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Positive changes for UW football ... bowl game on horizon?

Ted S. Warren
AP File Photo
2011 will be a season of change for the Huskies: a new starting quarterback and other rising stars, the Pac-10 becoming the Pac-12 and the final season for the old Husky Stadium.

The 2011 University of Washington football season kicks off Saturday with a game against Eastern Washington at Husky Stadium.

There will be a lot of changes this year. And KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says that's a good thing.

One constant: the coach

Head coach Steve Sarkisian is entering his third season – and has kept his entire staff in tact. Art says, given the years of tumult in the UW football program, stability is what the team needs right now.

"The continuity that Sarkisian has established here is I think probably the Huskies' greatest asset going into their opener this Saturday."

New quarterback

Team leader and star quarterback Jake Locker graduated earlier this year and was drafted by the Tennessee Titans. The new starting QB is Keith Price – a junior out of Compton, Calif. Art says there is a lot of optimism surrounding this guy.

"He's a completely different style than Locker. But, so far, in the fall camp, there have been a lot of positive signs that Price is up for the job. One of the most amazing things about him is this kid is always smiling. He's a very upbeat, positive guy that has really impressed – not only with his athletic ability but with his leadership. So it's going to be fun to watch him grow and develop."

Price got the job over Nick Montana, the son of NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana. Art says he shows a lot of promise for the future, but likely won't play this season unless Price gets hurt. 

Other fresh faces

Two recruits from this area who will be starting as freshmen this season are wide receiver Kasen Williams from Skyline and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins from Gig Harbor.

"These two kids are exceptional talents. There's a lot of optimism about them being difference makers in the Washington offense."

Art says Seferian-Jenkins, Williams and Price are the players to watch this weekend.

Bowl bound again?

With all this new talent, Husky fans are hoping the team will make it to another bowl game this year. Art says it's quite possible.

They went to the Holiday Bowl with a 7-6 record last year and beat Nebraska. This year, they start off with a lighter schedule (Eastern Washington, Hawaii) before having a rematch with the Cornhuskers in Week 3. Art says it would be good for their bowl chances if the Huskies were able to get two wins under their belt before taking on a tougher team.

New division name

This season, the Pac-10 has become the Pac-12, with Utah and Colorado entering the division. Art says it will bring in more TV revenue. Next season, it may very well be the Pac-16. There's word that two teams from Oklahoma and two teams from Texas want to join.

So long old Husky Stadium

This is the last year for Husky Stadium as we know it. The lower bowl is going to be demolished in a $250 million renovation that will be ready in 2013.

"So, if there are people who are sentimental about old, broken-down benches, this is your year to go and sit in them. But I think it's going to be a great addition to the local sports scene to have Husky Stadium renovated."

This year's Apple Cup and next year's Husky season will be played at CenturyLink Field – the home of the Seahawks.

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest.

Kirsten Kendrick has been hosting Morning Edition on KNKX/KPLU since 2006. She has worked in news radio for more than 30 years. Kirsten is also a sports lover. She handles most sports coverage at the station, including helping produce a two-part series on the 50th anniversary of Title IX and the ongoing series "Going Deep."
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.
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