Ask Coach Baird

These are tough times, Dawg fans. It's going to be a difficult year for the team, and also for the fans. That's what being a fan is all about, hanging on through the tough times, and it's also what makes the good times that much better. And now onto the letters . . .

From Renato Carbonel
: I know that you've been the recruiting coordinator under James and Lambright. However, the past few years since you and the rest of Lambright's staff were fired the recruiting has fallen off. It was apparent in the UCLA loss. Do you agree?

A: I would really not want to comment on that, but thank you for the indirect compliment.

From Scott - "Feel the bite"
: I'm getting a little bit tired of hearing about "Washington Football" how it was under Don James and how we are going to get back to that. Is that realistic? I mean that was than and this is now. The Pac-10 has changed. One can criticize Coach Nueheisel but he came in and "adapted" his talent to its strengths. Implemented the option attack and became Rosebowl Champions. Isn't this the smarter way to go? Adapt to the talent on your team rather than to force your schemes onto your talent? PS Listening to you and Hugh Millen on KJR...Could you please get Hugh to go down there to Husky Football practice and help Cody!?

A: I think Cody will get better and I have faith in his ability to lead this team just as I do with Gilbs. We need to be strong in times like this and have patience. Believe me, everyone in the program feels worse than we do. They are trying too hard to make it better and that might be contributing to this current pitfall.
From Matt in Seattle
Dear Coach Baird,
: Do you think Gilby really has what it takes to lead the huskies back to prominence? He hasn't done anything to prove that he can so far this season. He also doesn't seem to have his team ready to play. They look flat and don't seem to be playing with any pride or emotion out there. What do you think of bringing in Tormey of Pinkel as head coach and hopefully have them retain gilby as offensive coordinator, where he really excels?

A:. Gilbs is the right man for this job and will get better as he progresses. It's always easy to say fire the coach and unfortunately I'm already hearing it after just six games for the new guy. Unbelievable. We have Gilbs, now, and he is a good coach. He is the only guy that understands the inside, which is where you need to really be in order to fix it. He will have to make some changes and that will take time. It's funny how Husky fans already want to even consider replacing him this early in his stay. In fact it's not funny - it's stupid and ridiculous. Washington has hired the right man for this time and we all need to let him have time to put together his own program. Remember with a month to go he was only a "manager". This man knows football as well as anyone I have ever known. And I've known a lot of football coaches.
From Josh Shaver
Dear Coach,
: I know that some of it is poor line play, and a couple dropped passes, but how often will Gilby leave Cody in when he is just stinking the place out? Up here in Alaska I have to listen on the radio, and I wish I could have tracked how many times I heard the announcer say, "he was holding that ball forever" , "that was a poor throw", "that ball is underthrown", "the ball is thrown behind the receiver", and of course, "intercepted". I thought the offense was our strength, why do they stop running Alexis when it is continuing to work? I won't stop watching, listening, and rooting for the Dawgs, but it is hard not to avert your eyes when Pickett is just flat out being outplayed by every quarterback we have faced other than Lovecchio. I don't believe that teams like Nevada, Indiana, and Stanford have that much better players than us, but it sure looks like it.

A: I really feel for you, having to visualize what is really happening. At times, though you may be happy, you're not watching what the rest of us were. Cody is not having a great year but again, it's not all him. There were too many sacks, drops, and blocks to win this last game not to mention the turnovers. I don't think any of the other quarterbacks could be doing any better, and Cody is harder on himself than anyone. I really hope for him that he puts one together and has a break out game.
From Steve
Dear Coach,
: Looking at last year (less the NW championship) and this year, I really think that our talent level on the front is what's causing our woes. Physically, we look like we can compete, but something is missing. Heart? Commitment? Attrition? Don't know, maybe you can give some insight? As far as my subject title, could there be a "gave-up" factor looming amongst the players and they start jumping off the Husky Wagon? Hope not, but it's a concern. In any case it's obvious that we need to re-build from inside first then out. Thanks. Steve. PS, hindsight is 20/20 but Pinkel or Tormey would've been a better fit vs. Neu.

A: I really think you are right, and things have to be corrected. That is what coaching is all about. We still have half the season to go but the line situation is critical and the few guys we have must start playing up and do the job. There are only 8OL and 7DL available from the recruiting classes of the past 4 years not counting this year's freshman class. The injuries and defections have really hurt up front and when some of the injured get back they should be better. However, it has really hurt continuity.
From Jack Sonnichsen
Dear Coach,
: I read recently in an article on the internet that Jack Thompson had a big influence on a QB prospect from Ballard's decision to attend WASSU. I was under the impression that boosters could not contact prospective recruits - what gives? And what gives with all the attention the U-Dub is getting from the PAC-10 and NCAA on these basketball polls. I believe they have been in town 3 or four times. If there was a "culture" within the department for gambling don't you believe that culture disappeared when Rick was fired since there is no evidence it existed before 1999. Geez 3 or 4 trips to reach a conclusion on the obvious seems a little much. Furthermore, if the culture centered on Rick then shouldn't the NCAA be looking at Colorado and where some of his old time assistance have gone since leaving the U-Dub, namely Montana, UCLA, etc. I apologize for the rambling - my only question had to do with Mr. Thompson.

A:. Jack Thompson has always been active in helping recruit for his alma mater but I'm sure does it within the allowed rules because his son also plays for Ballard and I'm sure he knows the kid personally making it sort of a grey area. If the other kid at Ballard also goes to WSU then there is probably a smoking gun. As in a throwin' Samoan (grin). Let Dana Richardson at the UW know of your concerns but I'm sure he is active in the Ballard Beaver Booster Club so he has a legit right to talk to the kids as long as he isn't giving a pitch on behalf of the Cougs. I do get you drift however, because I know for sure that Washington is not the only college in America to have had basketball pools. What I can't stand is their interviewing our coaches during the season when they are trying to win games. I really believe the NCAA violated Coach Neuheisel's rights and prejudiced his case and they are merely trying to cover their tracks. I have no doubt they made a mountain out of a molehill.
From Jim
Dear Coach,
: I really appreciate the opportunity to ask someone in the "know" about a question that I have been wanting to ask for a long time. I have been a husky season ticket holder for over 30 years. I have seen the great teams and the not so great teams. The great teams or at least the exciting teams had people on defense that frequently made plays to turn a game around in the second half; whether it was an interception, a sack or special teams play. In the last 7 years or so that has been virtually non- existent. I am at a loss to understand why. Is it coaching? Is it that we are not developing players that we recruit or is it that we are not recruiting the right type of player? If it is recruiting, then why are the other northwest schools finding these players? I know we won the so called NW championship last year but what happened last week at UCLA looked almost a carbon copy of our defense in the last quarter against Texas in the bowl game, the second half against Purdue and many other games where we look virtually helpless against the pass. Thank you for your response.

A: Jim, You sound like a lot of Dawg fans who simply like to see attacking and aggressive defensive play. You're right about this year and there not being any big play artists such as a Larry Tripplett, Lester Towns, Tony Parrish, Jason Chorak or Jabari Issa. I also remember Joe Jarzynka as one of the greatest special teams player ever at Washington. So, there have been so really good play makers but it seems like over the last few years they have lacked the big play artist either on the back end or up front. Sure, it is recruiting and that is usually where it all falls back to. I also think the pass defense of secondary play will steadily improve as the kids finally adopt Phil Snow's techniques and reads. I think we have to have patience and you will gradually see the play become more aggressive in both calls and style. Stay loyal.
From Jay Roberts
Dear Coach,
: What ever happened to recruiting of true safeties and corners? Jimmy Newel might be a heady player but I think most of our D linemen would beat him in a foot race. Isn't the safety supposed to be the last line of defense, in essence getting the corners and linebackers back? Let's put some speed back their even if we loose some of the leadership Jimmy brings. Also Roc is probably our worst tackler on the defense. He routinely waits for the receiver to catch the ball then try's to tackle the player. Why isn't a corner blessed with all that speed either coached or allowed to make a break on the ball to pick it off of, or is it a concern that if he does not make the stop, the safety will not pick up his man. Thanks coach, appreciate your positive attitude in this time of grief.

A: I think Coach Snow shares much of your frustration, and in reality, Jimmy is a corner playing safety and Roc has never been healthy enough to develop, despite this being his senior year. What has really happened to those kids is that they had to play as true freshmen and were not physically ready. Consequently they broke down and because of their surgeries were unable to lift and develop and have continued to be hurt their whole careers. It's sort of a vicious cycle and they have never really healed. Depth just killed them in the back end.
From John Young in Seattle
Dear Coach,
: Am I right or wrong? Last season the Huskies had an inexperienced offensive line and not too long into the season realized this and switched to the pass. It didn't take long to discover that we had a great passing combination in Pickett and Williams, to name a couple. The passing game, as I see it, was what saved us from a losing season. One other thing I want to mention about last year was our passing defense. The DB's played way back allowing the other teams to pass on us like we did to them. As a result, most of the other teams had great success in passes completed and great yardage. At the beginning of this year's season, via Dawgman, I read that with the new coaches on defense, the style of play will be different. In that, the DB's, with their great speed and experience will now play closer to the line of scrimmage and bump the receivers as they start off. Get in their face type of football. In addition, our offensive line is more experienced and will have some depth. The running game will be established and that should free up the receivers when needed. Great plan considering what happened last year. Now, after our first five games, I've noticed our Defensive Backs are playing away from the line as they did last year. Not up close and "in their face". As a result, the other non-unimportant teams are just killing us with the pass. Also, since we concentrated so much on establishing the run, the linemen or coaches forgot how to pass block and protect Pickett. To say that Cody is screwing up is a shame. You can't pass if you are running for your life all the time. My take is we need to back off criticizing the players and put more emphasis on the coaching staff. It's the coaches that need to readjust their approach to the game of football. Right or wrong?

A: The answer is right and wrong. You're certainly right on a number of points but to begin with it is not the same line as last year and due to injuries. It has not been the same line in any game this year. Problem is the kids who are expected to be the best are not playing well and you are right in that it is not all Cody because he is really under pressure, but he is also responsible for a number of the turnovers himself. I don't think it's necessary to blame the coaches or the kids. They are all trying to win games and just have no rhythm yet. Defensively the DB's have been and continue to be very fragile so they are unable to put their best cover kids out there. Losing their middle linebacker to injury also has really had a negative impact on the overall defense. This is a transition John, and it just isn't clicking right now. They will have some wins this year and hopefully enough to make a bowl game. Keep the faith as they are all struggling and they need support, and not criticism.
From Matt Norling
Dear Coach,
: Thanks for your candid and informative comments. I agree with you totally about the irony of watching Chris Tormey's team pound us. I, like many Dawg fans, wrote Barbara Hedges a letter back when Lambo was fired encouraging her to hire either Tormey or Gary Pinkel. I, like many Husky fans, was first shocked, then jubilant, about the hiring of Rick Neuheisel. He brought many things to our program that had been lacking, such as an enthusiasm and charisma, as well as some new ideas about offense. I don't believe he is to blame for all this, but one thing is clear: We need to get back to where we WERE under Don James. I believe that Gilby is the man, and you seem to agree. I hope so. I am also a fan who doesn't jump ship when the seas get rough. I will not boo our team, and I especially will not boo Cody Pickett. He is a great quarterback who has NO BLOCKING. Not even Brett Favre could be perfect with only a second or two to drop back and throw before getting hit. What the heck is our line's problem? Is it coaching? If Dan Cozzetto is such a great line coach, how come we can't keep our rather mobile quarterback from getting sacked 8 times by Nevada. I need help here. This season is not over. If we win out, we'll still most likely go to the Rose Bowl. Let's rally around our team and help them go to OSU this week and get a win. I'll be there. Regarding spirit in Husky Stadium, all I can say is that this Husky fan will be there. Period. Join me and enjoy the fruits of what is sure to come.

A: Hello to Yakima. Good attitude Matt. Let's just remember that this is another transition and with it will come some growing pains, Gilbs is definitely the right man for the right time. It is a tough assignment and I agree it can't all be laid on Coach Neuheisel. However, there appears to be some real recruiting problems just starting to come to bear. It sort of happened in Colorado as well and certainly Gilbs has not been left with a full cupboard, particularly with the number and quality of linemen. Then with the number of kids who have quit and left the program combined with 9 kids signed under Rick who never showed up, that adds up to 29 Neuheisel signees who are no longer here. The attrition rate has been very poor and Gilbs simply must deal with that now, as that is his hand that was dealt. Hang in there and thanks for not booing the kids. I can't stand fans who boo there own team just because they have their own false expectations. The Huskies are not real good right now but I'm with you. 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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