2012 UW Football Preview

The last time I got the energy to write on SS&O, I promised to be back to my usual semi-frequent writing self. Since then, I have realized that I don’t have that in me. Not even a Felix Hernandez perfect game could get me to write. The King had arguably the best individual performance in Seattle sports history and I didn’t comment on it. I did instagram about it though (b_boyd619, I don’t take THAT many pictures of sunsets and I could use some more non-sorority girl followers). But the point is that I am not the writing machine I thought I could be when Stanton and I started this blog last year. The application to the UW Football Preview is coming soon folks, trust me. There is one thing that will infinitely motivate me though. Ever since I was probably about ten, my dad stopped buying a program for every Husky Football game, and so did most of the people in the vicinity of Section 32, Row X, seats 3 and 4. They had me. I am a wealth of Husky Football knowledge. People who want to know a little bit about the team to have enough to talk about at a tailgate ask me how the team is going to be this year. That is what I can do for you. Husky Football is the one thing that I will always have the time to write about. So here we go. Welcome to the 2012 Washington Huskies.

The above image is the lasting one for the 2011 UW Football campaign. Robert Griffin III and Terrence Ganaway ran away from the UW defense in the Alamo Bowl back in December. The Dawgs lost 67-56 that night, giving up 777 yards of total offense. Those numbers are disgusting, even for the biggest proponent of offensive football. Such was the case for most of last season. Nick Holt and co. gave up 51 points to Nebraska, 65 to Stanford, 34 to Oregon, 40 to USC, and 38 to Oregon State amidst several other lousy defensive performances. To make matters worse, the offense was absolutely dynamite at times last season. Keith Price set passing TD records, Chris Polk ran for almost 1,500 yards and highly touted freshmen Kasen Williams and Austin Seferian-Jenkins performed extremely well. The firing of defensive coordinator Nick Holt after the Alamo Bowl was in my opinion about a month too late, but absolutely requited. You can’t be paid to be a defensive coordinator if your defense actually looks uncoordinated. I’m telling you, there are way better defenses out there with much worse players than the Huskies do, so the finger points up.

In steps the Great White Hope, or hopes actually, the new UW assistant coaches. New defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, linebackers coach Peter Sirmon, new secondary coach Keith Heyward, and the gem of the group, D-Line coach and recruiting extraordinaire Tosh Lupoi. Lupoi’s impact won’t be seen on gameday necessarily, but his impact on the recruiting scene is absolutely incredible. The guy is cooler than Sean from Boy Meets World and 18 year old kids love it. I can’t say this with 100% certainty but he’s the reason we got Shaq Thompson. Who’s that?

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SS&O’s Pac-12 Football Preview

Pinch yourself. Yep, this is real life. And football season is finally here…

Some say the Holiday season is the best part of the year. Others can’t wait for Summer to come and then never want to see it end. You may even call March the best month of the year, for obvious reasons (Madness anyone?). But I brush all of those opinions aside. Because you’re wrong, and it’s not even close. The best time of the year, bar none, is FOOTBALL SEASON. The roar of the crowd, cracking of helmets, and maybe even the sizzle of large amounts of meat on a grill. This and much more form to make an experience that is impossible to recreate, no matter how hard you try. So buckle up your chinstrap and get ready, because it’s about time we welcomed back the best thing since…well, nothing actually.

The Pac-12 conference was full of excitement and surprises last season, and I am sure we are in for much more of the same this year. We welcome back USC to postseason contention and Oregon is still full of thugs with a scum of the earth coach. And no, UCLA, we are not giving you credit for winning the South division last year.

The conference has also welcomed many new faces into the head coaching ranks, including the likes of Mike Leach at Washington State, Jim L. Mora at UCLA, Rich Rodriguez at Arizona, and Todd Graham at Arizona State. With their additions we are sure to see changes not only in style of play, but also in the standings. The biggest change could in fact be out on the Palouse, where Mike Leach already has everyone “swinging their swords.” I wonder when somebody will let him know this isn’t the show at Treasure Island in Las Vegas. But I digress, we unfortunately will not have much time to talk about pirates’ role in the Pac-12, but we will get to the new-look Cougars later in this article. (Edit: It’s not looking that great so far)

Let’s just make this easy and dive into the meat of the article right off the bat. Season Predictions. Feel free to disagree all you want about our preseason take on the conference, and I encourage you to let your opinion be known in the comments below, but after long consideration, this is what we came up with.

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Ichiro Suzuki and the Impermanence of Icons

Credible Italian Guy is back again, giving us his thoughts and opinions on the Seattle Mariners. This time, he breaks down the trade of Mariners Icon Ichiro Suzuki.

Thank you to Seattle Sports and Otherwise for deeming me qualified to write a post that I am most certainly not equipped to handle. I don’t really believe any fan or even baseball writer can adequately assess something as significant as Ichiro’s end in Seattle. There has been so much written about what Ichiro has meant to Japan, Seattle, and Baseball in general. There is so much to say that I know a blog post wont allow, and there is so much to say that I will never be able to find the words for. But I will certainly do my best:

Growing up a Mariner fan in the early 2000’s was not an easy proposition. With the exception of one or two seasons, my fandom has been marred by losing season after losing season. The Mariners have not been even remotely good for the last decade, this much is clear. Of course after enduring ten-plus seasons of futility I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t ask myself “Why are you wasting your time with this non-sense?” The answer to this is complex and multifaceted but in a way the answer is Ichiro.  Not in a literal sense, but in a sense so much more impactful.

Why do we love sports? As easy as it would be to say we love the thrill of victory, that only goes so far to explain our inescapable romance with a child’s game, there has to be something more.

My first memory of the Seattle Mariners that I can remember was when I was ten years old. I remember sitting on my porch on the cool summers eve as I had just finished up dinner, basking in the now mellow sun, letting the ants run underneath my bare feet as I anxiously awaited 7:05, because I knew that was when the Mariners were going to be playing ball. There was no project, no deadline, and no career decision to be made; all I felt was an occasional breeze and the excitement of things to come. Mom and Dad were sitting in the family room; still lingering over dinner as I sat down on my carpet and watched the most breathtaking thing a 10 year old can see; his favorite team take the field. I felt safe, I felt comforted, and I felt as if there could be no wrong in the world. If I turned on the TV at 7:05, Dave Niehaus would welcome me to another Mariners baseball game, and win or lose, the rest was just gravy. To this day I can still remember taking my Fischer-Price toy bat and trying to do all the poses that the Big-Leaguers did, from the awkward stance of Brett Boone to John Olerud’s smooth swing. I didn’t see them as prima donnas and over-privileged athletes, I saw them as pure magic. I guess that is why I still obsess over the child’s game: because in a way, it still makes me feel like a child. Sure, as I have matured my understanding of the game has taken a new, less fantastical form; but the spark that started my love affair with the game will never subside.

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Why We Are Fans

I haven’t written anything since LeBron James saved my soul by beating the Oklahoma City Thunder back in mid June. Nothing. I got halfway through an NBA Draft Review before reading Bill Simmons’ take on the same thing, realized mine sucked in comparison, and then scrapped it. Since that moment I have watched the entire first season of Workaholics 2.8 times, a miserable amount of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and put a fruit snack into a rotating fan and laughed like a four year old at it when it got smacked around the cage of the fan. The summer of snapchat has been fun to me, but I stopped writing when I shouldn’t have. For that reason, this article is about the roots of why if you’re reading this, you love sports, and if you love sports, why you love sports, because I love sports. We like sportz.

This is the kind of tomfoolery that kept me out of the game

If you missed me, I apologize. I let the 14 regular followers of this blog down. You probably didn’t though as I tend to inflate my own importance. But my obligation to write is not to the faithful 14, it is to myself.

My first sports memory is going to the Kingdome with my parents and my godparents for a Mariners game. I was afraid of the Mariner Moose (I just don’t trust the guy), and so my godfather took me up to the very last row of the stadium so the Moose wouldn’t come up there, and from that moment on I could watch the game in peace. You wouldn’t believe how easy it is to like baseball when you aren’t living in constant fear of a seven foot tall woodland monster with crazy eyes. Baseball became from that point on not my favorite sport by any stretch, but a crutch. There’s nothing on TV at 8:30PM in mid-July, you know what, I’ll watch the M’s lose 4-1. I’ve never expected anything from my baseball team, I don’t really enjoy watching other teams play. I don’t get stoked for Sunday Night Baseball. But I always have the Mariners in my back pocket. They are terrible now, but I can make fun of them whenever I want while they are terrible, I can make Justin Smoak jokes (Smoaks), but when they get good in the 22nd century I will be one happy guy.

You are looking into the eyes of a menace

That’s what being a fan is. I’ve paid my dues. I have seen so much bad baseball, through my mullet phase, my lesbian Tim Lincecum phase, through my semi normal cut I have now that I am endowed with the ability to ride the Mariners train whenever I please. I feel bad for a fan base that has never experienced a dreadful era of baseball, or of any sport. Having a laughable sports team is something that I have based my entire life on. My dad taught me Take Me Out to the Ballgame with the addendum, “So root, root, root for the Mariners / If they don’t win it’s the same!” That is the only thing I know. The extension of this argument goes over to a section of sports that I care about more than anything.

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Huskies Land Seven

June 29th, 2012 was a huge day. Not because I spoke with Husky greats Brock Huard and Mike Jensen at work, or the fact that the USA beat Australia in the World Cup of Softball. It was bigger (surprisingly) than both of those things. Combined. Why you might ask? It was a day that could go down as the beginning of the return to prominence for Washington Football. June 29th saw seven recruits…no that’s not a typo, SEVEN recruits decide to pledge themselves to the Purple and Gold recruiting class of 2013, all while attending the Rising Stars 7-on-7 camp put on by the UW coaches. I learned of the news when I was on my break during work and I strained to contain myself from making an absolute scene in the break room. I resorted to a quick, yet powerful, fist pump and dove into the details. Here’s what I uncovered.

Stringfellow heads the group of talented recruits to pick Washington.

Demorea Stringfellow – WR, Moreno Valley, CA

Probably the best out of the bunch talent-wise and name wise. I mean, he isn’t in the same echelon as Wonderful Teriffic Monds II, who is a linebacker for the powerful University of Buffalo Bulls, but he definitely brings the best name to Montlake in quite some time. But I digress, Stringfellow is another man child to add to an absolutely stacked group of wide receivers. The Huskies already picked up the #5 WR of the 2013 recruiting class in Darrell Daniels, and here they add the #11 WR. Airwolf (the new nickname I am giving the kid based on the 80’s TV series who’s main character shared the same name) is a handful for defensive backs, standing at 6’3″ tall and weighing roughly 205 lbs. He possesses a great combination of size, speed, and strength, which creates huge mismatch problems for defenses. Stringfellow looks to be the type of receiver that can stretch the field not necessarily with his speed, but with his playmaking ability in traffic and tall athletic frame which allows him to fight for jump balls. He still lacks a little in the speed and route running departments, but he has super soft hands and can snag almost anything that comes his way. Demorea had offers from Notre Dame, USC, Michigan, Florida, Ohio State, and Nebraska to name a few. Still a raw talent, but with time we could see him develop into something quite special for the Huskies.

Elijah Qualls – DT, Petaluma, CA

Qualls is a load, weighing in at 279 lbs and standing 6’2″ tall. He surprisingly plays both running back and defensive tackle for his high school team, but figures to be on the D-line come college ball. He is very quick off the line and uses his low pad level to gain leverage against offensive lineman. Also, he has shown the ability to penetrate effectively and get a nice push, even with his smaller size in comparison to your normal defensive lineman. Still lacks some polish when it comes to footwork and block shedding, but like Stringfellow, Qualls is still very raw. He actually is a more advanced RB technique-wise at this point in time, but it’s nothing that can’t be changed and improved in the future. One thing that plays into his favor is his high motor and intensity that his game brings to the table.

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Top 11: Down on the Farm

Another Top 11 coming right up! This time a look at the young guns in the Mariners farm system. The major league team might not be very impressive, but Jackie Z and co. have been hard at work stocking the shelves of the minor league affiliates with top talent through the draft and trades. Here’s the best of what the Mariners farm system has to offer.

11. Phillips Castillo (OF, Rookie)

This 18 year old prospect, who was signed by the Mariners out of the Dominican in 2010, shows great promise a few years down the road. He began by hitting a solid .300 and a .848 OPS in the Arizona League last season at the Rookie level. Castillo possesses the potential to develop some power in his bat, but will also hit for average. Again, keep in mind that he is still at least three years away, but ESPN Insider Keith Law did coin him as the Mariners’ minor league “sleeper,” which is promising. He probably has one of the highest ceilings offensively in the Mariners system, but we all know that anything can happen in the minors.

10. Brandon Maurer (SP, AA)

Selected by the Mariners in the 23rd round of the ’08 draft, Maurer is your prototypical starting pitcher coming in at 6’5″ and 200 lbs. This is now year five for the 21 year old righty and he seems to be making steady progress. He has been injury prone in the past, having dealt with elbow troubles, but he seems to be doing quite well so far this season with the Double-A Jackson Generals of the Southern League. He currently boasts a 5-1 record and 3.82 ERA, but has been extra impressive in June, compiling a record of 3-0 and a 2.73 ERA. Look for him to continue to improve if he can stay healthy.

9. Brad Miller (SS, High-A)

Selected in the second round of the 2011 draft, Miller has torn up the minors since then. He batted .415 for the Clinton Lumberjacks in the Single-A California League, and has set another hot pace this season by batting .322 with a .934 OPS for the Advanced-A High Desert Mavericks. This should come as no surprise though, as Miller was the ACC player of the year in 2011 for Clemson and is a two-time USA national team member. He has been described as a “hard-nosed” player who can either stick at shortstop, or develop into a utility man down the road.

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There the Whole Time

Shortly before Game 1 of the NBA Finals, I attempted to write a “Woe is Me” article about how disgusted I was that the Thunder were this close to winning an NBA Championship that should have been Seattle’s. It was full of personal accounts of my genuine disgust of their success. The prime example being how I almost beheaded someone who claimed I should be rooting for the Thunder for “Western Conference Pride”. I counted on the Spurs to beat them. For me. I became enamored with the Spurs roster of veteran swingmen coming together to teach the young folks a lesson. And with San Antonio up 2-0, I was loving it. I was writing about how they were the Sonics, playing like an unlockable team in an NBA2K game against the Thunder. Then, for the next four games, my hope for the bullet that would kill the Thunder’s hopes of getting a championship that should be ours wilted. I fell asleep writing that article.

I woke up with the intention of finishing it, getting it off before Game 1 of the Finals to show how mentally unstable I was in the face of a Thunder Championship. It didn’t get done. And I’m glad it didn’t, because a week and a half later I came out with a new perspective on basketball.

I watched Game 1 in a bowling alley in Oxford, Ohio on the “fun night” of a five day Leadership Academy. That is the equivalent of having someone ask you what your favorite Nickelback song is. I bowled a gentleman’s 71, then retired on top like Barry Sanders did to sit in the greasy chairs of the bowling alley to watch the game. Sitting amongst 80 guys who had no capability of understanding how the guy from Seattle wanted Miami to win so badly, I was a pariah. Every LeBron bucket got a, “%#@& YEAH!” from yours truly and a bunch of judgments that I had the worst case of undiagnosed Tourette’s in the history of mankind from just about everyone else. A thunderous James jam evoked a dickhead fan reaction in me that even I was surprised by. The Heat became the same team the Spurs did, and at that moment I put all my faith in LeBron James to stop the Thunder. He was my Lee Harvey Oswald to the Thunder’s JFK. But, as the Heat became increasingly out of Game 1, my visible sickness increased. I couldn’t hang. Not only was I watching the Thunder get closer to what should have been mine, Seattle’s, something that would have upset me in my own living room; I was watching 85 people my age loving it. And why not, the Thunder are everything the casual NBA fan would love. Unassuming superstars, no player that would ever or has ever had a “Decision” with a taste-the-rainbow supply of Vitamin Water behind him like LeBron did, and an all around likeable team.

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