Well, it was a tough way to open the season, against the champs in their house. But now it's time to see how far the Dawgs can progress each week, starting with Indiana. For those of you that have jumped off the Dawg and Gilby bandwagons, I think you are a little early. But I guess that is a fans' prerogative. And now, on to the letters . . .

From Earl Butler
: I watched the OSU game live and taped it for review. Several issue arose after watching it a second time (1) Our linebacker don't seem to read there keys to well or use there hands to get rid of blockers a good example was when OSU scored on a running play from about 3 years out the guard doubled down and Marquis Cooper took several false steps as the fullback was leading through the hole. Marquis end-up making contact with the fullback at the one-yard line and was pushed back into the end zone. (2) O-line missing assignments. My question is this just youth showing or is this the result of poor coaching and execution?

A: I think it's youth and first game jitters. There is no doubt that the younger offensive linemen had a number of mental errors in the run game. Unfortunately it was on key third down runs. I really think once they settle in with the group they want, it will eliminate some mistakes. Linebackers played OK but Cooper, who should be the best, was not very good. He admits it and should be better with the games to come. I did see them step up and blast the fullback a number of times and they did run to the ball well. I really think Scott White is developing well and when he gets healthy, he will help the rotation. Tim Galloway also struggled at times so they all have room to improve. Carothers is still learning linebacker and it showed with him as well. I know they have practiced real hard so they should only get better once they settle down.
From Eugene Choy
: Hi Coach: It seem that Cody Pickett was most successful in scoring that touchdown or throwing passes to his receivers when he was scrambling or rolling out. If the offensive line can't provide protection for their quarterback, then, there should be some plays to buy the quarterback more times like the shotgun formation or more rollout. Why didn't the Huskies utilized these in their playbook? Cody is not exactly a turtle and has as much speed as Tui. Thank for your answer.

A: I couldn't agree more with you on the need to have the quarterback run. He is the one ball carrier you never account for. Cody could run for lots on bootlegs and options and should scramble more to help move the chains. He is fast and it would help the run game tremendously. You are correct.
From SRJ
Dear Coach Baird,
: No ask here coach, just love your comments - keep'n the heads up and go'ng to the next challenge. The team is young and no reason to jump from the bridge. Thanks for the optimism and I believe the DAWGS will get better from the A$$ whip'n. They will learn what it takes to return to the top echelon of the game. Good to know about the ‘Bucks team and the type of players you saw. Hopefully the young guys will know or learn what it takes to be at the top! GO DAWGS!

A: Exactly right. It will show the kids what it takes. You watch, next year this same group of linemen will look different and be more physical. They saw what a real good team looks like and actually played them toe to toe in the second half. They did not back down and will be better because of it. Too bad poor scheduling won't allow any of them to play against this team next year or the next or the year after that or the next. I don't get it. It reminds me of playing Nebraska after we had been on sanctions for two years and expecting that we could match them with talent.
From Jim Head
Coach Baird,
: Dick - what is your opinion of the overall talent level of the Neuheisel recruits, specifically both other than quarterbacks and receivers? Art Thiel's article last Thursday alluded to the lack of talent that exists and the prospects of maybe a six or seven win season as a result. Be honest, are we in a major rebuilding phase at Washington?

A: I have tried to be real quiet with regard to recruiting and player evaluation simply because it's not fair for me to be second-guessing. With that said, I did realize the difference in talent between the two teams playing last Sat. Their team looked different from ours. The thing that really stood out was that they were so much older and more mature. They don't play but a few true freshmen each year so almost everyone gets redshirted. I understand why our senior class is so thin because the last recruiting coordinator was shaky at best (me). However, there have been some great additions the last four years it's just that when you play kids early, you don't have them when they are mature and 22 year-olds. It becomes a vicious cycle and you always keep robbing yourself and end up paying for it years down the road. Recruiting can be only critiqued properly when you maintain continuity in the program. Three coaches since DJ left is way too many. Five years from now will be the only true measure to Gilb's recruiting. By the way, Cary Conklin recruited Cody off of Lambright's staff. The young QB's will be really exciting when their time comes. It will be in the line that Gilbs will change recruiting.
From Steve
Coach Baird,
: Well, at this point in the year, UDUB is clearly not in the same league with the OSU's of the world. With that, I'm sure Washington's biggest improvements this year will occur over the next couple of weeks. The question I have is what happened to our running game? Not this game, but what happened over the last 3 years? I don't buy into "we fell in love with the Reggie and Cody show". I would like some deep, insightful answers that can only come from a former college coach. Recruiting, philosophies, coaching, or what? How long will it take to fix this? I'm very confident that we'll be vastly improved come Pac ten play and we'll compete for the title, but we got to find a pass rusher, a RUNNING game and a safety that can bring the "lumber" over the middle or in run support. I do like not seeing the Chinese fire drills on defense!!!!

A: At least we're not watching the Chinese fire drills, and the team is more serious and focused then before. The running game will come around but not against a defensive front like that. No question there is a lot of room for improvement and that's what coaching is all about. Personally, I think the lines on both sides should watch the Buckeyes and see how they did things. The Huskies will get better because they won't always be playing the teams from the NFL East to open the season. I still think it's stupid scheduling and can't understand why a team of Washington's reputation can't schedule better than we do. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Stupid scheduling has hurt the Huskies for ten years. We are more interested in making money than winning our opener. In 1993, 94, and 95 we played the Buckeyes three straight times. Two on the road and one at home. Now we play them on the road again? I don't get it.
From Dana S
Dear Coach,
: I sure enjoy reading your responses. What a great addition to Dawgman. Do you envision a general change in recruiting philosophy with Gilby taking the reins? I'm dating myself but my first Husky hero was Junior Coffey - what became of him? What a great way to spend Saturday afternoons in Wenatchee - listening to Coffee taking another hand off on radio station KPQ!! Now living in Portland among the Ducks, I need your prayers.

A: Junior Coffey went into horse racing right out of college and is still a trainer of thoroughbreds. He and Rick Finney are the two greatest Husky fullbacks I ever saw. Washington will be recruiting 9-10 linemen every year and that will be the biggest change you will see in recruiting. The team will slowly show the changes this year and I really believe they will be contenders for the league title. I too remember listening to the Jim Owens teams on radio and loved Junior and Charlie Mitchell as backs
From Robert
Dear Coach,
: Give me your opinion on Bobby Withorne.

A: I think Bobby Withorne is fundamentally the most advanced of the young receivers, and that is why he played. Physically though I'm not sure he is ready but they obviously needed him or else they wouldn't have played him. I really think a red shirt year would've helped him but the need was too great. I question his flat out foot-speed, but certainly not his mechanics. I think he will be fine in about three years. But for right now hope he plays well for the team. Also seems to be real sharp picking up the system.
From Lon C
Dear Coach,
: Several things jumped out at me as I watched the opener in Columbus, on a number of plays I saw o-lineman standing upright looking downfield after blocking no one, usually as their QB was getting hit. On other plays our running backs were getting clobbered behind the line of scrimmage by defenders that hadn't been touched. I know that OSU has great talent but were our o-line schemes really as poor as they looked? On defense we got very little pressure on their QB, again, is it lack of talent or poor play calling? As for talent, do you see any improvement in recruiting, can Gilby and company get some of the in state talent to wear the purple and gold, and do you have any thoughts on who they might pick up? Thanks for your insightful replies, I hope everyone else enjoys them as much as I do!

A: There is not excuse for the linemen not getting down field and into another block. That is simply called hustle. I really believe that great teams make you look worse than you really are. Remember 31 kids had never even played and that was a hell of a time to be your first. They will get the picture soon or will not be in the race. Wouldn't it be great for this team to learn from the experience of playing the best and end up in the Rose Bowl just as the Cougars did last year? Then we will all look back and say how good it was to have played the Buckeyes.
From Dawg Dan
Dear Coach,
: Why don't they use a Shotgun for Cody? He drops back like all the other QBs but doesn't get as much time. With a no-back set who is fooled-everyone in the in the stadium knows pass. Two seconds should make a difference. How many sets did we use without a back?

A: Basically I am with you with regard to the use of the shotgun. I like it and think it puts the quarterback in a great position to see the field and to scramble by seeing the lanes. Obviously it adds one more risk in the snap and catch and that usually results in a fumble per game. You realize of course that the snap is done in the blind and maybe they don't have a center to do it. I know that there are just two separate philosophies on it's use but don't know why Washington has never chosen to make it part of their arsenal.
From Scott
Dear Coach,
: The Huskies of the early 90's were always trying to get speed on the field. Moving safeties to Linebackers etc. Is this speed priority on defense still a priority or have times changed?

A: Speed is and always will be a priority, but it doesn't just apply to backs and receivers. It also applies to linemen, especially defensive ends, where there is a definite need. I am positive Gilbs has speed number one on priorities for recruiting.
From Jake
Dear Coach,
: I watched the game that I had been waiting for 8 months to see and was sorely disappointed. The obvious difference to me was the physical play of the o-line and D-line for Ohio St. I still am undecided if that dominance was the Ohio St team was that much better, or the Huskies were that bad. Where do the Dawgs go from here? Very young O-line and the defense (other than the two corners) seemed strangely familiar to last year. Please tell me if the lines for Ohio St. were that good, the Husky lines that bad, or a little of both. As you know, Ohio St DID bring back all 5 starters on the O-line that was able to beat the 'Canes for the National Championship.

A: You are absolutely right on with regard to the "Why." Ohio State was just that much better. People need to understand that they are the one of, if not the best team in America and until someone beats them, they will still be champions. The were simply more experienced, more mature, and more confident in what they were doing. They slugged the Dawgs in the face and controlled the line of scrimmage. The better team won but the experience was good for the Huskies because now they know what has to be done to be as good as the best.
From Roger
Dear Coach,
: Thanks for taking the time to read my question. I was wondering, why doesn't Gilby consider moving Alexis to fullback? I was noticing that with a quick smothering "D" such as Ohio State, it takes a tailback that has a quick "burst" to hit the hole, and quick is not what Rich is. He has good speed when he gets up a head of steam, but he is slow to the hole. Sampson or maybe James would be more suited, I feel.

A: Rich is usually in there with the one back formations, so in a sense, he is the fullback at those times. He is down to 216 so he's not exactly a fullbacks weight but then neither is Adam Seery. Right now until one of the younger backs develops then Rich is still the best tailback. If he doesn't go over 100 yards in the up coming games then he probably won't the tailback any more.
From Husky Heat
Dear Coach,
: I was disgusted with the loss to OHIO state this past Saturday. Not because of the loss, but because of the details!! This looked like Coach Neuheisel's team instead of a Don James disciple. Where was the aggressive defense? We played those same soft zones that drove me crazy last year. Even Dan Fouts mentioned that the corners can cover man-to-man!! We blitzed the most dominant team in the country with the most dangerous weapons (in Miami when we played them in Seattle and I haven't seen some aggressive defense since then).....TANK and Stevens are for real.....but they have to get some speed coming off the edges...

A: It's too early to be down on the Dawgs. Remember who they were playing. That was a great team and it showed why they were the national champs and it also showed in the line where they were clearly the superior team. Keep the faith. So they're not going to win the national title this year. It doesn't mean they are not going to develop into a strong team. The defense actually accounted well for themselves in the second half when they held the Buckeyes to 108 yards and recovered a fumble and won 9-7. Fill your cup back to half full and you'll start to appreciate the youth and inexperience of this team. Believe me I saw their line up close and we didn't compare. 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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