Ask Coach Baird

Recruiting is coming to an end, a very successful one for the Huskies, I might add. Gilby is getting it done and looks to have bolstered depth on the lines and hopefully toughness as well. The kids he's bringing in have been thoroughly evaluated and all want to be Huskies.

From Keith Vernon: "Positive Dawg"
: In your recent post in reference to the O-line, you stated, "Clay Walker learned the hard way but I still think he is going to be really a good player." Can you state more specifically what you meant by that? I remember when he red-shirted, some pundits were saying he would be a 4-year starter and the most likely from his class to play in the NFL.

On another note, I propose a toast to a return of Husky football. The cupboard is well stocked for a successful run over the next couple of years. 1. We have a coach who understands the game is won/lost in the trenches. 2. We have a staff that is instilling attitude and toughness. 2-years of Kaligis and Emtman will be even more valuable. 3. We have loads of young talent from the last 2 recruiting classes 4. We return lots of injured players (starters) who will compete with the up-and-coming young talent. 5. We will be more balanced on offense and more aggressive on defense. I loved Pickett-to-Williams, but not having them will force everyone to step up. On defense, stronger secondary play will allow more aggressive play-calling which will result in pressure defense. The Apple Cup showed what this team can do…we will be tougher, smarter, and faster in 2004+.

A: I like that name "positive dawg" to begin with. I think we should all be positive dawgs. It's a new year with a new AD and a new coach who will only get better. Obviously, the other Keith has lots of work to do but there is no doubt he is assembling a quality group of kids who will make a run at this league. I am sure that Fresno State is right in the cross hairs and to win that opener seems like the most important focus of Husky Football.

I am a Clay Walker fan from the standpoint of his desire to be a great player. He has a wonderful work ethic and is very tough. He did not have a great first year on the varsity but will only get better. I think he got beat because he occasionally was off balance and uncertain. He will correct those things with experience and I still think is going to be a fine lineman. The truth of the matter though is that he is one of the only linemen to survive or remain in the program out of his recruiting class. He still has the desire and attitude and I'm sure experience will only make him better. As far as all your points as to why there should be more optimism in the program, I completely agree with you. The bottom line is there is a lot of room to improve this team and there are the pieces already in place that could make it happen. All the kids are going to have to stay eligible and remain in good condition and health (no injuries to key players like this last year) and I really believe there could be a major change. The schedule is balanced and I think the Huskies can win 8-9 games next year. I really like your attitude and thank you for writing.
From DC Dawg
Dear Coach Baird,
: I was wondering about M. Eichelberger, the kid from Sehome. His recruitment has seemed pretty quiet – not much news. But he's listed as a DT at 320+ pounds and pretty highly rated. I think the Huskies could use a big body like that in the middle of the D-line. Are the Huskies still interested?

A: The Bellingham kid may be a bit too highly rated simply because he is so big. Big without speed is not always an "automatic get." There are a lot of factors in recruiting and those with all the stars in front of their names are not necessarily the best prospects. I do know that Washington thoroughly evaluated him.
From LoyBrd
Dear Coach,
: Now that we are getting down to the nitty gritty time it seems like we are losing some big names to the Oregon schools plus a couple to Arizona, Is their a need to be worried or are things going as planned? Thanks for all your great answers to some far away questions.

A: Washington is not losing players to Oregon and Arizona. Those kids are merely choosing to attend those schools. In recruiting you can never dwell on the ones you don't get. It's like worrying about the parents God gave you. You can't change it. I'll bet we lost quite a few kids to USC as well. You better hope that the 25 who do come are really good ones and really good kids. Also remember that the Huskies are liable to lose somebody they currently have committed coming down the stretch. It always happens. Besides if a kid wants to get away there is nothing you are going to do about it. You always need to worry about those you get and what you can do with them, not those that you miss.
From Scott – "Feel the Bite"
Dear Coach,
: Now that Barbara Hedges has resigned...What is the possibility in your opinion of the UW hiring Don James "The Dawgfather!"

A: I would be totally surprised if Coach returned to the rat race. He is very content with his current role in life and does not need the stress. Coach James would only help and I suggest should be considered to be part of the search committee. It would be ridiculous not to include him.
From Jake Eggimann
Dear Coach,
: One of my greatest reservations with Gilby was the recruiting process, and I must say that I am pleasantly surprised. I think the class that is coming in will be one that contributes in the future and I like some of the toughness that is being interjected back into the program. My question is about how many more players we can take. Right now, the Dawgs have 23 verbal commitments and several other players are being offered. Realistically, how many more can the Huskies take in this class? Also, there seems to be some changes in the defensive coaching staff. Could you expand a little on the though process that went into those changes? I was reading an update about Nathan Flowers and he alluded to the fact that Dan Cozzetto is leaving. This is quite a shock as I thought that he would be at the school for 3 or 4 years and help install that toughness that was lacking in the O-line. What is the status of Dan?

A: I think that 23-24 is probably the max the Huskies can take this year with their current class. If they can just hang on to the ones they have then this class will be fine. Defensively, the addition of Chris Tormey is absolutely an incredible get. I sat in the box with him for a couple of years and he has a great football mind. He will really help the linebackers because he was one, and teaches real well. I know that team of his at Nevada gave us fits and really pressured the quarterback. There may be more changes later because Gilbs is not going to accept the defensive as it has been played lately. But I really believe that they improved with Tormey. As far as Gilby, he was always a good recruiter and still is. Kids like real, down to earth people and so do their families. Dan Cozzetto left for a considerable raise. They pay a lot more at the NFL. He and Dennis Erickson go way back and Dan is excited to try and coach at that level. Brent Meyers is a really good coach and really cares about the kids he coaches. Plus he brings in knowledge of Utah's offense, which was great this year. There is always a certain amount of attrition both for players and coaches. I figured after the last two years that some changes would take place and this one just happened. The good thing is the kids already know Meyers and won't have to learn everything from scratch.
From Hawaiian Husky Bill Muench
Dear Coach,
: Enjoy your column and your remarks on that Miami cruise back in '01...It was about the only bright spot on that vacation from hell for us all. Although the USC commit list looks like a "who's who in HS football", I noticed that they don't have any DT's or even a QB on the list. They are talking to Rocky Hinds, but even their website doesn't seem to be too optimistic on any of them. I also noticed that the Dawgs seemed to have picked off some of their better choices. Any significance to all this or is it still too early before LOI day to tell?

A: A lot of things happen coming down the stretch, and as usual, USC will have the best class according to the guru's. But they can only take so many and the Huskies have picked up some good looking prospects out of California, and look to have controlled the state of Washington. It's always like this and anything can happen coming down the stretch. The Huskies now just need to hang on to the ones that they've got. Aloha. 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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