Remembrances of former linebacker Jason Chorak involve an image of a frenzied blur coming off the edge and descending upon a wary quarterback. It was a scene oft-repeated in Chorak’s years at Washington. Especially in 1996, when the so-called ”Croation Sensation” amassed a school record 14.5 sacks on the way to being named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year. For his UW career, Chorak totalled 25 sacks and a school-record 57.5 tackles for loss.
These days, Chorak is constantly on the move in the business world, but is interviewed fairly often on KJR to give his thoughts on the Huskies. Personally, I often like speaking to former Dawgs to get their perspective on current happenings. Given President Emmert’s recent decisions to retain UW coach Tyrone Willingham and fire AD Todd Turner, there’s a lot to talk about. I asked Chorak for his take.
“Obviously Emmert thought it was the right move to fire the Athletic Director,” said Chorak. ”I disagree with a lot of what Turner had to say. One, going on the air and dogging his own players, saying that they’re mediocre athletes. That’s a low move by any administration person to say that about his own players. I did not agree with that at all. Husky football is about winning. You know, you’re not at Vanderbilt anymore, you’re not at Stanford. You have to produce wins or you’re not going to be around.”
But was Chorak disappointed in Emmert’s decision to give Willingham another year?
“No, I wasn’t disappointed that he was retained,” said Chorak. “But I will be disappointed if some moves aren’t made on the defensive side of the ball. They need a new D-Coordinator. You know, doing something with the defense is important because clearly there are serious problems on that side of the ball. I will be very disappointed if nothing is done there. Any good coach would go and solve that problem. If Willingham doesn’t go and solve that problem, then I will be disappointed (that he was retained).”
Chorak was then asked what encouraging signs exist for the Husky defense next year, as well as his concerns.
“They’ve got some good guys out there,” he said. “But there’s only a few that I think `Thank god HE’S coming back.’ I like that linebacker, #40 Mason Foster. He’s a type of player that I don’t understand why we don’t have more of. He has a motor, he’s always around the ball. Bringing back (linebacker) EJ Savannah is good, as he obviously shows some good things. The thing that is hard in looking at this year’s defense, is that they had three seniors up front. If that’s the best they have, it’s going to be pretty ugly next year at the positions where we’re replacing seniors who are leaving.”
Chorak went on to describe what aspects of the defense discouraged him this season.
“Seeing three defensive linemen rush the passer, dropping eight guys into coverage, and still seeing the other team’s receiver catch the ball with nobody within five yards of him,” he said. “Being beat deep when you’re only dropping three (back into secondary coverage). Miscommunications on defense. You know, we just didn’t look like a Division-I defense. Anybody associated with Husky football can understand that Husky football is aggressive and that when you play us you’re gonna get an ass whoopin’ regardless of whether you won or lost. Traditionally, the defense is going to hit you in the mouth, and you’re going to know that you just played a football game.
“I don’t think that our guys on defense play with that kind of passion and love for the game,” he said. “I don’t see the fire in their eyes to get to the ball. I don’t know what that comes from and why these players don’t understand what wearing the purple and gold is all about.”
Mentioned to Chorak was an old Dave Hoffmann quote about how nastiness can’t be taught, but must be recruited.
“Most definitely!” said Chorak. “I believe that 100%. I come from Vashon Island. Three Huskies have won Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year; Steve Emtman (twice), Dave Hoffmann and me. The defense that we’re playing right now is unacceptable. You know, at one point (this year), the defense ranked 118th out of 119 teams in the country. That’s just horrible.
“But you know, there is some good coaching going on there,” he said. “Randy Hart is one of the best defensive line coaches in America. Chris Tormey was there when I was there, and I know he went on to a head coaching job and can coach. So I know that the d-linemen and linebackers are being coached well.
“They need to get the players there that want to play aggressive hit-you-in-the-mouth defense,” he said. “Like Dave says, the heart and the nastiness doesn’t show in the numbers in the 40-yard dashes that these guys run. All that stuff will come. You’re going to a major university. For four or five years, all you’re going to do is train, go to school and basically eat. You’re going to get stronger and you’re going to get faster. It’s just the means of the system.”
With yet another bowl season about to begin with the Huskies relegated as onlookers, Chorak was asked to sum up President Emmert’s move this week to fire Todd Turner.
“Something needed to change and I respect Emmert for what he did in letting Turner go,” he said. “I think he might have thought Turner’s job was done in getting everything into compliance and cleaned up from the Neuheisel sanctions. Now it’s time to build this team into something that everyone in Seattle is accustomed to. And that’s a team that plays tough defense and finishes first or second in the Pac-10 every year.”