Ask Coach Baird

Dick is back from the ski slopes of Aspen, where he's been burning up the powder. We made him come home long enough to answer his bag of mail before spring football begins on Montlake. Dick will be a part of our spring coverage of the Dawgs, so be sure to tune in to Dawgman.com and Sports Washington magazine. Thanks to those that wrote in, and now heeeeeere's Coach B. . . .

From Junk Yard Dawg
Coach,
: I'm the guy who talked to you in the Passport Office in early Spring of 99 just after Lambo had been fired; you and your wife were headed out for a trip to get away from it all for a while. Glad to see that you are able to stay close to the program and having fun again (it must have been a lousy last year). Anyhow, my question is, how come the fans know so much more than the coaches about players that should be playing (i.e., Eriks) or should not be starting (i.e., Alexis)? Obviously the question is a bit in jest, but there is no lack of armchair coaches who would revise the starting lineup. What goes on behind the scenes that we don't know about? I'm sure coaches make mistakes or even play favorites at times since they are human, but obviously one would not get far in D1 doing that most of the time. So when an obviously "slow" player (Carothers at safety), or one without the moves or speed (Alexis at tailback) starts ahead of someone with "obviously more talent (say Tui at fullback instead of Eriks), why are the coaches purposefully shooting themselves in the foot??? Tell us about some of the struggles and juggling of competing priorities that go into deciding who will get the nod. Maybe it will cool some of these ad nausea posts by experts on this board. Thank you.

A: The coaches see and evaluate the kids on a daily basis. There is no question that coaches play favorites and have prejudices. We as fans need to realize they watch the same games we are watching, only they see them about ten times more than we do. One criteria you always want to consider is experience. This usually explains why certain kids get the nods over others. It is important and right for this kind of loyalty to exist on any team. If you pay your dues you should get the benefit of the doubt. We are at an advantage as fans by having after-the-fact knowledge. I can only assure you that the coaches want to win as much as fans do, if not more. Those who are always second-guessing should put a whistle on and try to coach themselves. Obviously, their decisions wouldn't be second guessed.
From Ken F
: The last three recruiting classes have been ranked very high nationally. The depth chart should start becoming extremely competitive. Where do you see the most competition for playing time (by position)?

A: The last three recruiting classes being ranked highly are nice, but meaningless. It just creates false expectations. The Cougars have never had a ranked recruiting class but they walked away with the Pac-10 title last year. There should be excellent competition at all positions except quarterback and wide receiver and cornerback. I think those positions are pretty clear as to who will play. Having three new coaches will certainly change the competition for the better. Redshirting the whole class is also a great plus to competition. The Huskies are going to be better for it.
From Wet Dawg
Coach Baird,
: During the post Apple Cup Husky Honk Show, Coach Gilbertson said in comments about next season, "We need to settle on a running style." Was there dissension within the staff that contributed to woeful running game last year? If the option is only used as a change-up or red zone offense to protect Cody Pickett, what style do you think will evolve as the Husky running game? Mush!

A: Wet Dawg? What kind of dog is that, besides a smelly one? I will simply tell you that Gilby is addressing the run and will promise you that Dan Cozzetto will have the line coming off the ball much better than the last two years. We will run better, and it may cost Cody and Reggie some statistics but we will win more and they will understand. The option will never leave this program.
From Taft Ring
Hi Coach Baird,
: I *really* enjoy your totally candid and honest observations. From your previous responses, you point again and again to the attention to detail of DJ and which Lambo tried to continue. How does the current staff get it? They couldn't count to 11 in the opener even after a time out. In the Apple Cup, at one point there were about 16 people on the field running on and off. Fortunately a time out was called. We were screwed up at the start and still at the end of the season. On special teams, players had lots of difficulty staying in their lanes throughout the season. IMO this isn't a player problem, it is a coaching responsibility/accountability problem. How is no single coach being responsible/accountable for special teams going to really work? The committee solution has been a dawg's breakfast. Appreciate your thoughts. GO DAWGS

A: It's about time we let that '12 men on the field call' go. That happens in football, especially when you're trying to run personnel schemes (substituting entire personnel groups at once). The fact is, offenses regularly break the rule by having more than 11 in the huddle. Sometimes the refs catch it and most of the time they don't. With lots of substituting happening on each play, it's often times confusing on the sidelines. This is one reason why Coach Lambright never liked to use personnel schemes. He and Don (James) always believed in teaching your starters to handle all groupings and adjust accordingly to each group. The professionals obviously disagree, but their game really involves creating mismatches. In the Apple Cup, the Cougs had two 12-men situations and got caught once for a crippling penalty. I agree that more coordination and concentration on the kicking game may be the key to the Huskies' whole season next fall. Coach James never had a "Special Teams Coordinator." We did it by committee and it worked. We rarely got beat in the kicking game. Coach Lambright used a mix with Al Roberts, and then Rick Mallory as the special teams coordinators. They really only handled three aspects however: kickoff, kickoff return, and the punt team. This coming season presents an even more interesting situation in that both kickers will be rookies. Yuk! Oh well, let's hope the specialists come through. If we can go through next fall without giving up a blocked kick, then we will be a greatly improved team.
From Mark Harris
Coach Baird,
: With all the talk about the running game next season, why is there no mention of Chris Singleton? I thought he showed the most natural ability of all the backs that played last year. Is it his blocking, or is he in the dawghouse?

A: I think Chris Singleton will start the spring as the first-string running back. He earns that by seniority, and should get all the reps he needs to prove it is his job to lose. Watching him, I'm not sure about his flat out speed. I've never seen that burst to separate, but I too wondered why he didn't get more of a chance. It doesn't really matter, though, cause he's about to get it right now. What we need to always remember is that the coaches see the kids everyday and have a lot better insight and evaluation than do fans. I know we will be blocking the run better and with more emphasis next year. Whichever back steps up and shows that special quality is going to be the guy. I think it is wide open right now.
From Ron O
Dear Dick,
: Can you tell me the story of Beno Bryant's recruitment? I heard it was an amazing tale. Thanks, and keep up the great work on KJR and especially on Dawgman.com. You are the reason why I subscribed here. It's the best Husky site by a million, but I never wanted to pay money for Husky news before. Now I will. Tell Dawgman to give my subscription money to you.

A: Thank you for the kind comments. It's great to be a part of the best all-sports radio station as well as the best and biggest Husky website in the country. They do things the right way and it shows. As for Beno Bryant's home visit with Coach James, it was accompanied by a neighborhood shooting. Everyone was sitting around in the living room visiting when repeated shots were heard outside. Coach James asked, "Firecrackers this time of year?" Everyone looked at one another and almost cracked up before Beno says, "Yeah, coach, fireworks." The next day there was a write-up of an incident where an actor was shot at during a crack deal. It just happened to be in the same neighborhood in south-central LA. On another note, I happened to get in trouble for accepting Beno's commitment before he was ‘Okayed' by Don. I was talking on the phone with Beno, who I have always really liked, and he just jumped in the boat before I could say anything. That night I told Don we got a new running back. He replied, "I thought we weren't taking his commitment yet, Coach Baird!" My only answer was, "Coach, We can't leave the speed on the board". He agreed, and Beno worked out pretty well for us.
From Scott Williams
Hi Coach,
: I hope you enjoyed your time in Arizona. Dick, what's your assessment of the backup QB's? Will Casey Paus have the mobility to run the option or is this an area where Isaiah has a dominant edge? Last, what about joining us in Yakima for the Coaches Tour golf tourney? I know a couple of dentists who would spring for your golf and dinner!

A: The quarterback situation will really be interesting this spring. Don't be surprised if the real competition to replace Cody doesn't happen until next spring, however. Isaiah will be on the field next year somewhere, count on it. Casey has leveled off in his development and I think will get a fresh start with John Pettas. I thought Ax (Steve Axman) concentrated mostly on the starters and the underclassmen didn't get much attention. Casey never really has done much scout team work either. I think that hurt his improvement. Contrary to what most people think, being on scout team has great benefits. It's more important than standing down with the varsity offense and getting no reps. Casey would have learned to scramble and save his life. Now it's spring and he will be fighting for his life with a guy who can really scramble. Both Stanback and (Carl) Bonnell are runners. I think that is what Coach Neuheisel really likes. Let me know the Yakima date for the coaches tour. Although I'm not sure Barbara would like to see me in Yakima ever again. Guess I should never have told that joke . . . Thanks for the note. Yakima Dogs have it tough, ‘cause it's mostly cat-lands.
From Mike
: I just finished reading the latest round of "Ask the coach." Great letters and answers. I enjoy getting your coach's perspective. A couple of things: Alan W wrote and asked about Cody running the ball more and I fully agree. I think the staff should look into the way that Ohio State ran their QB draws against Miami. If we're having trouble with the running game, a QB draw keeps a "D" honest. Second, what is your take on Carothers and the position he should play. I think as a safety, he was a step slow but packed a punch. His lack of speed probably is what caused him some of his late hit penalties that were momentum changers. With his experience in the backfield, he should be a benefit at OLB. Finally, our D had a terrible habit of mental mistakes (dumb penalties; see the Sun Bowl). Did you, as a coach, sit guys down on the bench for those kinds of mistakes and do you endorse that now? Thanks.

A: I think we will see Cody run more this coming season. It can only help his team and his NFL status. What do Steve Young, Rich Gannon, Marques Tuiasosopo, and Jeff Garcia all have in common besides playing in the bay area? They are great running quarterbacks! It's simple. A running quarterback stretches the underneath coverages by linebackers and safeties because it's hard to play the run when you commit to the pass. QB draws, scrambles, bootlegs, and dash plays all are nightmares for linebackers and the second level defenders. Greg Carothers will be playing OLB this spring and he is one of my favorite kids on the team. He is definitely from Montana and is "old school." He is simply my kind of guy. He knows he has to tackle better and is making the change to help improve the team. I always told him he should be a linebacker and now he says I got my wish. He actually was playing OLB in the nickel and dime coverages anyway, which the Huskies used almost exclusively the last two games. The defensive penalties in the bowl game followed some cheap shot punches thrown by Purdue players. They baited the Dawgs and the Dawgs bit. The second guy always gets caught. Stupid yes, but I did see the punches thrown.
Dawgman.com columnist and KJR 950 Sports Radio personality, Dick Baird.
Dick Baird was an Assistant Coach (Linebackers) and Recruiting Coordinator at the UW from 1985-1998. He has joined the Dawgman.com staff as a featured columnist for both the web site and Sports Washington magazine. In addition to his regular editorial columns, Coach Baird will try to provide some of his unique perspective by answering a few of your selected questions online. If you would like to send in your questions, please CLICK HERE.

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