Ask Dawgman

Thank you to those of you that submitted questions for the "Ask Dawgman" column. The letters I received this week after the Cal loss were, to put it mildly, on the emotional side. It's awesome that so many people care so deeply about the Washington program, and it's great to get a first-hand glimpse into that emotion. Unfortunately I cannot publish all of the letters I received (emotion doesn't always translate nicely into a column). And now on to the letters . . .

From Kevin
Dear Dawgman: Great site! My question is would Don James be available to take the place of Rick at the in-house visits? I don't see anyone better and selling a successful program than one of the greatest coaches of all time. I have read that he doesn't really believe in them, but he could help out tremendously while we are in this crunch.

A: Don James would not be allowed to engage in any recruiting activities, unless the prospective student athlete was a relative or close family friend Even then, he would only be allowed to consult on behalf of the young man, not recruit for the UW. James is considered a UW booster for the rest of his life. But your point is well taken. When it came to closing deals in the home, there wasn't many better than Don James. He has an aura that still surrounds him today.
From Aloha Mike
Dear Dawgman:
Judging from the most recent Ask Dawgman letters, Dawg fans want blood. I am, and always will be, a DAWG. The defense has problems no doubt. They seem to be able to do very well on first and second downs. The problem, as you indicated, is third down. The change that I have seen is the dawgs take out a DE and an ILB and replace them with two DB's converting the defense to a nickel or dime package and going to a zone defense. In doing this they are going more to a passive type defense than a pressure defense. Beings that they are getting burned so much on third down, wouldn't staying in the pressure type defense be the answer. IN OTHER WORDS SCRAPE THE ZONE DEFENSE AND PLAY A MORE MAN DEFENSE? I think our DB's are more suited to play man than zone. What do you think? As always your answers are to the point and sometimes not what the writer wants to hear. Keep up the great work and keep playing your great music.

A: It has been an interesting week to say the least, particularly on the message boards. UW fans aren't used to losing, and that's not such a bad thing if it's tempered appropriately. The change in defensive schemes you are describing is the move to a nickel, and it would work well if there was better pass rush. I have no problem with the zones, as long as there is some pressure on the QB. The biggest thing to me that has been disturbing is how often receivers are getting BEHIND the zones. No scheme can cover that up, it's coaching and execution that will prevent that from happening. It had better happen soon.
From Paul in Bulldog land
Dear Dawgman:
This question maybe a little too late but after seeing the first 5 games, it seems like the huskies have turned into a finesse type team instead of the smash-mouth football team of the past. The defense has lost its aggressiveness and we've become one-dimensional. What is Neuheisel planning on doing to make our defense much more aggressive and to improve our lack of a running game? Expectations are high for this year's Dawgs but if we can't open up holes for our Running Backs and stop the big plays, we maybe spending the holidays at home watching our ugly stepsisters from the south and east playing on national television.

P.S. Again, love your site.

A: This team cannot play smash-mouth, it is obvious. They must outscore opponents and the defense must make key stops when it's needed. The defense doesn't even have to be great, it just needs to be solid when it counts. As for opening holes for the running backs, the OL has to prove they can do it when it counts as well. It would make the passing game that much more effective. The pass is certainly what the Huskies will live and die by this year, and the one thing that can make it more effective is the threat of a running game. Balance doesn't need to be achieved, but defenses have to at least THINK that there is a potential for a running play to break them down, so they have to defend against it.
From Lone Dawg
Dear Dawgman:
Great site. Read it daily. However, this current Husky team is (to put it nicely) not a physical team. This does not resemble the traditional Washington football team. Washington football is physical and intimidating. Currently it is fast, quick and soft. To put it simply, the present defense is road kill. Bring on a DC that can coach what we have come to expect from Washington in your face, smash mouth football. Oh, for the days when Lambright ran the defense! Also, the running game is nil. Again not the traditional Washington offense. Is it for lack of a runner or is the offensive line lacking the talent?

A: They are not physical, they are built for speed and finesse. But they are not far off in my opinion. Depth on the DL and secondary, and experience, will help a great deal. Lambright's defenses were toasted for huge gains in the late 1990s, either due to injury and the fact that he no longer had the type of athletes that could run a 4-6 attack, and offensive coordinators learned how to beat it. Offensive coordinators in the Pac-10 are glamour jobs, and those guys make the big bucks. Washington's defensive talent is good enough, now they need to execute and get some depth and experience. That will happen. The lack of a rushing game is a bigger concern to me. I know this team is built to throw the ball, but there has to be at least a THREAT of a rushing attack to augment it. So far it's not there. I know everyone wants to harp on the defense, but who else in the Pac-10 plays good defense? Oregon won the conference with a defense that was rated 9th in the conference. With a rushing attack, you keep your defense off the field more, and you can set up your passing game much easier. I think if that ill is fixed, experience and depth on defense will fix the rest.
Dear Dawgman:
What are the realistic chances that the huskies land one of the top running back in the nation - Reggie Bush? How will Neuhiesel sell this him on the UW?

A: Reggie Bush's uncle is former Husky FB Darius Turner, so there is a definite connection to the program. Turner indicated that Washington is right there in the hunt for his nephew, so it's not far fetched. Neuheisel could sell him on the UW because there is talent, but not proven depth, at tailback right now. Opportunities abound at Washington for a talented running back that wants to take the bull by the horns.
From AJ Dawg
Dear Dawgman:
If U.W. in the early 1990's had not been sanctioned by the PAC-10 and NCAA how much longer would Don James have coached? What's your opinion? When we hired Rick Neuheisel it was basically a "surprise" to everyone when announced. Two of the leading candidates to replace Lambo at that point were Gary Pinkel out of Toledo and Chris Tormey out of Idaho. Which of those two would you have preferred? Which do you think would've been most successful?

Thanks for a wonderful website. I check it every day.

A: Don James would've coached into his 70s, in my opinion. He is in great shape and was having fun and his wife Carol was very supportive of his coaching. I think he would still be coaching today, honestly. Given the choice of either Gary Pinkel or Chris Tormey, I would take Tormey because of his recruiting prowess. No knock on Pinkel, who is a Don James clone when it comes to organizational skills. I just prefer Tormey's style, and he is the one that recruited Napoleon Kaufman to Washington. Not a bad coup.
From Jhonus Wags
Dear Dawgman:
Is it not time to use our fast receivers? Why not have Arnold and Williams go long about 40-50 yards, have ET go out about 25-30 and then have the TE goes about 10-15? What do they see in Massey? All I hear about is the QB's and the back-ups. Why cannot we get DB's like we had for the great years? Are we ever going to get an O-line or are we going to keep talking about youth? We obviously lost our home field advantage, so how are we going to win 3 tough ones on the road? It is time for Rick to cut his friends loose (coaches) and get some Defensive help. Where was the Compliance Staff when the Bball program was out when they were not suppose to be. I am a Tyee in football and Bball but I am tired of the U and Babs thinking they are bigger than the NCAA.

A: It is time to spread the field, and Frederick and Arnold should be able to do that. However a running threat would help do that, it would keep the linebackers at home instead of dropping into deep zones because they know the pass is coming. DB is a difficult position to recruit, hopefully the young guys like Sam Cunningham, Eric Shyne, and Matt Fountaine will blossom. The compliance office is always there for a coach to call on if needed. The procedures are in place, they just need to be followed. Institutional control can only go so far. I'm not sure you can blame compliance for a coach's actions unless they instruct the coach to act in such a manner where NCAA rules are being violated. It's up to compliance to make sure the coaches all know the rules, and that there will be penalties if they are not followed. That is already in place.
From Curt B
Dear Dawgman:
In reference to the calls not made in the Huskies loss to Cal. are the officials graded on each game? The calls didn't lose us the game but they didn't help. It seemed to me that the officials were not in the proper position to make the calls, out of position or at a bad angle.. Does someone work with them and show them where they were wrong?

A: All officiating crews are graded on each game. The tapes of those games are reviewed by the director of officiating and graded accordingly. The Pac-10 graded the Cal vs. UW game and determined that it was fair. Cal was whistled for six pass interference/holding type penalties and the officiating office determined that more could've possibly been called but that all in all it was a fairly officiated game.
From Alan K
Dear Dawgman:
1) Why are the Huskies not rotating their linebackers like did early in the season with Lobendahn and Galloway giving Cooper and Mahdavi a spell once and awhile? 2) Why do I see three safeties on the field at certain times with Benjamin, Sims, and Carothers? Is this to exploit particular matchups?

A: The rotation has grown tighter, as you mentioned. I think the linebacker play has been pretty good for the most part and I think they want Coop and Mahdavi to be fluid and comfortable with each other out there. I haven't seen many breakdowns by either ILB. You are seeing three safeties on the field when they Huskies go to a nickel or dime package, and it is to play more zone pass coverage. Carothers lines up as an outside linebacker in these sets.
From Jeff
Dear Dawgman,
Thanks for all your hard work on the this site. You do a great job. I have a couple of observation and then a few questions.

DEFENSE: First of all I am sad to say that Washington will not win a conference championship with the current defensive coordinator. Playing soft defense and giving up huge plays really suuuuucks. After watching the UCLA game and the Holliday Bowl last year I was really distraught about our D. Most of the commentary on your site stated that the schemes were good and all we needed was for athletes to hold assignments and for our safeties to find the ball. I have been cringing during every game so far this season. I'm simply not seeing improvement in overall play. It appears that our D-line gets handles on almost every snap. How can you play defense in the Pac-10 without putting pressure on the apposing quarterback? Sorry if it sounds like I'm pilling on but I'm frustrated.

OFFENSE: Lot's of things to like. Excellent quarterback, Fantastic receivers, Adequate offensive line-ONE DIMENSIONAL. Washington must work on developing a running game. If Rich Alexis needs time to learn and develop then let's try a true freshman that has played more football. I REALLY FEEL RICH IS STRUGGLING.

Do you really feel Washington is on track with it's current defensive coordinator? Does the Washington coaching staff really feel they can be a championship team with no running game and Rich Alexis as their premier runner? I think USC has a fast and aggressive defensive that attacks with it's front four. Can Washington emulate what USC is doing. Oregon and Oregon State have big fast natural running backs. Can Washington recruit running backs of this caliber. Please let me know your thoughts.

A: I think Washington's defense has had some terrible breakdowns in the secondary, but the linebacking play has upgraded. Now the pass rush must get better, and I think it will with the influx of talent in the younger classes. Washington hasn't had a lot of seniors on either the DL or the secondary due to attrition, injury, or talent evaluation. I think the linebackers look solid now. Josh Miller has taken it up to the next level on the DL but he's been the lone bright spot in my opinion. I'm not sure where Tui Alailefaleula and Jerome Stevens have gone, but both have their best football ahead of them. To answer your question, I'm not of the opinion that Hundley is the sole reason for the defensive struggles. Does he share in the blame? Of course, but not as much as folks seem willing to heap on him. He would disagree with me on that, but that's Tim. He knows that's part of the gig. As for Rich, I don't think he has had holes to run through. Do you? I have not seen consistent holes open up, but that's just my opinion. I think Rich is fine. He may not be a Corey Dillon, but he certainly could be a Rashaan Shehee, a back that floundered early in the program and came into his own in the second half of his junior season. Rich can do it, and he has become a very capable receiver and rush blocker as well.
From Bill
Dear Dawgman:
Why has it been so hard to attract a great running back to the University of Washington? It seems like each year the big name back slips away and we are left convincing ourselves that (fill in the blank) is who we really wanted all along. Furthermore, with the exception of Willie Hurst's senior season, the running backs are not developing to be go-to backs. What's the problem ....lack of continuity with the running back coach? BTW you do have the "go-to" site for Husky football. Keep up the great work!

A: Kenny James was a big time back in high school, and although he wasn't as highly recruited as Lorenzo Booker, he will gain thousands of yards at Washington if the offensive line can open the holes. I think you are discounting him, he was a great high school running back that many other schools wanted. Chris Singleton turned down a full-ride to USC in favor of Washington, and went for over 2,000 yards as a senior. These guys will gain yards, you just have to open holes for them. I like current RB coach Chuck Heater, he was a running back under Bo Schembechler at Michigan so he knows a thing or two about running the rock. He is still listed in the top 25 all-time rushers for the Wolverines. This is his first year at the position so let's give him some time. I think you'll be very happy. Thanks for the nice words about the site.
From Eugene Husky
Dear Dawgman:
Eugene Husky here coming to you from Hippysville, OR. I have a couple of comments and a couple of questions. First of all, I am pretty sure that our woes are obvious--offensive line run blocking and a combination of secondary defensive coverage, with not enough consistent pressure on the qb. And we get killed on the play action, which I am confident will be solved with maturity. Without a comment on Jim Lambright, do you foresee a change in defensive coaches? And Chris Massey--I'm sure a good guy, but when he starts I close my eyes--he gets burned every game (Holiday Bowl). We have had some awful years of defensive football recently. With that, any change on the offensive line coaching, which hasn't been a bright spot either? And finally, why does it seem that we get better recruits, yet Oregon kicks are butt every year? Their fans have definitely shown ours up--we have no spirit and many people leave early regardless--one more thing, the Husky Tron programming is horrible--I draw the line when they ran a program on Prostate Cancer testing--not a pleasant thought as we are getting "probed" by a weak Idaho team in the 2nd half! Thanks for your response! PS--look for some Purple and Gold billboards in Eugene next year.

A: I agree that the weaknesses are run blocking and the secondary giving up big plays. Fix those two things and you've got an amazing football team. If it doesn't get those fixed, you'll likely see Neuheisel make some changes in his staff. He certainly isn't going to fire himself and he's here for quite some time because of his huge contract extension he just signed. He isn't going anywhere with that in place. Why does Oregon kick Washington's butt? Because they are getting better recruits than you think. Washington's classes may rate higher in the beauty pageant, but Oregon gets guys that fit their program. It doesn't hurt to get guys like Onterrio Smith to transfer in, either. Smith is gone after this year as he'll be a first round NFL pick, he's that good. Oregon's DL recruiting has been much stronger than anyone else's in the Pac-10 recently as well, and that is HUGE. DL is key and also one of the toughest positions to recruit. I enjoyed your comment about the "probing" by Idaho. Too funny. I lost my father to prostate cancer and even I had to laugh about that one. Thanks for the note.

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