Ask Coach Baird

Hello Dawg fans. March madness is upon us. Recruiting season for football is over and now it's time to focus on the hoop team as they enter the final week of the season. On to the letters . . .

From Wayne Anderson
: We, my brother and I go back to the fifties and Jim Owens days. We always seemed to have defenses that had one or two stand outs. Rick Redman, Steve Emtman are two who really stand out. Jim Lambright who became close to Barry always seemed to get guys to turn it up another notch. During to Neuheisel regime that seemed to gone away. Are defenses weren't as dominant and suffocating. Blitzes and smash mouth where not the norm. What and how do we get that back? It seems Lambo was a big part of that attitude. Who's going to supply that now?

A: I really think that defenses have become too reactive across the board in college football. You'll notice that at the NFL level they are still attacking and more dominant in the game. Of course they have better personnel on the corners and at the defensive end positions so they can go after quarterbacks better. I really think that Kent Baer is trying to change the sit-back-and-react defensive approach that has been prevalent since Lambo was forced out of Husky football. He was very aggressive at both Stanford and Notre Dame and towards the end of last season actually began attacking more by putting more speed on the edge. I think that is the key. You have to find 4.5-4.6 guys to come off the edge ala Don Jones and Andy Mason. There is no question that offenses tend to dominate college football but that is really just because everybody tends to play exactly the same defenses. I think you'll see Washington become more aggressive in the defensive play calls just to create more turnovers which goes hand in hand with attacking defense. Kent could only do what his personnel would allow him to do and I think that forced him to be more conservative in his play calling.
From Bob Griesel
Dear Coach Baird,
: I always enjoy your insights - As to recruiting - It always hurts to lose good instate players but it took Don James a couple of years - It took SC a couple of years - I have confidence in Coach Willingham but it will take a year of winning with the recruits you have to attract some of the kids that are going elsewhere - The one great thing to build on is he's surrounded by good assistants and I'm sure that patience will be a virtue -

A: Coach Willingham knows his system and this was really his first recruiting class. I think it provided both hope for immediate help and the long range. This is a work in progress and if you look closely they are indeed taking positive steps. First of all the kids believe in him and his assistants. He also believes in himself and I think the administration is firmly behind him, something that neither Lambright nor Gilbertson had. Coach Neuheisel was innovative and creative as a coach but not as much of a system man as Willingham. I really believe the kids are buying in and that will eventually result in wins.
From John in Poulsbo
Coach Baird,
: Hi Coach: enjoy listening to you on radio during the season. My question is what's going on with JC recruit Brandon Jefferson. Looks he has not signed a LOI as of yet. Is he wavering? How would your rank him in this class. How do you see the Dawgs finishing in the Pac 10 this year?

A: The JC offensive lineman you referred to is a long way away from making it academically into school. For that very reason they had to pass on his admission and not sign him with this class. I believe the door is still open for him if he gets his grades and transcript in order. There is always the possibility however that he can get more easily admitted to another school who will accept all his credits. Don't be surprised if that happens.
From Chris Wilson - Oregon fan
Coach Baird,
: Actually, just wanted to give you a compliment, coach. I know the rivalry between the Dawgs and the Ducks is intense and often filled with ill-will, but I appreciated your comments about the Oregon recruiting efforts this year. Also, your article recently on recruiting in general and the rating system (or more specifically how bogus it is) was fantastic. Thanks for making your remarks available to all of us football fans. We may be Dawgs and Ducks, but we have one love in common: college football!

A: I thank you for the compliments and really believe that Mike Bellotti has done a great job of making the Ducks a perennial contender in the Pac-10. The reason is quite simple - his boss, Bill Moos, understands it; stay the course, maintain continuity in your program, don't change coaches like you do clothes, ride out the hard times and keep faith in your coach. The Ducks had a losing season just two years ago but came back with a 10-1 last year. My boss, Jim Lambright, had one 6-6 season and lost his job.
From Scott Searing
Coach Baird,
: Why do the dawgs get gigged for their decommits while getting zero credit for "stealing" recruits from Nebraska and Arizona State? What's good for the goose is good for the gander right? What do the Huskies plan on doing differently this off season to be much improved come September? With the Pac-10 becoming even more "air" oriented is there a possibility of some Lambo 4/6 defense to slow them down? Thanks in advance Dick, you are "true blue" or should I say "true purple" GO DAWGS! PS The purple pants look WAY better than the gold!

A: Purple pants? Probably cooler than purple helmets. I agree that by fall the Huskies need to become more assertive on defense. Go after the quarterback! Make him make quick decisions and hurry his throws. That's precisely why everyone is using the Utah shotgun offense now. They combine the quick throws with the option game and it puts stress on the corners. One possible solution is to add more disguise to the coverages. Make them think you're coming when you're not and then come when they don't think you are using delayed zone blitzes. I really believe that Kent Baer is going to become more aggressive this coming fall. Face it when Husky Stadium is the loudest is when they are on defense. Look at how that helped the Seahawks this year. It was their crowd and defense that made them so exciting. I know the QB and RB were good but they got to the Super Bowl because they really improved on defense.
From Matt Dorsch
Coach Baird,
: The recent success of the Seahawks and all the attention paid to the 12th man got me to wondering. Wondering whatever happened to the loud crowds at Husky Stadium. I know the easy answer is that it's hard to cheer for a losing team. That is a lame excuse in my opinion. I hate to use the Ducks as an example, but those fans want to make it hard for the visiting team to play there. Much like our Seahawk fans this year and in years past in the Kingdome. Die hard fans should be LOUD all the time. When the team is ahead or behind, whenever the visitors have the ball. For the past 5 years or so I've noticed an increasingly quieter Husky crowd. People sitting on their hands during key 3 downs. My friend and I get looks from others in our section when we are screaming our heads off. One woman actually asked us to be quiet! What has happened to Husky Fever?! Too bad you can't take season tickets away and give them to fans that are passionate about their college football team. The 12th man (sorry Aggies) has proven this year that fans can have an influence on a game. Why won't Husky fans take note and realize that maybe what this program needs are a bunch of rabid Dawg fans to give our players a boost. I know they would play a more inspired brand of ball if Husky Stadium was shaking from the rafters like we know it can.

A: I whole heartedly agree with everything you say except that it is hard to maintain you noise level when you are 1-10 and 2-9. It's as though everyone is waiting for something bad to happen. Fans are fickle and there is no doubt they love to become more involved the more you win. I think that is the key and I think Coach Willingham will bring them back. Let's face facts - our team has not been very good since we went to the Rose Bowl 5 years ago. They have to start putting together consecutive wins and try to turn this thing around early next season. Win your opener. Play well against Oklahoma and come home and beat Fresno State and all of a sudden things will set up for league. Husky Stadium has got to become the same as Seahawk Stadium. It has to be a home field advantage and when it does then look out because I'm telling you it can get really loud down on the field. 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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