Can you feel it? Can you hear it? Can you see it? I sure can. I leave for Columbus tomorrow and the Dawgman folks and me are so amped up for this trip!! I have one last shot at my mail before I take off, so here it goes . . .

From Michelle Bainter
: I want to know how you decide what your going to run in the first series of a game? Do you run certain plays specifically to see how the defense is going to react and then go from there, or do you start with your strength and just build on it. Along those lines, I am sure you have seen film of OU what would be the first play you would run. I'm thinking some kind of counter to take advantage of the inevitable over pursuit on the first play of the game. Thanks Coach.

A: Good question. Everyone starts games differently. This game I would start with a bootleg pass to the tight end. I just like the play and think Cody has confidence in those two big targets. As far as planning the start of a game, I have seen all sorts of different approaches. Some people script the first 15 plays and follow them right in order. Others script in lots of motion and trades just to see how you will adjust. Still others try to go up top and strike early. The first quarter of games is usually a sparring match where teams are feeling each other out. Most teams script for field position and down and distance. So wherever you get the ball will dictate what you will do.
From Steve
: Coach, I don't buy into this "husky nation has been divided by the RN situation" thing. If there was to be a division among Husky Fans, than it was when Lambright got fired for doing his job under some incredibly difficult circumstances, which I believe he did well. Regardless, with the recent revelation of what occurred during the interview that caused RN's termination....the whole thing makes me sick. The way the NCAA cornered him is just sickening. I will admit that the bottom line is that RN got what was coming and all the little negatives just added up, but c'mon! Why didn't they (NCAA) just come out and ask him about the gambling vs. going through a staged set-up about some recruiting crap. I can think of a 100 examples, well mostly concerning me and my girlfriend, where I or anyone can get blind-sided into "lying" or stretching the truth when totally caught off-guard. Not that this reasoning is a "get out of jail card" for lying, but you got to admit that the NCAA's motive was to make RN look bad. I don't know him, but I believe that RN is a better man than what has been portrayed by the media and by the NCAA. I hope after the season is over that the team gives RN some props. Just like RN gave Lambright props after he led the Huskies to a Rose Bowl victory against Purdue.

A: I think I agree with you but I'm not sure why. No question that Coach Neuheisel was set up and a conspiracy was in order. What concerns me is that even though he corrected himself and came clean, he was still called a liar. I thought that the only lie that was permanent or could be held against you was one told in court under oath. If someone says something, then thinks about it and corrects what they originally said, which statement do you go on? People have the right to change their minds and change their thoughts and change their words. The thing that worries me is that I think the UW administrators as well as the Seattle Times knew they were going to ask questions about the basketball pool. They wanted to see how he was going to react. I really believe he was blindsided and led along to believe they were going to be asking questions about recruiting. Somebody out there turned him in and the NCAA made a mountain out of a molehill in making this a terminating offense. Heck, it isn't even a major violation. When that became clear and the NCAA's motives were clear then and only then did his dishonesty become the key violation. Now, I firmly believe that the football program is in capable hands and Gilbs and I have been close friends for years. I would like to see Rick hit the NCAA big and to win a settlement for his family. I personally do not think the NCAA is a constitutional organization and its judicial system is a farce. I think they prejudiced his case and that Ms. Hedges had to think about the threat of another investigation. I do think that Coach Neuheisel is self-destructive and was walking the edge long before he fell into the pit, though. This whole mess will linger for months or even years. Meanwhile, The team is moving on and hopefully everyone else will do so as well.
From Phil Rondo
Dear Coach Baird,
: With only two experienced receivers returning this year, why didn't the Dawgs recruit a JC transfer or two? It's kind of ironic that the JC transfer they brought in last year, was it Jackson, left the program, and here we're opening up in his home town of Columbus. He'd sure look good in the depth chart now.

A: One of the problems you have with recruiting JC kids is their egos. They want to play now and Eddie was too dense to figure out that there were a lot of senior receivers last year. His leaving was out of selfish attitude and nothing more. I wouldn't worry too much though, because those two big tight ends are liable to be on the field a lot together. Besides the group of young receivers all look pretty good and we will have them for four years instead of two. They didn't know Jackson was leaving during recruiting and that is probably the reason they didn't go JC for a receiver. He bailed well after LOI day.
From Pat S
Coach Baird,
: In the '03 OSU/Miami NC game an announcer pointed out the Buckeye offense was using an unbalanced line in the 2nd half. My questions: Are unbalanced lines used frequently? Why yes or no? Also, if OSU opted to use this set vs. the dawgs next week, how would you adjust your defense?

A: Good question. The use of an unbalanced line is frequently done to gain run advantage by having an extra blocker at the point of attack. The rules state you must have seven men on the line of scrimmage. If you have three players to each side of the center then you have a balanced formation. If it's four to one side and two to the backside then it becomes unbalanced. This does not always mean linemen, as the two wide receivers can be counted if they align on the line of scrimmage. Sometimes teams trade the side the tight end is on and you will see a receiver step up or back. This often creates an unbalanced alignment of four and two. Most teams that use it try to go on first sound so they can catch you off guard. If you don't balance your defense then they have a numbers advantage with more blockers than you have defenders. Considering Ohio State is a run oriented team, you can bet they will do it to run the ball. On the goal line they will sometimes use an extra offensive lineman and put some real size right where they want to go. Believe me when I tell you that their fullback will lead you to the play.
From Sylvester J
Coach Baird,
: Love the write-up on the D and the improvement for this year. My question is why didn't RN have enough sense to do it last year? Sounds easy, doesn't? I look forward to your articles and comments in the coming months.

A: Rick did think of it, which is why he hired Phil Snow and moved Tim Hundley back to coaching linebackers and Cornell Jackson back to work with the safeties. Gilbs has just stuck his nose into the defense enough to keep them honest. Injuries could really hurt this team but that is always the case with your top players. This defense will be better than last year because they are better trained and more prepared.
From Robert Cunningham
Dear Coach,
: While reading the paper today I noticed that Gilby said he would entertain a mini-offense for Stanback. Would it be another good idea to put him at receiver as a decoy and then every once in a while try a reverse with a throw or something along those lines? Seems to me that he would attract a lot of attention just being on the field knowing he has the potential to do anything. I just remember when they used to do that with Tui and almost every time it was a little predictable on what they were going to do. If the other teams know that he can do a couple of different things they might get a little more anxious with him on the field. I'm sure they are thinking about this type of thing already but I haven't read anything about it. Your doing a great job for Dawgman. Keep it up.

A: I think that Stanback will have a small game plan of plays that suit his strength and that is running. He is certainly exciting and if I wanted to throw a change up, it would be him over Paus. He would really change the tempo and if you limit his package then he could be quite effective. I wouldn't look for him at receiver unless there is an injury. He is just learning quarterback and although he was sensational when they tried him as a receiver, I don't see it in the cards for the time being. No question he is a talent and sitting him on the bench doesn't win games so your point is well taken. I just think they will be adjusting the offense in the future anyway so why not try those things out in a mini-game plan designed to take advantage of his mobility? I know it has been discussed and think it has merit. Thanks for your encouragement, I'm glad you enjoy my column. The boss-man is tough, but he's fair, so I think I'll stick around a while.
From TP McD
Dear Coach,
: Coach I really like our two young QB's Isaiah Stanback and Carl Bonnell. I think Bonnell has as quick a 7-yard drop back I have ever seen and more than one observer has told me his arm right now is stronger than Pickett's. Isaiah is 12 yards down the field with the option before anyone even lays a glove on him. I can see an explosive one two punch for years to come. And with Matt T considering the UW we will be set for years at QB. What is your take and who are the can't miss prospects this year in the state. the word I hear it is Matt Tui and Bankhead.

A: The future quarterbacks are both excellent runners and look to be solid depth players at the most important position in football. I see the offense being changed after Cody leaves to take more advantage of their skills. As far as recruiting and talent evaluation, I made a pact with myself to not second-guess what they do in the recruiting process. I think this is fair to Chuck Heater and the staff involved in recruiting. I do know I offered the whole Tuiasosopo family when I was in their living room and Matt was just in grade school. (By the way the daughter behind Matt is the best athlete in the family.) It is a great family and Matt would certainly be a great player for the Huskies. The problem here is baseball. Matt could get drafted by major league baseball come next June and it won't make any difference what school he signed with. The Bankhead kid is another good skilled athlete but I have yet to see him or Matt play in a game. My son Brent coaches at Inglemoor and tells me the big lineman there is the real deal. Considering he watched video of high school kids with me for years, I tend to believe his judgment. Hopefully the UW will get all three and they will be back to dominating the state in recruiting again.
From Appy
Dear Coach,
: We appear to have a great pass/catch combo(s), But my concern is will Cody get enough time to get the passes off. What are your thoughts?

A: Time to throw can be bought in different ways. No question that every team will try to do what Purdue did so successfully in the bowl game - get after Cody. I think that the play action package will improve and I also think they are dumping it quickly to the backs and big tight ends. You will also see more complex packages that are great against pressure. The Ohio State front will challenge the protection schemes but the use of quick three-step throws and dumps can often negate getting to the quarterback. Your point is well taken. Good passing does not start with the quarterback and receivers but rather with the protection.
From DC Dawg
Dear Coach,
: OK Coach, here we go: "TOUCHDOWN WASHINGTON!" I hope we hear this a lot come Saturday. But from the tone of your last column, it sounds as though you are preparing us Dawg fans for a bit of a disappointment. A healthy amount of time in fall camp was spent on conditioning. Did this take away at all from the team's ability to get football ready? I have four, five you count the last one, questions: 1) There seems to be a bit of a depth issue concerning the D-line, how do you think Coach Hart will juggle his troops? 2) On offense the last couple of years, the team seemed too dependent on the Cody to Reggie combination, when this combination wasn't sharp the Dawgs could find no answer, do you see that changing - will other members of the team step up? 3) Based on your comments can we expect some spotty play from the Dawgs early or will their conditioning overcome the shortfall in preparation time? (If your column and the scrimmage descriptions I read were any indication, hopefully we won't get a lot of penalties and have to punt from deep in our own territory too many times or it could get ugly. It's been my experience watching these games that the way the game is officiated, particularly early and on the road, can have a significant impact on the outcome), 4) Game prediction (and yes, this question is intended to put you on the spot, but that's why they pay you the big bucks, right)?

A: I actually had to read your letter a couple of times and still can't remember all the questions but I get your general drift. Coach Hart will be rolling his players and making sure they are ready for the fourth quarter. Big Tui and Stanley Daniels will have to grow up real quick and Milsten and Hopoi need to play run first vs. Ohio State. By the way, the Huskies will beat OSU 27-24. The conditioning did not take any time away from preparation but rather incorporated into it. The kids run off and on the field and hustle on all drill changes. They really are not running any more than any other team I saw but it was exceptionally hot this camp and it resulted in more discomfort for the players. Back to the first question, I forgot to mention that Donny Mateaki is finally starting to understand the game and could help this year off the edge. Both he and Brandon Ala show promise as soon as they learn to let it go full throttle. Ala still needs added strength but Graham Lasee looks to be ready to compete. I will bet Randy plays eight kids up front in these early games. Injury is always a factor and this group has already experienced two season ending ones. Terry Johnson looks to have a break out season and be a dominant player.
From Backamus
Dear Coach,
: Why is the sprint draw which was so effective under Coach James not used by the UW anymore? It seemed to give the backs plenty of time to make a decision and adjust their cuts.

A: The sprint draw is in and will be used effectively in the two back formations. The question is, how much two back will they be in? Under Coach James the fullback was on the field most of the time until Gilbs came on the scene with the one back spread, which has no fullback to help on the sprint draw. It is really a run that starts out strong but the back can cut it back weak, and that is why it's so effective. It goes back against the grain, as does the counter play. Joe Steele was pretty good at the play you're talking about. 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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