SEATTLE — Justin Glenn’s face contorts when asked about the defense last season for the Washington Huskies. It’s not quite a look of pain — more like general discomfort. But it’s clear the senior safety doesn’t enjoy talking about it.
When the same subject is mentioned, cornerback Desmond Trufant lowers his head a little and gazes at his feet. He shakes his head in disbelief.
Ask any defensive player who endured last season’s struggles and a similar reaction usually follows.
It’s not an enjoyable memory to hold on to, let alone rehash.
But to think members of the 2012 Huskies defense are plagued by flashbacks and nightmares of last season would be wrong. Gone are the memories of getting run over by Stanford, erased is the beatdown at Southern California, and exorcised is the nightmare that was the Alamo Bowl.
They have moved on.
At least they say they have moved on.
Sophomore strong safety Sean Parker had adopted his own mantra.
“Bad memories are lost memories,” he said.
But those memories are not easily lost on Huskies fans. The once-proud tradition of defensive domination under former coach Don James was reduced to a social network punchline under 2011 defensive coordinator Nick Holt. That type of defense was unacceptable to current coach Steve Sarkisian and UW fans. Changes needed to be made.
It’s why Holt, Jeff Mills (safeties coach) and Mike Cox (linebackers) were fired despite having one year left on their contracts. It’s why Justin Wilcox (defensive coordinator) was persuaded to leave Tennessee along with his buddy Peter Sirmon (linebackers), why Tosh Lupoi (defensive line/defensive run-game coordinator) was lured away from California, and Keith Heyward (defensive backs) was pried away from Oregon State — all with healthy pay increases.
The new staff has implemented new schemes, moved players around and changed expectations. The Huskies defense that takes the field at CenturyLink Field on Saturday against San Diego State will have a different look and attitude.
“I don’t know if it’s about proving anyone wrong or right,” Sarkisian said. “At the end of the day, I think they want to play well for themselves, for our football program, for our university and for our fans. I’m sure there’s a bit of a chip on their shoulder because they feel like they were better than they were last year.”
But one question needs to be answered: Will the defense be better?
That’s all that matters.
There cannot be a repeat of last year.
The snarky answer to the question is: “Of course the defense will be better — because it couldn’t be any worse.”
Indeed, the 2011 defense is stamped all over the UW record book — and not in a good way.
The Huskies set records for points allowed (467), total touchdowns (58), pass completions (305), passing yards (3,700), rushing touchdowns (32), passing yards a game (284.6), total yards (5,893), average total offense a game (453.3), first downs (297) and passing first downs (167).
The 58 total touchdowns surrendered were second-most in school history, the 62.8 completion percentage allowed was third-highest, and the 22 passing touchdowns allowed ranked No. 5 all time.
Perhaps using a little Football Psychology 101, Sarkisian and his staff emphasized the idea, “next play.”
Meaning good or bad, players needed to move on to the next play no matter what the result.
Maybe it applies for seasons as well.
“Our program isn’t about what just happened,” Sarkisian said. “It’s about where are we going and what are we doing. I think that’s been the focus.”
The players have embraced it.
“We are moving forward,” Trufant said. “We can’t afford to think about last year. There’s no reason to. This is a new season. Everything’s new.”