Coaching, not talent, is the problem on defense

Fire Holt.

There, I said it. Everyone’s probably thinking it after the Washington football team’s dismantling at the hands of Stanford.

Washington defensive coordinator Nick Holt may not be the cause of the Huskies’ woes on defense this year; the reason may be completely unrelated.

Heck, he could be a great coach. He’s always seemed like a great guy, and has been very gracious to the media. I genuinely believe he knows what he’s doing and that his players believe in him.

But after Stanford’s 65-21 victory over the Huskies on Saturday, this team needs a change.

The Huskies aren’t going to replace a coordinator in the middle of the season because there wouldn’t be much to gain. But Holt’s seat should be so hot that, unless the Huskies defense plays dramatically better — including against Oregon — it’s just assumed he’s gone.

I’m not on the team, obviously. I don’t practice, sit in on meetings, or have any idea why the Huskies’ defense is a complete sieve.

But I know when other teams are consistently having their best games offensively against you, it’s going to be damn nigh impossible to buy into what your coaches are preaching. After a while, it’s impossible for the coaches to be effective.

Yes, Stanford looked like a pro team wearing college uniforms. And yes, some untimely turnovers and questionable calls turned a close game into a route.

But there should be a higher expectation at Washington than just reasonable excuses. Holding the opponent to a field goal shouldn’t be a victory. And nobody should be setting offensive records against the UW — they should be setting them against Football Championship Subdivision teams.

The truth is, this defense stinks. And it shouldn’t. The only teams they’ve looked good against were Colorado and Utah. Colorado is bad and was missing its best player, wide receiver Paul Richardson. And the UW didn’t even play great defense against the Utes — it just made great plays in the red zone.

There’s talent on this defense. Safety Sean Parker played with his hair on fire, as did the other safety, sophomore Will Shamburger. Defensive tackle Alameda Ta’amu will play in the NFL. So will cornerback Desmond Trufant. Everrette Thompson, Cort Dennison, and Gregory Ducre are all good players. But that doesn’t matter when a team can score like Stanford did.

By the middle of the second half the players looked defeated; one player missed a chance at a tipped interception seemingly because he just wanted the play to end. Others were slow to the ball, and seemed like they just wanted the bloodbath to be over as well.

And can you blame them? This wasn’t a matchup between ranked teams — it was a slaughter. The defense gave up 65 points and 446 rushing yards. If this had been a boxing match, the ref would’ve called the bout in the third quarter.

After the game, Holt said: “We’re not there yet physically in our program, with our guys, with just staying toe-to-toe consistently.”

That’s just not going to cut it. The Huskies don’t have anywhere near the lowest amount of talent on defense in the country. So why do they have one of the worst defenses?

To his credit, the players genuinely seem to like Holt. Parker, who was second on the team in tackles and had the only hit on Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, refused to lay the blame anywhere else.

“It had nothing to do with our coaches,” Parker said. “It was just us because we’ve got to play out there so we’ve just got to play fast and tonight we didn’t.”

He added: “The scheme was good. We just didn’t bring our A-game; we didn’t play Husky football.”

Well, if that’s true, then Holt needs to be able to get them to play Husky football, and soon. The offense is good enough to win 10 or 11 games. Yes, they only scored 21 points against Stanford. But Stanford is really, really good, and the offense has earned the benefit of the doubt. If the defense plays like it did against the Cardinal, the Huskies could struggle to get to a bowl game.

Realistically, the team will win seven or eight games this year — possibly more, and probably not less. But UW fans love their defense, and guys like Parker, freshman defensive end Josh Shirley, and freshman defensive tackle Danny Shelton are too talented to play on bad defensive teams.

If this team keeps winning in spite of its defense, instead of because of it, then it’s going to be time for new blood at defensive coordinator.

Reach columnist Jacob Thorpe at sports@dailyuw.com or on Twitter @Jacob_B_Thorpe.

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