Ask Coach Baird

Well Dawg fans, the season ended with a win over WSU, and that really set a good tone going into recruiting. Anyone that thought Gilby might not be a good recruiter may need to reevaluate that statement. He's asking the tough questions and getting the tough players, and he's loading up on beef.

From Ken Johnson
: Which freshman have stood out on scout team play and project to be solid contributors next year?

A: About the only freshmen to play were the wide receivers and special teams players. Defensively CJ Wallace, Taj Bomar, and Dre Simpson all contributed along with Sean Douglas and Michael Braunstein. Douglas appears to be the most significant contributor and has as strong of leg as anyone to come into the program in a long time. There were lots of red-shirt freshmen who helped and many of them will be pressing for more playing time come next fall.
From Jack Sonnichsen
Dear Coach Baird,
: I really want to apologize for what I wrote about Coach Gilbertson after the Cal game and what you published in your column on "Ask Coach Baird" on November 22. After the news broke last week on the U-Dub's response and Rick's "preemptive strike" to the PAC-10 findings it became a little clearer to me what may have been going on in the Husky locker room, etc. I have no idea how much the players knew before the news broke but my guess is that if they had some inkling or insight, and if so, that certainly explains a lot about their performance the last couple of weeks and why Coach Gilbertson said what he did, ".. this will change when the players want it to change." If that is true, then my heart goes out to both the players and coaches. Most of all, I wish I would have seen this possibility before I went off against Coach Gilbertson. I certainly wish him the best in trying to put the program back together. The way I look at it, we have been here before both at the beginning of the Owens and James era. If Gilby has the stuff, I know we can put it together again. Your right, we need to focus on bringing in the right recruits, work in the off season, and believe. I do believe he will be given a chance and I wish him nothing but the best. Give the coach my best and I mean that very sincerely!

A: We have all been venting this season because the team wasn't real good and nobody wants to admit that in Husky football. It's not what we expect and therefore our disappointments are tough to swallow. I know that nobody out there is trying to lose. Every member of the team is trying hard to turn this thing around and hopefully patience will prevail and Gilbs will be given the opportunity to rebuild the team as he thinks it should be done. These are still kids playing a game that they love. The last game gave us all a chance to fill our cups back up a little and realize it will get better.
From Jeanne Raines
Dear Coach,
: You wrote that we had a "Weasel as our new mascot and went to Nike's lavender." No question, just that it looks more like a ferret to me. How awful. Bring back LSU's type of purple!!! Thanks, Coach, for listening.

A: I don't think Nike should be dictating our colors or even be involved with our mascot much less designing it. I also think Nike's dictating the colors from purple and gold to lavender and silver-gold was an interference with Husky traditions. I also associate Nike with the Ducks and don't want the same kind or style of uniforms that they or the Cougars wear. We are not sleeker and stronger under the ferret. We're dawgs. Proud ones.
From Aloha Mike
Dear Coach,
: Personally, I want to blast those who gave up on the Dawgs. Most have no clue on what happens on a team or on the field unless you played the game. Today, on one of the game broadcasts, a mention was made of how difficult it is to make all of the parts of a football team work. This year is probably the worst for injuries for the Dawgs. Some how the remaining players show up and play, sometimes poorly, the scheduled game. Did some of them quit playing at times? That appeared to be the case. So are they not allowed a mistake in their judgment? Have any who pointed the finger, been free of a mistake in judgment? Wouldn't you like to meet that person? Great to keep the win streak against the "COUGS" alive. Do these players have HEART? DAMN RIGHT. THEY DID NOT QUIT WHEN THEY WERE DOWN 10 POINTS. They fought all game long. Picket had a lousy game until the fourth quarter. Wasn't he 8of9 throwing? Some said that the pass to C. Williams was the best pass he threw all year. What a way to end a career!!!!!! Keep on being yourself, coach.

A: We should continue to support all the Huskies in fixing the problems, and not fixing the blame. It was a great finish for the program. It was a long season but it was a relief to get it over. The changes in this off-season will tell us a lot. I expect there to be even more emphasis on the run as well as a tougher attitude on the entire team.
From Kahaluu Dawg
Dear Coach,
: Just wanted to thank you for being so positive about our program throughout the course of this trying season. As tough as it was to watch or listen to at times, I am ecstatic that we came back to win the Apple Cup and to knock off a Top Ten ranked Coug team for the third year in a row. Kind of helps to bring in a little revenge factor for the '82 and '83 seasons in which they did the same to us. I mention those years because that '82 game came during the fall of my senior year in high school long before I had any clue I'd soon be attending UW and the '83 season was my first as an official student/fan. I have watched that last drive probable twelve times already (my wife is getting annoyed) and just can't get enough of the television shots of the crowd going absolutely bananas after Corey William's catch and then again a minute later after Coop's INT-TD. That is special stuff. I remember what that was like being there at those special moments in Husky history and how incredible the experience was to be screaming and jumping and high-fiving everyone around you in the stands. My similar moment was UW/USC Chandler/Mo Hill 99 yard drive in '86. Despite the tough season, that was the best way to end the season. Especially for the seniors I couldn't be happier. Things will only get better from here and into next season. Don't you agree?

A:. I totally agree with you and believe that the crowd had a lot to do with the Huskies winning drive. It was an electric moment and certainly the highlight of the whole year. It was a drive for all the kids, the coaches, and their loyal fans. It did much for a program that really needed something like that to happen. I'm anxious for spring ball to see the competition and changes. I really want it to happen for Gilbs and his crew.
From Steve Hobbs
Dear Coach,
: I was wondering if you could compare Kenny James and Louis Rankin. I think that Kenny has proven that he is a D1 tailback and am real excited to see him run next year. What does Rankin bring to the table to add to the group that will also have Shelton Sampson and Chris Singleton.

A: The running back situation is another that next spring will really influence. All four proved they are good backs and it will be really interesting to see who emerges and gets the carries. You always need 3-4 backs every year because of injuries. I think James is an excellent inside runner because of his vision and shoulder lean. It is obvious Sampson had a gift of speed which makes him a great candidate for the pitch on the option. He is a great outside runner and my opinion is that Rankin has both. Singleton is a lot like Braxton Clement in that he can do everything pretty well. He could become a bigger back but I would like to see them add the kid from Jackson HS to the mix as a Jerome Bettis type. You can never have enough good backs in the program. Look at USC. Reggie Bush barely got any carries there because of the depth. I know this, if Washington is to become the champions again, they will have to run the football better.
From Larry Pitts
Dear Coach,
: One of the goals of next year has to be to improve our performance on the road. I've heard some coaches say they like to play on the road because there are fewer distractions and the team can focus better. What is it that makes road games so difficult?

A: Believe me if I had the answer to the Huskies road problems I would give them to Gilbs immediately. It is certainly a major problem for both them and the Seahawks. I am sure Gilbs and his staff will analyze and critique their road itinerary to find out how they can improve it. Some games the Huskies started beautifully like against UCLA and Arizona only to lose when momentum swung later in the game. Against Ohio State they got hit in the mouth early but steadied themselves to play strong the second half. Against Cal, after the first play they never really were in it. I really think they could have won both the UCLA and Arizona games but lack of confidence hurt. All I know is that they will certainly ask other programs how the handle the road and compare notes. To win another championship they will definitely need to solve this part of the puzzle.
From Grady Simkins
Dear Coach,
: I believe it is critical to get a coaching staff in place which has a common vision of how to develop the Husky Program. With that in mind, I will to name some coaches that I would like to see coaching for the Dawgs. First, are you interested in returning? Last time you coached LBs, how do you envision yourself contributing this time? Recruiting coordinator, Inside/Outside LBs? I would like to see Greg Lewis as the running backs coach. Do you think he would leave his current PR position to coach? I would love to see Hugh Millen leave the booth and coach the QBs and assist in play calling. What do you think are the chances of that? Also what about Lambo, would he return? What has to happen to get each of you into place? Thanks Coach.

A: You make a lot of points here and obviously all the men you mention could offer something to the program. However, it is not appropriate for any to even insinuate they would be interested. Loyalty to Gilbs and his right to run his own program would prevent any of them to comment publicly on coaching there. It is incorrect and totally inappropriate for me to even entertain suggestions for coaching changes. I can speak for myself and do not believe I would ever want to coach again. I have set my life in another direction and feel very comfortable being a retired coach. Gilbs knows this and besides as long as the current administration is in charge, I don't see either Lambo or myself being invited anyway. Hugh has young children and Greg is moving forward in administration and I believe has a great future there.
From Graydon Simkins
Dear Coach,
: I imagine you watch a lot of high school and college football. Let me ask you a hypothetical question; now that we have Dashon Goldson and Keantea Bankhead, who will start at the safety spots and who will see time? We'd have Jimmy Newell, Evan Benjamin, James Sims, and CJ Wallace returning, and "Key", Dashon, and Darren Harris coming in. Keantea is a heck of a WR, but the way he hits makes me think his future is a free safety. Will he beat out Jimmy and James? I have seen Bankhead play five times this year; I see his raw athleticism as a compliment to Jimmy's experience. I haven't seen Dashon play, but his photo and stats from his CC make me believe that if he shows up in shape that he will split with Evan. How do Darren Harris and CJ Wallace fit into the picture?

A: The safety position is obviously one of the Huskies major concerns. When they won, their safeties played real well. When they lost the safeties played poorly. Experience is a plus for Jimmy Newell and Evan Benjamin both I really believe the best tacklers will get on the field regardless of experience and speed and athletic ability. All have the last so the ones who tackle the best and know the coverages will get the playing time. Bankhead looks like he could play in the NFL on defense if he continues to progress. CJ Wallace is a great athlete and I think a real find in last year's class. He is capable of competing and probably just didn't have the mental part down enough this last season to get off special teams and play on scrimmage downs. Sims shows promise but probably as an outside backer if he could put on 15 lbs. The JC kid (Goldson) would come in thinking he can compete to start, as well he should. I think this position has their highest priority for upgrading, as shown by the caliber of recruits Gilby has secured verbal commitments from.
From Jeff Koontz
Dear Coach,
: When was the last time the Huskies qualified for a bowl but were not selected?

A: The Huskies have been bowl eligible every year since 1978. The only year I can remember was 1988 when we went 6-5 and did not receive a bid. I think we finished the season losing to WSU 32-31 but they rubbed our faces in it by wishing us well from Hawaii where they were in a bowl and we were at home. The other 2 years were 1994 and 1995 when we were penalized by the NCAA,PAC-10, and our own school, and in spite of 7-4 records had to stay home. 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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