Ask Coach Baird

So we're nearly to "Game Week." Can you believe it, fellow Husky fans? It's been a long strange off-season, but Gilby will have these guys ready to take on The Ohio State Buckeyes a week from Saturday. And now, on to the letters . . .

From Tim in Spokane
Coach,
: Hi Coach Baird. I read your report on the new recruits and how they are doing, thanks for the column. Can you tell me what you think of linebacker Tahj Bomar? He plays your old position and I was wondering if you were impressed with him. I liked his recruiting video a lot, seems like a tackling force inside. Thanks.

A: Good inquiry. I like Tahj Bomar a lot and think he is going to be a really good linebacker. He has great drops in pass coverage, and runs to the play really well. I believe he will be one of the only true freshmen to play this year on defense, so that should tell you something. He has a special nose for the ball. Coach Hundley knew he would need one of the incoming kids to help him and Tahj has earned that role. Got to do 4 of his high school games over a two-year period for Fox Radio so I knew he was a good linebacker. Will only get better as he gets bigger and stronger.
From Steve
: Coach, It sounds like you're not too impressed with the speed on the defensive end position! I've heard you like the size, but a Chorak would be great! I agree!! Well, at least until Pac Ten play comes around....My question...How about putting Cooper on the D-End spot? From what I'm hearing, Scott White is the real deal and is pushing Cooper. Cooper's strength is his speed (from what I've heard and seen). So why not put him into a 3pt. stance against a 310lb OL and let him fly and disrupt a 2nd and 7, or a 3rd and 6 or a 1st and 15, or any passing situation?

A: I have seen Cooper work on speed pass rush. The coaches must have heard you thinking out loud. It is just one of the real speed spots in football. A pass rusher off the edge must combine a great get off with super leverage to cut the corner around the offensive tackle as close as he can. Cooper is a little light in the pistol but he has the quickness. All I know is they are one of the hardest commodities to find both at the college and the pro levels.
From Chris Pearo
Dear Coach Baird,
: Check the 2007 schedule - Ohio State is scheduled to play us here. I'll agree that three years in a row of the big game being out of town kind of stinks (next years game against Notre Dame is away), but Dawg fans should be EXCITED about 2007. We have both Ohio State and Oklahoma here. Sure, that's a tough setup, but win both games and the Dawgs are in the drivers seat for a National Championship.

A: Thanks for the schedule up date. I'm glad we at least play them in 2007 but it should be a home and away on back-to-back years. Especially the way people turn over coaches now days. A return game four years from now would be fine if they didn't also have Oklahoma the same year. How stupid is that? That's scheduling done by someone who knows nothing about the sport of football. When you schedule up all the time you stand a chance of getting early season injuries that can screw your team for a whole season. Besides at the end of the season nobody looks at who you played anyway. It's only how many marks you have in the left hand column. All you need is one real good opponent every year in your pre-season then concentrate on your own league.
From Paul Huizinga
Coach Baird,
: Coach- in reading your article about Clarett you mentioned that UW does not get a return game with Ohio State. I believe they are on our schedule as a home game in 2007. Unfortunately it is set up where the current players won't have the opportunity to have another game with them to either amend a loss or to have a second win. It will have to be with a new set of players. P.S. - If I recall correctly I played briefly for you at Olympic CC in the Fall of 82 but don't expect you to remember. A RB out of Mt. Vernon HS

A: As soon as I saw the letter was from you, I recognized the name. We had some serious fun on the Olympic College Rangers and I hope it was a good experience for you. I know I really tried to make it fun. Serious, but fun. It gave lots of kids the chance to play some more football after high school. You made my point on the scheduling. When the return engagement for a home and away is so far in the future the kids never get the second chance. Realistically it's probably impossible to always have a good favorable schedule like the Huskies have this year. Oregon likewise has an excellent set up because the AD is a football guy who understands that winning the league and going to the Rose Bowl is what it's all about. The only way a Washington team will ever win the national championship again is to go undefeated again. Scheduling tough really hurts those chances.
From Lonnie
Coach Baird,
: Coach. Love your column, best thing on the internet that is Husky! Can you tell me which position on the defense is the most important, and why? I think it must be the defensive line, particularly the interior guys, because every play starts there. But what are your thoughts?

A: I love this question because having played and coached linebacker, I have always thought they were the most important player on the defense. Usually the middle linebacker calls all the defenses and is in the hub of the wheel, so to say. They need to know what the guys in front of them are doing and what the guys behind them are doing and are tied into both groups. I liked the leadership that comes with the position as well. Because you are the one talking in front of the huddle there is a certain amount of leadership similar to the quarterback on offense. However, whenever I was building a defense and it didn't matter at what level, I would always put my very best athlete at free safety. That way he was in the middle of the defense and seeing everything and talking to everyone and always in and around the action. I believe defenses are built from the inside out. Consequently, the nose-man, the mike backer and the safeties are the most important. That's my theory and I'm sticking to it.
From Phillip
Dear Coach,
: Coach - Who was the most underrated guy you ever recruited? What about Leon Neal? He came in with Nip and kind of got overshadowed, but I always thought he was something special. Or maybe Andre Riley? Thanks for a great column, coach.

A: Steve Emtman and Marques Tuiasosopo were the most underrated who became the best. Leon Neal was a great back in high school and was being recruited at the same time as Nip and actually committed before Napoleon. I call him the day we took the commitment from Nip and he said, "Great coach, the two of us will make a great combination." I knew then that he was a winner. Sometimes, though, the kids who really surprise are linemen. Frank Garcia was ignored by both Arizona schools, so it was nice when he ended up as good as he was. Often times it's kids from smaller schools who get the nod. It used to be that nobody knew who those kids were, so you could sneak kids thru all the time in recruiting. The internet has eliminated that, thank you.
From Chris
Dear Coach,
: Coach - The safety position is my one area of worry. Do you think that the safeties can get it done? If not, is there a true freshman that they can go to? CJ Wallace? Thanks.

A: Next to punter I also am concerned about the safety position. I really believe that Jimmy Newell, if he stays healthy, will be a good free safety. Evan Benjamin looks to be the guy at strong safety with Owen ("can't get rid of him") Biddle still in the mix. James Sims is a great athlete who is just starting to understand the position. Newell is real bright and should be the leader on the back end but CJ Wallace may be another Tony Parrish in the making. He is a rocket once he figures where the ball is. He is a great "striker" and will definitely play this year. Those five look to do most of the safety work this year. It is one position where they should go out and get one specifically to play there. Even a great JC kid would help, but go out and get another Lawyer Malloy is the real answer, thank you very much.
From Dan
Dear Coach,
: Coach - who was the best QB you saw at the UW? Who was the best LB you ever coached? And who was the funniest guy you ever got to coach? Thanks for your great columns at Dawgman.com.

A: During my time at Washington, I would have to say that Marques Tuiasosopo was the best quarterback because he brought so much to the table for his team. Bob Schloredt was the same way and played defense, which Tui could've as well. Chris Chandler was pretty special and both Brunell and Hobert had to share the stage, so Tui really got a longer run as "The Guy." The best linebacker I ever coached was Lester Towns, followed by John Fiala, Ink Aleaga, and Jerry Jensen. The funniest player was definitely Bob Sapp, and then Reggie Rogers, followed by Chico Isquella. The funniest coach I ever worked with was Jeff Woodruff.
From Alan
Dear Coach,
: Do you think that coach Gilbertson can handle the limelight that will be thrust upon him this year? Neuheisel thrived in it, and I just wonder how uncomfortable Gilbertson will be with all the new attention he's getting. Will he be distracted, or will he successfully keep the distractions away from him and his team? thanks.

A: Gilbs will be fine with the media and limelight. He is not quite as camera and publicity oriented as his predecessor but he will do fine. He is just who he is and his sense of humor will carry him. He may be real quick and direct but he will do fine. Besides there is always a honeymoon and he will be the darling of the press for at least a little while. He takes good notes and will always be prepared when dealing with all the distractions. He knows when to turn it off as well and with his closing of practices will reduce his contacts anyway.
From Tom
Dear Coach,
: Dawgman says the Dawgs are going 12-0, you say 10-2. Who do you think they'll lose to? Right now I'm trying to believe Dawgman, and really hope he's right, but I want to hear your reasons behind why he is wrong. Thanks coach!

A: I didn't say they would lose two, I said they were capable of winning 10. It takes an incredible amount of luck to go undefeated but reality is predicting a season is stupid for a coach or player because the only game that matters is the next one. That is the difference between the team and the fans. Fans want to know what is going to happen in the future and the team must concentrate on what is happening in the now. That is why recruiting has so much appeal to the fans. It's all about predicting the future, which is an obsession with mankind. Dawgman is coming from the heart. He knows if you think you are going to lose some games then you probably will. It was just like your question of who do I think we will lose to? I think we could lose to anybody we play on any given Saturday. I would never look at the schedule and try to predict losses. I do know that his particular team looks good enough, barring injury, to win at least ten and contend for the Pac-10. The longer you can keep yourself in the hunt, the better chance you have. Obviously to go undefeated, you need to win the first game and then you can look at the second. Sounds like a stupid coach answer, doesn't it? But that's who I am and I'm too old to change now.
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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