Ask Coach Baird

Hi Dawg fans. Hope you are enjoying your end-of-spring, heading for summer time of year. It's the off-season, where recruiting happens and when championships are not necessarily won, but they certainly can be influenced by what you do in this crucial time before fall camp. And now, on to the letters . . .


From Dawgman "08"
Coach Baird,
: Are we ever going to see Jonnie Kirton at RB or FB, or is he staying at TE? Also here is a pic from my spring break. I drove to Seattle and had to make a stop at Autzen Stadium.

A: I don't see them moving him from TE because they have too much need at that position. That said, he is not a very good blocker yet so I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't start. I also think he would be better at about 275 than 290.
From Raymond from Vacaville, CA
Coach Baird,
: As we all know, one of the foundations of a good D-1 football program is the "walk-on" program; Coach, in your estimation what is the present status of the walk-on program at UW and, what is Coach Willingham and his Staff's attitude about the "walk-on program"; also, can you identify some of the young men who are presently "walk-on's," that can, and will, make a contribution to help return the Huskies to their rightful place among the elite football program... as always I greatly appreciate your insights and wisdom!

A: Remember the name Alex Mercier. A walk on out of Blanchet via Pasadena JC. He will be a major player for the Huskies and is a product of the walk-on program. Probably the best chance by a walk-on to start is Michael Gottlieb, a tight end from Mercer Island, and Mark Palaita, a fullback from Kennedy. I really liked a linebacker this spring named Josh Gage from Huntington Beach via Orcas Island. Felix Sweetman has been invaluable to the program as a scout team quarterback. Overall the walk-on program has been greatly reduced and I believe it hurts the football program. I have always admired and encouraged the kid who wants to play the game of football because he just loves the sport. There were only 20 walk-ons on the roster this spring and by the end of the spring there were less than 80 total bodies playing football. Last fall the total roster was 109. Putting that into a comparison, in the 80's and 90's we used to have 110-115 in the spring with rosters of 135-145 by the fall. We always had the biggest rosters in the conference. Because of the fact that Coach Willingham comes from private schools, he is more used to working with smaller numbers but we always liked the extra bodies because they gave us more cannon fodder for practice purposes. Besides I always figured that for every 5 walk ons if we found one who could get into our depth then it was worth it.
From Scott Searing
Coach Baird,
: What about the offense? We can have a great defensive football team but an inept offense just doesn't cut it these days. How can we score more points?

A: Keep the faith and you will be rewarded with another Rose Bowl experience. Stanback is a real weapon because of his running ability and so can Bonnell. They did not show a lot in terms of blocking angles or schemes in the spring game so it was not reflective of the potential. They have 3 good quarterbacks (soon to be four) and 3 potentially good running backs. I think they will really benefit from Marcel Reece as they need a big wide receiver and hopefully the OL and TE continue to develop. They did do something very significant last year offensively and that was to cut down their turnovers. Good decisions by the QB will only help with the offense. Believe me, the OL will be helped because the QB's can get themselves out of trouble by running the football.
From Michael Green
Coach Baird,
: How will the Huskies address the lack of depth at QB in the 2007 recruiting effort? Stanback, Bonnell, and DeRocher all have a limited amount of time remaining, and after them only Locker arriving. If Jake decides to take a baseball offer, the Dawgs could be in for some lean years at that position. Your thoughts?

A: You start and finish every recruiting class with the quarterback position. Simply because it is the most important position on the team. You always try to sign one per year so hopefully you always have 4-5 on the roster. That said, sometimes it doesn't always work out because kids leave and transfer at that position particularly if they are not getting a chance to play. A lot of it has to do with the nature of the position. Only one gets to play where as at every other position there are multitudes of playing opportunities. Then kids can leave early for the pros or go to baseball or just leave for whatever reason. Consequently, it forces you to address the depth problem by signing two in a year or supplementing your roster by going for a JC. That is usually the case when you lose more than one. Pick up a JC and a high schooler and hopefully one is real athletic and could be moved to another position. We did that with Jerramy Stevens, Bill Ames, and Eric Bjornson amongst others. There are about 3-4 quarterback prospects in the state this year so I wouldn't be surprised to see them just try to sign one of them and build it back with he and Locker then add another. Remember that Washington currently has two quarterbacks who started at WSU and Oregon before coming to Washington.
From Justin O'Brien
Coach Baird,
: Looking at our upcoming schedule and with how the players are progressing and new ones coming in the fall. What is a reasonable expectation as far as finishing in the Pac-10?

A: I always think they will have a winning season. My mind doesn't allow me to think in terms of losing. That means winning 7 games and going to a Bowl game. Belief in itself is where this team starts it all. This group of kids had no trust, no loyalty, and no belief in themselves, their coaches, or their system with all their coaching changes over the past 7 years. It totally destroyed the continuity, character, and culture of the program. I know because I have watched it up close and in person. I think the kids are finally buying into a belief system and that it will translate into winning games. I also think the kids are being held more accountable, have a sense of purpose, and are committed to turning this whole thing around. Time frame depends on recruiting and breaks. Of course you have to make your breaks but they really couldn't catch one over a two year period. You have to have expectations for success before you have success. This teams thinks they can win some games and if they do early then they should be competitive come league play.
From Jonathan Marsh
Coach Baird,
: I thoroughly enjoy your insights, humor, and prognostications. A Dawgman post contained an April 2005 Okie article that essentially compared Dawg player individual power-strength with Sooner players, same-same as wet noodle to veggie-with-substance. My take is after that April 2005 article, Coach Willingham, other coaches, and players have been putting more determined efforts into agility conditioning, strength conditioning, endurance conditioning, attitude conditioning, and player and unit conditioning. What are your thoughts as to our Dawgs exerting more power control over opponents, how long to make this happen, and can it happen?

A: There is no question that Coach Willingham has instituted his own work ethic system and I believe the players are responding. As far as conditioning is concerned, the style of practices has a lot to do with the overall strength and condition of your team. I don't think there is any correlation between what was said about Oklahoma and Washington. I do believe that the Washington kids look bigger and faster than they did in April of 2005. You can see a noticeable difference in their bodies and how they fly to the ball. I don't believe it is because of the Oklahoma model for success as they are up right now and Washington is down. I just believe conditioning, flexibility, and anything to do with the physical end of the sport is part of a systematic and well planned program. Trent Greener has a lot to do with the changes and was hired to implement Coach Willingham's philosophies. Hopefully it translates into wins.
From Shaffer
Coach Baird,
:
A: You pose an excellent question here and the sports are really different simply because of numbers. I think Lorenzo and basketball wins championships with Washington kids, but there just aren't enough for football. Basketball only signs 3-4 per year but football often signs over 20 per year. I believe you are one the right track though by thinking if you dominate this state you can win Pac-10 championships. There used to be a time when I felt we had a 90% chance in football of getting every kid we wanted in state. That all changed when we capitulated and accepted sanctions. After that, people began to raid this state and used the problems against us. Even Oregon and Oregon State got kids out of Washington, something we never let happen. I think Lorenzo is sort of proving you can do it with local grown talent.
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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