Ask Coach Baird

Now the Huskies are entering the time where their off-season conditioning, or "mat drills" are commencing. After talking with several players, I can tell you that the mat drills this year are different than they've been in the past five. "It's a whole new world," said one player that I won't name, in terms of how difficult the conditioning is under Gilby. And now, on to the letters . . .

From Joe Quirie
: Hey Coach great job on the QA's, I always look forward to them...My question is a two parter.
1) Who do you see as the "diamonds in rough" out of this years recruiting class ie: who wasn't on the other schools radars, but the huskies see great potential in? (Offense/Defense).
2) There's talk on the boards about maybe Nate coming back next year, and something to do with him being on a basketball scholarship now, and that might create a problem...can you clear that up - if he wants to play football again next year, can he?

A: Sleepers are hard to define but I really think either Casey Bulyca or Walt Winter will emerge as a big time player. They both committed early and really want to be Huskies. Both have great range (height) and can grow considerably. The kid that intrigues me most is the young man from Dorsey high, Jasper Henry. A two time shot put champion, he has also run the 100 meters in 11.3. That means he is really explosive and should be great along the defensive front somewhere as soon as he grows up and fills out. Your second question will be answered this spring when we find out if Nate turns out for spring football. If he does, don't be surprised to see him on offense and just play a nickel man to man on defense. I know he is welcome and the only hang up is that he will be playing in the Pac-10 tournament and hopefully the NIT. I think he is simply THE most exciting thing to happen to either sport at Washington in almost a decade. I also think it really increases his marketability as a pro to have played both sports. I'd love to see him turn out for track and become the first 3-sport lettermen in years at the UW.
From Gene Hilt
Dear Coach Baird,
: Gene from Orting here. Like your column and all the insight you give. Keep it up. I would like to ask you to give your thinking into Pat McKillop. What are his strengths and weaknesses and what is his potential at this level? Thanks for your answers.

A: I have only seen Patrick play once but I think he is a really good linebacker. I'm not really sure about his speed but he is a tough guy and will eventually get on the field at Washington. He reminds me a lot of John Fiala and John played in the NFL. Patrick will end up making a good contribution to the Husky team. He will make it happen. I would hope that he proves me right.
From Lake City Dawg
Dear Coach,
: We have been seeing some names on Dawgman of players from around the area that have wanted to be Huskies and may get the chance to earn their scholarships later on. These names like McKillop, Lukevich, Butler, Hannula, Gottlieb and others make this 2004 class look even better. Hats off to Coach Gilbertson and his staff. I know that some great talents are waiting in the wings to begin their Husky careers as "walk ons". Can you explain how you become a walk on, the difference between a recruited walk on and a not recruited walk on, the limitations on who can and cannot walk on, and when those players who walk on can begin working out with the DAWGS! and using the Husky weight room and training facilities to get stronger and faster.

A: I'm with you. We really need to help the walk-ons and encourage them to enroll. I even used an official visit on some to get them to play at home. That is perfectly OK until you play them, and then they have to count against your total. I think that 2 or 3 kids you mentioned will run out of that tunnel someday and proudly represent their chosen school. The problem is that nobody helps them with admissions anymore. They are not helped to get into school and therefore are denied their opportunity to even study, much less play football. I think the walk-ons are the most important team members because they continue to play the game the same way they did in high school. They play for free simply because they love the sport and the team. They are the purist of the amateurs in college sport. I could put together an unbelievable all-walk on team. Many of whom went on to the NFL. Now tell me they didn't deserve to play. I'm with you. Recruit those bright kids with great grades to be walk-ons. They're really needed to win championships.
From Sara Tempelis – "Papa Dawg"
Dear Coach,
: I feel very good about the long-term outlook for the Husky football program with Gilby at the Helm. My concern is for the short-term, specifically the next couple of seasons. Due you feel we can stay competitive over the next couple of season, and finish in the top half of the Pac 10 with the lack of depth at the OL position? I read a quote from Gilby after he signed his first class earlier this month that he plans on having some of the freshman offensive lineman play next season. What are your thoughts? Thanks.

A: I agree with you on the long term future of Husky Football under Gilbs. I think that he signed a class that reflects that games are won up front. As far as playing true freshmen in the offensive line I find that difficult to imagine because they are usually not strong enough and there is so much to learn in terms of technique. I really think that the JC defensive kids have the best chance to help early and that Gilbs will probably redshirt 20 of the 24 kids they signed. Remember they red shirted that many in the last two classes so there are about 40 young kids ready to make their moves this spring. Maybe Bankhead or another safety but I doubt an offensive linemen will be playing next fall. You don't win championships with 18 year olds.
From Jack Sonnichsen
Dear Coach,
: Do you know if there any plans for changing the design of the uniforms? I would prefer either the three stripe design that Coach James brought with him from Ohio or the style and color schemes the dawgs wore in the early 90's. I think we should also ditch the weasel.

A: I'm with you on any changes but I don't think Gilbs really cares. He is more interested in who will be wearing the uniforms. Every new coach has the right to change and as long as he doesn't bring back the purple helmets then I'm fine. I love the classic look myself and really despise the Ferret that is our logo. That is an absolute joke to do to a proud dog like a Husky. Being modern and streamline does nothing for the image. I also believe the colors of the UW are Purple and Gold not lavender and silver-gold. Or whatever the gold trim they say is gold. I really think Nike dictates too much about style and that we should get Michael Regan to design us a real Husky and that we should tell Nike what we want instead of the other way around. Besides they are an Oregon product.
From Steve Silva
Dear Coach,
: Greetings from Boise (actually Meridian but nobody seems to know where this town is). I just wanted to drop you an email to let you know I have just re-joined the site and am busily catching up on all your always heartfelt columns - you're the best. As I mentioned to you during the Michigan pre-game function at the Marriot, I am no longer in Sun Valley - still travel up there on business & pleasure - but avidly follow all Dawg sports from my Meridian Dawghouse and can hardly wait to plant me arse on my nicely cushioned seat in Dawgball Stadium on Sept. 5th to watch The Guys mercilessly pound the FSU Thugs into oblivion. Great to see Coach Gilby and his wonderfully exciting staff get our guys ready to return to those marvelous days of Smashmouth Dawgball and away from Foo-FooBall. Once I have had time to seriously evaluate our 2004 recruiting class & upcoming roster after Feb. 4th I'll be emailing you some questions for your insightful answers. It's a great time to be a Husky with the return of hardnosed, traditional Husky football.

A: I totally agree with you and I have been to Meridian Idaho on both recruiting and skiing trips. I think we will all sacrifice statistics for good old smash mouth football. It won't be pretty but it will be effective. One thing is that if you're going to play that way then you better have a good kicker. We'll find out this spring if we do and then against Fresno State. Let's hope we can get the necessary points to beat a good Bulldog team. It should be a great opener. Then take a week off and blow UCLA out the entire game this time instead of just the first half.
From Daniel Schwartz
Dear Coach,
: Hi Mr. Baird, I just wanted to say "Hi" and mention how much I enjoy reading your articles. I grew up in New Jersey and graduated from the University of Washington in 1986. I must have been one of the few students at UW from New Jersey, but I loved every minute of my college experience. I realize now more than ever that the University of Washington truly is a "national treasure". I sometimes think that the UW does not stress its unique attributes strongly enough to potential football recruits. Consider the following:
1) The University of Washington's campus is consistently ranked as the most beautiful in the country.
2) Washington offers superb academics, and receives more Federal research money than any other public institution in the country (and among the top five for all universities-public and private.)
3) Seattle is a great city - just the right size. It's always considered to be one of America's "most "livable" cities.
4) Not only are the campus and city ideal, but the surrounding area is spectacular - breathtaking mountains, water and other scenic attractions within a short drive.

In short, the University of Washington offers the "complete package." I think one problem is that in-state residents sometimes take the University of Washington for granted - IT'S TIME TO GET THE WORD OUT !!

Believe me when I tell you that there is not a university in New Jersey (or the entire Northeast for that matter) that offers what Washington does. If Michigan and Penn State can take high school athletes from the Northeast, why can't Washington ?? Schools like Virginia and North Carolina also recruit in New Jersey - there's plenty of talent to go around. The Northeast has plenty of great football players, but does not have a school that is a consistent football powerhouse !! New York State has over twenty million people. I think the strengths that make Washington so unique can be used to convince more players to schedule a visit to Seattle - the school will sell itself after that !! In my opinion, the Washington football program should spend some money and put together a "recruiting package" - information that presents the school in a favorable light. This "package" should then be sent to high school coaches throughout the country to get youngsters thinking about Washington early in their high school careers. The response rate will probably be low at first, but what's the harm in trying ??

Sorry for taking so much of your time, but I love the University of Washington and its football program, and I want to see both succeed!! I also want to do anything that will help Coach Gilbertson - he seems honest and very hard-working (I bet he wasn't getting any sleep at all last year)!! Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my e-mail. If any of these ideas make sense to you, please share them with others.

Take care, best of luck to you, and GO HUSKIES !!

A: You should be a Husky recruiter. I just got done responding to a similar letter and I really believe that the key is to sell the positives and expose the negatives of your competitors. That's what happens to the Huskies. Unfortunately, the Huskies have their own local media to thank for exposing their negatives on a regular basis. I also think that the UW is the farthest school there is from New Jersey except for Hawaii. Unless you have a connection (like your kid) then it really can be a waste of man-hours to send a coach all the way to the east coast when you probably fly over a thousand kids that are just as good. However, if you have a connection, then you go for it. Otherwise stay in your own backyard and recruit where it is more cost effective per man hour. Just my opinion but the easiest school to say NO to is usually the one that is farthest away.
From A Hurley - PGH
Dear Coach,
: I know that you were the recruiting coordinator for a long time for the Huskies. I apologize in advance for the long winded set up for the question. It has been posted on message boards that the Huskies have certain areas within Washington that they are more successful at recruiting than other parts of the state. For instance WSU has a perceived advantage in the eastern part of the state. WSU and Oregon have a distinct advantage in Southwest Washington. What constitutes a successful recruiting area in the state? I understand the "half full/ half empty theory" and the " they will leave to go where they want anyway" argument but there have been some pretty high profile recruits go to play somewhere else. More than I can remember and it is really starting to concern me. Could you explain how much a coach will spend in any given area and what might affect that time they spend in any given area?

A: I think that as much as anything it relates to the media attention in those areas. Washington still does very well in the SW but a lot of people there read the Oregonian and in Eastern Washington they read the Spokesman review. Those papers pick the closest university to follow because most of their readers are from those schools. I don't believe that the other schools outwork us but face it proximity is still the number one consideration for parents. How easy is it to get to watch your son play? I really think it is geographical and not related to effort or style. I also think that those who do not know the difference tend to be swayed by negative press. Well, through my years I can honestly say that I knew there just as much crap going on at the other three northwest schools but they are really under the radar compared to Washington in the media. If you want scandal, go to the big city. Washington also is not quite as self promoting as Oregon has been. Maybe it's about time to be so. Start pumping out more information about academic rankings. 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.

| Click here to read more articles from Coach Baird | Top Stories