Throughout the past five years of the Steve Sarkisian Era at Washington, former Husky Kyle Benn and I always disagreed about the former UW coach. Kyle proved to be a steadfast supporter of Sark's, while I viewed the King of Bubble Screens as a huckster and bad fit at Washington since day one. With the dust having settled since Sark's resignation last December, I asked Kyle his reaction to Sark's departure to USC.
"I was pretty shocked by it," he said. "I didn't see him leaving. Perhaps I had blinders on. I thought he was going to be here for awhile. Especially as they would throw out USC or the NFL or other big time programs as rumors, I still thought he was building this program back up and establishing himself here.
"So when he took off I was surprised by it," he said. "And I was angry because we would have to start all over again with recruiting and a new culture and all new coaches and systems. It wasn't ideal. But as you know, I have been a supporter of him and his staff in the past. But after a day or so, he was dead to me. And I look forward to the Huskies beating the crap out of USC every year they play."
Given that Kyle was a former captain for Washington and snapped the ball to Marques Tuiasosopo during the 2000 Rose Bowl season, we always talk about the offensive line. Kyle had been optimistic about the O-line going into last year, and his faith was rewarded.
"I was very happy with how they played," he said. "Obviously you can't just say Bishop Sankey is a great running back without mentioning that the offensive line helped him get those yards. Yes, his ability, talent and hard work got him there, but the offensive line got him there too. They really played well. I loved how they got shifted around and still got the performance out of them."
One thing Kyle and I agreed on was why 6'7" tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins wasn't thrown to more often in 2013. We both concurred that a player of his size and ability could run short routes and easily gain yards on short passes.
"You usually don't know what play was called and what the quarterback subsequently does," Benn said. "There are so many factors that come into play. But in my time there, from Cam Cleland to Jerramy Stevens, we always ran a play action play called a wide delay. We either straight pass blocked, and Tui or Cody (Pickett) or Brock (Huard) would fade back, and then after 3-4 seconds, the tight end would release just 3-4 yards, and the QB would dump it to him, and it was an easy 5 yards every time. Or play action, as linebackers come running down and the tight end blocks (for 2 Mississippi), and then releases and catches an easy ball. I don't know enough about the Xs and Os in the last 10 years to know if that's still a big factor in the game. But that was always (easy yardage) with the tight ends we had at Washington."
Benn chuckled and then recounted a quick story.
"I coached over in Japan in an all-star game as the offensive coordinator," he said. "If you analyzed the game, you would say I was the worst coordinator ever because I kept running the wide delay. Constantly throwing to a 6'6" tight end from Washington going against all the Japanese kids. It was 5 yards, 5 yards, 5 yards, 5 yards. Plus it was my brother (at tight end) so there was some nepotism there. No one knew that in Japan."
With Chris Petersen now the head coach at Washington, Benn is "very happy" with the hire. As we looked ahead to the 2014 season, I expressed my disappointment in Washington's cream puff schedule for out of conference games. It was originally set up to help prop up Sarkisian's win total. But looking at the first month of games against Hawaii, Eastern Washington, Illinois and (for God's sake) Georgia State, it will be a humdrum September in terms of competitiveness.
But Benn wasn't disappointed.
"Normally I like to see a powder puff opponent and a big time opponent", he said. "But with our schedule this year, I don't have too much commentary on how soft it is. Because we've got a new coach, new scheme, and we need a bit of a warm up to work out the kinks. So it's not going to be the most exciting football in the world, and I'm not really looking forward to going out and seeing those teams. But this schedule lets them go out there with some training wheels on before they go against Oregon, UCLA, etc.
"Hopefully there is the energizing factor of a new coach," he added. "I'm excited for the new season. I'm thinking with a new coach and new system, after losing our star QB, star running back and star tight end, 9 wins again would be respectable."
I heard this and shook my head. "With that soft schedule?" I asked. "In my opinion, anything less than 9 wins is grounds for a firing,"
"You always want to fire everybody!" he said.