The CF.C e-MAILBAG: Your questions answered

SPURRED BY A COACHING transition and the stretch run of recruiting, a number of readers have written us over the last couple of weeks with a variety of interesting questions. Why are the Dawgs having so much in-state recruiting success? How come George Yarno wasn't retained? We have answers to those queries and a variety of others in our first-ever holiday mailbag.

Q. The Huskies have been awful in football for years but they are cleanly up on recruiting in the state this year, even though Willingham's days look numbered. What gives?

CF.C: Three things came together to make this particular class especially bountiful for the Dawgs inside the state. First, as always, the majority of Pac-10-caliber athletes in the state live in the Puget Sound region, so parents and kids in the region are predisposed toward purple to begin with. Second, the Huskies won a surprising five games in 2006, including a shocking Apple Cup upset, and then started out this season with convincing Ws over Syracuse and Boise State, so there was an upbeat tone around the program during the key recruiting window of March through September. And third, there was a year-long cloud hanging over Bill Doba's future at WSU. With weapons like that, a recruiter as talented as the Dawgs' No. 1 pitch man, Chris Tormey, is going to shine. The bottom line is that they mopped up Puget Sound talent in a way not seen since Don James -- aided, we might note, mightily by Tormey in Tormey's first stint with the UW -- was around.

Q. Should we be worried that Paul Wulff is filling up his staff with coaches who have no major-conference coaching experience?

CF.C: If you talk with people in and around coaching, they'll tell you that outstanding coaches are people who teach, lead and can strategize. Those traits don't stop and start with the level of competition. The difference between the Pac-10 and the Big Sky is one inch, one step and 10 pounds. Wulff and all his coaches know that very well, so there should be no fear of them recruiting athletes who aren't up to Pac-10 standards. Heck, a ton of these coaches played for the Cougs, so they know exactly what it's like to face off week in and week out with USC and the rest. Having said that, Wulff's move to retain Mike Levenseller, a seasoned WSU and Pac-10 coaching vet, seems prudent. Levy's years of experience will prove invaluable in so many ways. Look for Wulff to hire an equally seasoned guy for the defensive side of the ball.

Q. How come Wulff didn't keep George Yarno on staff?

CF.C: The guess here is that Wulff, being a former offensive line coach, has some very definitive ways he wants the line to operate. Yarno, of course, brings his own wealth of knowledge and a very specific approach to line play as well. In short, does one staff really need two experts on the subject when their respective philosophies may differ?

Q. Aside from Brandon Gibson, if there anyone on the Cougars you see as someday becoming an All-American?

CF.C: There's a certain amount of marketing and politics that goes into the All-America sweepstakes, so that part of the equation we can't foresee. However, the Cougs have some talent that immediately comes to mind. Linebacker Andy Mattingly is obviously special. He's quick, tough and super athletic. He didn't start for much of this past season, yet earned Pac-10 honorable mention honors on the strength of a team-leading eight sacks and 91 total tackles (second-most behind Husain Abdullah). Another defender who will turn heads if his improvement stays on the heated pace we saw in 2007 is cornerback Chima Nwachukwu. He was a true freshman this past season and had a baptism by fire that will make him so much better down the road. On offense, the notion of speed-merchant receiver Jeshua Anderson spending three more years under the watchful eye of Levenseller, while working in the no-huddle offense of Todd Sturdy, can only lead to great things. And then there's center Kenny Alfred, a junior-to-be who started every game in 2007 and about half of them in 2006. He's big, smart and has excellent feet.

Q. Of all the people you've interviewed over the years, which Cougar coach or player was the best?

CF.C: In terms of coaches, it's pretty much a slam dunk for Jim Walden – and, fittingly, that's saying a lot because we've also chatted with such loquacious wonders as Jim Sweeney, Bobo Brayton, Mike Price and Robb Akey. Tony Bennett is gaining ground – he's friendly, glib and passionate about his sport. Walden, though, is in a league of his own. He's funny, honest, opinionated and personable. Just typing this answer produces a smile with the notion of Jim's Mississippi twang and his penchant for taking one question and running with it for five (or ten) minutes. As for players, the nod has to go to our old buddy Mkristo Bruce. However, if you let us include guys who already had graduated by the time CF.C was launched in 1998, then hands down we're talking Paul Sorensen. Get him and Walden in a room together and it's like something out of Star Wars.

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