: Coach - How would you grade TW's performance both this year and over the last 3 years? Does he get above a "C"? If so, why?
A: I don't think it's my place to grade or pass judgment on Coach Willingham. That said, the win loss record is really disappointing and is really the only thing that matters today I guess. I know talent wise he did not inherit what Neuheisel did from us and really have felt it would take three good recruiting classes in order to get back to where the program once was. Right now he is only half way thru his second real class as his first one was a wash with the transition. I think he is a good man with kids, is well organized, is a true sports-educator and in all those areas I think he deserves good grades. But, unlike his tremendous graduation rate his winning percentage is terrible. That cannot be hidden. Unfortunately that is the bottom line in this profession so I think the verdict is still out. I really respect and like him as a person and how he goes about working with his players. He is hands on in all phases of their lives, does things the right ways and has cleaned up the reputation of the program in every other way, except winning. And that has to change this year.
From John Young
: I am a 34 year season ticket holder and have endured losing and winning seasons as due course of being a dawg fan, however, it has become soooo hard to go to a game whether it be a away or home game knowing there's a great chance we'll lose. Every year the PAC-10 has probably the best quarterbacks, more then any other conference in the country. Knowing this, I dread the up coming seasons every year knowing we never seem to have a defense to cope with these prolific passing QB's. Then, about 2 years ago I noticed almost every team we played, the opposing QB had the best day of his career against the Huskies. They would set records against us, week after week. My concern is, if the team isn't doing well in the first half, shouldn't the coaches be collective readjusting at half time? That doesn't appear to be the case in the last 15 or so games that I have witnessed. That aside, even though a game didn't go well with our defense, wouldn't it be reasonable to assume that just maybe the coaches and players would readjust for the next game considering their deficiencies of the previous game? That doesn't appear to be the case either. Finally, I'm already starting to feel better using you as a sounding board, why in the heck do our DB's play so far off the line when defending against the pass? Every time I see the opposing team line up with a spread offense I look at our DB's who are playing so far off the line I know the receiver will catch the ball and with our guy so far away, that additional yardage is a given. Even though our DB's are young and lacking experience, shouldn't the coaches adjust their defensive scheme to take into account playing against a great passing team. I'm just dreading the Hawaii game. More records to be set for that team. As the season drags on, it seems I'm beginning to drink more while tailgating before I go into the stadium. If we begin to win, I'll begin to dry out.
A: The losing has been extremely difficult to take, I agree. The change in coordinators and staff will definitely have an impact on schemes, so take heart. Hopefully the defense will adapt to those new schemes this spring quickly so they can come out fast in the opener. As for your tailgating problem, I believe that you'll find yourself drying out as 2008 unfolds. I have high hopes for a sophomore Jake Locker and a revamped defense.
From Rande Price
: 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.
: Hi coach your loyalty to UDUB is awesome. My question relates to the final month of recruiting. Now that we have 20+ good commits, if all sign. Do the underclassmen have more upside then the seniors that will be leaving? I see great things from our offense for next year. Especially if our young WR work hard over the winter, spring and summer with Jake the snake. Until next year…. GO DAWGS!!
A: This recruiting class will be the best in a decade, Robert. It is outstanding. There is a ton of upside to these kids, guys like Middleton, Polk, Kearse, and Thompson are all going to have early and awesome impact on this team. The WR group will be young but extremely athletic. Hopefully Mr. Boyles and Mr. Aguilar will work all summer with Jake on timing and how to read his throws. There is ample opportunity for both to play a great deal, and both are athletic enough to bring a lot to the table.
: I have truly appreciated your "informed homer optimism" throughout this trying period for Husky football. I reviewed the team ranking history for the Willingham period and found it interesting to note the progressive increase in ranking through each successive year. Not too bad for a supposedly weak recruiter. My question pertains to what has seemed to me to be a real drought for dominant defensive linemen. Is this a position that is recruited specifically or is the approach to find the best linemen available and to move specific players to the defensive side of the ball?
A: Linemen are typically recruited together, meaning both offensive and defensive linemen are recruited to play either side of the ball. Main thing you are hoping to do is get guys with good feet, good hips, the ability to get very strong, long limbs, and hopefully some nasty. Then you coach them up. You have a good idea of where a kid projects when you are recruiting him but that can change when they arrive on campus and as needs change. This year's class has some excellent defensive linemen, assuming they stick there.
|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.