ASK COACH BAIRD

We are nearly into June. Almost all of the Husky coaches are on the road now, evaluating talent and making contacts with potential future Husky football players. In the meantime, Washington's former recruiting coordinator, Coach B, has gone to the mailbag and answered the next batch. Here they are, and thanks for writing in, Husky fans!

From Norm Cohen
Coach,
: Your thoughts about coach Lambright are touching, and in my opinion, well taken. I have a sister in law in the athletic department who shares your opinion of Mr. Lambright. She has (and I share) equally high opinions of Coach Neuheisel and his staff, notwithstanding the salient fact that neither of us knows "diddly" about football. She has been on staff for more than twenty-five years. Consequently, her opinions are based on personal contact with the individuals in question (including you). My opinions, are really feelings, but strongly held nonetheless. By the way, I go back to the days of Howie O'Dell, Don Heinrich, Hurrying Hugh, the PCC, the PAC 5, 6, and PAC 8. In terms of personalities, the only radically different opinions we have are with reference to whether Jim Owens and Tom Tipps were blatant racists. She doesn't think so. My views are to the contrary, based on many incidents, including a story from one of my college classmates. He was a very good football player on the first two Owens Rose Bowl teams He swears that Tipps would tell kids, "get off the field n----, you're not hurt." This individual states he was a quarterback in high school, but Owens couldn't imagine a black kid being smart enough to succeed at quarterback. Refresh my memory will you. As for WSU, I tell my son who graduated from WSU that he has a college degree but not a college education. I also tell him that you write very well for a "Cougoslavian." I hope you know that I'm kidding about that. In fact, you write very well period.

A: Wow! What a question or overall statement on Husky football. Coach Owens and Coach Tipps were merely reflections of their upbringing. They would be racists by today's definition based upon their language and attitudes, but I assure you they were good men and honest men whose use of the "N" word was part of "accepted" vocabulary for people raised in the south. This doesn't excuse it, but hopefully gives you some context. The racial problems that Washington endured during the 60's were more reflective of the times, rather than specific to the program. I think Jim Owens put modern Husky football on the map. He was and is a great coach and a fine human being. Coach Lambright got a lot of his toughness and structure to football philosophies from JO. The whole idea of Husky football being tough and nasty came out of that era and was similar to the Junction Boys at Texas A&M. Also, I think that your friend in the athletic department is one my true friends. She and I formed a friendship bond through the kids of Husky football. It will last forever.
From D Riley
: No question(s). Just a hello, and a thank you for being a real person. We love ya -- Longview.

A: Thank you for the nice compliment. Have always taken great pride in being my own man. What you see or hear is what you get. I think recruits always appreciated my honesty but I'm positive that it drove Barbara crazy.
From Anthony Forte
Dear Dick Baird,
: Hey Coach - Great to see you contributing to DM. You mentioned once that the Husky Defense needed more "War Daddies" like James Clifford and Dave Hoffman. Did you recruit both those guys? Also, in your opinion what makes someone fall into that category compared to a solid big hitter on defense? Are there any people on the Husky defense this year that could step up and become the take-no-prisoner type? You mentioned that Cory Dillon was the single greatest FB player to come out of Seattle. Corey was superb but for my money Mark Wheeler was easily the best RB. I doubt if this city will see anyone like him or Corey again. Did you ever see Wheeler play?

A: War daddies are rare. Hoff and Cloff were "warriors", not War Daddies. They were what Husky defense is all about. Most War Daddies" stand out physically and look the part. They have the combination of size, speed, and body structure. Clifford and Hoffman had none of these qualities but played with the "spirit" of a warrior. Most WD's play up front on the lines. Kevin Gogan, Reggie Rogers, Steve Emtman, Tim Meamber, D'marco Farr, Bern Brostek and Olin Kruetz were all examples of War Daddies. Terry Johnson could be if he chose to be. Yes I did see Mark Wheeler play and pleeeese!!! You can't compare him with Corey Dillon. Not a single football person in America would take Mark Wheeler over Corey Dillon as a running back. You probably know Mark personally and may be letting your prejudice get in the way of your evaluation. He was good but Corey might be one of the best to ever play the game out of the city of Seattle.
From Jack Frost
Coach Baird,
: I'm probably a pretty typical fan. I try to watch the line play on offense, but end up following the ball most of the time. I'm not a coach, not a player at a high level, but I've watched a lot and like more information. Your knowledge makes you a tremendous asset for Dawgman. So please tell me, for years I've watched opposing teams that had success running against the Dawgs, make big yardage with simple trap plays. They did it with huge gains occasionally against the 4-6, they've done it consistently since the DJ days. OK, but with all my offensive line watching I almost never see the Dawgs run a trap. I figure either I'm not seeing it, or its getting so mucked up that it's not working right, or we're just not running it. I'd appreciate your comments. Thanks!

A: The ball is a magnet and obviously draws everyone's attention. Try to watch the whole picture evolve on each play. Then look specifically at line play and notice what the guards are doing. "Open" linemen will not only tell you where the ball is going, but also what kind of play it will be. If their shoulders come up then it's a pass. Then you glance immediately to the secondary to recognize coverage and routes. Basically, watching football has been distorted by television. You cannot see the whole picture. That is exactly what is wrong with watching hockey and soccer on television. Because the camera has to follow the ball you can't see all the performers. The trap is really a great High School play if you're talking about the one that goes straight up the gut. At college and pro, the linebackers are taught to recognize it and merely step straight up and stuff it. The trap you may be thinking about is the counter, or counter-trey, which goes off-tackle. Just keep your eyes on the offensive guards, they'll tell you what's coming and where.
From John Jones
Coach Baird,
: Your insight is refreshing and adds a lot to this site. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I am not familiar with the rules for incoming freshmen. Can they work out with members of the team? Are they encouraged to do so? Are they given playbooks to familiarize themselves with their positions? Do the Husky coaches send them an exercise and weightlifting regimen and let them know what to expect? It would seem that all of these would be helpful to both the players and the school. Next, approximately how many offensive and defensive "plays" do the Huskies typically employ and how complicated are they? I keep reading that our defense has been simplified, but there is no explanation as to the meaning. Are we doing more man-on-man, less blitzing or what? Thanks for your thoughts.

A: Two very good questions. The rules with regard to incoming freshmen just changed again this year. The NCAA eliminated the orientation days for acclimating the new kids with recent legislation. Consequently, they will have to come in with all the other older players and will literally be swimming for months. This will hurt in terms of getting enough preparation to help in the first few games. I believe once a kid gets his physical and/or is admitted to enroll, then he is legal to workout in the summer time with the team in conditioning and voluntary POPD (pass offense vs. pass defense). This is really important because the kids can teach each other. Some may even enroll for summer school and get a jump on their credits. Regardless, once they pass their physical then they can use the weight room and receive a playbook. Anytime they are in town they can stop by the coaches offices, on their own, and look at film or study their position. I imagine that the ones who are most likely to play next year already have their notebooks and are studying. The number of variations of plays by an offense can be into the 100's (formations, movements, and types of plays). However, when the game plan goes in, only about 50-80 will remain, with a lot of those the same play but with different personnel groupings. Defensively, There are multiple fronts, movements, dogs, crashes, blitzes, coverages and potential calls. All are based on down and distances and tendencies of the offense. These are, likewise, reduced with the game plan. The kicking game also has about 20 different plays on game day. The simplification of the defense you refer to was more related to spring football and having the kids concentrate on the "basics" of their position, such as footwork and technique. I think the defense will be increased a great deal come fall when they figure out who will be playing where, as well as who they are playing.
From Brad in Sedona, AZ
Dear Dick,
: I really like what I'm hearing about the defense. Local writers here in Arizona have Walters of ASU as the top QB in the PAC 10 if not the nation, but WE know better. Just a long shot but do you have any contacts for tickets to the Ohio State game? Sure would like to see that upset. It would go a long way to erase the memory of the Miami game, which I attended

A: Walters at ASU had a great year last season but Cody is the senior in the conference whose numbers are too good to ignore. I think you will still see him winging it this fall. Good luck getting a ticket for Ohio State. Forget the Miami game. We should never have played it anyway. Ohio State would be the biggest win since the Dawgs beat, you guessed it, Miami. It can be done and Cody could become a true Heisman candidate with a win. It will be the biggest win in the Neuheisel era since the Rose Bowl win over Purdue.
From Shirley and Jack Sonnichsen
Dear Coach,
: My husband and I really enjoyed your article about Coach Lambright. I really hope he starts coming to Husky functions so we can show him how much we respect him as a coach and a person. We agreed that we needed new life when Coach Lambright was fired but hated the way it happened. In retrospect, we wonder if we are better off. He was a fierce competitor and we are really glad to hear that he and his wife are thriving (and the animals too) on their farm. Thanks again for the great article.

A: Coach Lambright does attend a lot of Husky functions including the signing day function where he got a tremendous ovation when introduced by Coach Neuheisel. Rick, by the way, goes out of his way to embrace Lambo whenever he comes around. As far as comparing those two, it's probably not realistic or important. Rick had nothing to do with Jim's firing. He merely benefited professionally from the opportunity. I appreciate your loyalty to whoever is running the program, and thanks for your letter Shirley.
From Steve
Dear Coach,
: Ok, You predict a 10-3 to 11-2 season for the Huskies, that includes an upset in our favor at Columbus. My prediction is - if we beat OSU, we run the tables with a POSSIBLE upset at UCLA and at home against SC due to special teams mistakes by our freshmen kickers. Who do you think will stop us from an undefeated season assuming we win at Columbus and why? Thanks coach.

A: You can't win them all unless you win the first one. If they pull off an upset of this magnitude, then the schedule would seem to set the Huskies up for a run at the whole shooting match. Taking it one game at a time, they could be a national contender, but I'd just like to focus on seeing them back in the Roses. The pieces are all there, but a lot is depending upon two freshmen kickers, and that is a little scary. New snappers and kickers will have to be solid for any chance of the Huskies winning the opener, much less the Pac-10 Championship. I do think that the program has matured, with a lot of experienced kids this year. All things considered for 2003, they should be able to win in the double figures.
From U Dawg
Dear Coach,
: Our running game woes are well documented. It has also been written that the O-line was under-performing. Lack of push, poor run blocking technique, etc... I'm wondering how much the blocking schemes contributed. Have you analyzed any film? It seems like our blocking schemes were pretty vanilla and uncreative. Not a lot of pulling, etc. Can you share some of your insights?

A: The running game will be effective because of a combination of two things: 1) The kids have more experience and are bigger, faster, and stronger physically with their maturity. 2) The coaching under Gilby and Dan Cozzetto.

I disagree with the "OL under-performance" point. They were pretty young and got beat up by some pretty good defensive lines like USC, UCLA, Michigan, and Purdue. The running game will balance up more with the passing but with Cody and Reggie and ET, I can't imagine us not still throwing the ball a lot. I also think Cozzetto is a great counter coach. His lines at ASU and Cal always ran that play real well. Although we didn't see it in the spring, there will be a lot of pulling by the line come fall. He teaches it so well that I'll bet it becomes one of their best runs with one back sets. The line worked a lot on the technique of pulling in the spring, so have faith. The running game will be adequate to balance the pass in 2003.
From Cindy Frederick
Dear Coach,
: Coach, the process of recruiting has always intrigued me as it is not linear, but rather involves a lot of intrigue and a lot of things seem to go on away from the eyes and ears of the public. One of the things that has always stumped me is why the Bulycas, Winters, Milstens, etc of the world often get offered very early and take the scholarships so early. On the surface, I can understand the issue that the coaches have had a chance to see something special and want to jump on the kid before rivals get wind of the talent and obviously these kids want to be Dawgs badly or they would wait to take more recruiting trips. But I am sure that there must be other players, even more highly touted that want to be Dawgs and are still not officially offered until later due to "further evaluations" during the senior year. So what sets these "rough" gems apart, and why do they often get formal offers ahead of players who later come out as having more impact? It would be interesting to know the strategy, politics etc behind these "surprise" early verbals. Why is a summer camp enough to garner an offer while other "stars" that have also gone to summer camp have to wait until fall?? Thank you for whatever insight you can share.

A: Your question about early commits is tough because you never know. It usually takes place with local kids, and you know where they want to go to school. It makes no sense for a local kid to go away for school and deny his parents and friends the chance to watch them play. Most Americans live in the geographic area where they grew up, and there are few college degrees that can prepare a kid for life in this state better than one from the University of Washington. Taking recruiting trips when you have no intention of going to that school can sometimes be unfair, and certainly confusing for player and coach alike. There are only a number of position spots available at each school, so most early commits are taking the "bird in the hand." The positive for the kid is that he can now just concentrate on his senior year and truly commit to his team. What you have to remember about recruiting is that it is not just about whom you want, but whom you can get. It's a lot easier to recruit a kid who already wants to come to your school. Kids who pay to go to your camp are telling you they are very serious about your program and after you get a chance to evaluate them in person, it only makes sense to wrap them up as soon as possible if it is a good fit.
From Matt McPoland
Dear Coach,
: Hi Coach, I'm a new member of the dawgman.com club down here in Chandler, Arizona. During your recruiting coordinator years at the UW, could you give me the top players from the Seattle area that the UW decided not to recruit that you had second thoughts on at the time? The type of players that were maybe too raw, not filled out, bad grades or not fast enough but were good football players that the UW didn't feel were quite D1 players. Maybe guys who end up going to the WWU's, CWU's, UPS's or even nowhere. The reason I ask is as hard as recruiting is, there must be so many "potential" good players around the northwest that never caught the right persons eye but that you thought maybe in time could be an impact player. I grew up in the area so it will be fun to see if I recognize any names. Thanks.

A: There were not a lot of Seattle area kids that we missed on but certainly Nate Burleson and Jessie Chapman were two. I'm still not sure if we'd not been fired if Burleson would've been a Husky. Chapman simply didn't have the grades and had to go to Eastern because they would take non-qualifiers. We missed on more Tacoma kids but rarely on Seattle kids. Bryce Fisher, from Seattle Prep went to Air Force and then to the NFL. Chris Johnson from O'Dea and the older McCallum from Mercer Island both went to Stanford without UW offers. I liked both kids a lot, particularly as people. Terrific kids, they were just slight of build. Jon Bostik from Interlake went to Nebraska before we could offer him. Those are just a few who come to mind but being from the city myself, I always made it the number one priority for recruiting to evaluate Seattle first.
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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