Defense is top topic as Sarkisian, Romar visit Yakima

May 8, 2012 by  

YAKIMA, Wash. — Neither Steve Sarkisian nor Lorenzo Romar were defensive when discussing the primary shortcoming of their respective teams last season.

But defense was prominent on their minds when talking about their upcoming seasons prior to an appearance with University of Washington boosters Monday at the Yakima Country Club.

“Play defense, plain and simple,” Romar said of the focus for his basketball team. “We’ll only be as good as our defense.”

University of Washington football coach Steve Sarkisian visits with Husky fans at the Yakima Country Club May 7, 2012. (Gordon King/Yakima Herald-Republic)

“I don’t know if a problem ever gets completely solved,” Sarkisian said of his football team’s porous defense that led to wholesale coaching changes on that side of the ball.

“We had to make a tough decision but one that was for the betterment of the program,” he continued. “They (the fired coaches) recruited well. We’ve just changed the philosophy as the program moves forward. I’m excited.”

While both are paying plenty of attention to defense, Sarkisian and that new defensive staff have a much bigger task in front of them than Romar does.

The football team has been picking through the rubble of an historically awful defensive effort that saw the Huskies allow a school-record 453.3 yards per game, punctuated by the 777 yards it gave up in a 67-56 loss to Baylor in the Alamo Bowl.

That led to the firing of defensive coordinator Nick Holt, with Justin Wilcox taking over.

Having just wrapped up spring practice, Sarkisian said he was impressed by that unit’s progress.

“Justin Wilcox and his staff have brought in a scheme that fits our players,” he said. “They bring energy and have the ability to fix the problems we had on defense.

“Ultimately, they’ve re-energized our guys. They (the players) are confident, playing fast and playing physical.”

That energy and any improvement will be put to the test quickly as Washington faces a daunting challenge in the first half of the season.

University of Washington basketball coach Lorenzo Romar chats with 11-year-olds Jackson Finley, left, and Braden Van Wyk during his visit with Husky fans at the Yakima Country Club May, 7, 2012. (Gordon King/Yakima Herald-Republic)

After opening with San Diego State, the Huskies travel to BCS title-game runner-up LSU. Following a contest with Portland State, Washington enters Pac-12 play with games against Stanford, at Oregon and against Southern Cal.

“It’s definitely a challenge,” Sarkisian said of those first six games. “We’ve got big hurdles left but we have student-athletes who can compete at that top-10 level. We just have to be able to do it consistently.”

Romar, who has always stressed defense at Washington, acknowledged that was the main reason Washington missed out on a fourth-straight trip to the NCAA Tournament, despite winning the Pac-12 regular-season title.

Part of that was due to injuries, particularly to Scott Suggs and C.J. Wilcox, and partly because of Washington’s youth.

“We couldn’t attack on the defensive end as much,” he said, noting that the Huskies struggles came despite the presence of 7-foot Aziz N’Diaye, one of the best defensive centers in the country. “Aziz wasn’t our (defensive) problem. Our problem was on the perimeter.

“If we stay healthy and with better depth, we can be more aggressive (this season).”

One thing that will help Washington develop that depth and gain crucial experience is the additional practices (10) and playing time thanks to seven exhibition games it will play in Spain, France and Senegal before the season opens.

“Some guys like (forwards) Martin Breunig and Shawn Kemp Jr., who played sparingly last season, will get some added experience,” Romar said. “Hopefully our chemistry will improve and maybe we’ll bond before the season even starts.”

And then the coaches won’t have to defend their team quite as much next spring.

Filed under * Washington Huskies, All, Featured Stories


2 Responses to “Defense is top topic as Sarkisian, Romar visit Yakima”
  1. aaron van wyk says:

    What cute kids with Romar

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