Ask Coach Baird

Now begins the recruiting crunch time. Tyrone has to go get a full compliment of 25 players to replenish the talent and restock the depth that has been missing the past couple of seasons. And now onto the letters . . .


From Steven Patneaude
Coach Baird,
: Coach, what about Ashlee Palmer? Does he just ride into the sunset or do they try and bring him in with this recruiting class? Talk about filling a void.

A: I thought for sure he would be the answer this year but they couldn't get him in. To me he would be the best player they could sign, again. I have heard he is still taking classes and was headed back to California to try to get eligible so there might be a chance he is still going to make it. Hope so but don't know for sure.
From Nancy Weiss
Coach Baird,
: In 2002 Donny Mateaki was a five-star recruit from Hawaii. Having recently completed eligibility I would like to know your opinion about his career as a Husky. This guy looks like he lives in the weight room but I didn't see as much production from him on the field as I would have expected.

A: Great kid, great body, great work ethic but no real explosion is what I think. Donny had and has trouble getting disengaged from blockers. The ability to run to the football starts with the first step out of the block and Donny's has always been a little slow. That and he has always had leg and foot problems have contributed to his problems. He has been hurt a lot of the time he has been at Washington. But, he was a great team player and did get his degree and that is what is most important. He is a 5 star person that is .
From Josh Shaver
Coach Baird,
: Who will bring the fire next year? As you have close access to the team what returning players are going to be the vocal leaders, keeping the team ready to play and pumped up? I have heard you refer to this type as 'War Daddies'.

A: The linebackers and quarterbacks have to be your verbal leaders. It is their job. Their positions dictate that. People should never confuse those who talk to the press as the leaders. The true leaders talk with in the team. They control the locker room and general atmosphere of the team. They are usually seniors and don't take crap off of anyone. Tough guys are always leaders. As far as the returning players are concerned I am not sure who will emerge outside of the leadership positions. I would guess Roy Lewis and Dan Howell on defense but the obvious real team leader has already been determined by the winning of the inspirational award - Jordan Reffett. I think he and the defensive ends will be leaders. On offense, Russo will be a senior but I'm not sure how verbal he is. I do know he is steady and along with Bonnell, tackle Chad Macklin, and center Juan Garcia there are some seniors there who want to lead this team to a bowl. I think that both quarterbacks are born leaders and have the full respect of their teammates already. Leadership does come from within. I know for myself, as a sophomore I was the play caller so naturally was bossy but by the time my senior year came around I just decided to take over.
From Rick Mayekawa
Coach Baird,
: Well…here we are again, the end of another loosing Husky Football Season. As optimistic as you always are, I think even with the improvement in the win column this year, the end results were below expectation since they did not qualify for a bowl 4 years in a row. Husky attendance continues to decline to the mid 50,000 and Recruiting continues to be an obstacle with attracting 4 and 5 star blue chip players who now choose Oregon, Cal. USC and even Oregon State. Many recruits don't remember the glory years when the Huskies went to many Rose Bowl, Pac 10 Championships in the 80's and early 90's until Probation hit. The bottom line Coach is, "Winning Records and Bowls" are what attracts recruits. Loosing top players in recent years (i.e. Jonathan Smith, Taylor Mays and Steve Schilling) is a disturbing trend that hopefully Coach Ty can improve.

A: It isn't that dismal. It was a good season that saw our team become more competitive. They played with nearly everyone on an even basis. They were picked to finish dead last but actually won 5 and took two others into overtime. They hit with the Trojans, Sooners, and the Bears and played all three tough. Those could all be BCS teams. They won on the road. They got better and played better then they really were. There was progress made this year. They are recruiting well and already have half their class full. They have cleaned up the program's image. Those who stay are earning their degrees at an 80% rate. By and large they are staying out of the negative press. The recruiting will pick up and they didn't lose those kids, those kids chose to go away to school. That happens. Many times the kids are distancing themselves from their parents not the University of Washington. Hundreds of kids leave California every year. It doesn't mean you're losing kids if they aren't really considering you. You'd better concentrate on the ones who want to be here. Winning is the only real way to change everything and they are starting to do that.
From Michael
Coach Baird,
: I was wondering just how much the huskies hit during the season? In the Owens's timeframe, we had full scrimmage on Wednesday, QB included, and full contact position hitting, etc. on Tues and Thursday. We also had lots of people hurt from this who did not play or played much less than 100%. I cannot imagine any college team w/ regular full speed hitting mid-season, given the size and speed of the players, the length of the season, etc. Is there any full scrimmage hitting during the season (excluding the QB for sure now) and are drills full speed/full hitting on any days after the first game? Again, how much hitting during the season?

A: Excellent question and in terms of time and amount of hitting in practice, there is no comparison to the Owens era (or the James/Lambright era for that matter). It is largely due to the difference in numbers. The amount of hitting is not as important as the constant repetition of "almost' live blocking and tackling. You are so right in that you can't be hurting yourself in practice and no there are hardly ever are any live scrimmages during the season. There are usually 3 types of tempo used in terms of hitting level in practice. (Live, Thuds, and touch off.) None involve taking the teammate to the ground and live low blocking is rarely used in practice but is practiced for use in games. It only makes sense not to try to hurt your own team mates. Don't get me wrong however, as I am obviously of the hit and hit some more school. I think any linebacker or receiver who played for me will tell you I stressed toughness and full contact. I did so until I hurt one of my best players in practice and we lost him for a game. I backed off immediately and worked more on body position and quickness to spot then always hitting. They don't let you hit quarterbacks in games anymore so why hit them in practice? Just kidding.
From Russ Pannowicz
Coach Baird,
: Here in Northern California, Sports Talk Radio shows are constantly laughing-out-loud about what a crooked coach John Wooden was known to be. With his Money-Man, Sam Gilbert by his side, it appears that they took "Lack of Institutional Control" at UCLA to a new level. They say it's common knowledge by all in Southern California that Sam Gilbert actually kept Lewis Alcindor, Off-Scholarship, for several reasons: 1) because he could pay him more, and 2) it allowed him live in Gilberts Mansion and 3) allowed him to blatantly drive a Bentley, (owned by Gilbert) down to the UCLA Campus every day? Is this true what they say? If so, how can so much of this activity be talked about and laughed about on public radio, and never discovered by Tom Hansen and the PAC 8? Knowing this, how could anyone say that John Wooden was a great coach? We in the Husky Nation, would have been placed on Double-Secret Probation forever by Hansen and his lynch mob. Doesn't it seem odd that Tom Hansen seems never to hear about anything, unless of course it's about his alma-mater, Washington? Now, doesn't it appear that Hansen is going to take the same tact with this most-recent Reggie Bush incident? Can a guy in Tom Hansen's position be terminated? Are Tom Hansen's Salary, and what triggers his incentives, open to the public, since we're the ones who pay him? It seems like he and his referees (see: the end of the USC vs. UW game), are constantly aware of where their bread is buttered?

A: Russ, Russ, Russ. Take a deep breath. It's not my position to publicly take on Tom Hansen and certainly I don't want any part in attacking the legendary Coach Wooden. I will say I have heard the exact rumors about Jabbar but I think it is important to point out that manipulations of the intent of rules has always been a big part of recruiting. They really weren't breaking the rules then because the rules didn't exist that made them violations. Lew Alcindor's relationship with Sam Gilbert is factually substantiated and he was not on scholarship so therefore was not under the rules as they were then (loopholes). I understand the irony of it all because Coach Wooden is so glorified. Unfortunately, I also understand the reality of big time sport and I know what was, is, and probably always will be, and what happens in order to get the best kids. I just try to keep my own house clean. Tom Hansen has not been the best friend of the Huskies just because he graduated from Washington. Yes, I think he has gone out of his way to prove that. That said, I honestly believe that he will always feel bad for the railroading of Don James. He could have done more to keep the focus on the facts and really give Washington a fair trial, but he didn't. I think I am with you on what happens to USC. I doubt that there will be any sanctions that will in any way really punish the Trojans. I believe USC has certainly cleaned up its act with regard to housing issues and they are probably well within the rules (now). I don't particularly want anything bad to come about because they will only punish the innocent kids who had nothing to do with Reggie Bush or Leinhart. You and I have no control so we may as well chill.
From Jeff Welch in Los Angeles
Coach Baird,
: A lot of disgruntled husky fans are not happy with Ty and some are already looking for him to be replaced. To me, it seems Ty is the right guy for this job. I have always thought that this rebuild was going to take some time as time is needed to get current players on the roster to buy into Ty's program and time is needed to stock up on "Ty" guys. When folks that are in favor of giving Ty more time argue with folks that want him gone, the Ty haters always bring up the turn around Tedford had in 1 year at Cal. Can you shed your thoughts on this? How different are the 2 situations and do you think Ty has the ship going in the right direction? In your opinion, how long does Ty have to get the huskies back to a Pac 10 contender?

A: I totally agree with your side and think anyone who wants to get rid of him doesn't understand the big picture of collegiate athletics. He is an excellent sports-educator and is very good for young men in college. He is teaching. People (those who only look at wins for progress in the sport) need to understand that he has a good system, he has good assistants, he has a supportive administration, and has good values and promotes character development. He sincerely believes in what he is doing and I have watched the program as closely as anyone. I can tell you it is a solid program with great structure, organization and accountability. This is a good person and an excellent football coach and administrator. I truly believe that this team played about as close to their potential of talent as any team I have seen at Washington. They had to go through an entire chapter of belief learning just to be able to play with their opponents. Remember these were the same kids who were the 1-10 and 2-9 teams. The "firing" talk blows me away but it is part of the profession and I've been there.
From Michael H
Coach Baird,
: Remember me? I'm the one who used bug the crap out of you during recruiting. I'll give you another clue, did you guys ever think of moving Andy Mason to the Whip? I got another one for you, do you think they would ever think about moving Chris Stevens to the Strong Safety, looks like he'll be playing behind EJ next year. I think he needs to be an every down player. I remember James moving Jaime Fields there in his earlier years. Boy do we miss the Wednesday practices.

A: Andy Mason actually did play whip before being moved up to rush the passer. You have a good point with Chris Stevens but right now he can probably help the team better rushing the passer himself. He is very quick and has excellent leverage vs. the 300 lb offensive tackles. To not have him on the field all the time seems to hurt but then I feel that way about Dan Howell and EJ too. I really like all three of them along with freshman Donald Butler. They are the best four running athletes we've had at those positions in years. They are trying to find ways of playing them all with their various schemes. I don't think Stevens is a safety but they do need help there and he does have good speed.

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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