Sunday, August 26, 2012 - Page updated at 11:14 AM

An altered state of football at Washington State and Washington

Mike Leach

"During the season, typically on Sunday, I'm not sure we can beat Pullman High. But on Friday, I'm pretty convinced we'll beat the New York Giants."

Steve Sarkisian

"I think we're at a point now, we're on the map. I don't think we need to do things anymore to create publicity. We're here and now it's about staying power."

By Bud Withers
Seattle Times college football reporter

The meeting with Mike Leach is supposed to be at 2 p.m., but somehow, it sounds iffy. At 2:50, an aide gets a text message that Leach is finally available.

Washington State’s 32nd football coach is in a backroom of the football offices, sitting alone at the end of a long conference table. Next to him are some papers and a can of smokeless tobacco.

This isn’t a great time, he says. He’s got to get ready to give 110 football players a talk. This one has something to do with Bernard Hopkins, the ageless fighter.

“How ’bout dinner?” Leach says. “I’ll have all the time you want.”

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John Lok / The Seattle Times

New Washington State coach Mike Leach, left, created quite a buzz even before the team began its summer workouts. Steve Sarkisian, right, says he was "a bit brash" when he was hired by the Huskies. He says he's more relaxed now, entering his fourth season.

By Steve Kelley
Seattle Times staff columnist

Everything about Steve Sarkisian’s early days at Washington was loud and designed to attract attention to a program that had lost its way. Everything he did was made to feel bigger than it actually was.

His introductory news conference in the Don James Center had the feel of an inauguration speech. The only thing that was missing was a Bible and a solemn oath to uphold the values of Enoch Bagshaw, Jim Owens and Don James.

The arrival of Sarkisian’s first defensive coordinator Nick Holt called for another full-house news conference. You would have thought Pete Carroll, not Holt, was leaving USC for Washington.

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He said what?

Not every coach has the boring, "we're taking it one game at a time" personality. Here are a few all-time funny coaching quotes.

Are Huskies ready to 'take the next step'?

Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times

Washington quarterback Keith Price is at the heart of what the Huskies hope is a breakthrough season. But the team is young and the schedule is brutal.

By Bob Condotta
Seattle Times staff reporter

In case the members of the Washington football team forget the goal for this season, all they need to do is look up or down. Left or right.

Emblazoned just about everywhere they turn, from locker-room walls to the covers of playbooks, is the motto for this season – “Take the next step.”

It’s an obvious goal for the Huskies, who in the first three seasons under coach Steve Sarkisian have stabilized after the disaster that was the end of the Tyrone Willingham era. Read story →

Don't be surprised if Price outdoes himself — again

By Jerry Brewer
Seattle Times staff columnist

UW quarterback Keith Price had one of the best seasons in school history last year, but he might have a greater impact this season. Read story →

Five keys to Huskies' season

UW roster | UW schedule | CenturyLink Field seating chart

Keep Price upright

No player is more valuable to Washington than junior quarterback Keith Price, who threw for a school-record 33 touchdowns last season. He did that despite nagging knee and ankle injuries, though he started all but one game. The Huskies need to keep him healthier this season if they want to take the next step.

Get defensive

Washington allowed a school-record 467 points last season, leading to the firing of defensive coordinator Nick Holt and two other assistants. A remade defensive staff, and new schemes, have been well-received by players. Now comes the test of translating that into improvement on the field.

Hold the line

The Huskies' offensive line has suffered a succession of injuries since last season that could force untested players onto the field earlier than hoped. In particular, UW could have two new tackles, redshirt sophomores Ben Riva and Micah Hatchie, neither of whom has started. Each will need to mature quickly.

Kick it in gear

An easy-to-overlook factor in UW's success the past few years was its steady kicking games, led by strong-legged punter Kiel Rasp and kicker Erik Folk, each of whom has graduated. JC transfer Travis Coons is expected to take over as kicker and true frosh Korey Durkee as punter and UW is hoping for a seamless transition.

Find a running game

The biggest personnel loss from the 2011 season might have been tailback Chris Polk, who left a year early for the NFL. Junior Jesse Callier and sophomore Bishop Sankey will likely share the carries in his absence as the Huskies will go with more of a committee approach.

— Bob Condotta

Five keys to Cougars' season

WSU roster | WSU schedule | Martin Stadium seating chart

Hold those blocks

In the four-year Paul Wulff regime, Cougars surrendered 186 sacks. That puts not only down-and-distance, but your quarterbacks, in peril.

Be stout up front

The dismissal of Anthony Laurenzi thins a defensive line that was already a question mark. Cougars need some breakthrough performances here.

Kick it deep

The defense was continually put in bad positions in 2011 by short kickoffs. Transfer kicker Michael Bowlin should help improve that deficiency.

Minimize mistakes at linebacker

Travis Long moves from end to "Buck" linebacker spot in the new 3-4. He joins three who don't have a start yet at WSU, so the youngsters will need to grow up quickly.

Stay healthy

Easier said than done, but as coach Mike Leach has noted, depth is generally lacking on this roster. Either the front-line guys have to stay on the field, or WSU has to get quick help from incoming players.

— Bud Withers

Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times

Chip Lydum, UW's associate athletic director for operations and capital projects, takes reporters on a tour of Husky Stadium, which is nearing the halfway point in its construction.

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