Ask Coach Baird

Tomorrow is when it all begins, year two of Gilby's program. It is really the first full year where we can gauge results and progress, and the opener is no slouch. Fresno State is game, willing, and very able. Time to get my mail boxes cleaned out for the season. On to the letters.

From Derek Tillman
: I was wondering with Matt Tuiasosopo going the baseball route, is there any possibility that Darrin Harris will be given a shot at quarterback? Watching his video, he has incredible athletic ability combined with some real toughness. These are great and necessary qualities to run Gilbertson's new option style attack. Does he have the arm to make the passes that Gilbertson's offense requires?

A: Darrin Harris will see plenty of playing time during his career but I doubt it will be a quarterback. He is doing very well for a true freshman safety and has a chance to play if there are injuries back there. You're right. He is very athletic and a great sign.
From Ken Franek
: I loved what you had to say about our mascot in your August 4th "Ask Coach Baird" column. I once had a neighbor who raised Grand Champion Huskies. They have so much energy that it took two of us to control some of the males. I love their facial markings. Our current mascot does NOT resemble a Husky in any way, shape or form. This MUST be changed IMMEDIATELY. Like you, I hate it when I see the mascot lying on the ground asleep during the game. It's funny that the TV cameras always seem to show him sleeping. They NEVER show the Trojan horse standing still. Can you please get somebody's attention up there and get this fixed once and for all! Do we need to start a petition (via e-mail)?

A: I don't work there anymore and never had that kind of input in the first place. However, I would suggest that you email or write Todd Turner and I'll bet he responds. He appears very interested in this issue, and is very approachable. Drop him a line and tell me what you get.
From Chris Traynor
Dear Coach Baird,
: Is there any chance what so ever they will go back to the uniforms they wore when they won the 2001 Rose Bowl? I loved those and it seems most of the other UW fans did too. Also, are they talking about expanding the stadium? I think that would be a great idea. It would be easily the loudest in the country and some of the top recruits would look into the UW some more.

A: I really don't have a clue what "they" are going to do but let's go full retro and wear the uniforms of the early 90's teams. I think they will eventually change and it might even be for this season. Who knows? As far a stadium expansion, I know that the new AD will address that within the first three years of his administration. I would be in favor of both moves.
From Ivar Pihl
Coach Baird,
: Long a believer in the theory, "It's what's up front that counts on both sides of the ball." Am I wrong in believing that a key factor in the "James mystique" was his recruiting of the big, quick linemen manning both Offense and Defensive fronts?" Further, assess for us (the Husky faithful) the lineups we will see opening running lanes for a splendid set of ball-carriers and, those who will be trusted to shut down the opposition. My instincts suggest that we will not see great improvements on either side of the ball from what will likely be up front the coming season. I do have the media guide for 2004. Your assessments will be appreciated.

A: I agree with your "What's up front that counts" theory and I don't think you will be disappointed with this year's lines. The will make up for what they lack in experience by what they have gained in strength and toughness. Offensively Sa'au and Meadow are really improving what we saw last spring. They are both experienced and pretty good. Stanley Daniels will end up pretty good as well. I said from the get go that I thought the weak side of Barnes and Clay Walker really work well together. I think Barnes will be in the NFL and I also think Brooks has really improved although we'll have to see if he's good enough to man the strong tackle. Vanneman is fine at center but still years away from being really good. They still need another center and maybe Garcia can handle it. Sa'au, Daniels, and Meadow can all play the strong guard. I think they are going to surprise because they really like their new coach Charley Dickey. Defensively there are more questions but also more depth. I really think that it will be Mapu, Mateaki, Hopoi, and Ala. That would be an all Islander D line and I think that would be really cool. Eriks will be hard to replace because he hustles all the time, is really smart, and knows what to do. He is a great Kid but still somewhat stiff at the position. Dan Milsten is also in the picture and so is Wilson Afoa who just keeps making plays. They have depth to play as hard as they can and I really liked the new kids and think they may have to play Jordan White-Frisbee and Grayson Gunheim. I am also really impressed with Walt Winters, Erik Lobos, and Caesar Rayford, but I think White-Frisbee is a monster and could hold up for 15-20 snaps per game. The lines are changing and Kaligis on offense and Emtman on defense have a lot to do with that. Both lines are really working hard and have a great work ethic right now. They still have to do it on Saturdays and that first Sunday. I think the lines are getting better.
From Neil Alexander
Coach Baird,
: Love the article on your assessment of the improving team - hope to see it September 5th. I note that you said Gilby made good half time adjustments last year. I'm not an X's and O's guy, but it sure seemed like (other than in the Oregon game) not a lot of adjustments were made. From a fan's point of view, I was always thrilled with the half time adjustments under RN, and I assume Gilby had a lot to do with that. But last year, either the team was just playing flat in the second half or the adjustments just didn't seem to be working. Why do you think it will improve this year?

A: I think I disagree with you that it was only the Duck game in that I am positive the Huskies really played better in the second half against Ohio State, Oregon State, and WSU. I also was talking from experience in that I personally watched Keith make classic adjustments through out his career. Against Nebraska back there he was simply marvelous and I would guess that he won almost 25 straight games as an offensive coordinator based largely on his ability to adjust his game plan. I think he is a damn good football mind and if given the opportunity free of outside pressures that he will be a successful coach at Washington.
From Bob Schuehle
Dear Coach,

A:I'm not sure what the uniforms will look like this year but I am with you. I think the colors should be purple and gold and the gold should not be a silver-gold and the purple should not be lavender. I hate that Nike gets to control our styles and make us like the Cougs and Ducks and be "modern" and slick. I also hate the ferret as a mascot but I like the helmets - so there you have it.
From Russ Panowicz
Dear Coach,
: What is going on with Neuheisel? I live in Northern California and there are so many people in the Bay Area who hate the Huskies (mostly because their teams have been showing up for the games unprepared and getting pummeled by the Dawgs for so many years now). They all seem to be happy while pointing-out to me, their version, that Neuheisel is going to sue the heck out of the Huskies, and win the Millions in Back-Pay that he deserves, because the U.W. wrongfully terminated him. The proof they say, is that he has a letter from Dana Richardson saying that the U.W. told him it was O.K. to gamble! I am sick & tired of listening to these uneducated drunks and I want some assurance that the U.W. gave this thing some thought before they acted, and that they have a plan, and some top-notch attorney's who are going to come-out swinging and show-up at the party, totally prepared to beat the snot out of Neuheisel's attorney's. Can you share your knowledge with us? Wasn't Neuheisel, at the same time, posting up those "Don't Bet on it" Posters from the NCAA, all over his locker rooms? What about Miles Brand saying something to the effect of: "If I were the AD at the UW, I would be thinking about Termination? Do you think the U.W. can win this lawsuit? Did the U.W. ever get the money back that they loaned him, when his house closed escrow?

A:Pano, this one is a loaded one for sure. To tell you the truth, I just got back from a wonderful fishing trip to the outside of Vancouver Island and the guy who took me had this same conversation with me about the same issues. Here is my honest opinion on the whole mess:

- Rick Neuheisel was a good coach, a good person, and had a wonderful personality. He always treated me with respect and always included me in the Husky Football program. He did a lot of good things for Husky Football. He got the assistant coaches a lot more money in pay and really pushed his boss for instant facilities changes. He won a Rose Bowl and damn near another national championship. He did it his way and he was very approachable by many of his players.
- As far as football was concerned, He wasn't from the same school as I am, but I respected that. Rick probably got fired over a wide variety of reasons. Whatever the reasons, if they, (they meaning upper campus, the board of regents, and the power brokers in the alumni and Barbara Hedges) if they really wanted to get rid of him, then they simply had to bite the bullet and buy him out for about the 2.6 million they owed him. For whatever reason "they" decided to play low ball and claim they didn't owe him anything because they had cause for firing him. I might note that "they" did the same thing to Jim Lambright and everyone condemned Jim because he too threatened to sue and finally decided he didn't want to hurt the school, his school. Whether you agree with whether they should've been fired or not, there is a similarity there.
- The bottom line is that Rick was fired. He had a contract and it has to be honored. He did not do anything individually against the law and therefore should be bought out just like everyone else does. Look at the settlements throughout the nation whenever someone gets fired. They tried to play low ball with him and he is not a Husky. He is from a lawyer family. He will fight it and win and "they" will end up paying twice as much because if you unlawfully hold back someone's pay in this state then you pay three times the salary. It's expensive, it's distracting to the team, and it's simply prolonging the continuing blight on the Husky's image. I wish it would end so the program can move on. 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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