Ask Coach Baird

Hello Husky fans. The recruiting season has gone extremely well this year for the Huskies. It was the perfect year to have a strong in-state talent base to choose from and Tyrone Willingham and his staff have done a nice job of plucking off that talent to stay home and play for the Huskies. And now, on to the letters.

From Mike Oaksmith
Coach Baird,
: I am convinced that the biggest problem on the team right now is the defensive secondary. Talk all you want about lineman, kickers, receivers being young, etc… the fact remains we are in the Pac 10 – every team we face can throw for 400yrds on you if you don't have an athletic backfield. Looking at the tradition of big play FS, SS and CB's, why can't we recruit any of the top CB's out of Cali? Also – why don't we tap into the JC colleges more for this help? You watch any top 25 team on defense and their CB's are NOT 15yrds back off the offensive line…. Those teams have the athletes and the scheme to bring their personal up and take away that stupid 1 step drop – pass to the receiver for 8 yards a pop. Look at how Hawaii just tore us a new one – then Georgia just shuts down anything Hawaii can do three weeks later. In 08 the offense will be just fine, the D line and linebackers will be as good as our secondary – so I hope they can get "creative" and get a couple last minute stud SS or FS. I'm talking 6ft2in, 215lbs studs that lay some hat back there. Back to the days of Tommy the hitman Smith or Akbar or Parrish, or dare I day another Lawyer Malloy type. There has to be a big hitter out there in the JC ranks – who cares if he gets beat a few plays deep – as long as he brings the pain and fear back to the Husky Secondary! There is nothing like a big hit from a Safety – over the middle or in the backfield. Wallace was ok at this, but really we have lacked this mentality since Hakim Akbar. I am telling you – we will not sniff the top 25 until the secondary ranks in the top 3-4 of the Pac 10… last year we ranked dead last. Look at the second half of that Apple Cup, it was horrible!! Please Dick – get on the horn to TW – have him offer a couple kids the farm – offer a starting position right away – offer the keys to the car – upgrade the secondary!!! Go Dawgs (PS – Locker will be the greatest talent to ever put on a Husky uniform when all is said and done)

A: Dear Mike, I feel you loud and clear. I would have to agree that as an area the secondary is and has been a position of need. The tackling angles were poor, too many missed tackles, and soft, soft cushions. I know Coach DJ Williams must be sick but I really think it has been more lack of players than anything. Last spring there were only 6 total secondary players participating. That should have been an indication of the sorry state of the backend. It never really got any better because few of the incoming kids were able to step up. One who did was Nate Williams and I have to think he and Jason Wells will give the Huskies two good safeties. There are some good young kids waiting their chance like Quinton Richardson. I don't think the JC's are the answer because those kids have a tough time getting into school at Washington. I think it is better to develop the youngsters in your program and hope a thumper emerges like the kids you mentioned. I'm with you, I'd like to see those 215 pound safeties and lightning quick cover corners. I would hope that they improve their man to man skills and can find and develop some man cover corners. Then have enough in your package to disguise your coverage every snap. I have to agree though that your concern is well placed and that this team will never get better until they play better in the secondary
From ABG
Coach Baird,
: Thanks for supporting the Huskies in tough times. I lived in Seattle for 20 years and continue to follow the Huskies avidly, even though my work has taken me to Orlando of all places. I am dismayed that there are self-styled Husky fans who despise Coach Willingham so much that they root for the Huskies to lose in hopes that will hasten his firing. I read their posts on the Internet and can't believe my eyes. What will these "fans" with such twisted thinking do when the team has success this year? Haven't they crossed a line?

A: I admit the negativity gets to me too but I just try to keep myself positive in everything I do. I expect the Huskies to go to a bowl this coming year which makes them a winning team and then go to the Rose Bowl the year after that and win it with Jake. By then Tyrone will be firmly entrenched and will have a nice contract. I think his being named the president of the coaches association speaks for itself. This man is well appreciated and respected in the ranks of his own profession. I talked with Sam Jankovich, the retired AD from Miami, this year and all he asked me was, "They're not stupid enough to get rid of him, are they?" Coach Willingham is one of the most respected men in the profession of coaching. If it works out like I want it to, then he will be the Husky football coach for 15 more years and retire as one of the greatest coaches in the history of the school and the conference. Remember everyone was after Don's job during the first three years at Washington. The guy is a good person and is well respected by the kids on the team and as far as I'm concerned they have the first vote.
From Scott S
Coach Baird,
: Coach Any chance Lambo would come back and put some teeth back into the Husky defense? I know he loves the Huskies. I've seen him at more than one Husky football game, just there as a fan and I love that. I always am amazed though and stop and say hello. He probably has no idea what an honor it is to see him. Hopefully next time I'll be smart enough to bring my camera! GO DAWGS!!

PS My Mom and Dad were both born in Seattle. My dad followed the Huskies in the 30s 40s 50s and 60s. He was gaga over those Jim Owens glory years. Unfortunately he died before Don James took over. But you know what, I'm his son and I witnessed all of those years for him and me. Something tells me that he's been right there with me the whole time. We're gonna get back there. Keep the faith!

A: I've thought the exact same thing but honestly I'm not sure Coach Lambright wants to re-add stress back into his life. Although I totally agree with you that if Tyrone was smart he'd at least see if Jim was interested. Nobody can call a game like he can and he already knows the other three staff members on defense. I think Jim is just loyal enough to take it just to help the school and couldn't care less about a long term stay so the precarious nature of Tyrone's tenure wouldn't be a factor. You know they would immediately become better on defense and the "attack" would be back. Forget it though, not going to happen.
From Jack Sonnichsen
Coach Baird,
: I really need your help on trying to figure out what happened during Coach Willingham's negotiations with Wayne Walker. Question, Is it common place for head coaches to put underlying coaching positions in play when negotiating with potential coordinators? If so then why wasn't DJ's job included ? To tell you the truth, I didn't mind missing out on Walker as much as reading that Coach Hart and Coach Tormey's job were put on the line. If this isn't the type of question that should be asked on this web site, i.e., gets too much into the inter workings of the coaching business then just pretend I didn't ask – not really, I think it would be helpful for all readers to understand. I also can't help but wonder if perhaps Walker and maybe even Neuheisel aren't the culprits or guilty party. In other words, Walker had no business bringing up the subject of the other two coaches.

A: I have to admit that I too was taken by the revelations of the Walker search. I am good friends with both coach Hart and coach Tormey but I also fully understand the nature of the game. A defensive staff is a team within a team. I am positive that all three of the remaining defensive assistants feel terrible about Kent Baer's losing his job. Again, that is just part of the game. I fully understand Coach Walker wanting to keep his "team" intact. They are used to working together and unlike a lot of people, I fully understand them not wanting to leave LA. That was a no brainer decision on their part. Moving kids and family all the time is already one of the worst aspects of the coaching profession. For them to not have to move their families, get to still work with their old team, and all got raises. Come on, what would you do? They still have their loyalties in tact so I was not surprised to see them stay but I was surprised to hear what Coach Walker said and I think he probably wished it hadn't come out that way especially in light of Chris and Randy who I am sure he knows. Whatever, for now my buddies still have jobs and I hope they get to keep them.
From Andrew Wai
Coach Baird,
: I don't see any Center being recruited during the last few years and also this year. Can any of our OT, OG, DT or DE switch to become a Center ? What physical abilities do you look for in a Center ?

A: I think Centers are like Guards and most start out as guards. Snapping for kicks used to be all done by the centers. Now it is a rarity. If I'm not mistaken the Huskies are still looking at a center type from Hawaii so don't be surprised to see another late commitment and he may be a center like Bern Brostek and Olin Kreutz. I think quickness is essential for centers, followed by intelligence. The center usually makes all the front calls and hot alerts for the other linemen. Smart and verbal and tough are words that come to mind. Washington traditionally has turned out lots of good centers but I doubt any played the position until they got to Washington
From Driftwood
Coach Baird,
: Thanks for the great insight , you have. I have a question. Why (or do they) don't the Q-backs coaches at U.W. ask some of the former Q-backs, Warren Moon etc, to help Jake Locker and the other Husky Q-backs kind of like a mini camp. Matt Hasselbeck, some of these guys I am sure would be glad to help these younger QB's out and show them things they are doing wrong and point out things they can change to make themselves better? I know if I was there coach I would do all I could to give them the best instruction possible.

A: That would be against the rules. Volunteer help violates the 9 assistants rule for Division 1 football. People used to do that all the time and I still see kickers doing it periodically. Anytime there is instruction or "coaching" taking place it can only be by one of the designated assistants. If they wanted to go to a quarterback "camp" that is permissible but it is not OK for Mark Brunnell to come to Seattle and work with the QB's.
From Husky Fan 4 Life
Coach Baird,
: greatly appreciate your insight and positive perspective on Husky Football. I am also very pleased with what I've seen with the upcoming recruiting class. My question involves the full class size. What is the maximum number of scholarship recruits the Huskies can have? Is there any way for them to protect against low priority guys committing and taking up spots that could have gone to higher priority guys?

A: Certainly that is a real factor in recruiting but remember it's not always who you want but who you can get. Kids who make up their minds early in the recruiting process are a crap shoot. Unless we had a kid in camp, we never offered until we saw him play as a senior. They can't wait like that now. The recruiting game is just played a lot faster now and you literally have to offer kids before they even hit the field their senior season. This happened a few years back when the Huskies signed 7 wide receivers. They took Bobby Whithorne in May and had to tell Joe Cowan they had too many receivers in December. Whithorne quit after the first year and Cowan (son of former Husky Tim Cowan) started 4 years for UCLA. What a lot of schools do is go ahead and over sign then "gray shirt" kids and have them enroll the next quarter thereby pushing them into the next class.
From Veronica Skeels
Coach Baird,
: Thanks for your great articles and Q & A. I have a comment and a question. I believe that those fans who want Willingham to go are just ignoring the many important things that he is doing for our program, without which Husky football simply could not recapture its greatness. Coach has cleaned up the program, gotten it back into compliance, improved the graduation rate, and taught our student-athletes to be good citizens. These are the qualities our program MUST have in order to achieve excellence. This is the foundation that MUST exist for a team to become champions. Anybody who has been following the program for the last 10 years ought to know this is true.

My question: Looking at our commitments so far, do you think that these are the very type of hard-nosed, hard-working athletes that we have been losing to the Oregons and Washington States in recent years? Superstars like Dennis Dixon aside, it just seems like the other Northwest schools have been getting the type of tough, blue-collar players who used to come to Washington almost automatically. Do you think our class of 2008 might signal a turning of the tide? Our current Husky coaches have been building strong relationships with high school coaches in the Northwest. I remember what a high priority Don James put on recruiting locally. It would be a tragic waste to tear all that down and start over again from scratch.

A: Dear Veronica, I love the name. Childhood thing about the comics. First of all I think there has finally been a renewed emphasis to recruit Washington kids first. Washington has regularly signed less than 10 in-state kids for almost a decade now. In fact, Coach Willingham only signed 5 each of his first two years. I think it has taken this long for them to get their recruiting system across to the in-state kid and their coaches. The local kids see what he is all about just like you do. He is about honor and courage and integrity and education as well as football and they have gotten close enough to the program over the past three years to recognize that. I don't think the Huskies have lost more than 2 or 3 kids to the Ducks and Cougars though during the past three years. Stewart is the one but the Ducks really beat the Cougars not the Huskies on him and still Tyrone made a good run at the kid. I think had coach been at Washington for a couple of years before that, Stewart would have come to Washington. Most kids that left didn't end up at WSU or UO, they went to Michigan or USC. I will wait and see on 18 year old kids. I think they went after speed and that shows. The three kids they already have in school was a real coup as all will be there for spring ball and they will still sign 25 more. I know work ethic and character are again being used in the recruiting process and like you said, that is the foundation upon to build. They just need to win. 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