders as they defeated Caledonia 3-1.
The Sounders turn their attention back to MLS play on Sunday as they head to Frisco to take on FC Dallas. The Sounders have come away victorious in their last two visits and will look to make it three in a row at FC Dallas Stadium as they chase the San Jose Earthquakes for the Supporters Shield. Kickoff time is 4pm and will be televised on KONG-TV.
Seattle Sounders FC - Alex Caskey (Zach Scott, Sammy Ochoa) 45'
Seattle Sounders FC - Sammy Ochoa (Fredy Montero) 60'
Caledonia AIA - Kareem Joseph (penalty kick) 67'
Seattle Sounders FC - Fredy Montero (Alex Caskey) 69'
Caledonia AIA - Walter Moore (caution; foul) 17'
Caledonia AIA - Densil Theobald (caution; foul) 29'
Caledonia AIA - Jamaal Gay (caution; foul) 71'
Caledonia AIA - Radanfah Abu Bakr (caution; foul) 87'
Seattle Sounders FC - Michael Gspurning; Zach Scott, Patrick Ianni, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Marc Burch; Mario Martinez (Cordell Cato 29'), Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Alex Caskey; Sammy Ochoa (Christian Tiffert 86'), Fredy Montero (Leonardo Gonzalez 74')
Caledonia AIA - Glenroy Samuel; Aubrey David, Nuru Abdullah Muhammad, Radanfah Abu Bakr, Walter Moore; Kareem Joseph, Densil Theobald, Stephan David, Cornelius Stewart (Conrad Smith 72'); Jamaal Gay (Abdallah Phillipsa 84'), Kerlon Ferguson (Trevin Caesar 63')
The Washington Huskies(7-6,5-4 last year, 4th in Pac-12 last year) kick off the fourth season under Steve Sarkisian against the San Diego State Aztecs(8-5, 4-3, 4th in Mountain West last year) at home. This year home for the Huskies will be at Century Link Field home of the Seattle Seahawks. Last season the Huskies won their first season opener since 2007 when they narrowly defeated D-1AA Eastern Washington Eagles 30-27. Sarkisian is 1-2 in season openers at Washington but has won his last two home openers. There will be plenty to be excited about in this game. The Aztecs like the Huskies are a bowl team who lost some key pieces but also return some key pieces. The Huskies will also have some anticipated debuts from some super freshman as these teams square off for the first time since 1997.
In the second half the Huskies kept the scoring up as Huard hit Pathon on a slant which he took for a touchdown 53 yards. Then in the fourth quarter Huard hit backup tight end Reggie Davis for a 12 yard touchdown as the Huskies won 36-3. Pathon finished with eight receptions for 182 yards with two touchdowns while Coleman had three for 70 yards with a touchdown. The Huskies held the Aztecs to negative seven yards rushing on that day something these Huskies are hoping they can duplicate.
The Aztecs tight end Gavin Escobar who had 51 receptions for 780 yards(15.3 YPC) with seven touchdowns. The running game will see Adam Muema start who played in six games last year. Muema in those six games rushed for 253 yards(6.0 YPC) with three touchdowns. Backing him up is Walter Kazee who in nine games ran for 339 yards(4.6 YPC) with four touchdowns. The Aztecs have ready guys to replace Hillman and they feel like they have a ready guy to replace Lindley as he is a familiar face.
Katz has faced the Washington Huskies before playing in a game back in 2010 which the Huskies won 35-34 in double overtime led by Jake Locker throwing five touchdown passes. In that game Katz struggled he was 17-31(54.8%) passing for 206 yards(6.6 YPA) with one touchdown but three costly interceptions. He also added a rushing touchdown in that game. The Huskies are a much different team than two years as only Desmond Trufant and Talia Crichton started that game who will start this Saturday. That game was also at Husky Stadium while this game will be played at Century Link. The Aztecs are a bowl team with some key offensive pieces back plus a Pac-12 caliber quarterback facing a defense who is starting a former walk-on at corner. The Aztecs offense will look to put up some points but will it be enough against this potent Huskies attack led by Keith Price?
Price may have lost some weapons but he does return some key guys as well. His main target will be Kasen Williams who caught 36 passes for 427 yards(11.9 YPC) with six touchdowns which put him in a three-way tie for second place. He was also only a true freshman last season as he was a five star recruit coming out of high school. Another target Price will have is Austin Seferian-Jenkins who likeWillliams didn't disappoint as he was all pac-12 honorable mention for tight end. Seferian-Jenkins this past season caught 41 passes for 544 yards(13.3 YPC) with six touchdowns. He was also a five-star recruit true freshman last season. Price will also have two guys making their first career starts in their first career games as Huskies. The Huskies will also be having the debut of another heralded five-star recruit in Shaq Thompson.
The Huskies are also starting four-star wide receiver Jaydon Mickens. Mickens is the 45th ranked receiver in the nation on scout and 11th ranked receiver in the nation on rivals. During his senior year Mickens was an all around athlete as he caught 32 passes for 558 yards(17.4 YPC) with seven touchdowns, he also ran the ball 82 times for 378 yards(4.61 YPC) with 13 touchdowns. He even attempted 32 passes on the year for 238 yards passing. The other starter is true freshman Kendyl Taylor who is a three-star recruit out of Arizona. During his senior year he caught 87 passes for 1,132 yards with 16 touchdowns. He also ran for 558 yards on 68 carries as he led his team to the state championship game where they lost snapping a 53 game winning streak. This Huskies recruiting class was pretty good as they were ranked for the third straight year but these three guys will be making their debuts in the starting role this Saturday.
While Sankey is a four star running back and 17th rated back in the 2011 class. In his first season with the Huskies Sankey ran for 187 yards (6.7 YPC) with a touchdown. He also added six receptions and 134 yards in kickoff yards. With the Aztecs running a 3-3-5 nickel defense which is set up to stop the pass look for the Huskies to try and establish the run game. Many of their big passing plays came on play action passes which can only work if the run game is going. In short spurts both Callier and Sankey proved they can get the job done. Now there is no more Chris Polk to bail them out we'll see how these two can handle the work load. Those questions will be answered tomorrow in the first game in the post Chris Polk era. I think the Huskies are in good shape with these two plus others like Kevin Smith, Mickens and Thompson who will add to the running game.
The Washington Huskies look to win their second straight season opening game for the first time since the 2006 and 2007 seasons. The Huskies also look to win their third straight home opener since winning four straight from 2000-03. The Huskies are favored by 14.5 points and should win this game without needing some sort of miracle like last season. I think Sarkisian has learned his lesson from the Eastern Washington game as he dialed back the offensive playbook quite a bit which almost cost him. I think the Huskies will treat this game like any other game so look for them to pull out all the stops. The Huskies are 1-1 all-time at Century Link Field will take the field against a hungry Aztecs team as both teams are coming off bowl seasons. If the Huskies hope to continue to grow as a program they will take care of business as they prepare for a tough match up the following week at LSU. For now the Huskies hope to start the season off 1-0 for the second straight year and give their fans a victory to open the season for a third straight year.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
The Seattle Sounders showed once again that they are a dangerous second half team. On Saturday, to know that this guy is the greatest goalscorer in the club's young MLS history, it's hard to believe that this is the first hat trick of Fredy Montero's career as he struck three times in the Sounders 6-2 blowout win over Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center. With the win, the Sounders climb into second place ahead of Real Salt Lake who knocked the Sounders out of the playoffs last season. If the regular season were to come to an end last weekend, the Sounders and RSL would face eachother again in the Western Conference semifinals with RSL hosting the first leg.
Chivas USA found some openings early on in the match. In the third minute, former LA Galaxy player Tristan Bowen who was making his first start of the season for Chivas was found on the near side with some space. Bowen worked a give and go with Nick Labrocca and looked to strike the ball on goal, but the angle was tight so instead he threaded the ball through to Miller Bolanos who tried to place his shot into the far corner, but instead he hit it straight at Michael Gspurning.
Two minutes later, Miller Bolanos played in a low ball toward the near post for Juan Agudelo who tried to direct it into the far corner, but the final outcome of that was another missed opportunity.
The Sounders first opportunity of the game didn't come until the 10 minute mark and they had no problem making it count. Eddie Johnson flicked the ball on for Fredy Montero who brought the ball down and played an excellent through ball to Brad Evans who got in behind James Riley and Evans calmly slotted the ball into the far corner for his second goal of the season and the Sounders took an early 1-0 lead.
In the 15th minute, Chivas USA had another opportunity to score. After a giveaway, Ante Jazic worked a give and go with Agudelo on the far side before whipping in a good cross for Casey Townsend to got in front of Jhon Kennedy Hurtado but he couldn't head the ball on target. There were so many openings on both side of the field all game long. As for Casey Townsend, he should've scored there. He was in perfect position to head the ball home and he ends up missing it. This is why Chivas USA have scored the fewest goals in the league.
A couple minutes later, Chivas USA were awarded a penalty kick. Juan Agudelo chipped the ball to the near post looking for Casey Townsend. Now as Townsend was about to volley the ball goalwards, I thought at first he caught one of the defenders with a high boot. I don't know why, I just did. But Townsend never made contact with any defender, and the ball apparently came off the hand of Jeff Parke and referee Jose Carlos Rivero pointed to the penalty spot. Juan Agudelo stepped up and calmly slotted the ball low into the right corner, sending Michael Gspurning the wrong way to cut the Sounders lead to 3-1.
In the 56th minute, Chivas USA let yet another chance slip away. Juan Agudelo played the ball back to Nick LaBrocca who whipped the ball in first time and getting up was Tristan Bowen for a snap down header which bounced just wide.
The Sounders weren't done there. In the 80th minute, the Sounders put together a lot of passes in this move as they worked the ball out wide to Christian Tiffert who looked and curled the ball near post for Sammy Ochoa and the big man got in on the act with a terrific header to make it 5-2 Seattle.
The Sounders would get one more in the 91st minute. Fredy Montero waited for support and chipped the ball into the area looking for Mario Martinez who was making a run toward the far post and Ante Jazic headed the ball into his own net to make it 6-2 and that's how it would end.
The Sounders road trip continues. Right now they're in Trinidad and Tobago preparing for their Champions League match tomorrow against Caledonia AIA. After that they will head to head to FC Dallas Stadium this Sunday to, well take on FC Dallas. Their confidence should be really high right now the way they've played lately. As for Mario Martinez, if you never heard of him, he's a Honduran international who joined the team on loan from Real Espana following the Olympics. This was his debut match for the Sounders, coming on in the 78th minute. In his short time on the pitch, I thought his movement on the ball was good, he's a good passer, he's got a great vision and he's a fast paced athlete. I think the Sounders need to get Martinez completely involved in these late stages as the Sounders get set for another playoff run.
Seattle Sounders FC - Brad Evans 2 (Fredy Montero 5) 10'
Seattle Sounders FC - Fredy Montero 9 (Mauro Rosales 11) 27'
Seattle Sounders FC - Fredy Montero 10 (Mauro Rosales 12) 34'
Chivas USA - Juan Agudelo 2 (penalty kick) 38'
Chivas USA - Miller Bolanos 2 (Tristan Bowen 1) 64'
Seattle Sounders FC - Fredy Montero 11 (Mauro Rosales 13) 67'
Seattle Sounders FC - Sammy Ochoa 1 (Christian Tiffert 1, Brad Evans 3) 80'
Seattle Sounders FC - Own goal (Ante Jazic) 91'+
Seattle Sounders FC - Osvaldo Alonso (caution; foul) 54'
Chivas USA - Miller Bolanos (caution; off the ball foul) 93'+
Seattle Sounders FC - Michael Gspurning; Adam Johansson, Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leonardo Gonzalez; Mauro Rosales (Mario Martinez 78'), Osvaldo Alonso, Christian Tiffert (Steve Zakuani 84'), Brad Evans; Eddie Johnson (Sammy Ochoa 73'), Fredy Montero
Chivas USA - Dan Kennedy; James Riley, John Valencia, Bobby Burling, Ante Jazic; Tristan Bowen (Jose Erick Correa 69'), Shalrie Joseph, Nick LaBrocca, Miller Bolanos; Juan Agudelo, Casey Townsend (Juan Pablo Angel 86')
Labels: Brad Evans, Chivas USA, Christian Tiffert, Eddie Johnson, Fredy Montero, James Riley, Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Juan Agudelo, Major League Soccer(MLS), Mario Martinez, Mauro Rosales, Michael Gspurning, Sammy Ochoa, Seattle Sounders, soccer, Steve Zakuani
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
The Washington Huskies enter the 2012 season under fourth year head coach Steve Sarkisian looking to take the next step as a program. The Huskies are coming off another bowl season which saw the team go 7-6 while bringing in yet another ranked recruiting class. Unlike previous years this Huskies team made some coaching changes particularly on the defensive side. This team also lost quite a bit of talent from last year in Chris Polk, Jermaine Kearse, Alameda Ta'amu and Senio Kelemete. The Huskies also two-year starter offensive lineman Colin Porter due to injury. Don't let that fool you though as this team returns plenty of talent headlined by quarterback Keith Price. Sarkisian who is also in his fourth season has stock piled the talent so the Huskies will be replacing those talented players with new talented players.
He was at his best in the 67-56 Alamo Bowl loss to Baylor. Going up against heisman trophy winner Robert Griffin III it was Price who stood out that day despite the loss. Price was 23-37(62.2%) passing for 438 yards(11.8 YPA) with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran for 39 yards with three touchdowns. Price was banged up most of the year and was only healthy in the bowl game. Look for him to be more active this year in the running game. Price set the single season record for completion percentage, TD to INT ratio, touchdowns passing in a season and total touchdowns in a game has a chance to start setting career records. He was also second in passing yards for a single season behind only Cody Pickett who threw for over 4,000 yards as a junior in 2002. He threw two touchdown passes in 2010 which gives him 35 for his career while the school record is 53 set by Jake Locker and Cody Pickett which Price should be able to shatter when it is all said and done. The school passing yards record is 9,916 set by Cody Pickett while Price has two more years left he is sitting at 3,227 yards which isn't that far fetched that he could pass up Pickett. At the very least Price when all said and done will be all-time in passing touchdowns while being top two in passing yards.
Backing up Price will be redshirt freshman Derrick Brown, true freshmen and four star recruits in Jeff Lindquist and Cyler Miles. The Huskies are also bringing in another four star recruit at quarterback next season in Troy Williams. The quarterback position appears bright for a long time under the former quarterback himself Steve Sarkisian. Price who was only a three star recruit himself last year went from possible weakness to now he is the smiling face of the program for the next two years. Don't be surprised if Price starts getting some Heisman talk this year and will receive some going into his senior year of 2013.
Callier is a junior now who has spelled Polk the last two years. Callier came in as a three star recruit in the 2010 class and produced right off the bat as a freshman. Callier as a freshman had 413 yards rushing (5.4 YPC) with 18 catches with 98 yards (5.4 YPC). Callier ran for a career high 107 yards against UCLA in a 24-7 win on a special ESPN thursday night game.
Callier also started off the Holiday Bowl upset with a 16 yard pass to Jake Locker. Callier also had 733 kickoff return yards. As a sophomore Callier battled injuries and thus his production fell off. Callier had just 260 yards rushing (5.5 YPC) with a touchdown. He had seven receptions for 65 yards and had 576 kickoff return yards.
Callier I believe doesn’t have the build to be an everydown back but he is versatile, as he has proven his first two years at Washington.
While Bishop Sankey is a four star running back and 17th rated back in the 2011 class. Sankey committed early to the Washington State Cougars but decided he wanted to play in some bowl games and went to Washington. In his first season with the Huskies Sankey ran for 187 yards (6.7 YPC) with a touchdown.
He also added six receptions and 134 yards in kickoff yards. Sankey runs like a young Polk and I think Sankey will eventually be the starter but at first him and Callier will split carries.
I think the Huskies with the combination of Sankey and Callier will be just fine this year at running back. I also look for Sarkisian to use talented true freshman Jaydon Mickens who is a wide receiver on fly sweeps as Mickens ran for 13 touchdowns last season in high school. I also think Sarkisian will use 5 star safety Shaq Thompson for some carries as Thompson was also an excellent running back in high school. Thompson as a senior ran for 1,134 yards with 15 touchdowns on only 120 carries. As a junior he ran for 1,882 yards with 25 touchdowns on 164 carries. I think the Huskies running game will be more than fine and look for Sankey to emerge like Price did last year in replacing Locker.
I think this unit is actually in great hands led by sophomore wide receiver Kasen Williams. Williams was a five star recruit, parade magazine player of the year and #2 receiver in the nation coming out of high school. He didn't disappoint either last year catching 36 passes for 427 yards(11.9 YPC) with six touchdowns which put him in a three-way tie for second place. Williams who is entering his true sophomore season is poised for a breakout season with Aguilar and Kearse graduated plus the injuries to Johnson and Smith. The Huskies are in good hands with Williams who showed flashes of what could be especially against both rivals. In a 34-17 loss to the Oregon Ducks, Williams caught a career high six passes for a career high 79 yards with a touchdown. In the 38-21 win over the Washington State Cougars, Williams was a star with his famous leap over the Cougar defender. He also had five receptions for 74 yards with a career high two touchdowns. He caught a touchdown in the first ever game he played in when the Huskies defeated Eastern Washington 30-27. Look for Williams to have a monster season.
Williams isn't the only talented Huskies wide receiver. James Johnson will come back eventually and when he does look out. As a freshman Johnson caught 39 passes for 422 yards(10.8 YPC) with three touchdowns including a touchdown on his very first catch in his first game against #11 LSU Tigers. As a sophomore he struggled catching only one pass for three yards. Then as a Junior he emerged again catching 28 passes for 366 yards(13.1 YPC) with four touchdowns. His breakout game was at Nebraska where he caught six passes for 108 yards with two touchdowns. Johnson will be going into his senior year and will bring much needed experience to an inexperienced group.
Another wide out looking to have a big year is junior Kevin Smith the former four-star recruit. Smith as a true freshman had just one catch for 18 yards as he was mainly used for kickoffs. Last year he was terrific on kickoffs again and added to the offense. He caught 15 passes for 208 yards(13.9 YPC) including a 53 yarder at USC. He also rushed for 71 yards with a touchdown vs Colorado. Senior Cody Bruns is returning after redshirting last season as he is also a former four-star recruit. Bruns in 2010 had seven receptions for 102 yards including a 43 yarder at Arizona. He also had a career high three receptions in the opening game at BYU. Junior DiAndre Campbell is there as well and last year he had two receptions for eight yards.
The Huskies are also bringing in talented receivers including four-star recruit Jaydon Mickens, three-star recruits Dwayne Washington, and Kendyl Taylor(who is starting this Saturday due to injuries). Plus the Huskies redshirted three-star recruits Jamaal Jones, Josh Perkins and Marvin Hall who will all be redshirt freshman this year. So the Huskies receiving position looks to be in good shape. They also signed the two best receivers on the west coast in Demorea Stringfellow and Darrell Daniels.
This position may have lost some talent but there is plenty of talent left on this roster. If not already I look for Kasen Williams to be a household name by the end of the season. Price loves to spread the ball around too so there will be games where Johnson, Smith, Mickens and Bruns will have their opportunity to shine for the Huskies.
Last year the Huskies were returning zero tight ends from their roster. Now this position has three guys they like quite a bit headlined by future NFL tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Seferian-Jenkins who also played basketball came in with plenty of hype. He was a five-star recruit and the #2 tight end in the nation. He like Kasen Willliams didn't disappoint as he was all pac-12 honorable mention for tight end. Seferian-Jenkins this past season caught 41 passes for 544 yards(13.3 YPC) with six touchdowns. Did I mention that he was only a true freshman last year?
Seferian-Jenkins last year in his second career game made a name for himself with three receptions for 91 yards with a touchdown against Hawaii. Twice he caught multiple touchdowns in a game and in the bowl game snatched five passes for 59 yards. Seferian-Jenkins is 6'6" 266 lbs and is athletic enough to be in the rotation on a Pac-12 championship team in basketball. Last season as only a freshman Seferian-Jenkins caught the 4th most passes by a tight end in Huskies history and with the career record being 95 receptions there is an outside chance he could break that record this year. If not he will surely break it as a junior as he is going to re-write the record books. His season also ranked 3rd all-time in school history for a tight end in receiving yards while ranking 2nd in a season for touchdowns. In fact Seferian-Jenkins already ranks 4th all-time in career touchdowns and with the record being at 10 good chance he breaks that this year. Seferian-Jenkins will probably be named first-team all conference this year and gives the Huskies a mismatch every week as they can line him up on the outside or in the slot as he will be an impossible match up.
If not for Seferian-Jenkins Huskies fans would be excited about redshirt sophomore 6'6" 255 lb tight end Michael Hartvigson who many are saying had the best offseason. Last year Hartvigson caught eight passes for 30 yards with a touchdown against the Oregon Ducks. He also had a 31 yard reception taken away due to a horrific call last year against Arizona. Hartvigson was a three-star recruit and #20 tight end in the nation when he came to the Huskies. He is a great blocker and due to that he will play plenty. He might even start as the Huskies look to go with the two tight end set. Another guy the Huskies are high on is redshirt sophomore Evan Hudson who is 6'5" 262 lbs who caught a touchdown last season against Stanford.
The Huskies have three tall tight ends who will be in the program for this year and the 2013 season so the position of weakness as recently as 2010 is now a position of strength. Every program in the nation would kill to have a Seferian-Jenkins who appears destined to be an NFL first round draft pick after the 2013 season. For now look for Price to exploit plenty of match ups as he looks to his big athletic tight end Seferian-Jenkins on key third downs and in the red zone.
At center the Huskies will return redshirt senior captain Drew Schaefer at center. In 2009 as a freshman Schaefer started the final four games of the season at left tackle and played in all 12 games. In 2010 he switched to center starting 11 games at center while starting the other two at tackle. Then in 2011 he started all 13 games at center. Schaefer the former three-star recruit and #32 tackle in the nation has started 30 games in his career at Washington while starting 24 at center. He has played in all 38 games he has suited up in so far.
The Huskies are now moving true junior Erik Kohler back to guard as he'll start at right guard. Kohler came in as a four-star recruit and 5th rated tackle in the nation. As a true freshman he played in 11 games while starting four games at guard and another as a tackle. He made his first career start at home against the Nebraska Cornhuskers and also started the Apple Cup win. Then in 2011 he started all 13 games at right tackle. Kohler just like that has 18 career starts under his belt. On the other side of him is redshirt sophomore Colin Tanigawa who started the first 11 games last year at left guard where he'll be again this year. He was injured in the Oregon State game but has since recovered meaning he should be ready to go week one.
The question mark will come at the tackle positions as the Huskies will be starting two guys who have never started before. Starting at left tackle is redshirt sophomore Micah Hatchie who was a four-star recruit and #25 tackle in the nation in the 2010 class. Hatchie played in all 13 games last year including seeing some significant time during some games. The other tackle will be redshirt sophomore right tackle Ben Riva out of O'Dea who was a three-star recruit coming out of high school. He is the biggest mystery of the group as he only played on the field goal team last year. Redshirt sophomore James Atoe and redshirt freshman Dexter Charles appear to be the main backups in case of an injury.
This unit has the most question marks as they lost two starters while only having one senior. This unit has a combined zero career starts from both their tackles combined which can be a recipe for a disaster. The good news is on paper four of these five guys should be returning for the 2013 season while three should be starting for their third straight year plus in 2014. The line has some talent but it's just a matter of how quickly can they grow up and come together as a group which will ultimately determine how far the Huskies go this season.
At defensive end the Huskies will start redshirt sophomore Andrew Hudson who was a three-star recruit coming out of high school. Last year as a redshirt freshman Hudson played in all 13 games including starting two games. He recorded four sacks last year but 2.5 game in the last two games. He had 1.5 sacks against the Cougars in the Apple Cup and sacked Heisman trophy winner RGIII while forcing a fumble in the Alamo Bowl. Starting opposite of Hudson the Huskies are hoping is medical redshirt sophomore Hau'oli Jamora who had a great freshman season can return. In 2010 Jamora played in all 13 games while starting the final seven games. He recorded four sacks and in the Holiday Bowl upset over Nebraska had three tackles for loss including a sack. Last season he only played in four games recording a sack before tearing his ACL missing the entire season. If Jamora can return him and Hudson can form a great pass rush plus with Wilcox blitzing more the Huskies could actually create some sacks.
If Jamora can't go look for senior Talia Crichton to start in his place. As a freshman Crichton played in nine games including making four starts. In 2010 he started the first six games of the year recording two sacks before injuries to his knee finished his season. In 2011 he started the first three games while playing in 11 games. Another guy who could fill the void is junior Sione Potoa'e who came in as a four-star recruit and #4 defensive tackle in the nation. Potoa'e as a true freshman played in 11 games while starting two against BCS teams Oregon and Stanford. He recorded two sacks that season. In 2011 he played in 11 games including making a start against California.
The big question with this unit is the health of Jamora. If he is healthy the Huskies rush ends can make some noise this year. They have the big guys up the middle headline by Shelton and I think their ends will create some pressure this year. If the Huskies wish to be elite they need to get better in the trenches so this unit will be under the microscope as they were the huge let down last season.
With the new 3-4 look and being loaded at safety the Huskies are moving former safety Nate Fellner to outside linebacker. Fellner has been an off and on starter for the past two seasons for the Huskies. In 2009 as a true freshman he played in nine games including making three starts while recording a sack. In 2010 as a sophomore was a break out season for Fellner as he started all 13 games at free safety where he made 79 tackles and led the team with five interceptions. In 2011 he missed four games due to injury as he played in nine games, making four starts including a key interception against the Arizona Wildcats. Fellner, however broke his foot and will miss the first three games at least. Starting in his place is redshirt freshman Travis Feeney who like Fellner came to the Huskies as a safety. In the 3-4 you typically have one outside linebacker rush the quarterback which is what Shirley will do while the other is out in pass coverage which is what Fellner is more than capable of doing.
In the middle will be true sophomore captain John Timu who played in 12 games last year while making eight starts. Timu has bulked up to 231 lbs which will help him being in the middle. Last season Timu recorded 52 tackles, including seven for loss while forcing two fumbles and recovering a fumble. The other linebacker will be junior Princeton Fuimaono. Fuimaono as a freshman played in all 13 games while making a start at #1 Oregon. Then in 2011 as a sophomore Fuimaono started all 13 games. In the Apple Cup Fuimaono recorded nine tackles, four for loss while recording a sack and forcing a fumble. Fuimaono had 64 tackles last year with three sacks while having nine tackles for loss.
The Huskies four linebackers have combined started 42 games in their collegiate careers. Last year I felt the weakness of the entire football team was the linebackers. With the switch to the 3-4 and returning four guys who have starting experience the Huskies should be in good shape. The #2's who will be tested early since Fellner will miss the first three games have experience as well which is good to see. Just like with every other unit the Huskies have they have some experience and some talent. This particular unit if Justin Wilcox can turn it around will buy the Huskies an extra win or two.
The secondary will be led by senior captain Desmond Trufant who will be entering his fourth season as a starter for the Huskies. As a freshman in 2009 he played in all 12 games starting the final nine games. He recorded 47 tackles, two interceptions and recovered a fumble for a 17 yard touchdown at Notre Dame. He earned honorable mention all Pac-10. As a sophomore in 2010 he started all 13 games recording 48 tackles. He had one interception and one sack as a sophomore. In 2011 he once again started all 13 games recording 64 tackles, two interceptions, one sack. He also forced two fumbles and recovered two fumbles as he was named once again all Pac-12 honorable mention. He was named Pac-12 defensive player of the week in week one win over Eastern Washington where he had 11 tackles, forced a fumble and had the game clinching interception. Trufant has played in 38 career games while starting in 35 games. He brings a ton of experience to the Huskies secondary.
Another player in the secondary expected to do big things is junior captain strong safety Sean Parker. Parker was a big land for Sarkisian on signing day as he was a 4-star recruit who was the 6th ranked safety in the nation. As a true freshman he played in nine games as the Huskies nickel back and even recorded an interception. The last year as a sophomore he started all 13 games making 91 tackles while intercepting four passes. With Parker the Huskies have a guy who has 13 starts under his belt and 22 games while also being a talented player. Parker is the type of safety who will play in the NFL someday and look for him to have a break out season this year.
The other safety spot has two veterans in senior Justin Glenn and junior Will Shamburger. For Glenn as a freshman in 2009 he started four of the first fives games before being out for the season due to injury. He had two fumble recoveries that season including a touchdown at Stanford. As a sophomore played in eight games after recovering from the broken leg. Then last year in 2011, as a junior he played in all 13 games including five starts. He recorded 52 tackles including three for loss. Shamburger who is a junior, played in 10 games as a freshman in 2010 mostly on special teams. Then last year as a sophomore in 2011 he played in 11 games making four starts. He had 36 tackles while forcing a fumble. Both these guys bring experience to the safety position.
There is a good chance those two are backups to true freshman Shaq Thompson who will start the opening game at free safety. Thompson is a great athlete as you read earlier with his rushing stats and will play some offense. However, he will make his money on defense as he was the consensus #1 safety in the entire nation coming out of high school. Thompson the five-star recruit from Sacramento, California was regarded in some rankings as either the 3rd or 4th best player overall in the entire country when he signed with the Huskies. Thompson is 6'2" 215 lbs and very versatile. He will play some corner for the Huskies, he will play some outside linebacker even and he will contribute on offense. Thompson is the most talented safety the Huskies have had since Lawyer Milloy.
The Huskies are also gaining back another talented safety in James Sample who played in only two games last year before being hurt. The former 4-star recruit and #22 safety in the nation in the class of 2011 brings more talent to the secondary. Sample is another big guy at 6'2" that the Huskies can put out there and he also played in the U.S. Army All-American game for the top high schoolers. Sample along with Thompson are two freshman who will make an impact this season.
Starting at the other corner spot could be redshirt freshman Marcus Peters who was a 3-star recruit in 2011. The Huskies beat out nine schools for him including seven Pac-12 schools. The Huskies beat out Oregon and Boise State for him as he has shown he has talent. Peters will be battling Gregory Ducre who came into Washington as a three-star corner in the 2010 class. As a freshman he played in all 13 games intercepting a pass even. Then in 2011 as a sophomore he played in all 13 games making six starts where he recorded 37 tackles, a sack and an interception. Another corner who looks to factor in is true freshman Brandon Beaver who was a 3-star recruit on scout.com and a 4-star recruit on rivals.com .
For now redshirt junior Tre Watson will start at corner for the Huskies. Watson who was a walk-on last year was rewarded a scholarship as he sat out due to transfer rules. He played in 2010 at Central Washington University where he played in all 11 games making 10 starts. Watson recorded 28 tackles while recording an interception. The previous year as a freshman he played at West Hills College where he played in all 10 games while making two interceptions. This is a surprising move for Sarkisian but he'll get the start.
The Huskies secondary has experience and talent. Wilcox looks to be more aggressive than previous coordinator Nick Holt was so look for the secondary to be put on an island more often. I think the secondary will rise up and make some plays this year. They return five guys who have made starts along with two high profile recruits coming in. If this group can play up to their potential then the Huskies defense can blitz more which should make for a special season at Montlake.
For Coons he kicked the last two years at Mt. San Antonio College. He will be a junior and was the #3 ranked field goal kicker. Then the Huskies signed out of Gig Harbor 3-star punter Korey Durkee. Durkee was all-state in high school averaging 45.9 yards per punt. The Huskies for the first time since Sarkisian got here won't be having Folk. So far under Sarkisian's watch the kicking game both sides has been pretty reliable. As of right now this could be a huge question mark heading into the season. These kickers will be tested early as the Huskies face four ranked opponents in their first six games.
Sarkisian, as you read in this preview you can tell has built up the talent level. He has posted three straight ranked recruiting classes while currently having the Huskies ranked yet again this year in recruiting. His specialty is offense, which appears to be thriving and only getting better under his watch. Sarkisian has made winning at home a tough challenge for visitors as he is 13-6 at home with five of those losses coming to ranked opponents. If he is to grow as a coach he must improve on the road where he is only 5-12 as a head coach beating only two teams with a winning record. If the Huskies plan on taking the next step with him as head coach they must win games on the road.
The Tyrone Willingham dark cloud over this program is finally over and Sarkisian should receive all the credit for that. The Huskies have gone to back to back bowl games under his watch while producing a winning conference record the last two seasons. Sarkisian has addressed the problems of the team and hired some top notch defensive coaches. The talent is their with the players and I believe in the coaching staff. I don't think this is the best coaching staff in the conference but I'd rank it in the top four which can be good enough to win a Rose Bowl once in a while. Sarkisian has acknowledge to grow as a program you must beat those elite teams. There will be no excuses from him which I like and I do believe the program is moving in the right direction.
The Huskies will once again for the third straight season go to a bowl game. The early schedule is tough and already having injuries doesn't help with that. I think this team survives that six game stretch to go 3-3 as they upset Stanford at home who has lost quite a bit of talent themselves. I think this team will be very strong on offense led by Keith Price who will have plenty of weapons when this team is healthy. I think the offensive line will grow and become a good unit especially up the middle where they appear the strongest. I see the Huskies having plenty of difference makers on offense which they haven't had a few years back. Price is the straw that stirs the drink but he has plenty of offensive help as well.
I think the talent on defense is there, they just underachieved last year. I think Wilcox will have some growing pains but the defense has quite a bit of returning talent not to mention some impact freshman. I think the defense will create more big plays whether that be sacks, forced fumbles or interceptions. I think this team due to their youth at certain spots will struggled early but grow as the season progresses.
For now I'll say this Huskies team goes 8-4 and 6-3 in conference which is good for second place in the north division. I think they start off 3-3 then finished 5-1 before going to a bowl game for the third straight year under Sarkisian. This team returns plenty of talent while bringing in some impact freshman. Not to mention Sarkisian redshirted 19 guys and will probably redshirt plenty in this class as well. The Huskies for the most part are a deep team. Even now with injuries at the wide receiver position plus graduation nobody is pressing the panic button due to the depth created. This is a rising program who takes that next step and wins eight regular season games something this program hasn't done since 2001. That should be good momentum heading into 2013 which could be a big year for this program on paper.
As you've read in this preview the future appears to be bright for the Huskies. I feel like all the talk of 2013 is under selling this team which has a chance to make a name for themselves. This team can change the identity and return the Huskies to a solid defensive program once again. This team hasn't won eight games since 2001 and has only done it four times since Don James retired in August of 1993. If the Huskies had a healthy Price last year vs Oregon State or an average defense vs Baylor or Nebraska the Huskies could have won eight or nine games last season. I think this team is deeper and more talented than any team Sarkisian has had so far. I'm very excited for this season to finally begin and I can't wait until Saturday's to cheer on my Huskies! I think 2012 is the year the Huskies make some progress as they build momentum in what could be a very huge 2013 season.
Thursday, August 23, 2012
Seattle proved that those who say Seattle is not a great sports city are dead wrong. On a Tuesday night game in August between the Cleveland Indians(54-68) and the Seattle Mariners(59-64) the house was packed. Over 39,000 fans came out to show support for our ace Felix Hernandez who was making his first start since throwing a perfect game. Two teams below .500 and you would have never known it while at Safeco Field. It was magical to be in that ball park that night as the Mariners of course won 5-1. Felix Hernandez didn't disappoint as he went 7.2 innings allowing only one run while striking out five. The crowd for the first time since I was in high school(graduated in June of 2004) was rocking. Every two strikes the crowd would stand up chanting "K" over and over. It was very hard leaving the ball park that night feeling negative. In fact I couldn't go to bed I was on a Mariners high for the first time in forever. You would have thought the Mariners were playoff bound with that win. That game proved that if the Mariners can build a team yes Safeco Field can be magical again. This game proved that despite many of us being annoyed with Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln we still have that passion burning inside us. This game proved more importantly the fans still care about this ball club.
I would love to see Felix Hernandez throw a playoff game and I would pay $1,000 if I had to just to see him pitch in the playoffs. I never thought back in 2001 when the Mariners won 116 games that would be our final playoffs. I miss caring about whether we win or lose, I miss scoreboard watching where I get excited if a team we are chasing loses or upset when they win. I miss giving a shit about this team more importantly! I really do hope Jack Z is the guy that would make life so much easier as he has proven he can find great values in guys. Eventually he will need to prove he can land that big time guy(something he has yet to prove he can do) via trade. I don't think free agency is the way to go and possibly Jack Z pulls a Michael Pineda-Jesus Montero type of trade where he trades one of Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, or Taijuan Walker for a young first baseman/elite first base prospect. This team is knocking on the door for the playoffs and should have the best starting pitching and bullpen in about two seasons for over a few years after that. The Mariners were the talk of the city in the middle of football talk and I'm proud to have been at the game. Hopefully this game is the start of something big as the fans start to come back to Safeco and we return to the days where we sell out every game regardless of the opponent or who our pitcher is. I can't wait! I'm so jacked up on the Mariners and Safeco Field was magical that Tuesday night. I can't wait until every home game is like that as that is going to be a treat especially for those younger fans who missed the 2000-2003 run at Safeco Field.
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
The Seattle Sounders bounced back from a difficult week and came away with a huge win against their Cascadia Cup rivals from the North. On Saturday, the Sounders defeated the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 in front of 55,718 fans at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. Fredy Montero continued his scoring streak as he found the net for the third straight game and has scored four goals in his last five matches. Eddie Johnson's goalscoring frenzy also continued as he picked up his team leading 11th goal of the season.
Through the first 10-15 minutes, the Whitecaps looked like they were the better side from the kickoff. In the 6th minute, Darron Mattocks tried to play a through ball to Kenny Miller who got in behind Jeff Parke and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, but Michael Gspurning came all the way out to meet it. The ball fell to Dane Richards who tried it from a long way out with Gspurning way off his line, but he missed wide. Richards was making his sixth appearance for the Whitecaps since coming over from the New York Red Bulls for former Sounder Sebastien Le Toux.
In the 19th minute of the match, the Sounders troubled goalkeeper Joe Cannon. Eddie Johnson had possession of the ball on the right hand side. Johnson cut inside to with left foot after a couple of step overs and gave it a go from outside the area and Joe Cannon just punched it over the bar, but it was close to going into his own net.
A couple minutes later, the Sounders gave the ball away in their own half and Kenny Miller played a great through ball to Darron Mattocks in the penalty area, but he pulled his shot wide of the far post. Both Miller and Mattocks combined well in this game, causing a few problems here and there.
In the 50th minute of the match, the Sounders gave the Whitecaps another scare. Jeff Parke chipped the ball into the Whitecaps area. Eddie Johnson chested the ball down for Ozzie Alonso for a first timed hit from a long way out and Joe Cannon got down and deflected his shot wide.
Now, I just want to apologize to all of you for not keeping you guys up to date on the Gold Medal run for the U.S. women's soccer team during the 2012 Olympics. I had a lot going on that was more important than this, so I just want to make sure you guys understand. Also I'm gonna be taking a break from blogging for a little while, so I'm not gonna cover the Sounders-Chivas USA game this weekend.
Seattle Sounders FC - Fredy Montero 8 (Jeff Parke 1, Mauro Rosales 10) 64'
Seattle Sounders FC - Eddie Johnson 11 (Brad Evans 2, Osvaldo Alonso 2) 87'
Seattle Sounders FC - Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (caution; foul) 58'
Vancouver Whitecaps - Gershon Koffie (caution; foul) 91'+
Vancouver Whitecaps - Joe Cannon; Lee Young-Pyo, Andy O'Brien, Carlyle Mitchell, Alain Rochat; Dane Richards, Jun Marques Davidson (John Thorrington 89'), Gershon Koffie, Camilo Sanvezzo (Russell Teibert 74'); Kenny Miller, Darron Mattocks (Atiba Harris 89')
Seattle Sounders FC - Michael Gspurning; Adam Johansson (Zach Scott 79'), Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leonardo Gonzalez; Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso, Christian Tiffert, Alex Caskey (Fredy Montero 61'); Mauro Rosales (Andy Rose 88'), Eddie Johnson
Sunday, August 19, 2012
The Pac-12 football season is set to begin in two weeks so I'm sure you are reading a ton of previews on the teams in the conference. What isn't brought up in these previews is the Elephant in the room on these programs. The Elephant in the room saying is when there is something everyone knows about but it is never brought up. Each team in this conference has an elephant in the room. Some teams elephant in the room isn't much while others looms to be pretty large. Some teams have an obvious Elephant in the room to that particular fan base while for some teams this will hopefully wake you up on these teams. I read these previews and I'm frustrated that many tip toe around the Elephant in the room while some may just be oblivious to the Elephant in the room. As usual I'm sure you'll enjoy my Elephant in the room on other teams but disagree with my assessment on your team. Like I did with my last column I'll once again start off the Elephant in the room in the South starting in Alphabetical order just like I did last time.
The Arizona Wildcats replaced one lame coach in Mike Stoops in another with Rich Rodriguez. Rodriguez was once a high profile coach when he was at West Virginia where he went 60-26. He left for Michigan where he failed miserably going 15-22 and worse yet was 6-18(.333) in conference games. Arizona didn't struggle last year because of offense they struggled cause they couldn't stop anyone. They went 4-8 last year and lost quarterback Nick Foles to the NFL. Sure Rodriguez will put up points on the board and that will be exciting. Just don't expect him to win many games down in Arizona. If Rodriguez can't win in Michigan which has a ton of great tradition and can recruit well what chance does he have a lower tier Pac-12 school like Arizona? I expect this experiment to crash and burn starting immediately this year.
Arizona State Sun Devils:
The Arizona State Sun Devils just like their rivals had a rather interesting coaching hire. They hired Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Todd Graham. Graham won at Rice going 7-6 then bounced after one year, then went to Tulsa for four years going 36-17 then bounced to Pittsburgh going 6-6 before leaving to Arizona State. The Sun Devils just fired Dennis Erickson for going 6-6(he would end up 6-7 after losing his lame duck bowl game) yet they hired a guy who went 6-6? Graham even if he does do well has shown he will bail on a team as he has already left two programs after just one season. No matter how much you want to pump this guy up he's a .500 coach in big boy ball and I'm being generous since the Big East is dog shit and easily the worst BCS conference. Face it Sun Devils you whiffed on this hire and once again despite all the potential in the world you'll still be average.
The Colorado Buffaloes were terrible last season in going 3-10 which actually surprised most people in fact. Well now they lost talented running back Rodney Stewart who ran for 854 yards(4.5 YPC) with four touchdowns while also being their second leading receiver with 45 receptions for 571 yards(12.7 YPC). He did lead the team in receptions as well. This is already a terrible team who on paper lost their one stud play maker on offense. There is a very good chance Colorado could actually be worse than they were last season which is a scary thought for Buffaloes fans in Colorado.
I keep seeing a ton of praise for the Utah Utes and I'm not buying it. You know why I'm not buying it? Cause Utah despite going 8-5 last year was 4-5 in conference. Utah also didn't win a single game in conference against a team with a winning record. They also skipped BOTH Stanford and Oregon which would have been for sure losses. Utah due to recruiting at a Mountain West level doesn't have the athletes to defeat decent to good Pac-12 teams. Another reason they can't because Jordan Wynn isn't that good. In his career he has completed 59.9% of his passes for 4,390 yards(7.4 YPA) which is good for 219.5 YPG with 31 touchdowns to 16 interceptions in 20 games. Those are solid numbers but not good enough in this league. Utah will once again benefit from not facing Oregon or Stanford. They do have to travel to Washington and they do host USC at home. Utah will once again go to a bowl game because they are skipping two of the four best teams in the conference. Just don't be fooled at the end of the year by their inflated record.
In three seasons as a head coach Lane Kiffin has coached in one bowl game which his team got killed. Now we are to believe this team is going to win the national championship? Kiffin who is 3-5 vs ranked opponents in his career including that shocking win over Oregon in Eugene. USC the one year under Matt Barkley when there was actual preseason expectations they stumbled going 9-4. Also speaking of the Oregon game which USC fan is screaming at me now saying that is a pressure win well yes it is but not really. USC was 17 point underdogs so nobody expected them to win so the pressure was off and then they came out to a 38-14 lead over Oregon. They when the game got tight so did USC as they almost choked the game away finally hanging on 38-35 over Oregon as Oregon missed a game tying field goal to force overtime. Oregon had just had back to back big road games in closing out Husky Stadium then defeating Stanford for the Pac-12 title. This time around when the teams square off Oregon will be ready. Kiffin hasn't had to deal with being the clear cut favorite and it will be interesting to see how he handles a national championship or bust type pressure.
Jim L. Mora so far has been fired by two NFL jobs and has a career record of 31-33 in the NFL. Now while Mora could turn out to be the next Pete Carroll he could just as easily turn out to be the next Mike Sherman(25-25 at Texas A &M), Dave Wannstedt(42-31 at Pittsburgh), and Chan Gailey(44-32 at Georgia Tech). All of those coaches had no head coach experience at college before taking over after failing in the NFL. Mora could be a success but he can just as easily be like every other UCLA head coach since Terry Donahue which is be very average. Mora isn't getting off to the best start with his comments about USC, barking at his assistants and kicking his team out of practice. It will be interesting to see what Mora does. One thing is for sure is UCLA fans should enter the Mora era with caution as he isn't proven as a head coach.
California Golden Bears:
Jeff Tedford is entering his 11th season at California and has a 79-48 record. He is only 48-38 in conference play. When he coached Aaron Rodgers in 2003 he went 8-6(5-3) and in 2004 he went 10-2(7-1) finishing the year ranked 9th in the country. In 2005 Marshawn Lynch came to the program where Tedford went 8-4(4-4) then in 2006 went 10-3(7-2) tying for the conference title. Since Rodgers and Lynch have left Tedford is 36-28(21-24). As you can see since he has lost Rodgers and Lynch he is a below .500 coach in conference play. There is nobody on this California roster at Quarterback or Running Back who appears to be a future pro bowler which means the California Golden Bears will once again be destined for another average season in Tedford's 11th season.
The Stanford Cardinal have been terrific the last two years mainly due to #1 pick overall Andrew Luck at quarterback and the Jim Harbaugh handing the program over to David Shaw. In the two big games last year Stanford lost both games where Shaw appeared over matched in the Oregon game and in the Oklahoma State game he took the ball out of Andrew Luck's hands. Stanford also has a tough stretch after they start off 2-0 they host #1 USC, travel to Washington on a thursday night game, host Arizona then have a road game at Notre Dame, followed up by a weird road game against their rival California in the middle of the year. Stanford could very easily go 1-4 during that stretch with a rookie quarterback, not to mention they also lost David DeCastro who anchored their offensive line. They also lost first-teamers Jonathan Martin to the draft and tight end Cody Fleenor. Stanford lost five of their six first-team all conference guys to the NFL draft. I know most are high on Stanford but they lost their star quarterback, head coach two years ago, star tight end plus their two best offensive lineman. I don't know if any program can reload after that much departure especially a non football powerhouse like Stanford.
Oregon fans don't like talking about it while rival fans do which is the Willie Lyles controversy appears to be coming to a conclusion soon. You can't talk about Oregon football without Lyles name being brought up which may be hurting their recruiting right now. Oregon despite being a top tier program has only eight committments is ranked 38th in the nation and only 5th in the Pac-12. If the penalties are severe should be interesting to see how Oregon handles the controversy. I witnessed it at Washington as the Huskies went to three straight Rose Bowls and were picked to go to a fourth straight. Then probation hit and Don James suddenly left while the Huskies suffered through three straight unthinkable 7-4 seasons. For Oregon to think they can A) survive sanctions, B) Chip Kelly won't flee to the NFL and C) replace Kelly and maintain this level of excellence is ridiculous.
Oregon has been building this journey for a while. In 1994 they went to the Rose Bowl then following it up with a Cotton Bowl. Then suffered through three average seasons until the Joey Harrington era started where they saw their program rise to the #2 ranking in the nation in 2001. Then from 2002-08 they were a solid program who couldn't get over the hump. Chip Kelly arrives and with USC going on two year bowl ban with Pete Carroll leaving they have dominated the conference. There is no guarantee Chris Peterson would bolt to Oregon like so many fans think it is a for sure thing. Do I think Oregon would fall to Washington status of 0-12? No I don't but I could see them returning to what they were in the Mike Bellotti years where they were a good program. They just weren't a great program under Bellotti so in my opinion the Lyles Elephant in the room is the biggest in the entire conference mainly cause it could take down the team of the conference which right now is Oregon.
Oregon State Beavers:
Mike Riley known as the coach who can do more with less has struggled in recent years. In his 11 years all at Oregon State he is 72-63 and 46-47 which is partly due to his first two years when the program was the worst in the nation. In his second go around he is 64-49 and 44-33 in coference play. Riley in 11 seasons has never had a season where he has lost fewer than four games in a season. Riley has seen the programs win totals drop four consecutive years as the Beavers have lost to the Oregon Ducks four consecutive years. Last year Riley went 3-9 and had an embarrassing loss to Sacramento State at home. In fact under Riley the Beavers have lost 12 games to teams not in a BCS conference which is pathetic for a major conference coach.
There doesn't appear to be hope on the horizon as Oregon State is ranked 75th in the nation in recruiting which puts them last in the conference, last year Oregon State ranked 44th good for 10th in the conference. Riley is driving the Beavers straight into the ditch and most fail to bring this up. I see how Oregon State is expected to make a bowl game even predicted to do better than Washington according to Phil Steele. I'm just not buying it, sure Riley pulls off one or two upsets a year but he has his fair share of bad losses. Two years ago lost at home to a 2-10 Washington State Cougars team giving Paul Wulff his first ever road win. Then last year the loss to Sacramento State at home was inexcusable as a real program would have fired him for that especially for going 3-9. As long as Riley is in Corvallis the Beavers will forever be limited.
The Huskies offense receives a ton of praise as Steve Sarkisian is labeled the offensive "guru". The offense though is actually overrated and racks up big numbers against crappy teams. Against the three top teams in the conference the Huskies have struggled offensively. Against Stanford all losses they have scored 14 points, 0 points and 21 points. Against Oregon all losses they have yet to score 20 points scoring 19 points, 16 points and 17 points. Against USC where they won twice they scored 16 points, 32 points and 17 points. In the two biggest wins of the Steve Sarkisian era the Huskies defeated #3 USC 16-13 in 2009 and defeated #18 Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl 19-7. Even the signature California win where Polk scored the game winner in 2010 the Huskies won 16-13 no exactly an offensive shootout.
As you can see the offense struggled, in three years the offense has only came to play one time against a good defense which was an 8-5 USC team on the road in 2010 scoring 32 points. In most of the Huskies big wins it was the defense who came through so this notion that the Huskies just need an average defense then they'll be a BCS team is completely false. They scored 56 points in a bowl loss against Baylor but Baylor's defense was ranked in the 100's not exactly a good defense. This team has no NFL offensive lineman either which means they can't grind out those tough drives. Remember last year against Eastern Washington, Hawaii and California how the game was put in the hands of the defense? It was because the offense couldn't put the game away with a sustained drive. A great offense like the 2000 one chewed up the clock, moved the chains and got the clutch first downs. This is a good offense but it has a long ways to go before it becomes a great offense.
Washington State Cougars:
The Cougars are excited to have Mike Leach over the dreadful Paul Wulff. I keep hearing how Air Raid is going get the Cougars back into a bowl game this year as Leach is going to vastly improve that passing offense plus Jeff Tuel is coming back as well. The thing is the Cougars offense was pretty good last year and wasn't the problem. They were top 10 in the nation in passing offense and top 30 in the nation in overall offense. Leach will improve that field but he won't improve what has plagued the Cougars for a while which is their defense. The Cougars defense in nine conference games allowed 311 points(34.6 PPG) with 27 being the fewest which was against Colorado and Arizona State which were both wins. Against teams with a winning record the Cougars went 0-6 last year allowing 227 points(37.8 PPG) showing they aren't ready to hang with the good teams.
The last time the Cougars defeated a team with a winning division-1 record was SMU back in 2009. The last time the Cougars defeated a conference opponent who ended the year with a winning record was all the way back in 2006. The Air Raid offense will put up points but it will also put more pressure on the field as passing teams tend to not use up much time of possession. The Cougars defense which has been dreadful the last couple of years doesn't appear to be any better. Leach is an offensive coach, the defensive players aren't very good. Look for the Cougars to be a better version of what Paul Wulff had them be last year which is eat up the weak teams but struggle to stop anyone in conference.
So when you making your predictions for this upcoming season keep in mind these Elephants in the room for each program. I noticed every fan base chooses to ignore their Elephant in the room and especially the media who covers their teams. I just like to look at them before I do my predictions as the season is only two weeks away. We'll see how each team handles their Elephant in the room and perhaps make me look dumb by the end of the year. Once again I'm sure most fan bases will like this piece while the homer fans who see no wrong in their team won't like it. For those rational fans out there I hope you enjoy this and hopefully you can at least respect my Elephant in the room on your program while nodding your head reading about the rival schools I had a dig on.