ASK COACH BAIRD

The dawgs earned a split on the road in Los Angeles, and that's good enough. If they can hold serve at home and go .500 or near it on the road, which should set them up well for a nice seed at the Pac-10 tournament and the NCAA dance after that. AND, football recruiting is finally kicking into gear. Now onto the letters . . .


From Mentzos
Coach,
: Do you think that since Coach Willingham doesn't have a offensive coordinator yet is there a chance that Coach Keith Gilby could get a interview, he seems like a natural fit since he's a dawg and a calls a great offense. I remember him during the championship year, I think also that he could swallow his pride to be a coordinator again and would love to be part of the husky team again, I can't think of any body more deserving than him. I like the hiring of Willingham I can't believe how he just fell into the dawgs lap. I'm 51 years old and have been a huge dawg fan since I was old enough to understand football.

A: I too think that Gilbs would be a great OC but don't see that happening. That is probably the most critical hire to be for Coach Willingham as he already has his defensive staff in place. I would love it to be Keith but that is not a very realistic move even though if anyone was strong enough to do it, it would be Tyrone. I believe it will be someone who has a good track record of doing it somewhere else. Maybe an NFL guy. The most critical positions left to fill are OC, Recruiting Coordinator, and kicking game coordinator. A great QB coach is critical to turn that position around. He has four more hires to go assuming he retains the strength coaches. Right now they are short handed in recruiting but he does have 6 total and only 7 can be on the road anyway at one time. I think we are all waiting for a spark to ignite the offense and someone to handle the quarterbacks.
From Frances Wickstrom
Dear Coach Baird,
: I have not heard much lately about Garcia on the offensive line- I know he was hurt most of if not the full season- is he coming back healthy? Can they get another year from him since he was lost all season due to injury?? I think he can be "big time"-certainly he can add depth at the very least. thanks.

A: Garcia is stuck behind Vanneman, who is one of the team leaders and a great kid. Garcia has made great strides and still has years to make a difference. He is one of about 6 OL who are sitting in the wings waiting their turn. I think he is set to make a move this spring. It will be good competition and I really believe they have a good group of OL to work with. Now if Joe Toledo moves to tackle, they could be awesome, but there's still that hole at TE. I really liked Gottlieb and was glad they put him on scholarship. I think he will be excellent there, allowing Toledo to make the move to tackle., Garcia will be in the mix because he likes to "mix" it up. He's sort of a junk yard Dawg, you gotta love that.
From Rick
Coach Baird,
: There was a time not so long ago that Washington always got all the top blue chip players in the state of Washington. Over the past three years, it's as if many of the state recruits are not even considering the Huskies as their top choice. It will be interesting to see how well Coach Willingham can recruit. He has never been known as a top recruiter at either Stanford or Notre Dame. The damage done by Lambo, Neuheisel and Hedges will be difficult to overcome. Gilby was not the right coach to replace Rick but considering the events of the last couple years it is not big surprise that the Huskies fell to 1-10 in 2004. USC did go through the same slide and it took over 15 years for them to get back to the elite status they have now attained. Hopefully, U-Dub will regain their national and Pac-10 power in a few years or less. A change was needed and I don't know if Willingham is the right coach to accomplish this but at least he will bring some discipline and respect back to the program.

A: Tyrone is a good recruiter because I used to recruit against him and he is very well received in the home. Parents appreciate a man of integrity and that is what he represents. As far as damage to the program I might point out that both Lambright and Neuheisel had excellent win-loss records of close to 70 %. Lambright also took the player graduation rate to its highest level ever, and Rick took them to a Rose Bowl in his second season. Besides the sport of football, Barbara did many good things for the UW athletic department so she too made positive contributions particularly in trying to upgrade facilities. I don't think the blame has to be fixed, but rather the problems. Hiring Tyrone is the first step. The recruiting will improve, as it will be balanced, and the Huskies will be back.
From Eric Bennett
Coach Baird,
: I just want to comment first that I truly enjoy your input to this website and to KJR. Sometimes you tend to be a bit optimistic when evidence would point more towards being pessimistic but I'm a HONK too so I forgive you for that. Here are several questions for you, some of which I've puzzled over for several years now. One question I've had since the Great One retired is why our special teams have stunk for ten seasons or more? DJ never offered kickers scholarships yet his teams almost always had fairly good kickers. There are fewer scholarships now and we have two or three of them assigned to mediocre kickers! We continue to use kick returners that make mental errors and are afraid to field punts (unlike Jarzynka - he was great). On kickoffs the runner never gets behind the wedge at the proper time to make it effective. When we kick off I think a third of our kicks are short and the opponent ends up with great field position. How many punts have the Huskies had blocked these past few years? And can someone please learn the lost art of long snapping the freakin' football. How many punts have the Huskies blocked? Is it just me or has Special Teams become this lost art that nobody wants to teach? Didn't some famous coach say once that Special Teams is one third of the game or some words to that affect? Maybe it was Don James himself. I really have quite a few more questions but let's just limit it this time. I hope you can shed some light.

A: Your point is well taken and there is no doubt that after Joe left there has not been a good kick returner. There looked to be great progress being made the last two years in the kicking game preparation then all of a sudden it went south again. I believe there were at least 6 kicks blocked last year and the Huskies blocked 1. I think it is one of the biggest weaknesses of the Huskies since Jim Lambright coached years ago. The 1997-98 seasons the Huskies blocked about 6 or 7 field goals or extra points. Never very many punts but lots of field goals. The point is though the Huskies had very few blocked against them. Al Roberts was responsible for bringing a lot of that with him from the NFL where he was a special teams coach. I believe that you must sign good kickers now days because if you don't someone else will sign them and beat you with them. We decided to do that with John Anderson years ago and it was the correct thing to do. Now it is really difficult to do through the walk on program because it is so hard to get kids into school. A real good recent walk on was Jim Skursky although I am really proud of the role Evan Knudson played on this last year's team. He was one of the very best kids on the sidelines and will really help the incoming freshman kid. I really believe you have identified one of the most glaring weaknesses for the Huskies over the last five years. Remember the Huskies great win over Michigan in Husky Stadium a few years ago. What won the game? How many years has it been since we have seen a kickoff or punt return for a touchdown? How may punts were blocked for touchdowns this last year? Notre Dame and Stanford both blew open close games by doing so. Enough said.
From Steven Morrison
Coach Baird,
: Good to hear from you in the dawgman. I use to help Jeff Woodruff recruit in Arizona and then Scott Pelluer. How are those two doing? and what are they doing? My brother in law coached for Don in 1984. Ed (Donatell) is now with the Falcons and Jimmy Mora in Atlanta. It was good to hear from you and it looks like the Dawgs are on the right track. Give my best to Gilby. He's a great guy!!!

A: Steve, I can remember you and appreciate all your help with the Huskies in the past. It's too bad they disbanded the Hunters because it was people like you who really helped. Woody had a great year at UTEP and is with Mike Price. I stay in touch withy him and Jill and their kids are all doing wonderfully. Scott Pelluer did not get retained by Tyrone and has four beautiful children and really wants to stay in the northwest. He is looking at all his options and is a good friend so I'm hoping he finds something maybe outside of football where he can stay up here with family. Thanks again and please say hi to Ed for me because I followed him to Washington as a GA and have followed his career ever since.
From LB
Coach Baird,
: Just one question and that is do you think coach Willingham realizes the need for speed in the Pac 10? I under stand that one of his down falls at N.D. was his lack of speed especially in the secondary, even though he has coached in the Pac 10 before I think the need for speed is much greater now in order to compete with U.S.C. It looks like P.C. has built a real dynasty, but if anyone team can take it to the Trojans, it's the Huskies.

A: I have no doubt Tyrone understands the concept of speed and I also thought his teams reflected that in spite of what some of the announcers said about their secondary. First of all the ND defense was not that bad and they had plenty of speed at their skilled positions. At Stanford he had one of the quickest players in our league at the time, Troy Walters, who also led the conference in returns and total yardage. It is not always pure speed that wins in football but it sure helps. I am absolutely positive he will incorporate the search for speed in their recruiting efforts. That is one of the things that were so difficult to assess about the running back from Bellevue, JR Hasty. Nobody had any absolute 40 times on him so nobody really knows how fast he is. I could only tell watching him carry his pads and always seemed to be one of the fastest on the field. I think Tyrone will know who all the fast kids are and put an emphasis on them. He offered Hasty a scholarship.
From Frances Wickstrom
Coach Baird,
: in your honest opinion, what are the real needs that need to be addressed(in order of priority) for the upcoming recruiting season and whom do you feel we have a legit shot at to fill those needs??

A: I personally think that they really need receivers at both the tight and split end positions. Obviously the most important positions are quarterback and running back and they have partially answered one of those questions by getting a QB who will be here this spring to compete. I hope the other spot is filled with both Jonathan Stewart and JR Hasty. You can always use a great speed pass rusher or a great cover corner and at least 7-8 linemen. I believe they will end up taking somewhere in the neighborhood of 17-18 kids this year and the next year a full 25. As far as finding immediate help for this team getting a QB and RB are the most important. A good punt returner would also help.
From ken Franek
Coach Baird,
: Your article on THE Ohio State was right on! Nothing is going to happen to them. Yes, they will miss out on several high profile recruits this year but they'll make-up for it next year. I have read so many articles about the problems Washington faced in the early 90's. I would love to read the un-cut version. Billy Joe started it but who else damaged the UW? I want names and I want to know what they said or did that hurt the program. Surely you know where this can be found? It looks like Cal, USC (of course) and UCLA are going to clean-up all the high profile recruits this year. Coach Willingham will really have to finish strong if he expects to sign anyone in four weeks.

A: USC, UCLA always get the best kids on the west coast. That is a given purely due to numbers. There are more kids in their backyard than in the whole states of Washington and Oregon combined. Tyrone will do fine. As far as naming the assailants who brought down the UW football program, I have them all and was going to write the book myself but have decided it triggers up too many negatives in me and I would hate to single out anyone. Most of the damage was done by California players who didn't pan out for the Huskies. Those who were kicked off the team. All of those men are now getting on with their lives and I decided not to incriminate anyone ever again. The blame goes directly on the shoulders of an administration that did not back their coaches but rather hired lawyers to incriminate them. That is the difference with The Ohio State University. They want to clean it up themselves and will accept some penalties to try and clean their slate. They will be punished but not like UW and Alabama cases. My guess is 5 scholarships and the NCAA will accept Geiger's resignation as a step. Tressell could be next if they find anything more specifically related to him. Which, incidentally, they did at the last school he was at (Youngstown State). We'll see.
From Kenton Gingrich
Coach Baird,
: Nice article on Ohio State. There has always been a correlation between winning a national championship in football and increased media and fan interest in the team. With this interest comes scrutiny from hostile story makers in the media trying to make a name for themselves. The players become famous in the community and are at increased risk of committing NCAA violations that might go unnoticed at less high profile programs. Mark my words, it is just a matter of time before USC will be in a similar situation as Ohio State. With USC being the only game in town in LA these days the microscope has just gotten that much more focused with their second national championship. I think I'm going to send Pete Carroll a few fruit baskets to hand out.

A: USC doesn't have to cheat, and probably aren't. However, their alumni are pretty aggressive and their kids enjoy a lot of benefits in LA. They get into places for free and enjoy the big city and know where to go in it. Their biggest problem is most likely agents buying the kids things, like what happened at UCLA a few years ago pre Karl Dorrell. The most obvious factor working in USC's favor is the fact that they are a private school and can close all their records to the media. Through the years they have always used their alums and in fact Pete thinks that is one of their greatest selling factors to recruits. There is no doubt in my mind that Keyshawn helped them get Mike Williams a few years ago. If something was ever found on them like giving a kid a jersey during recruiting (which they did), nothing seems to happen anyway. They are the darlings of the conference again and it will take something to dislodge them from their throne. That being said, I think Washington has the guy to do that in Tyrone. I don't think it will be the Pac-10 and I don't think their media is after them like the Seattle one was on us. Someone is going to have to take USC out on the field, and that's probably how it should be done.
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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