Huskies and Cougars are young — but so are most of the other Pac-10 teams
Washington, Washington State have used youth as an explanation for trying times.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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The topic was Washington tight end Kavario Middleton's comments on Monday that the Huskies were planning to score 50 points against Washington State in Saturday's Apple Cup.
But the answer could have fit any number of aspects of the UW football program.
"I think Kavario's comments just show that we are still a very young football team," said coach Steve Sarkisian. "We are learning not only on the football field but off the football field, and we've got a lot of room to grow."
WSU coach Paul Wulff has echoed the sentiment often throughout this trying season.
And it's that youth that is the overriding theme to explain why the teams are a combined 4-17 entering the Apple Cup.
Each program, however, has clung to youth throughout this season not only as an explanation for current struggles but also to sound a hopeful note for the future — just wait until they're old enough to shave.
"We will only get better as we get more mature," Wulff said.
That, however, makes a little bit of an assumption that when it comes to the Pac-10 Conference, only the Cougars and Huskies have room to grow.
There's no doubting the Cougars and Huskies are young.
The Huskies have had 10 true freshmen play this year and have just six seniors in the lineup for the Apple Cup (though they also could lose QB Jake Locker early to the NFL). The Cougars have started a school-record 13 freshmen (true or redshirt) and, like the Huskies, also have six seniors listed as probable starters for Saturday.
However, the unfortunate reality is that while UW and WSU are admittedly experiencing growing pains, it's not as if the rest of the Pac-10 is ready for the Denny's Senior Menu.
Consider that of the top 10 rushers in the Pac-10, eight are underclassmen, and one of the two seniors — Stanford's Toby Gerhart — could be back next season if he's granted an extra year of eligibility for missing most of 2007 due to injury.
Also potentially back could be all but two of the top 10 passers. And one of the seniors is Arizona State's Danny Sullivan, who has already been benched.
Seven of the top 10 receivers are underclassmen, as are eight of the top 10 in sacks and six of the top 10 interceptors.
The only teams with even as many as 10 senior starters are the two Arizona schools and Stanford. No one else has more than eight seniors starting.
Here's a team-by-team look:
Arizona: Wildcats are one of the more veteran teams in the conference, with 12 seniors starting, seven on defense. However, UA will return QB Nick Foles, a sophomore, and all but one receiver or running back.
Arizona State: Dennis Erickson's hot seat entering next season won't be helped by the loss of 13 seniors, seven on offense. All but one member of a good defensive line returns, however.
California: Bears will start just two seniors on offense when they play UW here next week, and five on defense. Jahvid Best might leave early for the NFL, but sophomore Shane Vereen has been a more-than-able replacement the past few weeks. And QB Kevin Riley is a junior.
Oregon: Maybe the scariest thought for the rest of the conference is how young the Ducks are. Oregon has just one senior starter on offense, tight end Ed Dickson. Only two seniors start on defense. Oregon starts three freshmen and has eight in its two-deep, just three fewer than the Cougars this week.
Oregon State: The Beavers are almost as young as the Ducks, with just five senior starters, three on offense (the biggest loss being QB Sean Canfield, though there's talk of getting another year for injured senior Lyle Moevao). OSU also has seven freshmen in its offensive two-deep.
Stanford: Cardinal will lose 10 seniors, six on defense, though as mentioned, Gerhart could return if he wants. But the Cardinal also is using lots of freshmen, with eight in the two-deep and two others who play.
UCLA: Bruins have eight senior starters, five on a salty defense. But UCLA also has three freshmen who start and six others listed as primary backups.
USC: Trojans have eight senior starters, four on each side. All four on defense are in the secondary, and three of the four on offense are on the line. But every member of the two-deep on the front seven can return, as can every offensive skill-position player other than starting TE Anthony McCoy.
So while you'll see a lot of young players running around Saturday at Husky Stadium, it figures to take more than simply waiting for all those kids to grow up to make the Apple Cup nationally relevant again.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com
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