Ask Coach Baird

Recruiting will come to an end in less than a week. It was a difficult circumstance that Coach Tyrone Willingham had to recruit under. Losing Jonathan Stewart and Anthony Felder will hurt the Huskies, but you can't worry about the ones that got away. You worry about what you can do with the ones you got.

From Jay Yedinak
: Are you a believer in the idea of building an athlete or do you subscribe the old adage of recruit to play? I tend to think that raw athleticism as well as strong mental awareness has to be the two most important aspects of football recruitment. The one helping a player excel and the other helping them become polished. Take those qualities and assign a position. Call me old school, but some kids cannot be a running back and some kids cannot be a Lineman. And if you think this is true, do you find that multiple-sports can help a recruit in showing his raw athleticism? I wonder if the there is a trend that shows this? Thanks for your time and I too agree with the rest in expressing how much I like reading your insight into the UW's future.

A: Under Coach James and Coach Lambright we always believed that the 4th or 5th year player should always be superior to the first year player. Essentially, coach them up and allow them to mature. The 22 year old who has paid his dues was always better than an 18 year old, at least in theory. Unfortunately, there has been too much emphasis placed upon a "finished product" great athlete and less on the hard working persistent type player. I personally think the UW got into a habit of playing too many true freshmen about 6-7 years ago and has never been able to catch up. That takes away from your fifth-year seniors that you'd like to build a program around. If you play a true freshman and he is not a starter then you are probably going to hurt your program in the long run because as soon as he is mature and getting very good, you lose him. Basically I believe you red shirt as many freshmen as possible and that way your team will always have more developed depth. Of course, if the true freshman is clearly better than anyone else you have at his position then you must play him. The double-edges sword comes in when the really good young players leave your program early, but there isn't a great deal you can do about that. I appreciate your kind remarks, Thank you.
From Aloha Mike
Dear Coach Baird,
: One of the most annoying parts of defense, to me, is when receivers are able to get open over the middle any time they want. If I were the defensive backs coach, I would teach the defensive backs to take away the middle of the field and force the qb to make a perfect pass to the side line to complete the pass. Seems to me that would more difficult to accomplish than a pass over the middle. Why are the db's not taught to take away the middle?

A: What you are referring to is the "dig route" or inside breaking route by a wide receiver. It is usually designed to go just deep enough to get behind the linebackers who usually take the inside zones or areas. Sometimes the defensive backs can take it away by simply lining up inside the receiver and forcing him to take an out cut but most of the time this is used vs man to man when the defender is aligned outside in man to man and therefore the receiver has an immediate inside opening for his release. It also happens when the safeties are playing two-deep coverage on the hashes and the linebackers settle at about 10-15 yards back, but the ball is throw 15-20 yards downfield. It used to be that safeties could knock you out on those types of routes but in the NFL, for example, they get fined for the great hits now. Besides it really physically hurts both the hitter and the hittee. Essentially the linebackers need to help but if they get too deep, then the dumps to the TE or backs are wide open.
From Ted Kleinheinz
Coach Baird,
: First of all, love the way you see with purple glasses. Much better than all the negative crap I have had to read on this board lately. Well, on to my question. Most of us know by now that we need to recruit a group of linemen every year. We seem to have very little in the number of linemen coming in for official visits. I know we have a couple coming in from the islands and I hope we get them, but if we don't what next? There are two local linemen (Nick Thornton-Jack & Manny Mendoza) who seem to not be getting any love from the husky coaches and I don't understand why. In your article in the most recent Sports Washington, the caption with Thornton-Jack's picture says "man-child". The "man-child" we got last year (Jordan White-Frisbee) turned out pretty good wouldn't you say? What is the knock on these two guys? They want to be huskies and loyalty is something not to be taken lightly. I fear the lack of a full compliment of coaches recruiting is letting people through the cracks. As always, thanks for your input and "Dawg on".

A: Big is big. I really think if you're going to take a gamble on a kid then he should be a local and he should have great growth potential or already be in the "huge" category. I have not watched enough tape on either of the kids you mentioned to give you a very educated opinion, but big is big. One of the problems the Huskies faced in this current class is that their numbers are so small, they can't afford to take many "gambles". In the old days, I would always give special consideration to the kid who really "wanted" to be a Husky and if he had a great work ethic then go ahead and throw the dice regardless of what the recruiting gurus thought of him. I know they are working with only 14-16 spots and got a late start so don't expect this to be a knock out class, but rather one based on good solid kids. That's where we are this year.
From Adrian Woods
Coach Baird,
: What do you think of Adam Leonard...LB (Rainer Beach) who blew and knee out early in the season? I think he will be a steal of recruit. And off the top of head have you ever ran across before with a elite talent coming back to haunt you?

A: To be honest, I never saw the Leonard kid from RB play, so to comment on his ability would be remiss. To answer the second part of your question, obviously yes. I totally missed on Bryce Fisher who went to Seattle Prep and now is a star in the NFL. But, most of the time the "elites" jump off the screen at you and they are hard to miss from the evaluation standpoint. I think one of the great pitfalls in evaluation is using a "high light tape". Heck, I was "elite" if you took all my great high school plays and put them on one tape. So you have to be careful.
From Dave Croly, class of ‘64
Coach Baird,
: Since Gilby is in effect still on the UW payroll why not use him as a special offensive consultant. Without the burden of day to day coaching, and knowing the UW personnel as he does, he could break down innovative programs like Utah, Texas Tech and others, then apply it to the Huskies. Recruiting head on with USC, UCLA and at times other hot Pac 10 teams is always tough. The past few years UW coaches seem have deluded themselves the Huskies can simply "get physical" and grind it out against top major programs. We don't have the horses for that . . . but we can compete through innovation and creative use of the assets we have.

A: Keith is completely immobile due to his hip surgery. He will be bed ridden for about 5 more weeks then begin his rehab. That pretty much takes him out of the loop as far as doing anything. Second of all, you are only allowed 10 coaches total and even though Coach Willingham has not filled his staff, it is very unlikely that Keith would be one of his remaining hires. Even if you are on the payroll does not allow you to be one of the countable nine assistants and represent the UW. If that had been possible I would have volunteered to do it after I was fired. I know Gilbs still loves the program and would help in any way he could but I just don't see this being possible.
From Joe
Coach Baird,
: What is a zone blitz? What do the Huskies play, a 3-4 or a 4-3? Thanks Coach.

A: A couple of good questions - so let's start with the "zone Blitz". This is really a term used when you are stunting (rushing, or flooding him to an area of the field) a linebacker or secondary player in addition to your defensive linemen when trying to attack an offense. It usually involves one or two additional rushers and can be used for both the run and the pass. Once the ball is snapped and the "stunt begins" then the remaining secondary players and linebackers drop into a 3 deep zone with none in actual man to man coverage. The objective is to bring more rushers then there are blockers to one side or the other. This is different than the way most blitzes (or "dogs", or "stunts") are run, where man to man coverage on all eligible receivers is usually employed. The UW really runs a 4-3 not the 3-4 that it always claimed in the media guide or media releases. It simply means that there are 4 defensive linemen with 3 linebackers or 3 defensive linemen with 4 linebackers. The 4-3 is an even front with the two inside defensive tackles on the guards whereas the 3-4 there is usually a defender head up on the center and an odd front. Hope that explains it. 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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