Thanks to those Husky fans that wrote in. I'm getting the idea that my optimism is not popular at times, particularly when things go bad. That's just me, folks. I have ALWAYS been an optimist, it makes life more fun for me. And with that, on to your letters . . .

From Scott - "Feel the Bite"
: What do you feel are the DAWGS recruiting priorities? Thanks coach and keep up the good work. It's nice to have access to your Husky Expertise.

A: First priority is to maintain balance in your class every year. That is to recruit across the board. Number one is to get a quality quarterback every year and that should be Matt Tuiasosopo this year. Then always make sure you recruit a complete set of linemen because football is won up front. In particular the Huskies should go get 3-4 defensive speed pass rushers. Then it looks to me like they should bring in 3-4 DB's with the most important need at safety. Bankhead from Ballard would be wise to sign with the Huskies because he could possibly start early and still play in front of family and friends. I think they need at least 2-3 good running linebackers because of the graduation of Cooper, Carothers, and Krambrink. Offensively there looks to be a real need for a running athletic tight end that could stretch the field. An Aaron Pierce or Jeremy Stevens type. Also a true fullback about 240 now would really help as would at least one good runningback. This team appears to have a number of holes, but if you always have balance, then five years from now we will see Gilby's first real class mature and be able to assess the results of their recruiting effort.
From Tacoma Dawg 71
: You and some of the Dawgman subscribers maintain that the UW should have handled the events that led to the imposition of sanctions against us in the early 90's differently. What, specifically, should they have done differently?

A: They should never have agreed to sanctions that would impact scholarships and recruiting. Not a single coach was found guilty of any NCAA rules violation yet we were penalized like we were. Also, the administration disbanded the Husky Hunter program because they thought it was an appeasement when, in fact, it was evidence that we DID have institutional control. Any Hunter would have testified to that fact. Then when the Pac-10 had its kangaroo court, they didn't even talk to me, and I had all the evidence to support our control system. I knew for fact that many of the other schools were doing the exact same things they nailed us for and the administration was afraid I would tell. They simply capitulated and rather than forcing the NCAA and Pac-10 to keep their focus on the Billy Hobert loan, they literally hired lawyers to come in and investigate against us for any sort of violation they could find. They found little or nothing but the administration was running scared and sold out Coach James. At most we probably deserved a 1 year bowl ban and a fine. Of course, the conference wouldn't take us off TV because we were the top draw and to do so would have cost them money. I am starting a book finally on the subject and hope to have it completed in a year
From Larry Pitts
Dear Coach Baird,
: I was watching Skyler Fulton score for ASU against USC. Why isn't he a Husky? I know he went to Capital High School in Olympia where his coach was ex-Husky footballer Wayne Sortun. Were we not interested in him, or did he just get away?

A:.Skyler went to ASU because of their baseball program, and wanted to get away. Rick never thought he was that tough, either. I'm not sure they ever offered him but when I watched him play safety in high school he didn't like to hit and I was not impressed with his defensive attitude. In the end, he is a good athlete who simply chose to go away to school, just as Mariner Willie Bloomquist did.
From Todd Charleson
Coach Baird,
: I was at the UCLA game and thought the dawgs played great in the first half. But I was wondering why Roc Alexander would even think about running the ball out of the end zone after halftime. He was like three yards deep and he even hesitated before the return. That was the turning point of the game. The UCLA fans got into it and the dawgs looked terrible after that. Then after UCLA scored, on the ensuing kickoff Alexander did the exact same thing.

A:.I couldn't agree with you more. No one player or one play decides a game but that one play changed the whole momentum of the game. As soon as he hesitated the other return man should have signaled him to stay in the end zone. Considering how well the Bruins were covering kickoffs that game, he would have gained 13 yards by simply taking a knee. It was the spark that turned on the crowd and their whole team. I could see their bench and their kids change with that play. Unfortunately, once that sequence happened and the Huskies responded like they did with a great drive, only to have it end with an interception inside the 10. Game over. After working so hard to build a lead it was gone with a couple of big plays, and then the dam burst and all hell broke loose. They will know better and I'll bet we see someone else back there against Nevada.
From Darryl
Dear Coach,
: Why is everyone trying to protect the poor play of the quarterback. Gilby has been saying for the past four weeks we are trying to make things easier for Cody so that he can get in a rhythm. Is he hurt? Why not try someone else for a while? This year Cody has not gone deep, he has missed his receiver, he has fumbled and turn the ball over and in the game against UCLA Reggie Williams was open in the second half and Cody did not hit him. If he is hurt let him heal, if its poor play try someone else. Is it me or am I missing something. Cody seems to be having an off year, forget the stats they are misleading. What do you think?

A: When things go good the quarterback usually gets too much credit and when they go bad he usually gets too much blame. I would agree with you that Cody has yet to have a great game but as been excellent at times. I think he puts too much pressure on himself and would like to see him just relax and go out and have some fun. Getting blindsided is not any fun and getting sacked 3 plays in a row was certainly not his fault. I think he is really at his best when he runs. He had a fantastic play when he scrambled and found Reggie for a touchdown. However, he will fire and I hope it happens soon. He is the first to admit he really hasn't had a great game yet. It's coming, but they need to give him some help like eliminating drops which plagued him in both losses. No question the drops by Zach and ET really hurt the team on Saturday. They will get better but it's not all the quarterback.
From Don Roy
Dear Coach,
: I'm interested in the recruiting process and you seem like the ideal person to answer a few of my recruiting questions. First, who decides which kids the dawgs will go after? Is it the position coach, the recruiting coordinator, the head coach, offensive/defensive coordinators or a combination of all? Is there much discussion between coaches regarding who should be offered and who shouldn't?

A: It should be a combination of those things, but when you look at so many kids it's difficult to gain a consensus because of time restraints. I really think it worked best when there was a recruiting coordinator who didn't have to coach, and just concentrated on evaluation. The Recruiting Coordinator used to be more of a player personnel position. However, rules don't allow that anymore.
From Dean Robertson
Dear Coach,
: now that you saw the UCLA game "from the box" , what do you think of the Dawgs and the offensive and defensive schemes ? I saw it from just below the box and got so sick of the inability (unwillingness to change from a "soft zone") to stop "3rd and long" and the unimaginative offense (designed by Erickson and adopted by Gilby) that I left half -way thru the 4th. With the worst defeat in Husky history now in the books, I am interested to read your unbiased assessment of the coaches' and players' performance at UCLA. It can't be sugar coated with a layer of "Husky toughness anymore. But that is where you can now really shine and let us fans understand how a team that played so well in the first half can allow its schemes to be so thoroughly exploited in the second half. Thanks Coach.

A:.I prefer to sit in the stands and get the feel, sounds, and smell of college football. I can tell you that when the momentum swung that the stands could feel it and so could the UCLA sideline. They were charged and when the Dawgs responded with a wonderful march down the field only to have the ball bounce off our fullback's head and into the arms of a Bruin defender, the game was essentially over. I know it's always the fault of the coaches but they didn't miss a single tackle or get drug into the end zone and when they played the "soft" zone as you call it, they didn't react late off the hash or give the soft cushion. The coaches and players all share the loss together and there is no need to point fingers and try to figure out who is to blame. They collectively collapsed and they all share the blame together. It always amazes me how when a team wins we want to praise the kids but when they lose we want to blame the coaches. Do you think they were trying to lose? Of course, they weren't. In the second half it just got away from them and there was nothing they could do to get it back. Sometimes you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you. It just so happens that this Bruin has regularly enjoyed his diet of dog meat. Hope things are cool in Arizona.
From Robert Cunningham
Dear Coach,
: Usually I find myself really mad at the end of Husky games but this time I wasn't too upset. Heartbroken because I know we got beat by a less than average team that got a boost from good luck and then they carried the momentum from there. I have a couple of comments about the game. The quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings is lighting it up right now and he attributes it all to being able to throw the ball in the air and knowing that Randy Moss is going to either catch it, bat it down if he can't catch it or worst case scenario, interfere. Why don't we do that with Williams. Every week Williams is taller and outweighs every CB and we get in the red zone and throw quick little passes that the receiver or fullbacks aren't looking for which the Bruins turned into a couple of turnovers. The other thing I noticed is that they had a really hard time stopping them on third and long. On a few different throws to the Bragg kid the cushion was large to begin with and when the play got going the DB backed up and it got bigger. I understand that on third and ten you are willing to give up eight but why would your cushion be any larger than ten? I will end on a positive note. The first half felt like old Husky football. We ran over them, literally, and I thought we were going to steamroll them the rest of the day but luck and momentum were on the Bruin's side Saturday.

A:.I agree they need to take some shots with Reggie going deep and let him go up and get the ball. I disagree about UCLA being an average team. They have excellent talent and merely woke up in the second half. I think they will be right in the hunt for the PAC-10 race and was real impressed with their young quarterback and believe Bragg was so good because the safety missed on both of his two long receptions by not reading it soon enough. Their defensive personnel is really outstanding and almost every one of them would start for the Huskies. You are absolutely right about momentum and Gilbs admitted it after the game. They simply couldn't stem the tide. Stay positive because this team needs support - not criticism.
From LoyBrd
Dear Coach,
: Seeing as how the only news we get in Vegas is either from on line or with Sports Washington, and I'm beginning to think that nobody from either one knows to much about football, after hearing and reading all the hype about this years team and then getting an a-- kicking like we got by U.C.L..A. is very discouraging. I'm beginning to think that the Huskies should stick to playing the Idahos of the country and leave the big boys alone. I would also think that it would be very hard to get any top notch recruits to U.W. because good kids want to play for a winner. Did we just get outcoached or do the Bruins have that much better players than we have? It is going to be real interesting to see what happens to the Huskies starting with the S.C. game.

A:.I really think UCLA had better talent than the Huskies did. They certainly did not outplay the Huskies in the first half but once the momentum swung and they got a little confidence then they really rode the wave. Take a look around the country and there are other programs in exactly the same state the Dawgs are in. Look at Florida, Penn State, and Michigan. All are going through some tough times right now. Every program does and without exception the good ones just find a way to get it back. As little as 5 years ago the Oklahoma Sooners were terrible. They had been so for over a decade. Same with Texas and last year Nebraska was average at best. Maybe it's just our time to be tested for our resolve as a program. There can be no doubt that the Huskies are not the program they used to be. They do however, have a good group of coaches and with some changes in recruiting will no doubt rebound. Believe me all the players and coaches are trying hard to win each game. Hang in there and keep the faith. 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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