Last year proved to be a tipping point for Husky Football. Gone were the days of Coach Steve Sarkisian, when the team lacked discipline and frat boy antics reigned supreme. Gone were the days when opposing teams felt no fear of Washington’s linemen. Those Husky linemen who, in the words of erstwhile podcaster Race Bannon, “had beer bellies and pipe cleaner arms.”
Last year’s Huskies were a different breed of animal. A pack of hungry dawgs, well-conditioned and chiseled, playing for each other, and going all the way to the College Football Playoff.
“Coach [Chris] Petersen has done an amazing job turning that program around,” said former Husky Warren Moon. “It’s nice to see them back on top again.”
It’s been nearly forty years since Warren Moon led the Huskies to the 1978 Rose Bowl Championship. For the next two decades, he went on to play in the CFL and NFL, before being enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Moon now does color commentary for the Seattle Seahawks. But in talking recently about the Huskies, he cited two things in which Petersen excels.
“He develops players really well,” Moon said. “He doesn’t get the all the four and five star [recruits] like Alabama and Florida State and all those guys get. But by the time these guys leave the university, they’re four and five star guys because of the way he develops them. His training program, his weight program, everything he does helps develops them into great football players. His [system] is second to none over the last 10-15 years from what I’ve seen. “
“But the big thing with them is the discipline and accountability that he demands out of his players,” Moon said. “That’s something that reminds me of what coach [Don] James did when he was there. You were going to be accountable for everything you did. If you didn’t do everything right you were going to pay a cost. And sometimes a very heavy cost.”
Petersen took much flack from fans and media in 2014, when he kicked cornerback Marcus Peters off the team.
“Marcus Peters was probably the best player on the football team,” Moon said. “But because he wasn’t going to class, Chris Petersen said ‘you’re off our football team.’ Petersen got a lot of people’s attention when he did that, especially the players. If you can get rid of a guy who ended up being a first round draft pick despite missing all those games, that shows that anybody can be expendable if they don’t get their act together.”
Moon was asked what concerns him most coming into this season. He referenced the departures of Kevin King, Budda Baker and Sidney Jones, who were all drafted last April into the NFL.
“When you lose that many guys out of secondary, three of your best football players and leaders, it’s a concern,” he said. “How do you replace those guys? I’ve heard they have a lot of depth in the secondary and a lot of really good young players. But until they get on the field with the live bullets flying, we will have to wait and see.”
Moon views quarterback Jake Browning as a big asset. Browning was named the 2016 Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year. But the sophomore wasn’t as effective late in the season.
“I think it’s a question of durability,” Moon said. “Last year I think he wore down toward the end of the season. I don’t think he was completely healthy. He doesn’t have the strongest build but I think he has built himself up a little bit heading into this season. His body will be a lot stronger to take the abuse over the course of what may be a 14 game season. He has great command of the offense and they have a great feel as coaches as to what he does best. This will be his third year in the system. They will have a lot of success this year because of him.”
With the season now a week away, Moon is a happy alum.
“Only three years and Petersen had them in the college football playoff,” Moon said. “People are talking about Washington all over the country, and not just the west coast. It’s a proud time to be a Husky.”