The bye week has come and gone, and I'm encouraged with the work I've seen on the practice field. This team is showing improvement in all areas, now it is time to blow out a team. Idaho is going to come in and not back down, but the Huskies need to blow these guys out. And now, on to the letters . . .

From Vino Orsley
: Although I'm not an expert, it just seems they don't try to disguise their coverages. When an offense goes to the twin sets, the outside LB or the safety moves over and as a quarterback, I'm reading zone. They have fast corners with experience, I would be obnoxiously aggressive with the Indiana's, Idaho's, and Nevada's before you face the league to show them I have confidence in the corners. This is what gives those teams confidence against the dawgs. I really feel the slow starts to the ballgames can be attributed to the way the HUSKIES come out and feel their opponent out by not being aggressive on defense. The corner's are 10 yards off, and they play soft coverages behind it. FORCE THE ISSUE! – Husky Heat.

A: I'm with you on all counts. There is one major problem with the starting corners and that is they are very fragile. If they could stay in the game, we could play tough man to man defense every snap of every series and would be much better off as a defense. One or the other is always going down with an injury. Against Indiana they both went down. I was real impressed with the development of Matt Fountaine in spring and fall camp and think that he and Sam Cunningham are good backups. Chris Massey is much improved and I believe is always in good position but has had trouble making plays when the ball is in the air. However he is getting some good coaching in Phil Snow now. I really believe that Roc and Derrick are excellent cover players and Phil is trying to use more disguises in coverage. It is taking time to change their way of thinking and their reads, steps, and vision. It has been a radical change for the older kids on the back end but I think the future is much brighter because of Coach Snow's presence. There are a lot of great receivers in this league so disguise will definitely become a bigger and bigger part of defensive schemes.
From Jim M
: I am an Idaho Vandal and a Washington Husky season ticket holder and member. I love the Huskies a great deal. I was a former football player as a freshman at Idaho and was student body president in 1970-1971. Part of my campaign plank was approving the building of the Kibbie Dome. Your most recent Dawgman column really sums up a deteriorating mess at Idaho. They should have stayed 1-AA and built the program that way - recognizing their limitations in recruiting, fund raising and location. For God's sake WSU has enough trouble staying in the PAC-10, and how Idaho thinks they can be 1-A is beyond me. Tom Cable is a competent assistant---I think Dorrell wanted him as OC at UCLA. He has proven he has no business as a head coach. Ken Bone, the AD, has interviewed for at least 6 jobs and no one seems to want him. They don't even have an academic president right now. Former Chairman of Albertson's Stores, Gary Michael, is acting on an interim basis. They unwisely got caught up in this argument over state dominance with Boise State - a great program. Dan Hawkins is one hell of a coach. I would be surprised to see them beat Oregon State this Saturday night. I watched them in Boise last year beat Fresno State 67-14. Idaho just needs to put its pants on correctly, pull in its horns, become a power in 1-AA again, and appreciate the stepping stone status. They could take the 1-A kids who can't make it in the Pac-10, I was one of those guys, and do quite well. We all went crazy for the team when Keith Gilbertson, Dennis Erickson and John Smith were there. The school has a great athletic heritage, but no one really knows how to steward the thing any more - very disappointing.

It is a good thing Dawgman has you on the team---same with KJR. You and Hugh Millen bring a "we've been there dimension" to football discussions that is so important. The honks is a great show. Keep up the great work.

A: Thank you so much for the nice things you said. I really appreciate a Vandal who can see what I see. They belong back in the Big Sky and the crowds will return. So will the victories. I couldn't agree with you more that Tom Cable is a good ball coach. He will land on his feet but what has happened at Idaho is really sad, because having played against Ray McDonald, Supey Campbell, and the boys in the mid 60's, I can tell you first hand that they were always tough and competitive. Unfortunately they still think they have to compete with Boise State instead of just playing football. Forget the "keep up with the Jones'" and realign with some natural rivalries which will mean something. It will also give the kids a fighting chance to win some games. Selling them to the highest bidder during preseason games is unfair to kids who were passed over by that level in the first place. The Idaho Vandals have a great tradition and need to step back and appreciate it more. I know this, because even though I'm a WSU grad, I spent more time in Moscow than I did in Pullman for obvious reasons.
From Mark K in Oregon
Dear Coach Baird,
: I have read in your posts and others that we need to give Keith Gilbertson a couple of years to show his full potential at head coach. That this season might not be all we had hoped for because this is Gilbertson's first year as head coach. My question is, why not? Before Rick Neuheisel left everyone was saying this was the year for his recruits to shine. Why should that change with Gilbertson? It's not like Gilbertson changed all or even some of the coaching staff when he took over, I don't know that he replaced anyone. Gilbertson was the Offensive Coordinator under Neuheisel so why would the offense change with Gilbertson as the Head Coach? The Defensive Coordinators didn't change, so why would the defense be much different? So I guess what I'm asking is why shouldn't we expect as much from Keith Gilbertson as Head Coach as we were going to expect with Rick Neuheisel? Thanks and keep up the good work.

A: I have heard from a number of readers that they question why it will take Gilbs 5-8 years to get it right. To be more clear, what I meant was we have to give Gilbs that much time to get his own program in place. His own system, infrastructure, and nomenclature, all those things that go with a successful program. I never meant to sound like I didn't expect him to win. Never, Husky fans should never expect to lose. I was referring to the time it would take to change the climate and whole makeup of the current UW program back to a kick-ass, tough, in-your-face approach that is business first. Rick was, and is, a different man than Gilbs. His way of doing things was entirely different from what Washington experienced under Jim Owens, Don James, and Jim Lambright. Hopefully people and fans will have some patience with Gilbs. Rick did things differently, and I'm not saying they were good or bad. I'm just saying that with a new approach and direction, it will take time to fully assess the program fairly under Gilbs. You can't evaluate or even critique what you've done until a full cycle of players go through the program. That is why when you fire coaches, you had better be sure about it, because you are essentially changing the culture of the program. Thanks for the inquiry because it gave me a better chance to explain my earlier comments.
From James Lewis
Coach Baird,
: I have a few questions about defensive schemes as they relate to the defensive line. I think I understand the difference between a one-gap and two-gap scheme. As I understand it, in a two gap scheme (generally a 4-3), the defensive linemen seek to gain penetration and hopefully disrupt plays in the backfield and/or pressure the QB by shooting the gap between the linemen they are facing. This would imply that a one-gap scheme puts a premium on first step quickness for not only edge players but also the inside guys. In a one-gap scheme (a 3-4, typically), all three of the down linemen attempt to clog and control two gaps at once, which obviously frees up the linebackers to make tackles or shoot the gaps on blitzes. Is this a correct interpretation? Also, which style do the Huskies really run? The position names suggest that it is a 3-4 two-gap approach, but when I see them lined up, they generally appear to be lining up in a 4-3 type of configuration. Thanks in advance for your response.

A: Some really good questions and I have to keep it simple because I'm a simple man. First of all the Huskies are not a 3-4 they are a 4-3. So you're right there. The 1 gap or 2 gap control really only applies to the two inside guys who try to control their gap responsibility by attacking (on the snap of the ball) the shoulder of the man in front of them that they are usually shading. By this I mean they are not head up, but play to one side of the offensive lineman in front of them. Now the defensive line can slide over to the tight end side or reduce by a whole man, thereby cover a shade on the center as well as the strong side guard. The gap control has to work in sync with the linebackers, who have to fill the gap that the defensive linemen are not in. Gap does not necessarily mean penetrating the gap in between the offensive linemen, it means they are responsible for a run if it goes thru their gap. The safeties also play a role in supporting the open gaps on "flow towards" and "flow away." The backfield flow or direction dictates support for gap responsibilities, but the guys up front need to always play "run first," then pass, whenever its a running situation or they see a running formation. I think the Huskies are good at this aspect of the game but need to get better when it's a passing situation. Then the guys up from need to tee off and get a good burst on the snap, and then use their pass rush moves to collapse the pocket. This is really done by applying great up-field outside rushes to force the quarterback to step up into the rush of the defensive tackles. Sorry if I confused you, but I got carried away.
From Kevin M
Coach Baird,
: You state that the "hope is that they finally start early, NOT FLAT, and the way you do that is by being aggressive on defense and setting the tempo right from the start." That's a relatively general statement. Does that mean calling more blitzes? Are the other things a coaching staff can do to up the tempo from the start? For instance via offensive play calling, during warm-ups, or even via inspiring words to get the team whipped into a frenzy prior to the kickoff? We haven't started well for the past, well, for a long time; even against our regularly scheduled patsies. I'd be interested to hear from a coach's point of view specifics on what you think can be done or even what you think has been wrong in our approach to game day for the past 4 or 5 years.

A: Great question, Kevin, and if I had the exact answer then I'd probably still be coaching. First of all I don't think you can ever win a game in the first quarter but you can set the tone. These kids want to come out early and play well but I haven't seen the same kind of "tunnel" fire as in the past. I think they were more-low keyed by design. As in don't burn up all your energy in warm ups. There were times in the past where you literally got goose bumps from all the screaming and energy in the tunnel. I have seen teams too high for a game and take a quarter to settle down. That is why it is good to really come hard early on defense and set a tone of smash mouth. Especially when at home in Husky Stadium. It is also why teams often script their first 10-15 plays and so the kids know what they are going to do early, so they can go ahead and just let it all out. Football is a game of emotions and the team that can direct theirs the best usually wins.
From Steve
Dear Coach,
: I know we have Cody, ET and Reggie, and we're not going to beat teams with our running game, (just hope we don't lose games cause of a lack of running) but is the team neglecting game situation work with our passing game in our quest to find some sort of a running game? Not worried about Reggie and ET and not wanting it both ways (i.e., better running, pass rush, etc.), but it's obvious that our TE's and the young guys step up. Idaho could be a good chance for the young guys to gain confidence.

A: I tend to disagree with your statement that we know we can't win with our running game. I'm not sure that applies anymore, or if it does, it's at least being addressed. I guess we will have to wait and see on that. I like the balance we are getting between the two aspects of the offense and really believe that when the season is done Washington could be one of the better running teams in the conference. I know, I know, you're wondering what I've been doing in the woods, but just wait, I think you will find out what I'm talking about. Building a football team is a season long project. I see the progress being made on both sides of the ball in practice, and in the kicking game. Maybe they won't be any good, but maybe they will be champions, the games will tell us. For now I agree with you that we are a great passing team, and if that's what it takes to win, then make it so. But let's revisit this after a few more games.
From Everett Husky
Dear Coach,
: Coach, I think Gilby is doing a great job. People need to remember the mess Gilby, the staff, and the team walked into prior to summer practices beginning. In the third quarter of the Indiana game I think we saw glimpses of greatness out of this team. Hopefully they can pull it all together. For those really supportive fans that keep slamming the team's performance in Columbus, I went back to the Ohio State and unless people were there they might not understand one of the big reasons the DAWGS had problems. The crowd there was intense, fanatic, and one of the most intimidating crowds I've ever been in. I have to admit, it's not the team that is frustrating me, last I looked we are 1-1; it's the hometown fans. The fans have become too critical, the noise level at Mountlake is tremendously down, fans are sitting on their hands, people that stand to cheer the team are being told to sit down, and I'm personally tired of the only enthusiasm coming when Captain Husky gives us the H-U-S-K-I-E-S in the third quarter when we score! The kids on the team are busting their behinds, we as fans need to stop being so critical, need to remember the 1991 season only happened once, and we need to restore the intimidation of Husky Stadium's 12th man. Husky Stadium at one time from about 1983 - 1995 was one of the most intimidating places to play, we need to bring it back. Bottom line, Husky Stadium needs to awaken to provide our team more support, which leads to adrenaline on the field.

A: I couldn't agree with you more. There are a lot of things that need to be brought back, starting with the fans. Some people blame it on the schedule but I personally agree with your assessment. I know this will piss off a lot of Husky faithful but I honestly think the hardest venue to play in has moved from Montlake to Eugene. The Duck fans have created an unbelievable atmosphere for their team. It used to be like that in Husky stadium, but I don't care what ticket sales they are announcing, there were at least 10-15,000 empty seats for the home opener. Besides that the fans are always expecting a perfect game. I'm with you, these are only kids trying their hardest to win games. The coaches are teaching the game well because I have personally watched it. What has happened? Can we get it back? I think yes, and the only answer is to win. Should the Huskies wrap up this weekend and head into league play with some confidence then they will be right in the hunt. I can vividly remember days on the sidelines when I would tell the defensive backs to get the fans into the game and all they had to do was raise their arms and start waiving and the fans would rally for the defense. I miss those days and so do the kids. I think when the defense starts swarming and attacking is when Husky stadium really rocks. Hopefully the fans can return and the 12th man becomes a reality in Husky Stadium again. 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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