Ask Coach Baird

Gearing up for a hot summer here at Nike camps in Eugene and Seattle are right around the corner, and Baird is getting ready to become a grandpa. While he awaits the birth of his grandchild, he got around to answering his mail. Here you go Dawgfans….

From Alan Kaselj in Vancouver, BC
: Love your comments! I've got a couple of questions. 1) What do position coaches do during the game when their players are not on the field? What did you do and what were your responsibilities during the game when the offense was on the field? Also, 2) during your tenure as recruiting coordinator, who were the best high school players that you have ever seen? Offensively and defensively are there any players that really stuck out?

A: Big Al, those are two good questions. Position coaches during the game work within their side of the ball, basically relaying messages. It really can depend on whether you're in the press box or on the field. The first ten years of my experience at Washington I was in the press box and the last three I was on the field. The coaches in the press box are calling the plays, spying (or scouting) the opposition both for both personnel and play tendencies. This information is relayed to the field coaches, and they teach it to the players in the bench huddle while the other side of the ball is on the field. It's a lot like a battle front communications system with everyone being careful not to say too much, but what you do say, make it count. In summary, it's just relaying strategies and tendencies so that the kids have a better expectation level of what the opponent is doing or trying to do. To answer your second question, the great kids that stood out to me included backs Napoleon Kaufman, Corey Dillon, Beno Bryant, Greg Lewis, and Tommie Smith (although he wound up on defense), TE Mark Bruener, OL Benji Olson, and OL Olin Kruetz on offense. On defense the best I saw were LB Willie McGinest and CB Daylon McCutcheon, who both went to USC.
From Richard Stevens
: I noticed the question about war-daddies, and realize that that it's an attitude to be desired in a recruit, but I'm wondering where you draw the line between attitude and technique when recruiting. I've played more rugby than football and there's a lot more technique than attitude required when tackling in that sport. Not that attitude hurts, you just can't let it be your primary motivation for the hit. Do you look for attitude or technique first? Myself, I'd go for attitude in American football, technique can be taught. Cheers, from Limassol Cyprus!

A: Dick, I try to find a kid who has both attitude and technique then throw in pure natural physical talent and POW! - you have a War-Daddy. Hopefully, each time a kid goes up the ladder of sport he develops more technique. Tackling is a technique and must be taught and practiced regularly to result in stopping the forward progress of the football. It's that simple. Teams that tackle and block the best win the games. End of story. It's not about throwing, catching and running, it's about the techniques of blocking and tackling. It requires a lot of toughness to go with the technique and I would consider that attitude. If I was looking to win championships I always build with attitude first. You can teach them the technique much easier.
From Larry Pitts
Dear Coach Baird,
: When I played football in high school, and our opponent was punting, we put three players back to receive the punt. The punt receiver would be about 40 yards from the line of scrimmage, with two blockers five yards in front of him and five yards to his left and right. When the ball was kicked (assuming it was a good punt), the blockers would maintain their proximity to the receiver, and take out the first two people down the field. The opponent sprinters would come up the field, and just before they arrived, the blockers would cross and take the sprinters out toward the sidelines, away from the receiver. It was an easy and effective block, and seems to have several advantages over the way things are done today:
- Less chance of clipping penalty
- More effective blocking for punt returner
- Because all 3 receivers have the ball in front of them, they can react better to a bad punt
- Better communication with punt receiver

If E.T. had two fullbacks as blockers, he would only fair catch very short punts, and have no concern about getting hit as he was catching the punt. He could focus on catching the ball and confidently accelerate four or five steps in any direction. Wouldn't this scheme work in the college game?

A: The old 5-2-3-1 punt return formation can be used effectively against teams punting out of a tight formation. However, when the punting team chooses to split out two designated "fliers" then the defensive punt team must split out two of the front seven, thereby only leaving 5 in the box vs. the offense's nine. It's a matter of numbers and you are really leaving yourself vulnerable if they decide to fake punt run. Probably explains why you don't see it much at the college level.
From Shane Keith
Coach Baird,
: My girlfriend's father is a huge Coug fan who, for the past month or so, has been talking about Neuheisel being in trouble for contacting Bonnell when he shouldn't have. First, is this going to be a big deal for the Huskies or will it be swept quietly into the past? Second, is there someone in the program who is responsible for knowing all the rules and guidelines for what is acceptable to the NCAA and what isn't. I would hope with a program like ours, someone would be there as a consultant or guidance director. Thanks Coach

A: Shane, The Carl Bonnell case will quietly fade away because he was a recruitable student-athlete at the time Coach Neuheisel contacted him. Besides it was after the Husky-Cougar game and Carl had already decided he always wanted to go to Washington in the first place. The Cougars were playing with their numbers and were trying to move Carl to their next year's recruiting class because they were over their 25 initial limit of scholarships. He was paying his own way and was not taking a full load of classes. As far as a compliance coordinator or Director at Washington is concerned, they already have one in place. Dana Richardson heads up the compliance department of the Athletic department and works closely with Professor Rob Aronson who is the Faculty Representative. Rob is in the Law School at the UW and Dana also has a law degree as do two of her associates. That's a little ironic in that there are no legal rights in NCAA law, but there you have it. It's very unconstitutional and what probably hurts Dana the most is that she does not have the "pragmatic application" of the laws of recruiting because she has never really done it. She is however very professional and extremely current on recent changes in legislation. I have always found her to be very forthright and diligent to work with.
From Taft Ring
Coach Baird,
: How does our practice field-side medical coverage support for the team-captain led practices work over the summer period? Got to be working since we haven't had any problems. Thanks.

A: Taft, all student-athletes receive a certain amount of coverage whenever they are participating on school grounds. The medical coverage for summer workouts can be justified by the fact that there must be a trainer and conditioning coach on hand for all such Captain workouts. Hopefully there will never be need to use it.
From Anthony Forte
Dear Coach,
: What's your opinion on this. I've read that certain high schools and even the NCAA is considering a schedule of fall practices that alternates two a days with a day of only one practice. I think it's in response to the heat related deaths of certain college and pro athletes during fall camp. What do you think of this? What was/is your philosophy on adequate hydration for fall camp when the weather is hot? Do you allow water breaks often?

A: Anthony, You are correct in that the NCAA recently changed the rules for the start of football training camps in the fall. No longer may frosh come in early, and two-a-day practices are to be alternated 2-1-2. Many high schools and colleges like WSU had already been doing things differently. No water at practice went out when I played in the early 60's. From the late sixties on, everyone has always hydrated their kids (or at least they should've been). There is just too much evidence to support the benefits (and necessity) of giving them water. Only the stupid continued to deny kids water.
From Husky Heat
Dear Coach,
: The local sports talk people are driving me crazy with the Buckeye talk. All there talking about is Ohio State killing the DAWGS. I can't wait!!! But the DAWGS have to come out barking!! Which brings me to this: What are your thoughts on Coach Neuheisel's ability to motivate compared to Don James? If he is a good motivator, please explain the slow starts.

A: The Ohio State game is one of the biggest road openers, EVER, for a Husky team. It will be the biggest win in the Neuheisel era. It will be a tremendously difficult feat to accomplish but is very doable. It is very much like the Miami road game under Jim Lambright. Nobody gives the Dawgs much of a chance but they are still the Washington Huskies and are not afraid to play anybody, anywhere, anytime. This program can AND WILL compete. They may not win but they have a chance to play before the entire nation, and it just could be another special night of the Huskies. Always a good night team, the dawgs could pull the upset. I remember playing a night game at Lincoln, Nebraska once, and followed it by hosting the Cornhuskers with a night game in Seattle the next year. I know the underdogs won them both. Believe it. 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 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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