ASK COACH BAIRD

Well, now we enter the long stretch of purgatory between spring and fall camp. This is the time where no news is good news, the players are taking care of their off-season work in the gym and in the classroom, and the coaches are evaluating recruiting prospects. And now, onto your letters . . .


From Jill
: Who do you think will be the quarterback this fall, and how will he do? Also, who on earth is going to play tight end this year?

A: I don't think there will be one particular quarterback next fall. I really believe there will still be three and all three are liable to get playing time. Personally I think Carl Bonnell has the most complete package. He does it all well. He really is good at the option, has the strongest arm, and combination of running and throwing skills. Right now however, he has not gotten the reps with the number one's enough to compete with Casey Paus. It is going to stay in competition right thru the fall camp and probably the starter will not be named until after all the fall scrimmages. I've stated before that however starts the season won't necessarily end it. I'm not sure anyone really knows the answer to your question. Only time will tell. As far as tight end, if healthy I think Joe Toledo will be the guy. He's by far the biggest weapon if he can heal up his back.
From Jonathan B in Spangle, WA
Dear Coach Baird,
: Was Barbara Hedges as clueless as she seemed at running a football program? By all counts, there didn't appear to be much emphasis or attention to detail to that "golden goose" program, other than hiring Rick.

A: Clueless might not be the right term but Barbara Hedges certainly did not understand the sport of football enough to run the program correctly. Having never coach team sports, recruited in modern times, or even ran a team of her own, she had little or no workable knowledge of the rules and structure of the game. In retrospect, of all her hires, the best appears to be Lorenzo Romar (who was her fourth choice for the job). Her hire of Rick was stunning and bold and I can personally see what she saw in him. Unfortunately it had nothing to do with football. I'll never be sure why she had to fire Jim Lambright to begin with. I know we had the pieces in place to make a run at the championship that Rick so successfully did. But it's a different climate now for coaches than it was.
From Jim
Dear Coach,
: Someone said that when you guys recruited Beno Bryant, gun shots were heard in the neighborhood. Can you tell that story? I'd love to hear it!

A: I wasn't in attendance that night but yes there was a drug gun battle raging outside of Beno's home during our in-home with him. Coach James commented that there must've been some left over New Year's fireworks going off. Everyone nodded and immediately agreed with him, not saying anything. It wasn't until the next day that Coach James read about it in the paper. It actually involved a Hollywood actor (Todd Bridges from "Different Strokes) and a drug deal gone bad. Beno told me the story on the phone and was really cool about it. He and Don simply smoothed it over and went on with the conversation. By the way, Beno will always be one of my favorite players simply because of his personality. I want to add that he is back in LA helping give back by coaching at his own school, Dorsey High. Good guy.
From Ken F
Dear Coach,
: Why are we hearing so many kids saying that they haven't heard from the Huskies yet in recruiting? As a former recruiting coordinator, can you tell us realistically if these complaints are valid, or is it "Chicken Little syndrome? I don't know what to believe.

A: Washington is just following the rules. When they say "haven't heard", it means a phone call or an actual contact. The rules only allow for one phone call in May. Gilby plays by the rules. Washington finishes their spring practices later than just about everyone so that also gives them a little later start in contacting kids by phone. I can tell you that they had a lot of kids in attendance at their spring game because I saw them in the Tyee Center. Most of those were Washington kids but still, they had to have contacted them to get them there, right? The information on recruiting on the internet is wonderful and plentiful, but also, a lot of it is also pure over-dramatized horse*&%^ speculation to get attention. If Dawgman ever resorts to this tactic, I'll personally kick his behind and he knows it. Coaches cannot stand the fact that kids get badgered at this time when recruiting is supposed to be evaluative for both players and coaches, but there you have it. As a former recruiting coordinator, I kind of feel like I can talk with some credibility on this subject and I find it very funny sometimes to watch the way some folks feel recruiting should be done and then balance it with reality, the rules, and the internet. But hey, this is all in fun, right? Well, until you start getting kids turned off because of it. How much would've Jonathan Mapu helped this team?

To be truthful, I wouldn't really want to second-guess a coach's evaluation before he's even done most of it. One thing to watch though, for real and not just the drama aspect, is that with former recruiting coordinator Chuck Heater leaving, they are obviously going through a change in organization. That sometimes will put schools behind others. But it's still a loooooong ways from not being able to catch up if they do get behind.
From Alan Kaselj
Dear Coach,
: We hear of coaches that take away scholarships from players that don't pan out in regards to their performance on the field. I'm not talking about academic casualties, injuries, etc. I'm talking about a guy that uses up a scholarship but is not getting the job done. Did you experience this with Don James? And what are your feelings about this issue. This type of situation could face Gilby with Braunstein if he cannot beat out Knudson.

A: I can't remember ever taking a scholarship away from a kid who simply wasn't good enough. Most figure it out for themselves and simply transfer of give up football altogether. I really think it is an ethics issue. It is prevalent in the sport of basketball but the rules really prevent you from doing so. As long as a kid goes to school make progress towards his degree and follows all the rules then it's real difficult to justify lifting his ride. I was on the scholarship committee at the UW and we met every year to look at these types of situations. I know it is done at other places but I'm glad we always swallowed the bullet and admitted when we brought in a kid who couldn't play. Now, kickers are an entirely different bag. That is partially why we always rewarded the scholarship to whoever won the job out of a bunch of walk-ons. Of course that was when we had a really good walk-on program. When we started losing to Oregon with walk-on kickers is when we decided to start recruiting and offering kickers and punters. Funny how that works.
From Aloha Mike
Dear Coach,
: With all of the injuries to the "O" and "D" lines, has any consideration been given to playing some kids both ways?

A: Good question but I really doubt it when it comes to line play. Occasionally there are some guys used in goal line situations but it's a much harder double than for, say, a wide receiver/defensive back. Arena football pulls it off but it is rare at either the college or professional level. It makes sense at the high school level because you only have so many big kids. But to be honest, Gilbs is hoping the guys they've got can effectively play at least one way for now.
From Husky Heat
Dear Coach,
: It looks like you have continual conversations with Gilby. Will he continue to be as aggressive on defense as he was in the WSU game? The defense really carried us in that game. And with our experience in the defensive backfield, we can take some gambles.

A: : I agree with you on the defensive backs. Keith and I seem to look at things the same way. We're out of the same school of thought and your comment about the defense is exactly what I saw. I have talked with Phil Snow and Chris Tormey, and yes, they are going to be more aggressive and "attack" with the defense instead of sitting back in soft zones. I also think the secondary will be one of the strengths of the team. It will give them a chance to go after opposing quarterbacks with either man or zone pressure.
From Randy Chushcoff
Dear Coach,
: I'm impressed with your confidence in the Huskies next Fall. But the lack of O-line depth and experience really is troubling to me. Why am I wrong?

A: : I don't know that you are wrong. With no apologies, I happen to wear rose colored glasses all the time when it comes to the Huskies. I guess I just really want to see them always do well. I have a lot of good friends on the staff still and really hope they can contend next fall, and every year for that matter. I agree that the depth in the lines is alarming but there are a number of kids who missed spring due to injuries and they will give a much added boost come fall. Particularly Robin Meadow, who should return to the starting lineup as soon as he returns. Certainly the line depth will only improve over the next few years with Gilbs calling the shots in recruiting.


Dawgman.com 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 Dawgman.com 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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