Steve Sarkisian wastes little time dwelling on the negatives in a given situation.
That’s why the University of Washington football coach views his team’s flameout at the end of last season as something to build on rather than a wasted opportunity.
“It serves as a tremendous motivational tool,” Sarkisian said before speaking to a group of local Husky fans at their annual booster event Wednesday at the Yakima Country Club.”
In Sarkisian’s eyes, Washington’s losses in the Apple Cup at Washington State and in the Las Vegas Bowl to Boise State were unfortunate but not the defining moments in what was, in most other respects, another strong step forward for the program.
“Last season, we had a good football team,” he said. “We overcame a lot of adversity early on to finish with a record (7-6) we have never had. Unfortunately our youth got the best of us at the end.
“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished. We’re moving in the right direction. Now we just have to clear that hurdle and get back into the upper echelon of the conference.”
Sarkisian believes the team is close to accomplishing that, saying Washington’s finish overshadowed several accomplishments, including victories over then-top-10 teams Stanford and Oregon State, and a remarkable turnaround by the defense under new coordinator Justin Wilcox.
“The numbers don’t lie,” Sarkisian said of the defense, which he noted went from being ranked in the hundreds nationally in most categories in 2011 to being the 30s last season.
With nine defensive starters back, Sarkisian expects more progress on that side of the ball. That’s allowed him to put his offseason focus on righting an offense that was inconsistent for a variety of reasons last season.
“Our goal is to fix some of our offensive issues,” he said, noting that unit was inexperienced after losing several key players after the 2011 season, including four — receivers Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar, running back Chris Polk and lineman Senio Kelemete — who landed in the NFL.
Sarkisian likes how quarterback Keith Price looked during spring practices, and believes that with more experienced players around him, including running back Bishop Sankey, receiver Kasen Williams and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the offense will regain the consistent form it showed in 2011.
Beyond the positives he sees from the team, the coach is also energized by the pending return to a rebuilt Husky Stadium after playing at CenturyLink Field the past two seasons.
“We’re so excited to get back to Husky Stadium,” he said. “CenturyLink was good to us but to get back to Husky Stadium, with the proximity of the fans to the field ... the players are really pumped.”
Washington will unveil it’s new home in a nationally televised game against Boise State on Aug. 31.
“The amenities are outstanding and the setting is irreplaceable, but it will only become a special place if we make it a special place,” he said, alluding the challenge of building a team that wins consistently.
Of course, that’s something the glass-half-full coach sees happening sooner rather than later — but only if the players are willing to make the necessary commitment.
“This is the most talented team we’ve had since I’ve been here. We’ve got great depth.” he said. “But it’s not about what you say, it’s about what you do.
“In reality, we can say we have the people (to win) but we need to have action.”
Which is perhaps the biggest thing Sarkisian hopes his players learned from their frustrating finish last season.