Ask Coach Baird

The Tyrone Willingham era at Washington has begun, and I was very pleased to see that he's bringing some fine defensive coaches to add to Chris Tormey and Randy Hart, who will provide the stability that is needed to aid in a smooth transition.

From Jonathan Marsh
: Can you say anything about your impressions of returning players and the many returning positions? I could be blind; however, I see returning players, and red shirts who are a whole lot better than most folks give credit to. Any positions where improved coaching is needed (this could be a delicate question to answer)? Is it likely that the injured starters returning next year indicate a likely far better performance at several positions? How about Brad Vanneman's challenge to the rest of team on Emtman-Kaligis off-season conditioning? My guts sense next year will have more wins than losses based on the caliber of returning players + I also suspect returning players will have a more "nasty" attitude. Hope to meet you again at next Summer's golf functions - your contribution is most welcome, at least to me.

A: I totally agree with your appraisal of the talent still at Washington. The last class brought in by Coach Gilbertson and his only class was nothing less than spectacular. That is a great group of kids (especially if the can get Bankhead back). The defense returns almost intact except for the corner and I think there are some really good ones still there in Matt Fountaine and Roy Lewis. The biggest area of concern is obviously at quarterback where things are really a mess. There are lots of good line prospects and the young wide receivers, Chambers and Williams' sure look the part. This team has got to be convinced they can win. That is perhaps the biggest coaching challenge ahead.
From Ivar Pihl
Dear Coach Baird,
: I am among those who believe our U of W made a seriously wrong decision or two when it comes to dealing with Coach Gilbertson. And, my belief is couched in the following questions: 1. How many schools do you know of that built winning programs while changing head Coaches every three to four years? Gilbertson asked an extended contract and he was rejected. 2. How many quality recruits do you believe will sign on with a school that treats head coaches as the UDub did with Gilby? 3. I am also disappointed that Gilbertson was forced to toil with so few big and quick linemen on both sides of the ball. His predecessor appeared to have little regard for recruits required to open holes for runners (and Washington has had some excellent toters of the leather) or shutting down the attempts of the opposition to create running routes. How many recruiting cycles will it take, in your estimation, to replenish both O and D line players of Pac 10 quality? Are there candidates within the State of Washington that qualify for that line play? Thanks for your Dawgman articles.

A: I really appreciate your feeling about Coach Gilbertson and I think we all realize he was short changed. Keith may as well have had an interim title. The fact is though, the decision was made and the program is now under very good leadership and certainly the is a positive buzz about the Huskies again (as opposed to all the negativity). Tyrone has brought instant credibility and a sense of dignity to the position that you said was too fluid. I agree. You don't get better when you regularly change head coaches. I might add that this does not apply to the current administration. Tyrone is their starting point, and I believe they will get behind him and support him like no AD since Mike Lude. Let's get this thing rolling again and get back to the Rose Bowl.
From Rusty Win
Coach Baird,
: Coach, thanks in advance for reading my e-mail, I am a big fan of the Husky honks show you do with Softy and value your words of wisdom greatly. My question to you is what can I do to get my son more exposure to the college football programs that he is interested in? My dilemma is that my Son (Dan Winter) seems to be getting passed over by schools yet everyone that has seen him play (other High School Coaches) have told him that he could make a real impact in College. He has the size and speed (6-1, 230 with a 4.71 recorded 40 yd dash this year, a 4.25 sec- 40 yd shuttle time, etc) to play inside linebacker at the D-1 level. He has been all "world" in his league since he was a sophomore averaging over 100 tackles each year and had the highest rating at this past summers NIKE combine in Eugene but know one seems to notice those things. The TNT has recognized him this year but I am beginning to realize that all of this is only for the media. He is a "Big Ten" type LB caught on the west coast and is a big hitter (I haven't seen anyone hit like Dan since I played with Western Wash. Univ. Coach Rob Smith in High School). Many coaches around our league can confirm this yet, this isn't something that you can really get a feel for by watching film. I tell you all this because I am truly frustrated with the whole recruiting process in that I have watched many of the so called "top" prospects throughout the State this year and have found only a handful of kids who could truly play at that next level yet they seem to get all of the attention when it comes to scholarship offers. Coach Hart knows my Son and was very interested in Him before this whole coaching explosion. Anyway, enough venting and hopefully you can give me some recruiting advice to pass on to my Son. We have sent out tons of film with only one real response. Thanks for your time.

A: Send an email to Coach Hart. Hitters are really rare, just like runners. He sure sounds to me to have the desire and dimensions, but I will tell you politics play into football just as does every other aspect of life. My own son got passed over by the Huskies and just decided not to play college football. He will be getting his degree from ASU because I couldn't even get him into the UW with a JC 3.6 and 1200 sat. Then I watched the tight ends this last year and realized if he had walked on he would have been starting for them and actually catching passes thrown his way. He would easily be 6-4, 245 and run a 4.7 so he has the dimensions. For whatever reason he was passed over and that was after Coach James saw him play in person and said he was a can't miss prospect. Oh well, different views is what you get in evaluation. That is what I am trying to say. Each system has its own sets of criteria and I am positive that if your son gets a chance he will be a player for somebody.
From Howard Blood
Coach Baird,
: Willingham was ushered in two weeks ago, and for the first few days we were kept appraised of his recruiting and staffing activities, but we have heard nothing for the last 7-8 days. If he is as enthusiastic to be the Huskies coach as he professed, surely, he would have significant progress to report. From my perspective, the silence is ominous. Am I Judging to harshly?

A: First of all you have to remember we are coming out of a dead period and the coaches can't be visiting anyone in person. Believe me Tyrone knows what he is doing in terms of player personnel decisions but I would not be too concerned about what your read or hear. He told everyone he was a tight lipped coach who prefers to talk to his players and coaches rather than the media, internet, and alumni. It's way too early to judge their recruiting because we don't even know who "they" is. I know he expressed an interest in building the fence around the state. I think the realistic number to sign is probably around 18 this year. They won't even be visiting kids until after the national football coach's convention the first week in January. Be prepared for the long haul, with the Huskies going after kids right up until signing date.
From Wayne Anderson in Kirkland
Coach Baird,
: Since Tyrone Willingham has been hired there has been no mention of what he's doing or what is going on with the recruiting. I.e. Savanna, Hasty, and Timberlines star running back. Can you or do you fill me in on those three players? Also, it's my opinion that the assistant coaches will make or break a coach. I need not go back to Don James and his assistant coaches. Look at the assistant coaches in 90 and 91.

A: I whole heartedly agree that staff is second only to quality of players when having success at football. I am glad that Randy Hart and Chris Tormey get to be retained as they are both real good football coaches and I want them to stay in the community. Combine them with Kent Baer and you have some pretty good defensive minds. The two of them have been making the recruiting calls and can tell you that the Huskies are pursuing all three you men you mention. Tormey in particular is working Savannah as he coaches linebackers and I believe Tyrone himself is taking Jonathon Stewart. They have offered Hasty as well and believe all three will be good players for the Huskies. I really believe Tyrone will put together a high quality staff that will contend for a Pac-10 title within three years if not sooner. 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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