Ask Coach Baird

Hello Husky fans. It's been a very difficult season to say the least. Eight losses heading into the last game is not where I thought this team would be, nor do I think anyone else did. One final game to salvage some momentum into recruiting season. Here are some of the letters I've received over the past couple of weeks.


From Jon
Coach Baird,
: I believe you coached line backers (LBs). As evidenced by Oregon's well-executed spread option offense, it appears extremely difficult to defend. 5 O-line, 1 QB, 2 RBs, and 3 WRs or 1 RB and 4 WRs. TE as well. Run or pass the middle of the field – short/medium/long, run to outside, pass to outside, run down middle of field. Have an RB block then run down field for pass. And who knows what else. We've had just 1 LB in the middle and sometimes aligned with a tackle to stop this attack. I saw us tackle an RB who doesn't have the ball. How does one defend with the greatest certainty, a well-executed spread option offense? Or is it "best guess and stay alert"? Another way of putting this is – is coach Lappano itching to execute spread option like the ducks? Locker strikes me as extremely gifted for this type offense. Your insights on how coaches Tormey, Hart, Williams, and Baer prep their charges and game day strategize/adjust is most welcome. Thanks Coach and Go Dawgs,

A: It is obviously a real dilemma but if I were still in coaching I would have slanted the line away from where Stewart lined up and I would have changed up the way you attack the quarterback. Those times you saw the great hits on the running back would have really meant something if they were hitting the quarterback and knocking his brains out. Then try a little bump or roll coverage against the wide receivers and bang them up at the LOS and be in better position to play the pitch. Even if the QB didn't have the ball go and hit him. I would also try an "UP" position by the linebackers and have them run thru when the O line tries to pull or zone block. Basically try to keep them guessing at what you are going to do but wherever Stewart goes I go….and hit the QB as often as possible. I don't think you can sit back and play off and try to stop what they are doing. Go after them and try to knock the QB out of the game. I really think the defensive coaches are trying hard to put their kids in position to make plays. They are just as much at fault as the kids and they will admit it. It is a team thing. When you win it is because the kids played well when you lose it's because the coaches coached poorly. You can't really place the blame but with that I never saw that kind of offense when I coached so I really have no clue. That and I really think the Ducks are a very good team.
From Steve
Coach Baird,
: I was at both the Oregon and Arizona home games and watched the Stanford game on TV. Both Oregon and Arizona used "no huddle" offenses to limit the defensive play calling and player substitutions. It seemed to me that both teams had little problem getting their plays called in because the crowd noise was relatively low at those times. After the offensive play was called showing the alignment and personnel, the defensive signals were called in to react and set the defense. The crowd noise by that time was LOUD! I am wondering if our young defense had a hard time getting on the same sheet-of-music because they could not communicate with each other because of our own crowd noise?

A: You raise an interesting point and I promise you it is even louder on the field. That is why we always used hand signals on defense and at the same time tried to keep the crowd involved. The confusion appeared to have been caused by inexperience and kids being afraid to make mistakes rather than trying to make positive plays. It was quieter at Stanford because there were really only about 25,000 fans there even though they announced more. That, plus the Huskies pretty much took the crowd out of the game. Against Arizona and WSU, there were some serious breakdowns at some of the most terrible times.
From Rande Price
Coach Baird,
: How are you? I hope you and the family are good. I just wanted to say "hi" and to thank you for helping some of us long-time fans, boosters, and friends keep the faith and keep things in perspective. I have to tell you that sometimes the only thing that keeps me sane after these recent games has been listening to you on KJR and reading your positive stuff on Dawgman.com. It's very comforting. This has not been much fun at all, and I know that it is probably tougher on you than most.....especially when you need to go on the air and listen to the constant negativity.

A: Really appreciate your comments and want you to realize that its simply about winning and losing for fans. Now that I am one myself, I also realize the frustration that comes with consecutive losses. After the Arizona loss it was particularly difficult to accept because the Huskies were clearly a better team and just let it get away. I have always said that when you win it's because the kids played well and when you lose it's because of the coaching. When you are a coach, that is precisely how you feel. You know that I think staying with a coach is the only way to go. I also didn't think Lambright should have been fired, and I didn't think that Neuheisel should've been thrown to the wolves by Hedges. The answer is in recruiting – getting the right kids and enough kids in the program. They have been awfully close and it is great to have positive fans like yourself and all the other Huskies in the Longview/Kelso area supporting the team. Rande, I can't thank you enough for all the support and help you have given to Husky Football over the years. Hang in there and stay positive.
From Les Snyder
Coach Baird,
: IT SEEMS TO ME THAT JAKE LOCKER'S PROGRESS AS QUARTERBACK IS A VERY SLOW THING HE HASN'T FOUND THE TOUCH FOR SOME OF THE IN BETWEEN THROWS AND HE CAN'T HIT HIS RECEIVERS ON THE LONG ONES. IT MAKES ME THINK THAT THE COACH (TW) HAS SACRIFICED THIS SEASON TO GET LOCKER THE EXPERIENCE SO THAT HE CAN BE A THREE YEAR STARTER AND GET THE DAWGS OFF TO MORE WINS. JUST WONDERING---

A: I think Jake is progressing just about right with his passing. He is getting progressively better and certainly has the arm strength and zip on the ball. His touch is improving and he throws better on the run. I think its safe to say he is a work in porgress as far as a passer but is steadily improving. While I agree that Carl Bonnell has been a better passer all along, I think Jake will be fine in two years when he leads Washington to the Rose Bowl.
From Dan Stevenson
Coach Baird,
: It's Sunday morning and I need therapy after last night's loss. I just had to sit down and write to you to vent my frustration. I admire and respect you more than any "Husky". I listen to you all the time on KJR and watch the Husky Honks. I've written to you many times before but I think I'm done with the Dawgs for awhile. Last night was a very, very tough loss for me. Short back round. I was born and raised in West Seattle(actually know George Jugum) and I've loved the Huskies since I was probably 8 or 9( in the fifties). I have always hated the Cougs even when I was little. Losing Don James was traumatic. I have always admired Jim Lambright as a player and I don't know if there has ever been a better defensive coordinator anywhere but he was not an effective head coach. I would say the same for Gilby(great offensive mind). I NEVER wanted Neuheisel, couldn't stand him when he was a QB at UCLA. Geez, we could have had Jim Tressel but I really wanted either Gary Pinkel or Chris Tormey. I didn't really want Coach Willingham either but I didn't have a choice. I have great admiration for him as a man and a person but I still have this gut feeling He's not "the one"!

When I went to the Spring game I was so excited for the team and had such high hopes. I would have guaranteed a bowl game. I thought we had the best depth at QB in the league. I just thought they should have had the depth chart different. I really felt like Carl Bonnell deserved to start, then Locker, then Fouch(very, very impressed with his skills at such a young age!). I really felt as great a talent as Jake is, he is still just a freshman and I really felt Carl deserved the nod because he was a senior, he has great passing skills and he stepped in and proved himself last year(and this year against Cal). I think he deserved to start the season to give him the opportunity and if he faltered, give Jake a shot. I know Jake will be great but I really think Coach Willingham was in too much of a hurry to turn things around.

I have been so disappointed in the coaching this year. I've watched every game and I'm thinking as I watch, did the coaches ever watch game film of the other team. Especially against Oregon. Our defense looked so confused like they didn't have a clue how to stop them. There were so many blown assignments and I know we're young defensively but we just looked terrible and didn't make any adjustments at least that were noticeable. I know Oregon had a great offense but still. Last night even we were so out of position on so many key plays. There is no way we should have lost that game last night. There seemed to be no half time adjustments for Brink. He's an OK QB but he looked like crap against Oregon State. Just no excuse for that loss! I was going to go to the Hawaii game but not now. I couldn't stand to go over and watch us get humiliated by a WAC team.
,br. Earlier I was for giving Coach Willingham more time but now I'm not. I don't understand why he isn't giving more of "his" players a chance to play. He has all these talented recruits(Hasty, Elisara, etc.) sitting on the bench, I don't get it. So now my desire is to see him gone and get a real Husky in there. I would love to see Jim Mora come over.

I'm sorry but this Dawg is done for now. I need to let go for awhile until a change is made. I cannot suffer any more. These few years have been extremely difficult on me. Even with the big win at Miami and the 2001 Rose Bowl (and I loved Cody Pickett) I'm just not handling this continuing decline very well! Thanks for listening! I still am a big fan of you!

A: An obviously heart felt email and I just want you to be a true fan and not give up. Hang in there and hope for a change of some kind. Whether it be who, what, where, of how they are doing things I don't know, but I'm like you, I want the losing to stop and have more winning than losing. I too am sick that they have been like they have been these past 5 years. Just when we think they turn a corner they slip back with an unexplainable loss like they did at Oregon State, or at home against the Cougars. Both losses followed wins. These games, like the Arizona one, were winnable and all played right to the finish. Unfortunately, they didn't win one. When you're not a good team, and they aren't, then you don't win many of the close ones. Say what you want, but its both the players and the coaches collectively losing. Not one of them wants to lose either, Dan. They are as sick as you or I. They want wins. There is no lack of effort, there has been no quit in this team, they play everyone tough but when you are losing its just hard to not try and fix the blame. I think that once losing sets in that it is really hard to turn on winning. It's sort of like a psychological barrier that prevents you from being successful. Somehow you subconsciously find a way to lose. I know that sounds weird but winning works exactly the opposite way. We won with kids that weren't a whole lot better than these kids but the difference was they expected to win. Until you do so and do so consistently then it's almost like you trying harder not to lose again than it is to win. Let's let the season play out and try to regroup with some good recruits and make some changes for the better. Hopefully we will all be around when they go back to the Rose Bowl and win it. Like I said, hang in there and stay positive. Peace.
From the Bolins
Coach Baird,
: What a five year drought for the defense! Each year the coaches say they are going to turn the defense loose. They are going to put pressure on the opposing QB and be more aggressive. I am still waiting for that aggression. FIVE LONG YEARS!!! Recently you wrote about Tim Meamber and his assessment on the Husky linebackers. Even his telling the Husky coaches what he saw and their response. The coaches year after year say they are trying to protect the DBs because they are young and inexperienced. Each year, game in game out the opposing QBs pick the Husky defense apart because the QUARTERBACK HAS ALL DAY TO FIND AN OPEN RECEIVER. Seems to me that why not PRESSURE the QBs YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE. DO you think that the defensive coordinator should be replaced? If the Huskies are going to get to that next level, they are going to have to get much better defensively. They have to personnel to get there but, not the coaches defensively. What are your thoughts on that?

A: You know I'm not going to advocate any of the coaches being fired. That I won't do because I have been there and I know how hard it is on the whole family. There is no question that the Huskies have struggled on defense this year and it has as much to do with philosophy, schemes, and calls as it does with inexperience, lack of depth, youth, not to mention fundamentals as simple as tackling and angles of pursuit. It's all of those things, Mike, and it is obvious they will be taking a good look at everything this coming off-season. I think it starts with recruiting and really believe they need to find and recruit some big thumpers at safety as well as a full defensive front and three good running linebackers just like Mason Foster. They have plenty of returners but could really help themselves by adding a full balanced team on defense. Next I would hope they commit more to man to man principles in their approach to coverage. Then add combo schemes so that they get better at switching off crossing receivers. In order to blitz more you have to cover tighter and make the QB throw in a hurry. You don't have to always sack him but by throwing 5, 6, or 7 rushers at least you'll be getting more hits on the throwers. Right now they have a chance to pull a tremendous upset and will have to do it with what they have in their current package. Expect them to have a good game plan against the Warriors as they have all season long. They just need to have an alternative plan so that they can at least disguise what they are doing. Let's just win this game then figure out what to do in the off-season, Aloha and I'll be staying at the Hawaiian Village Resort and I'd love to see you if you going to the game.

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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