Out of all of the UDUB players eligible to declare for the draft, who does?
Right now, I think the ones that will certainly declare despite having eligibility remaining are John Ross, Sidney Jones, Budda Baker, and Elijah Qualls. I haven’t heard much on Vita Vea, but some draft boards have him higher than Qualls, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he decided to go. But he also has reasons to stay, considering how long he was out of football. So four right now I think are almost certain to declare, with one more at 50/50.
When would the UW be expected to disclose and coach raises/extensions? Has there been a previous timeline? Pre-LOI day?
Well, they did it after the 2015 season in early February, right around Signing Day. Bush Hamdan and Ikaika Malloe were first-year coaches, so who knows if they’ll get bumps right away. The only coach that didn’t get a bump last year was Chris Strausser, but I’m sure that will change when the new raise/extension information is released. I would also expect Jonathan Smith’s contract to get extended, considering he was the only one offered a one-year contract at the time.
Do you think we will lose any of the assistants? I keep reading Lake, Hamdan and possibly Kwiatkowski for possible promotions, or do you think it will be after the negotiated pay raises, and see what is offered by other schools?
The only coach I know that has been linked seriously with another opportunity is Bob Gregory and Fresno State. I’m sure Jeff Tedford would love Gregory to go to Fresno to be his defensive coordinator, but I also suspect Chris Petersen will try and sweeten the pot to keep Gregory in Seattle. Gregory is making nearly $500,000 right now, which is well north of what Tedford could pay him at Fresno State. I would have expected Lake to be in play after the bowl game, but he’s making $500,000 right now and I’m not sure he’s going to find a better situation in the short term. Hamdan, in my opinion, is still a year or two away from attracting big-time offers - but they will come if he continues to do what he did the last 12 months.
What is the press situation for you guys at a bowl of this magnitude? Do you have the same access or is it limited? Do you have access to Bama players and coaches or just UW?
The short answer is, you know as much as we do about it. Obviously we’ve covered lots of bowl games and they are usually very good about helping us with whatever we need - because it’s a good look for them too. It’s a win-win. But a bowl like this? It’s uncharted territory for all of us. We’ve heard stories of players being available in Atlanta that haven’t been available all year - like some of the true freshmen that have played all season - but I’m not holding my breath. One of the nice things about a bowl of this magnitude is that even the program has to acknowledge it’s a big deal, and the national guys will push in a way that the local media can’t. They simply hold a lot more leverage than we do. And absolutely we will have access to both teams, but the smarter play is to let the Bama guys do their thing, we’ll do our thing, and then you get the benefit of seeing it all, instead of us having to choose who we decide to cover.
With all your years of interacting with the athletes, which of the players stood out to you as far as quality of kid? Their families? Their intriguing stories? I always like to know WHO I'm rooting for.
Well, if you’re talking about in general, getting a chance, at the time, to write Zach Banner’s story and his relationship with his birth father was an amazing opportunity, and Zach and the whole Banner family couldn’t have been more accommodating - as well as Lakes Head Coach Dave Miller and his family. People here will treat Zach differently because he didn’t pick UW, and that’s fine - but I’ll always be a fan.
As far as UW players, I’ll go back to when I first started covering the team and had a chance to see the 1998 recruiting class all the way through to graduation. For that class, it was guys like Marques Tuiasosopo, Todd Elstrom, Spencer Marona, and Brendan Jones. Their families could’t have been nicer to a young(ish) guy getting his start in the football biz. The next year it was John Anderson and his family. In fact, I got to spend some time with John and his wife at the Stanford game. They’ve always been right at the top of my list for quality folks. And how can you not like Paul Arnold? I’ve gotten a chance to see Paul grow into a pretty good coach in his own right. Then it went right down the line: Jimmy Newell, the late Marquis Cooper, Taylor Barton, Nate Robinson, Isaiah Stanback, etc…
The list is way too long to count!
Will there be another Dawgman Recruiting party like at the Dub Pub?
As of right now I don’t think we have any plans in the books, but you never know.
What was the most surprising thing/event this year?
I can only speak for myself, but I think the season as a whole has been surprising. Not in the sense that they wouldn’t do well: everyone expected them to be better than they were last year. But to this extent? I think even the most optimistic Washington fans didn’t have a playoff berth in their equation. Pac-12 title at the most, but beyond that? It’s been nothing short of incredible, and should be the springboard for a lot of UW success down the road. They have it rolling now.