SEATTLE — After Washington lost to Baylor in a record-shattering Alamo Bowl it left head coach Steve Sarkisian with a bitter taste in his mouth. It also left him with a tough personal, emotional, decision to make with defensive coordinator Nick Holt. Two long-time colleges, and very close friends, Sarkisian knew deep down that he needed to fire Holt in order to get Washington above average.
Just two days after their first bowl loss under Sarkisian, Washington fired defensive coordinator Nick Holt, along with two assistants Jeff Mills and Mike Cox. All three coaches were on the defensive side, with Mills the safeties coach and Cox the linebackers coach. Since then Sarkisian has pulled out all the stops in an all-out effort to remake the Washington defense and return the school to where it should be.
Sarkisian brought in Cal defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi, along with Tennessee defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and linebackers coach Peter Simon. Those three, along with Sarkisian have put Washington in serious contention to get some of the nations elite recruits in 2012.
Safety Shaq Thompson, tackle Arik Armstead, and wide receiver Jordan Payton are just three of several highly touted recruits with Washington in their final two or three. Over the last three weeks Sarkisian and his staff have been recruiting around the clock and based on in-home visit feedback Washington has left a lasting impression.
Thursday night Sarkisian, and seven assistant coaches, had two in home visits. One with Shaq Thompson and one with Arik Armstead, along with their parents. Needless to say, if Washington doesn’t land one of these elite recruits it’s not for a lack of effort.
The expectation is that at least one if not more will sign with Washington on February 1st, national letter of intent day. The driving force behind Washington’s recruiting is a man who is widely known, but also widely vilified.
Known as one of the elite recruiters in the nation Lupoi made a bold decision to join Steve Sarkisian at Washington. While some recognize that the opportunity to advance his career was at Washington, others see it as sleazy. The reason? Lupoi has been actively recruiting some of the same players that he recruited to Cal.
While there is nothing stopping coaches from doing their job, it has put an intriguing twist on the recruiting war between Cal and Washington. Currently the two schools are finalist of Thompson, Armstead and Payton. Both Thompson and Armstead have talked about committing to the same school which just adds to the Cal-Washington rivalry.
However, it’s not just about the top California recruits. Top in-state offensive tackle Zach Banner said a couple weeks ago that Sarkisian was taking his recruitment into his own hands. A big statement by not only Banner, but Sarkisian as well.
Steve Sarkisian has created an entirely new style of Washington football since being hired back in 2009. With that style has come a sense of urgency, and this “off-season/recruiting season” has been a prime example. Shelling out multi-thousand dollar raises to coaches and even more to bring in the best of the best.
Sarkisian knows his offense is one of the best in the nation with Keith Price and Co. The only obstacle standing in the way Washington being a top 25 program is their defense. He made the hires, he’s put in the time and his coaches have done likewise. Sarkisian has pulled out all the stops in recruiting and it’s about to pay off.
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