Ask coach Baird

Happy Holidays Dawg fans! Three JC kids have made it official and faxed in their pledges to Washington. The Dawgs lost one verbal to Oregon State as well, so another lock down corner is on the wish list. Still, you can't sweat the kids that got away, you have to worry about the ones that are in your camp and what you'll do with them. And now, on to the letters . . . .

From Doug Simpson in Issaquah
: In the past the Huskies have had very poor returns on their JC recruits. The only one who really seemed to play well was the DE Ellis from SF/Kent. I understand the need for some JC talent this year. Since most of these players will only have two years on the field, it is important that they be good from the get-go. Do you think the JC scouting is significantly better this year than it has been in the past? Of those recruited so far, which have the best chance of starting immediately?

A: You bring up a very good point about JC recruiting. Honestly, I didn't do a lot with the JC's simply because it was too hard to get them enrolled at Washington. Kai Ellis was indeed a very good one but I'd have to think Corey Dillon was as good as any we ever brought in. I think they are working the JC's because it was pretty apparent that there are plenty of holes in the roster. Recruiting and evaluation are two separate things. Someone can be a great recruiter but not know what they are really looking for. Likewise there are coaches who really know what they are looking for but can't recruit a lick. It's a tough situation but by using your whole staff properly you can overcome each. That's how it works. No one guy is the recruiter. The program and the system recruits for you. If I were a JC kid though, I would look where I have the best chance of making an immediate impact. It's not hard to see Washington can use some instant help.
From Jonathan Marsh
Dear Coach Baird,
: Great article in January 2006 Sports Washington. You make very good points. Can you make comment on next years O-line - who at each position and depth of positions. Garcia could be a Kreutz or Brostik type center. Rosborough could make a terror of a tackle, though game experience is needed. Daniels could be a solid guard. Any idea on how Coach Denbrock can develop his line for 2006? And can you make comment on practicing #1 O-line vs #1 D-line, such as how often, and in preparation for a "next game"? Thanks for insights, and thanks for stimulating the folks at golf and other events.

A: The offensive line will play itself out this spring and we'll know then who Coach Denbrock thinks will be our linemen for 2006. I think there are 11-12 to pick from and I also think you put them up against the top defensive linemen as much as possible. I have no idea who will emerge as the starters and have to trust that they are all hard workers and want to be good. There is enough competition to build a decent two deep so we will know more once spring drills are over. Until then they will have to just work hard in the weight room and get as strong as they can. It's really down to lifting and running at this point. Bigger, stronger, faster still is the key.
From Mitch from Everett
Coach Baird,
: Coach I love your banter with Hugh. What do you think the prospects are of keeping James Montgomery? If we do not keep him how big of a loss will that be with Hasty, Rankin and James coming back?

A: Hugh Millen and I have developed a nice thing with the Husky Honks and we agree to disagree. It is never about who is right or wrong but rather who can get in the last word. We look at the game differently but I think that is good for our show. Losing Montgomery would hurt but I don't think it is going to happen. I think Coach Willingham will cement it in the home. I really like Hasty to go with Rankin and James but would really like to see Montgomery in the mix as well. I say he stays with Washington but if you lose him then you have to go find another RB for this class.
From Mike Heavey
Coach Baird,
: Bear with me on this question. First of all any QB is a bum with two seconds of protection, any QB is a hero with five seconds of protection. And three step drops, moving the pocket and rollouts really cut down the field. So the main problem with the Huskies was our D line gave opponent QB's plenty of time and our O line gave Isaiah and Durocher no time at all, IMHO. So, the biggest problem is the lines. We all know it is won in the trenches. We could have had John Elway as the QB and done the same thing as our QBs did. In fact, John Elway never went to a bowl game. Comments that Stanback is the problem show a lack of understanding. -- Let me shift gears a bit. During the 2004 season I read an article by the USC strength coach wherein he stated that when he came to USC (2001 I believe) four players could bench 400 pounds (400 pound bench is the gold standard) and in the 2004 season 27 USC players could bench 400. My guess is that the Huskies are a lot closer to four or less that can bench 400. Now how do you do that? We had 4 seniors on the O line and we got pushed around. Anybody that has been around weight rooms (college, Gold's gyms, etc.) knows that steroids are as prevalent as they have ever been. Further, when was the last time a college player was suspended for steroid use? It just doesn't happen. Don James, especially early on, seemed to take undersized athletes at say 6' 5" and 220# and 4 years later they were 290 and all PAC 10. So, how do we, and I mean by us the coaching staff, light a fire under these guys and get their strength numbers up? And then maybe we can push somebody around. By the way I am so glad you are such a great Husky and you stay POSITIVE. We all want to win, but we don't all have to whine, complain and find fault when we lose, and you do not - THANKS. And Happy Holidays to you and your family.

A: Getting big kids who want to work hard is a start. Developing strength takes time and commitment and I believe that there are kids there already who are determined to get it done. You have to build a culture for linemen to be successful in. We had that years ago and they had their own little fraternity in the weight room and the locker room. That was the heart and soul of Husky Football. We were always good up front on both sides of the ball. The reason was we red-shirted almost every lineman who came to Washington. That gave them 5 years to develop and many times we played 4 and 5 year guys up front. The culture of Husky football changed under Neuheisel and we became more of a finesse type football team rather than a power type team. We are now changing back and running the football is one thing that helps. The Huskies are now going back to run orientation and that will make us better up front. One thing can be said of Keith Gilbertson, and that is that he put recruiting emphasis on the linemen. Watch for Willingham to always bring in 4-5 offensive linemen and 3-4 defensive linemen. You won't find him signing 7 wide receivers in a year in recruiting. If you rebuild the lineman tradition then you will also rebuild the whole program.
From Allan Hamilton
Coach Baird,
: I am curious about the offensive line. I would like to know of the guys coming back which ones you see stepping up to fill in and what the 2 deeps will look like come spring? Thank you for time and Happy Holidays.

A: The offensive line will benefit greatly by having the same coach back. That is number one and I believe a critical reason why they will be improved. Returning starters, Clay Walker, Stanley Daniels, and Chad Macklin will be joined by Nathan Flowers, Jovon O'Connor, Juan Garcia, Ryan Bush, and freshman Ben Ossai, who I think is going to be really good. Along with Casey Bulyca who is still recovering and developing, that's ten right there and I believe they are trying to get a JC lineman as well. Obviously Steve Schilling would fit nicely into the equation because he is at least capable of competing right away should he chose Washington. Look for the Huskies to carry 13-15 scholarship linemen and whoever starts will earn it the Mike Denbrock way. They really need some of those younger kids to step up and replace the departing seniors.
From Scott Searing
Coach Baird,
: Facilities are obviously an important part of recruiting these days. What in your opinion are some things the Huskies can do immediately to improve their facilities and equipment? Further, what is the biggest upgrade that the Huskies need to make for the future? Thanks and GO DAWGS!!

A: Facilities are always being improved and there is no question Washington started late in keeping up with the Jones. Barbara Hedges wanted to raise money for endowments rather than facilities back in the nineties. The coaches led by yours truly and Chris Gobrecht were adamant that facilities upgrades like Hec-Ed pavilion were more important to selling the program to recruits. She finally relented but not before Oregon had jumped way into the lead and Washington has been playing catch-up ever since. I think the renovation of the stadium is the best thing they can do for Husky Football. That project is progressing and I think will be started by 2008 to 2010. Football still needs a grass practice field somewhere and eventually two weight rooms with one for football alone. There are also plans to upgrade the coaches offices and that will help with presentation. We had traveled all around the nation so we knew what other schools were doing in the late eighties but Hedges came from a private school and wanted the scholarships endowed for life. A good idea, but not as important as upgrading the facilities. I can envision a separate track facilities as well thereby allowing them to take the track out of Husky Stadium. We'll see but not for a few years.
From Scott Searing
Coach Baird,
: Are the DAWGS going to emphasize off season weight training, plyometrics and 7 on 7 drills more this off-season? Most people probably didn't even notice but the Huskies hired a new strength coach recently. How big of a factor do you think he will be on the conditioning of the Football team?

A: Yes, the Huskies did hire a new strength coach, Trent Greener, and he was the head strength coach at Oregon State so he was a well qualified hire. And although I was partial to Emtman, I do see some positive things coming out of that department. Most significantly, less injuries this past season. Coach Willingham believes in getting bigger and stronger during the winter months so watch for less mat drills and running and more weight lifting and stretching. I will bet that all the players stay here again next summer and that the off-season passing and catching will be a big emphasis. 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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