UW needs an overhaul, UO just a slight tuneup

2009-08-02T00:00:00Z UW needs an overhaul, UO just a slight tuneupBy Patrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 02, 2009 12:00 am  • 

LOS ANGELES — Steve Sarkisian usually dials the phone when he's crossing Seattle's SR 520 bridge and first sees Husky Stadium on his drive to work.

When it's 5:30 a.m., Sarkisian will call his brother in the Midwest. It's too early to call anyone else.

"I make it a point to call somebody," he said at the Pac-10's media day Thursday. "I ask them what they're doing. And I remind them what I'm doing."

He's rebuilding the Huskies after the worst season in their history. Washington went 0-12 last season, firing coach Tyrone Willingham and replacing him with the more caffeinated 35-year-old former USC associate head coach.

In Sarkisian's mind, the historically bad season didn't happen.

"Just don't dwell about it," he said. "No one even talked about it. No one even looked at it. It's not even an issue. We barely watch any film from it. It's like it didn't exist."

About 280 miles due south, Chip Kelly is doing the exact opposite.

Oregon's new head coach embraces the past. After all, in his two years as offensive coordinator, Kelly's unit broke the school record for total yards and points scored — twice.

Sarkisian is trying to change the culture; at Oregon, Kelly is trying to keep things simple.

Offense isn't rocket science — not even his.

"It is simple," he stresses. "Everyone overcomplicates it. You ever listen to some of those guys call a play?"

The 45-year-old Manchester, N.H., native spent 13 years as an assistant at New Hampshire before moving to Oregon in 2007. His down-home charm stands in contrast to Sarkisian, who Thursday admitted to being "a little long-winded."

Kelly's offense is based in, of all things, mathematics.

"It's not calculus," he said. "It's math. They have one more guy in the box that you can't block; mathematically, that guy's going to make the tackle."

The Ducks "talk about triangles a lot," Kelly said. They try to space themselves in equilateral, not right, triangles to create one-on-one matchups.

Kelly developed his offense over the years after visiting dozens of major colleges; this summer, he spent time with four NFL teams.

His offense is considered progressive.

"It dates back to the Pythagorean theorem, so it's actually ancient history instead of futuristic," he said. "It's all math. If they have more in the (defensive) box, we've got to throw. If you're good enough at receiver that they have to double somebody, then you win somewhere else. That's the chess match that goes on during the game."

With Mike Bellotti a candidate to become the school's athletic director, Kelly took on more leadership during the 10-3 Ducks' practices before last year's 42-31 Holiday Bowl victory against Oklahoma State.

"It's not like there's a new face coming in," cornerback Walter Thurmond III said. "Everybody respects him. The transition was real smooth."

The Ducks' spread offense led the Pac-10 with 41.9 points and 484.9 total yards per game last year, and was second the country with a 280.1-yard rushing average.

"Everything we do is rooted in the fundamentals," he said. "We just dress it up and make it look fancy.

"People look at what we do and go, 'What about those old days of 3 yards and a cloud of dust and Woody Hayes?' They ran the football. You look at what we do — we run the football. We just look a little bit different doing it."

Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who rushed for 718 yards last year, was the equalizer.

"That's why the quarterback as a runner evens out the game for you," Kelly said. "Before, you didn't have to account for the quarterback as a runner, so the math was skewed. It was always 11 vs. 10. Now you balance the numbers back up."

Sarkisian can do the same with junior Jake Locker. Without the dual-threat quarterback after a Week 4 thumb injury last year, the Huskies averaged 10 points per game.

The new coach is installing a pro-style offense with fewer designed running plays.

"I would like to hopefully equate him to (former BYU and 49ers great) Steve Young," Sarkisian said. "I tend to think he's more of a raw talent that can be molded than one that's been structured a certain way that we have to change."

There's that word again.

In Seattle, Locker might be the only thing that doesn't get changed.

"We're not the same football team," Sarkisian said. "I wasn't 0-12 last year, and neither was this coaching staff."

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