Steve Sarkisian did a good job as the head coach of the Washington Huskies. The year before he took over, the Huskies went 0-12 under Tyrone Willingham. Sark took the helm and brought the Huskies back to respectability with four straight bowl berths and four consecutive winning seasons. While the job Sark did was admirable, he was never able to get the Huskies over the hump in his five years in Seattle.
While Sark was at Washington, Chris Petersen was making his bones at Boise State. Petersen went 92-12 in his eight years at Boise and posted a 57-6 record in the Mountain West Conference. At BSU, Petersen turned away job after job. After posting his worst record in his tenure in 2013 (8-4), Petersen decided to finally take the plunge and accepted the Washington job.
Petersen inherits a Washington team that is in a much better position than when Sark took over but the much improved Pac-12 is littered with obstacles.
Why We Like the Hire:
92-12. 92-12! And it was not just against weaker competition. In his tenure with the Broncos, Petersen's team posted wins over Arizona State, BYU, Georgia, Oklahoma, Oregon (twice), Oregon State (twice), TCU, Utah (twice), Virginia Tech and Washington. Petersen's team won on the road (in the Georgia Dome against Georgia, in Autzen against Oregon) and they won on the biggest stage (beat Oklahoma and TCU in the Fiesta Bowl).
Petersen has also been able to have success while losing coaches at a pretty rapid pace because everybody wanted a little piece of what he was creating in Boise. Bryan Harsin (Arkansas State and Boise State) and Sean Kugler (UTEP) went on to be head coaches while others (Justin Wilcox and Brent Pease) were hired into coordinator positions at prestigious programs.
What Petersen did at Boise was simply magical and we are definitely looking forward to see if he can approach that same type of success in the treacherous Pac-12.
Why We Don't Like the Hire:
While the timing seems right, did Petersen wait too long to leave Boise? After the worst coaching season (win/loss wise) in his career, is he burned out?
Another point of contention is the schedule that Boise State played. We already touched on the teams that the Broncos beat, but they didn't play those teams week in, week out. They had two or three of them each year and surrounded them with games the Broncos were supposed to win. The Broncos were head and shoulders above their competition in the MWC for most of Petersen's tenure. Is he ready for the grind of the Pac-12? Is he willing to put in the kind of work that must be put in at this level? Can he and his staff put together successful game plans against this level of competition week in and week out?
These are all questions that will face Petersen in his debut season in Seattle and beyond.
What Kind of Talent Does He Inherit?
The Huskies have recruited well but not "off the charts" well. In 2011, the Huskies had the #5 ranked recruiting class in the Pac-12 (according to 247 Sports team rankings) with four 4-star prospects. In 2012, they also ranked 5th landing one five-star prospect and five 4-stars. In 2013, they finished third in the conference getting seven 4-star athletes.
The base of talent is there for the Huskies but they also must replace some key players, especially on offense, like Bishop Sankey, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Keith Price. Oh yeah, he also has to deal with potential starting QB Cyler Myles getting suspended.
Yeah, But Can He Recruit?
At Boise State, the Broncos consistently had the best recruiting class in the Mountain West Conference. But that was the MWC and over the last four years (2010-2013) of Petersen's tenure he didn't recruit a single four or five star prospect. This season, after taking over in December, Petersen was able to nab four 4-stars but the Huskies also placed 7th in the Pac-12 (which was their worst finish in the recent past in terms of recruiting).
From the Idaho Statesmen:
Petersen’s low-ego approach was a hit in the locker room, on the recruiting trail and in the community. He was insulated by design — limited media and booster functions — but was gracious, even when confronted by someone wanting a photo or an autograph.
The big question on Petersen is how will he transition from being a big fish in a small pond to being a small fish in the big city of Seattle. And, can he recruit head to head against the likes of Jim Mora, Rich Rodriguez and the rest of the big name coaches in the Pac-12.
While Chris Petersen was at Boise State he seemed like he was a red herring candidate for every major coaching opening in the country. The fact that he finally left his lair in Boise and that the Washington Huskies were the ones to secure his talents is big news.
Everybody is eager to see how Petersen can do on a bigger stage and while he is in a better position than Sark was in when he got the job, this is still going to be a work in progress. When Petersen took over in Boise, he was already an integral part of the team as he had been Offensive Coordinator from 2001 to 2005. Now he has to mold this team and these players to his way of thinking.
In terms of the hire, I can't think of a coach who would have been a better hire for Washington than Petersen. But, there are still questions and it won't come as easy as it did in Boise.
Coaching Grade: A