Ask Coach Baird

Spring football is nearly in the books. There has been some great work done, but the holes in depth on the lines and injuries have made it a difficult session. Still, this team has a great attitude and will work hard this fall.

From Dawgster
: I have noticed assistant coaches making position changes, including from defense to offense and visa versa. It seems to be me that a coach would be at a disadvantage coaching a position he never played (or coached before) and especially if he is coaching an offensive position while he himself had played defense. Since this seems to happen a lot, how do the coaches get up to speed and be able to teach techniques they never used themselves? Maybe an expanded discussion on this would be a good topic for your column.

A: Good question and Gilbs and I have talked about the lack of continuity in the position coaching positions. There are many positions on the team that have had four different coaches in four consecutive years. This is not good but again it is a side effect of replacing or firing coaches. For example when our staff under Jim Lambright got fired, six of the nine assistants had been at their posts for over five straight years. I think that kids respond well when given a chance to understand and get to know their coach. There is more trust and the players literally sell you to incoming recruits because they believe in you as a person. Now, that being said, I can still remember when Coach James named me the wide receivers coach and I can tell you I never even played it much less coached it. I couldn't even pass the ball or catch it for that matter. I immediately went on a crash course of learning it and went straight to Bob Bratkowski at the Seahawks who really helped me out with the teaching and points of emphasis. I just studied it and because we had Napoleon Kaufman it was easy to pick out the best blockers and that was something I could teach. Still, it was a difficult transition and as soon as Coach Lambright became the head coach he moved me back to the linebackers where I belonged. The mechanic of the game can be learned and the philosophy of the offense can be taught still I'm like you in that I really believe that playing the position yourself really helps you to coach it. I know Gilbs will be happy when he has the same guys for about 4 years then you will really see the program mature. Hope I answered your question.
From Terry
Dear Coach Baird,
: How is Bobby Whithorne progressing?

A: Bobby is progressing real well and will definitely get some playing time. I think he will be really good in about 2 more years when he matures a little more. He is not quite so slight in build and been working hard in the weight room to build himself up. I don't see him as a starter until l he enters a game and really puts on a show. He shows some really good qualities as a receiver but does not have the raw speed that some of the other kids do have. As far as southern California receivers are concerned, keep your eye also on Charles Smith. I think he has a special quality although I'm not exactly sure what it is.
From Bill Neely
Dear Coach,
: What is your take on a two quarterback system? If you lack depth and/or talent/experience in the OL, running the option allows for zone blocking, correct. One QB for the passing game. One QB for the option.

A: I've never been a big fan of situational quarterback usage. I like there to be one starter and the other to be brought in during the second quarter and to be given a series or two so that you always have an experienced backup. However, in the case of next year's Huskies I would not be surprised to see the quarterback ending the season not be the same guy who starts the season. Consequently, you want to give all 3 equal opportunity to runs the number one offense between now and the first game and to plan to play at least two at sometime during that first game. We had Billy Joe and Mark Brunell at the same time and it all worked itself out. I don't believe in bringing a "passer" in when you want to pass because they defense will know that and scheme against it. Same if you bring in an option specialist. Make them both do both.
From JH Programs
Dear Coach,
: Do you think Louis Rankin will win the starting job this year?

A: The great thing about Rankin is that he goes full speed and is trying really hard. He has a bit of a herky jerky style in that his legs are moving every which way when he is running through a hole. He has some definite burst but is a bit of a long strider with an upright position and that hurts your power at the moment of impact. Right now I think the running back competition is the best spot on the team. I think Kenny James is the leader at this point based upon what I have seen so far this spring. He is the best vision runner but the slowest of all three and I'm not even including Singleton who has been out all spring. I really like the lean of Sampson but am intrigued by Rankin's movement. He is a great faker and leaves tacklers grabbing air many times. He will play plenty but will have to earn the starting role in games the same as Corey Dillon had to. Rankin will end up an excellent college running back.
From Brian
Dear Coach,
: How long will it take Gilby to turn this mess around?

A: I am seeing plenty of progress in the program and really believe it is still a couple of years away from turning the corner from good to great. Obviously it will depend much on the development of the lines and who emerges as the quarterback but so far I can see many "baby steps" being taken in fundamentals and skills. The kicking game is already better than it was. There is more emphasis on the running game and the defensive safeties and linebackers are really improving. I don't think it's fair for me to say how long it will take Gilbs to turn around the program. After all, this program has never gone 3-8, 2-9, or even 5-6. USC, WSU, and UCLA all have had those kinds of seasons. The UW was an average ball club the past 2 years. I think Gilbs will win a Rose Bowl if given the chance to do so. And, yes, a new AD or the new president could always bring in his own guy if he wants to. That's just part of the game.
From Mike
Dear Coach,
: How did the program get so thin on the lines?

A: Part of it was my fault but I had warned Neuheisel and staff about the shortage in linemen. For us it all started when we lost two great linemen to the pros. When both Benji Olson and Olin Kruetz both declared in the same year it pretty much doomed are fate as a great running team. It also forced us to use younger kids who weren't quite ready yet. Then our last year, 1998, we only signed one kid in the offensive line so the problem existed before Rick Neuheisel's time. Rick, however, failed to address the issue in their first four classes and consequently today have left an almost a disastrous line situation. If you don't emphasize balance in recruiting then you really leave yourself vulnerable down the line. Many of the linemen recruited by Neuheisel simply never came or didn't pan out and left due to injury or whatever. (Dan Dicks and Aaron Butler and Nathan Rhodes are all gone). For some reason they never really emphasized linemen as much as skill kids in recruiting. They also ignored a number of Washington linemen who could have really helped them like Calvin Armstrong at WSU. I promise you this will never happen again under Gilb's watch. 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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