April 21, 2010
SEATTLE - It's all back: the shiny bald head, the intensity, and the expertise in defense.
Defensive coordinator Nick Holt returns for his second year to lead a much-improved Husky defense into the 2010 season. Starting from last spring, the former USC defensive coordinator has brought about many changes to the new-look defense, mentally and physically.
But one thing that hasn't changed much in Holt's second year is the in-your-face intensity. Whether Holt is nearly halfway up the 50-yard line screaming at a referee or simply pulling one of his players aside on the sideline, Husky fans have become well aware of the passion Holt brings to the field, both in practice and on game day.
And just because the players now know what to expect from Holt doesn't mean the intensity isn't as meaningful or powerful as it was last year.
"He's still all in your face," senior safety Nate Williams said. "If it's your first, third or eighth year with him, I'm pretty sure he'll be just as intense compared to the first year."
While it might get their hearts beating a little faster in practice, Holt's passion is all for the better, his players say. This holds true especially when the defense might not be performing to the best of its abilities during game day.
"We all love it, though," Williams continued. "I feel like that's what you need to be a successful unit; you need an intense coach like that to get everyone pumped up. When the momentum has changed to the opposing team, Coach Holt is always the first one to get in your face and get everyone riled up. I love it, and I'm excited."
The numbers don't lie: Bringing in Holt to revamp the Husky defense has led to success. During his first year, the UW defense gave up 12 fewer points per game and 62 fewer yards per game than it had the year prior. No longer were teams embarrassing the Huskies by putting up 30, 40, and sometimes 50 points on the board.
Now Holt -- a 1986 graduate of Pacific -- will be looking to further improve a Husky defense that has a lot of promise for the 2010 season. Williams, along with Mason Foster, Cort Dennison and Cameron Elisara, are players Holt sees stepping up so far.
"Those four guys have really stepped up in taking it to another level as far as their play," Holt said last week at spring practice. "That's what I feel really good about. We need to bring everybody else up to the next level, too."
Holt says now that he's been with the better part of the defensive unit for nearly one year, it has helped speed up everything from drills, to meetings, or tempo in practice.
"Everything is at a higher pace in the second year," the San Jose native says. "You can really move forward more quickly with your coaching and teaching, that's the biggest thing of the second year in your programs."
Not only do the players feel more comfortable, but the coaches do, too. Every member of last year's coaching staff is returning, including secondary coach Jeff Mills, who echoes the general consensus that overall, things can get done faster and the team can progress faster with the coaching staff returning.
"With the training we've done in the offseason, we're now bigger, faster and stronger," Mills said. "We are arriving [to spots] a step sooner than we did before."
With spring football already halfway over, Holt has seen things he has liked. Players have begun to pick up the harder concepts, and underclassmen are showing a lot of promise. While some of the younger players have not completely bought into the program, that Holt and the rest of his staff have laid out, the defensive coordinator says the majority of the players are on board.
"The young guys haven't; they don't know anything yet, because they are so inexperienced, but most of the kids that have been around have bought in, and that makes it a lot easier," Holt said. "They believe in what they're doing."