Two years ago today, this country suffered a terrorist attack on home soil, one that is still beyond all comprehension. I was at sea with Dick Baird, Malamute, and over a 100 other Husky fans on a cruise when it happened, and I still recall the horrible, sick, helpless feeling. Let's all remember that day and reflect upon it in our own way. I certainly have. It is with those thoughts in mind that I answer my email today.

From Soupbone
Dear Dawgman,

Is injury so severe Nathan Rhodes will never play football again as you say? Could you please tell me what is so terribly wrong? Have know him and grandparents for many years. Thank You.

A: Nathan has a degenerative disc condition in his back that requires surgery to fix. He had tingling in his extremities, which is consistent with either nerve damage or blood flow difficulty. He'll be fine but to play football again would be too risky.
From Brenda A
Dear Dawgman,

I am curious why the change to KJR last year. I find the commentator rude and obnoxious. They show no class what so ever and have no loyalty to the Dawgs at all. So what is the point of them being "Home of the Huskies". In my book being home means there are people there who want the best for you and are behind you no matter what, not bash you for not performing up to their expectations. Almost everyone I've spoken to about this has already quit listening. I think the Huskies could do better with another station.

A: Paul Allen's company won the bidding war in getting the broadcasting and marketing rights to the Husky games. He paid the UW a very large sum of money for this, so the school profits handsomely. Allen's company solicited bids from companies that wished to broadcast the games, and the company that won the bidding was ClearChannel. KJR is owned by Clearchannel, which is why they are the new home of the Huskies. I like the job they do, as they are the only radio station that has true "Husky Honks", in Hugh Millen, our own Dick Baird, and Dave "Softy" Mahler. Those guys bleed Purple and Gold. Also, they have so many more Husky related shows than KOMO ever did, I think they market the product much better than their predecessors. Also, Bob Rondeau and Chuck Nelson are still calling the action on game days, so I don't see a great deal of change on game days, except that the coverage may be a bit more in-depth now, and certainly longer in duration. There is no doubt, KJR has more of a "sports passion" mentality, whereas KOMO was much more laid back about things.
From Don
Dear Dawgman,

How is Gilby at recruiting, and who is his top target this year?

A: Gilbertson is a solid recruiter, if not flashy. He will get things done in state, particularly if the Dawgs are winning. This year his top recruit is a no-brainer. Don't even have to think about this one. He's another Tui, Matt Tuiasosopo. We've seen him at both the Elite 11 QB camp and at the Nike camp, and to put it simply, he is the type of guy that wins championships, and those type of recruits don't come along every year. He has his brother Marques' moxie, but he has more "natural" ability. Don't take my word for it, take Bob Johnson's, a QB guru and developer of talent in the HS ranks. Nike uses Bob as their QB consultant and coach at all of their summer camps. Bob said that if he were going to take one guy that he thought could win him a ball game tomorrow, he'd take Matt. And he's seen just about every quarterback on the west coast at the camps, as well as being a coach in Mission Viejo, CA. Johnson told us that Matt's ability to learn quickly, his natural mechanics, and his athleticism were unreal, and was shocked at how natural he was at QB despite coming to his camp just after baseball season. He expected him to be rusty, and to just be a great athlete playing quarterback. What he saw as a quarterback that has amazing upside. Another person I place a lot of stock in when they give their opinion is Greg Barton, who played in the NFL for over a decade, runs the air attack camps, and is also Taylor Barton's father. Greg told us that Matt is one of the best he's seen at this point in his career, and that he does everything so naturally that it's unbelievable. He said Matt was the best he'd seen so far.

If you wanted my opinion, after hearing the opinions of two very qualified scouts who have seen just about every QB that the Dawgs are looking at this year, I would say Matt is the top target because of one other obvious reason: He is the top recruit in the home state. That makes him a must have. He may be a baseball guy, but that won't stop the UW from pulling all stops to get him. Gilbertson has him at the top of his speed dial, no doubts.
From Michael
Dear Dawgman

Are James and Sampson really that bad that Alexis gets an entire game of reps over them? I want to support Alexis but he has not been able to run the ball for three years. Linemen have come and gone, as have receivers and tight-ends, but the running game is still non-existent. Everything has changed but him and the results remain the same. I'm tired of hearing about how it's the o-line's fault or how we need to better the schemes. At least give the other backs a chance to get in rhythm. What's the worst they can do?

A: I agree that James and Sampson deserve more reps. Rich has had trouble staying healthy, but when he is, he is the hardest runner. The fastest guy is Shelton, by a long shot. Kenny James looks like he'll be a valuable guy as a receiver and between the tackles. He's a powerfully built kid that will be a solid blocker as he gets more mature. To be somewhat fair to Rich, I'm not sure he's running behind the best offensive line Washington's ever had. This line still has some work to do to develop a running game, but they're making progress. Last year they were pass blocking so much, it really deteriorated their road grating ability. I thought they'd be further along after fall camp broke, but a commitment to running the ball takes longer than I thought, I was being too naive.
From Frank B
Dear Dawgman,

I've watched the OSU game a couple of times, and I actually think given the circumstances, they were on the field all night long, the defense performed pretty well. We looked good against the rush, and the pass D, I don't think was as bad as some on the boards would like to believe. A senior qb just made excellent choices and again beat us at several critical moments with his feet. The offense is another story. The guys up front got manhandled. Are they capable of better? Will they get better? How do you coach them to get better? Last year we really didn't see any improvement in the run blocking all year long, and that was and could be our downfall again. Hopefully, we'll use the next few weeks to get it back together.

A: Yes, no doubt about it. Ohio State's front four handed our guys their lunch up front. I spoke with Dan Cozzetto at length, in preparation for an interview for Sports Washington magazine next month, and he told me that it took him 2-3 years at both Cal and ASU to turn them into solid running programs. It takes commitment, and the UW is obviously showing that. Now how long will it take to yield results? That I don't know. I thought it would yield them after spring and fall camps, but like I mentioned above, I was naive about it. I do think Cozzetto is the right guy to do it, as he is going about and "unlearning" some of the techniques that found their way into the OL over the past two years. Passing as much as the dawgs did, it was inevitable to have some bad habits form.
From KRC in Bellingham
Dear Dawgman

Last January you published a letter from me in which I said I was quite disappointed the year that just finished. I made some comments on the U of W's inability of recruiting top notch running backs, the inferior play of the offensive line, and that I made a point of saying I was not going to Columbus to watch the team. You reported back to me that you felt the O-line would be much improved and that I should change my mind and buy tickets to watch UW and OSU play. A big win was coming up for Washington! I didn't change my mind and I'm glad I didn't. In fact, I bought no tickets for any away games this year! You predicted an 12-0 record for the Dawgs this year. Changing that to 11-1? Again the offensive line looks on the fat side and much slower then the Ohio State defensive line. Pickett ran around for his life all night, was pounded to the ground repeatedly. And what running game? How can it be Rich Alexis' fault if the defense is in the offensive back field? I do realize that we were matched up with one of the best teams in the country in OSU. But by your prediction of an 12-0 season you felt the UW had to be a top 1-2 or 3 team nationally. Still feel that way? By reading the article from Derek Johnson, he thinks maybe 3 Husky players might start on the Buckeye team. Three players, WOW! Even with the numbers Cody put up last year he would be the back-up quarterback on OSU. Did you see how well a team looks when they give their quarterback time to look over the field for a receiver? How lanes open for running backs to run though? How even if there is pressure up the middle or to one side, their quarterback had good enough blocking to run to where there was no defenders! His mobility killed us! So what does that tell you about the ability of Washington recruiting? If you were a top running back coming out of high school and were watching that game, would you want to come to Washington to be pounded to the ground every play? If you were a great tackle or guard how couldn't you not start at UW as a incoming or red-shirt Freshman? Our punter looked very good! We might need him a lot this year! He just might be the MVP of the team. You still think this year a non-rebuilding year? I still feel we have a long way to go before we should be considered a top 25 team. Sure we might beat the likes of Indiana, Idaho, Nevada, and some Pac-10 schools, but realistically we don't belong in the top 25 until we earn it. But you know, it can only get better from here!

A: I was wrong in my prediction. I do think this team could go 11-1, yes. However season injuries to Joseph Lobendahn and Rob Meadow definitely thin the ranks a bit. There are other injuries as well but I won't go into them. Suffice it to say that a LOT will have to go right for this team to win 11 games, but I haven't lost hope. As long as they pull together and improve each week, they're on track for a good season. It will be great if they gain some confidence in the running game and develop a more active pass rush in the coming weeks. Thanks for your note.
From Chris Patters
Dear Dawgman

As Husky football has already kicked off this season, I would like to make a few assessments and see if you agree or not. I was at the Ohio State game and I learned that the Buckeye fans are far more passionate and rabid about their team than are the Husky fans. I also learned that, Buckeye students for the most part, have no class and were the rudest fans I've ever been around (including Oregon fans). Buckeye stadium has an aura about it that Husky stadium used to have but no longer exists. Some of the older, or should I say, senior Husky fans at the game didn't make one peep. They sat on their hands and generated no kind of emotion or passion. I know there wasn't much to cheer for, but why did you come all the way to Columbus to sit like a bump on the log? As much as I hate to admit it, we are a long way from competing with the Ohio State's, Miami's, Oklahoma's of the college football world.

A: Chris, I agree with you. Husky Stadium has become a quiet place. It used to be very loud. However you cannot compare a Pac-10 stadium to a Big-10 crowd. Football in the Midwest, particularly college football, is a religion. In the Pac-10, folks are far more laid back about their football. Not just in Seattle, but also in LA, Tempe, Tucson, and even last year in Eugene. Sure there are rabid fans, just not as many of them out west. Ohio Stadium was loud, AND VERY RED. That was what struck me was how everyone wore the team colors. It was intimidating. The same thing happens in Nebraska, and that place gets rocking. Husky Stadium can rock again, but the crowd does appear to "need" something to excite them, rather than the spectacle of college football itself. That is the major difference I've found on my many road trips covering the Dawgs.
From D Merken
Dear Dawgman

Help me out, baby, where's the Speed, Speed, Speed on defense! Specifically the backers and from the defensive end position? (Outside of Scott White who looked fast and closed out plays against the Buckeyes) It looks like we have power on the inside. (see Tank and others) But where's our Donald Jones, our Jeremiah Pharms, an explosive athlete with power and speed blowing up one side of the outer offensive line. (see Miami, Tripplett through the center, Pharms from the outside.)

A: Speed at defensive end is one area Gilby will need to address. This team has no Don Jones' or JP's, as you said. I thought Brandon Ala would be that guy this year but injuries have hampered his progress. BUT, he's only a RS-freshman. Scott White, interestingly enough, is probably one of the slower linebackers if you timed them in a straight line. However he has football speed and is a football player, so he knows how to get to the ball and make plays. He and Tahj Bomar really are the future at linebacker, and both have me extremely excited. Gilby will upgrade the speed at OLB as well next year. Watch for Rob Lewis, that is a kid that can run.
From Martin Chamberlain
Dear Dawgman

I thought you'd be interested to know that I was able to follow the final weeks of practice and the scrimmages while in Bulgaria. They have what they call internet cafes which provide computer access for about 50 cents for a half hour. It was wonderful to get the familiar screens and great reports. You know I am a Dawgman fan from way back. Incidentally I celebrated my 89th birthday while on this trip which include Hungary and Romania also. Thanks so much for your great help.

A: Happy 89th birthday Martin! Thanks for dropping us a note. It sort of says what is all about, and why I established it over seven years ago. To give people as much Husky news as they can stand, and to keep connected to the program no matter where you are. Thanks for supporting us.
From Brett
Dear Dawgman

What is going on with Craig Chambers? I don't see him mentioned lately with the top freshmen receivers. Did he get injured? I must have missed something.

A: Craig is redshirting. He's fine physically, just learning the offense and how to become a better receiver. Craig didn't play a lot of football with his injuries over the last year in HS, and played in an offense that didn't throw all that much, so he's had a bit of catching up to do.
From Brett
Dear Dawgman

USC is putting the pieces together to become a Miami for the next decade, and this year could be their weakest unit (which is scary looking at that defense) for awhile. What does Washington need to do to be right in there with them in the future?

A: Answer - recruit some big uglies and some speed at pass rushing end. Gilby is going after beef, as evidenced by the current list of verbal commits. The WR position is in good shape and I think C.J. Wallace will round into a dynamite safety very soon. Washington needs big guys that can take over a game physically, something that they have not been able to do in five years. The guy to keep your eye on is Stanley Daniels. I think he could be very special with his athleticism inside.

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