LETTERS TO THE PUBLISHER

Thank you to those of you that submitted questions for the "Ask Dawgman" column. I never thought that Washington would lose to Cal ever again in my lifetime, but credit where credit is due. The Bears were the better team on Saturday. Judging the reaction of Husky fans on our message board, the Aurora Bridge should have extra sentries posted there for a while. And now on to the letters . . .


From Al H
Dear Dawgman: Thanks Dawgman for the great website. I have a quick question. I would like to know what is going on with Ossim Hatem? The last I heard he was taking commedin, which I know about very well because I have to take it as well. I enjoyed watching him play and am just curious how he is doing? Thanks for the great website. I enjoy the recruiting updates a lot.

A: We spoke with Ossim in the spring and he was doing well. I don't know that he'll play football again, however. As you know, Blood clotting conditions can be life threatening and contact sports certainly can cause internal bleeding. If Ossim continues to take blood-thinning medication to keep blood clots from forming, I doubt that doctors would allow him to play.
From Jackie W
Dear Dawgman:
Before Every single play Rich Alexis head is down looking at the ground. He needs to keep his eyes up and see how the line is moving. Granted the O-line is not opening the intended holes, but the creases backside are there and Rich needs to see them. Rich gets the ball and goes directly to where the play was called to go, never improvising. Good, I didn't say great, good running backs see the backside holes it is what running backs have to do. I think Rich has all the potential in the world but if he wants to do it right he needs to see the play develop. Coaching, experience and focusing on the little things will get it done.

A: Rich is still learning, there's no doubt about it. This is only his fourth year of football so his learning curve will accelerate with every game, if he can stay healthy. His ankle was bothering him last week, which is why he only had one (but a terribly memorable) carry against Cal.
From Josh L
Dear Dawgman:
Wanted to say your guy's site is "rollin like a hunchback doing somersaults"!! I think everyone needs to give Rich Alexis more credit. He is off to a good start this year and is developing into one of the best backs in the Pac-10. He is still coming into his own and is nowhere near his peak/potential. What are your thoughts?

A: I think Rich will get there, and can now catch the ball out of the backfield well. He has to get over his fumbling tendencies though. I have faith that he will. Rich Alexis is NOT the reason why the UW cannot run the ball this year. This offensive line doesn't open holes consistently for Rich, or anyone else, to run through. Thanks for the note.
From Scott K
Dear Dawgman:
How has the development of Isaiah Stanback gone? I haven't heard his name come up at all!!

A: Isaiah is learning a great deal from Coach Steve Axman. He is redshirting the season and working with the scout team, but he's going to challenge for playing time soon. Pickett should return for a senior season in 2003 and I would imagine after that, Stanback will challenge Casey Paus for the job. Isaiah has extraordinary gifts. He's a sprinter, has a strong arm, and is bright.
From Brenda F
Dear Dawgman:
Dawgman, I was looking at football recruiting for defensive end and noticed there are four who have interest only in Washington, but no scholarship offer. I take as either one hasn't been offered yet or they will have to play football as a walk-on?

A: Washington has not offered everyone that they will offer, just yet. The four you mention are still most likely being evaluated. Washington lacks depth up front, and defensive line is the most difficult position to recruit, as well as project, talent that can help a team early. There are only so many Shawn Cody's out there. The guy I'd love to see the Huskies land would be Lawrence Jackson. He could help immediately.
From Sean B
Dear Dawgman:
When Neuheisel arrived he got rid of the eight man front, and revamped it for defenses that would be more accommodating for our lack of talent, and now since we are head and shoulders in talent above where we were why don't we got back to 80% of the time going back to the eight or even a nine man front?

A: Washington does show an 8-man front on occasion, but they do not run the 4-6 as a base as Jim Lambright did. Washington runs a 4-3 base with a big DE on the strong side and a smaller DE on the weak side of the offense. Is the talent level where the defense can run an 8-man front? I don't believe so, and I also think that the offensive coordinators of the Pac-10 learned how to stop the 4-6 attack, and Washington gave up huge chunks of yardage. The current defense is giving up big plays as well, so I guess it all boils down to what is the best scheme for the talent you can put on the field. I am not unhappy with the current scheme and the way they mix the packages, but youth in the secondary and up front is hurting right now. Big plays via the pass and missed assignments are killing them.
From Darren and Tina
Dear Dawgman:
Please tell this Dawg fan what we can do to step up our defense. We let teams run too much. Can we stop PAC-10 teams when it counts?

A: The defense is broken right now when it comes to big plays against them. Third down has been trouble for two seasons now, but the Cal game was disappointing in that they couldn't stop the trick plays. A bootleg goes for 60 and a score, a flea flicker goes for 40 and a score, and they pick on a true freshman and go 51 yards in two plays to punch it in again. Three mistakes are enough, but when you combine them with two turnovers inside your own 10-yard line, they are deadly. Without the benefit of a rushing attack, this defense needs to create turnovers. If you are going to give up big plays, you might as well give them up being aggressive. The defensive line needs to get in the face of the quarterback and make him gun shy, which will give the secondary a bit more breathing room. This defense can stop the run, I know it can. It's the big plays that are killing them.
From Aloha Mike
Dear Dawgman:
As usual, your answers are to the point and thought provoking. Try this on for size. After viewing many games of football weekly(6), a certain question keeps popping into my mind. On defense why do DB's allow receivers into the middle of the field? Common sense would dictate that if the qb had to be more accurate throwing to the out of bounds markers why not force them to do just that by taking away the inside passes? What do you think? Thanks for your prompt response on the last installment of Ask Dawgman.

A: Leaving the middle open is a terrible thing for a secondary. It normally means your free safety has been fooled or he has vacated because he is on a blitz or another assignment. Defenses are normally designed to force teams away from their strengths, and taking away the middle is always a good idea. As long as you are able to maintain enough leverage to where you aren't beat on the outside. Passes completed to the middle of the field are usually due to safeties being out of position or a mix up in zone coverage. If a defense is in "quarters", or "cover two", the corners will run their men to the safeties and then cover underneath depending on the down and distance. The Husky zones were broken terribly by Cal on three occasions last Saturday.
From Steve
Dear Dawgman:
Looking at our youth and depth. How do see our recruiting panning out this year? The way I see it, we are now in a position to recruit "comfortably" meaning we have depth and some room to develop players, rather than hoping for immediate impact. Not that we would not want immediate impact players, but we do have some depth. Do you see any areas that require immediate impact?

A: Washington needs immediate depth help at safety and on the interior defensive line. Look for some JC help at those two positions. I love the potential of Benjamin and Sims back there and Jordan Slye may be another that could fit the bill there and add depth, but Donte Nicholson would make them all even better back there.
From Hogan Ford
Dear Dawgman,
I asked you about Nate Robinson, and you said he has been doing fine on kickoffs? You must be watching a different game than I have been! I don't think he has over 2 or 3 returns this year! BRING BACK LAMBO FOR DC!! Lambo help put together one of the fiercest defenses in the history of college football, and I think he could again. Is Entman still involved with anything with the program? I think when he was around he inspired Larry Triplett, maybe he could help with our D?? If we don't fix the problem, the boo birds are going to be out in full force. GO DAWGS!!!

A: I love what Nate has done on kickoff returns. Even though he hasn't touched the ball but twice, he's a thick guy as well as strong so he can block the first guy pretty well when ET gets the ball. As far as Lambo returning as a coach, it won't happen with the current Athletic Director, no way. Too much water under that bridge. I golfed in a tournament where both Lambright and Don James were there, and I joked to Lambo that several of our readers were calling him back to coordinate the defense. He laughed out loud before shanking his drive. Steve Emtman runs his own gym but still remains connected to the UW program, but not in an official capacity. He and Strength and Conditioning coach Pete Kaligis are friends.
From J Joon
Dear Dawgman:
After the loss to Cal this past weekend, I thought about last year's match up. I was at the game and recalled thinking that the Dawgs were lucky to leave with a victory as the Cal offense stopped themselves by dropping a late 4th down conversion pass. Our defense was clearly beaten and confused that day by a below average offense. A year has gone by and not much has changed - the Huskies have given up nearly 22 ppg this year and if we include last year, the number is 28+. I know these numbers are not all attributable to our defense, but these numbers are not indicative of a very good defense. It used to be that the Huskies separated themselves from the Pac 10 because of their reliable, disciplined defense, but now our defense may be one of the worst in the league - at least statistically. Is there any talk of changing defensive schemes or even coaches? It seems like we've been waiting for our young players to mature for the past few years. Hasn't the time come to admit we have a problem on defense and address them? Otherwise, we'll be hoping that offenses continue to stop themselves instead of our defense making the stop.

A: Cal has been extremely unlucky against Washington on several occasions before, but last Saturday was their day. The defense is not playing great, it's no secret. But add to that an anemic rushing attack, now that defense has to stay out on the field even longer and is even more exposed. When Tui was here and the option was in full force, the offense would grind up the clock. That was the best defense. This is not a similar offense in any way. Certainly Washington will need to look at changing schemes, or at least who is (or isn't) carrying them out and decide how to fix the mistakes. I believe they can stop the run, but they are getting killed on the big plays, and they need to find a way to take the ball away and get it back to the offense more.
From J Joon
Dear Dawgman:
Why do we have so many young players in the 2-deeps? It seems like sophomores and freshmen are scattered all along the offense, defense and special teams. Don't we have a more experienced CB backing up Roc Alexander during a crucial Pac 10 opener? Is it because the young guys and recent recruiting classes are that much better than the guys who have been around a couple of years? I think the other question to ask is how much are these kids improving once they arrive on campus.

A: That is a great question. This team is not senior-laden at all and that does hurt. Particularly in the secondary where they've had transfers (Levi Madarietta, Darnell Pahrms), a guy that has never played (Domynic Shaw), a baseball casualty (Grady Sizemore), and grade issues (Donte Nicholson, Eric Shyne, Dashon Goldson) that have sliced the numbers even further. The guys behind Roc and Derrick are junior Chris Massey and true freshman Nate Robinson. Sam Cunningham and Eric Shyne are also on the depth chart but are both young and not in the current two-deeps. It's an enigma that Washington hasn't been able to keep any experience in the secondary, but they will have it next season. The same goes for the interior defensive line. The value of a redshirt season sometimes goes unnoticed but clearly Washington could've benefited in some areas where depth concerns forced them to play guys very early. On paper, next year is the season when maturity and talent levels are about equally high.
From Rob
Dear Dawgman:
Rick Neuheisel may be a great recruiter, and he's a hell of a nice guy, but he can't coach worth a sh**! I'm sick of this vanilla Husky Football CRAP!!! It's embarrassing as hell! We are the 4th winningest team in America! We need to get back to the old SMASH MOUTH HUSKY FOOTBALL of the Don James era. If we keep playing like this, we're going to lose to the Ducks, & the Cougs for sure. Neuheisel is a Bruin, and always will be a Bruin. Barbara Hedges is a freaking Trojan, and will always be a Trojan. THAT, is a bad combo for our DAWGS. They BOTH have to go!!!!!!!!!!!! The University of Washington is a Football Empire, and is being slowly dismantled by these two people. There is absolutely NO excuse to lose to anyone. We have WAY TOO MUCH talent on both side of the ball. No more excuses for slick Rick.

A: Thanks for your letter. I disagree with most of it, but I thank you for sharing it. I am not ready to declare the sky fallen just yet. And Barbara Hedges hails from Arizona, not USC. Smash mouth football is great if you can do it, but clearly this team is built for speed and for moving the ball through the air. The Don James era is over, sorry, and it was wonderful. I enjoyed almost every minute of it. The closest thing to a smash mouth team you'll find in this conference this year is Oregon. We'll see how well they do as they hit the meaty part of their schedule. They do have the best back in the Pac-10, no questions asked (Onterrio Smith). As for Washington, let's just see what transpires against Arizona at home and on the road against a USC team that surrendered 500 yards of offense to WSU. Those two games will tell me more about the Huskies, and also about just how good Cal is.
From Matthew T
Dear Dawgman:
I kept waiting for the defense to turn it around and be come somewhat successful but it is becoming obvious to me that is not the case. What is the biggest reason for our struggles. It seems as though we supposedly have these great recruiting classes but it seems like we have zero depth in the secondary. I believe Roc and Derrick are both overrated. They have tremendous tools but no ability or smarts to understand what it going on in front of them. It gets even worse when one goes down and we have to bring in someone like Nate who is an offensive player. Is it our schemes our do we really have as little talent as it looks in our secondary? Also are we getting to the point where we need to use Kenny James this year.

Thanks for such a great site. It is my first stop everyday on the web!!

A: Depth in the secondary is a huge concern. I documented it above in an earlier reply. Roc has struggled with health issues and this is Derrick's first year back from a horrific ankle/foot injury. It is a shame that Roc couldn't have redshirted, as he really should only be a sophomore right now. Unfortunately he was pressed into action and is already a junior. Same goes with Greg Carothers. Both Roc and Derrick have had some trouble but they aren't getting the benefit of a great pass rush either. It's a team effort. Neither Roc nor Derrick played in the secondary in high school. The nice thing is that Matt Fountaine and Eric Shyne, both true corners that played there in high school, are both redshirting. As for Kenny James, I believe he will be redshirted. Could he find the holes that Rich and Braxton have not found yet? I don't think so, and I hope that they let him redshirt. Thanks for the kind words about the site.
From The Fullertons
Dear Dawgman:
What are the chances of getting Dick Tomey next year as D-coordinator?

A: I am not aware of any connection that Dick Tomey has to Rick Neuheisel or anyone on his staff. He definitely has a fine defensive mind, however, and would seem very employable if he were on the job search. Would he take a coordinator job, which pays several hundred thousand dollars less than a head-coaching job? I'm not sure.


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