Ask Coach Baird

The opener in Syracuse draws near and the letters have been flowing in, so here are more answers to your questions. Thank you to those who wrote me. And now onto your letters . . .

From Ken Franek
Coach Baird,
: It seems our need for quality CB's is an annual recruiting hurdle. For some reason, UW seems unable to attract HIGH quality CB's, WHY? Coach, who allowed Marcus Trufant to get out of town?

A: That is a great question. Dawgman took a crack at it in the latest SW magazine, check that out. It's a pretty good explanation of what's happened there. Corner and defensive ends are the hardest positions to recruit simply because most high school coaches play their best athletes at safety where he can play the whole field or in the middle so teams can't run away from them. Also kids tend to want to play offense first and defense as a side. You usually have to take a receiver and convince him to play defense. You are right on the money though as far as this being the biggest hole on the team and almost all our great corners were converted from another position. Defensive ends with great speed are rare and everyone wants them so they are coveted in recruiting and likewise hard to find. I think both are the hardest to get in recruiting and it is precisely why they go early in the draft. Ends before tackles and corners before safeties. Coach Willingham has lost a few to academics and that hurts this Husky team for depth there. About Trufant, there wasn't consensus on him on whether or not to offer. Blame it on me since I was the RC at the time. However Nate Burleson and Rien Long we could have gotten if we weren't fired. Oh well.
From Dan Hennessey
Coach Baird,
: Coach, do you agree with Coach Willingham's apparent policy of not using the "two-quarterback" system, especially in light of the quality he seems to have in Locker and Bonnell? A freshman would seem very likely to have an out-of-synch game, and if subbed out early enough it may salvage a win before it became out of reach. We husky supporters all believe the hype following Jake is deserved, but he is still going to be prone to excess mistakes. He would be the one player who I am sure would not resent being pulled, as his acuity and maturity speak for themselves.

A: Like Coach Willingham I believe you go with your starter but always have a pre-determined formula for the back-up so you always have him ready in the wings. For example, when you're up by 3 td's or down by 3 td's or he throws 3 picks. That is what Jack Elway told me once and I think Coach James always tried to give the back-up the second series of the second quarter. I really feel that the offense stays in sync better with the same guy at the helm. I don't think Coach means you never play the back-up. I just think he means you make a decision and go with it. How many teams in the NFL use a two quarterback system?
From Anthony Kirby
Coach Baird,
: #1. I know Stewart Hill had a very good football career in the CFL. I ran into him some years ago at Whistler. What is he up to? I think he was doing promotions up there... Is he living in Canada? #2. What is Fletcher Jenkins up to? #3. I really believe the Huskies will be an improved team over last year but their record may not show it. Their schedule is brutal and I am most concerned about the Defensive backfield and line. Roy Lewis hasn't done much to show me he is a great player and everyone else will be new. Davenport is a good addition, Murchison will be gone. Who will be the go to 3rd corner? Much of the Defensive line is back but how improved will they be? How improved will the offensive lines of our Pac-10 foes be in comparison to our Defensive line? The Defense will have to take more risks (blitz schemes etc...) this season. The offensive side of the ball looks more promising. I think Locker will use his legs well and if we can get some push from the guys up front, we should have a decent running game with the improvement of Rankin and the young speed coming in. The sleeper is the tight end position. I felt the tight end was under utilized last year and is a position we really need production from this year if we expect to be in the bowl game hunt by some miracle down the road.

A: I think Stewart Hill is still living and working in Canada where he is a Hall of Fame player and I don't know about Fletcher Jenkins although I will say both were great players in their day and I think great defensive Huskies. I agree with your assessment of the team and assure you they are a better team now then they have been in 5 years or so. The two areas of concern are defensive back and offensive line and I may throw in the specialists as well. I too believe they need to run the football in order to stay in games and give themselves a chance. I don't know who will be the other corner as Davenport is yet to show what he can do after being out of the game for so long then pulling a hammy. Right now there are 3 freshmen and if I were to guess it would probably be Matt Mosley.
From Josh Shaver in Anchorage, AK
Coach Baird,
: How many walk-on players can you have on your roster coach? Is there a limit to these players? Thank you.

A: 115 has become sort of the understood limit on football teams because of Title IX. Even schools like Nebraska have cut back their totals to about that number. That means that you are limited to about 30 walk-ons because of the 85 limit on scholarships. Washington has about that many right now and there are some like receiver Tony Chidiac a receiver and Jay Angotti, a safety, who are going to find their way onto the field. They (walk-ons) are essentially role players who help the varsity prepare for games but personally I think there is much less of an emphasis on getting walk-ons as in the 80's or 90's when we often had as many as 50 per year. I think if I took all the walk-ons thru the years that played for us they could beat a lot of teams today. I can name at least a half dozen who went on to play professionally including Dane Looker, who is still playing.
From Tim O'Leary
Coach Baird,
: Is the NCAA still persuading the Reggie Bush infraction? It seems more serious than the Billie Joe Hobert case.

A: A different time with a different team. I know that the NCAA and Pac-10 has essentially let them walk and in light of the fact that the Trojans also had another housing situation that would obviously fall under "lack of institutional control" because there was a pattern. However, USC chose to defend themselves rather than roll over and plead guilty. I think the conference learned a lesson with their unfair and illegal treatment of the Huskies and you will never see such a witch hunt again. Thank God. What also helped the Trojans is the "freedom of information" act does not apply to private schools - therefore SC and schools like Notre Dame always can circle their wagons and not let anyone have access to their documents which are not public record. The NCAA has done nothing with their information and I don't see anything happening. There has been a similar pattern at Ohio State but they too defend themselves and controlled the investigation by making them stick to just the specific case rather than opening Pandora's Box like they did with us. But you must remember, it was neither the NCAA or the media that brought down the Huskies, but rather our own administration of Bill Gerberding and Barbara Hedges who refused to believe we were honest men. They never defended us even though we had a better rules program than anyone in the conference at the time. I will always believe we did not defend ourselves and that was the reason the sanctions were so severe. USC defended themselves and have an athletic department that will do that.
From Ron Siegel
Coach Baird,

A: Dear Ron, I want to thank you for all your help when I was running recruiting. You were always helpful and I think you did a great job of getting local kids exposure. Best of luck in retirement. Dick.
From Barnard Rand
Coach Baird,
: Do you think the Huskies get a fair balance of good and bad press from the Seattle media? I think this is one of the biggest obstacles coach Willingham has to hurdle. If the Huskies got the same kind of in depth and positive press the Seahawks get, northwest and instate recruiting would be a piece of cake!

A: You make an interesting point with regard to the treatment by the media but I can't say I totally agree. There are some columnists who keep grinding on the fact that he closes practices to the media and they just won't let that go. Most of the big time college program also close their practices but that is never brought up here. I think he was just a little closed lipped when he first came because he didn't know who he could trust. The Seattle media is nowhere near as negative as say New York but they are vicious when provoked. I know the local media buried Coach James and our program in the early nineties even though none of us were ever found in violation of any NCAA rules. Now that I have gone over to the dark side myself I have found almost all the writers to be fair and decent people and really like the beat writers who cover the team. Controversy sells though, so any problem is magnified and any problem one of the players have becomes public knowledge. That just goes with the territory and Coach Willingham stresses it with his players. I don't think it bothers recruiting at all because most of the local kids and their parents get to know Coach and his assistants and they are quality people and the parents know their kids are going to be in good hands. Bottom line is you really can't do anything about them besides restrict their access to your players and that is precisely what he does. 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. Top Stories