Sign the Players First

The Washington Huskies need help on all fronts to become a championship caliber team. They are in need for both more players and coaches as Head Coach Tyrone Willingham will have to replace a third of his staff just to be ready for spring practices.

Unfortunately, the recruitment of UCLA assistant Wayne Walker to become the Huskies' defensive coordinator captured much of the media attention and became way too personal - and actually turned messy toward the end. I would be greatly surprised if Coach Willingham allows the process to stay "public". Even the latest news surrounding Ed Donatell as Washington's new DC hasn't been confirmed by Donatell himself. I suspect the only way it will be is when Willingham is ready to announce it.

When you replace coaches at the major college level - or any level for that matter - the process can either be quick and done with no fanfare, or it can get lengthy and drawn out with lots of speculation and coverage.

When you are involved in this sort of occupational turnover, most of the time you hope for the former. Pick me, get it over with and let's get to work is the best approach for an assistant coach. If you don't have to move and don't have to change team dynamics, then that is even better. You know the kids, they know you, and there is a stability about maintaining the status quo. That said, it is almost impossible to protect your rights of privacy and that is what is most disturbing about a "public" search.

Whose business is it that I don't get picked, or that I "lost out" - or that I applied and failed? It's bad enough just to be in the position of trying to find a job, much less have it be everyone else's business.

Once the Walker incident settled down it became obvious to me that I hope and assume the three coaching positions are filled by March. But what is really important is to secure this recruiting class coming down the stretch. The last month of recruiting is when the stress really starts to build. This is precisely why I think kids should pick a school and go with it and get out of the recruiting process altogether and enjoy their senior year of high school.

There are so many factors in play coming down the stretch that constant communications with each and every committed kid has to be maintained and a constant vigil for negative recruiting is required.

Recruiting is a highly competitive arena and the gloves do come off the closer you get to the end. Taking the high road definitely works with the kids. If you maintain your positive approach and empower the kids to go with their original decision, most of the time negative recruiting only works against you and rarely do you turn a kid by putting down another school or program - or coach for that matter.

There has already been considerable movement in the Washington list of commits and that too is to be expected. Change can occur for many reasons but you can never worry about those you lose or those you let get away. You need to concern yourself with who you get. Then you go get some more the next year.

The bottom line is that this class is the concrete to fill the foundation set by Jake Locker and his class. It will be the blend of these two groups of kids who will decide the future of Husky Football and certainly the future of their coaches. Unfortunately, that future appears like it is only for next year as this whole program must win and it must win NOW! There is a 'win or else' cloud hanging over the program and yet hardly any of these kids coming in will immediately help the team win next fall. Maybe five or six will hit the field, but who knows? Maybe there will be 6-8 in this group of close to 30 who will help the team. Numbers alone make this the best class in a decade, but true freshmen rarely get into your two-deeps. If the three who are already here (Chris Polk, Devin Aguilar and Anthony Boyles) can help then you will only need about six of the youngsters, and who knows?

I know the coaching positions will be filled by men who know the game and who are good with kids because I know Coach Willingham is thorough. It doesn't necessarily mean they are not already working for someone else, because it is apparent that Washington is willing to pay top dollar for top people. There are a lot of coaches in the profession who will come to Washington but it may take a two-year contract to entice them. (I would love to see the two-year contract become standard for all the assistants).

We want coaches who want to be at Washington. We all want coaches who are good teachers. We all want coaches who want to recruit. We all want coaches who know how to win. We include Coach Willingham and all the members of his team. The very fact that he is replacing a third of his staff means that there will be major changes in the Huskies as a team. Fresh ideas are good and the kids will respond because there remains a nucleus of security in the six coaches who are staying. Remember that attrition is a factor in both the team and the staff. Coaches come and go and advance in the profession all the time. A yearly attrition rate of about 10-20 percent is expected, especially when you have success. I would estimate over the years that we averaged a turnover of about two coaches per year. Becoming a coordinator at a school like Washington is still a big time move for a young football coach. Coach Willingham has always shown patience in his previous searches - almost to the point where they were scrambling for that first spring practice.

If you are going to concern yourself with coaching you can't afford to let it get in the way of your recruitment of players, so don't expect to have any coaches named officially until this class is locked up. Do you want good players or good coaches and in what order? I'll take the players any day because I have always felt good players make good coaches, rather than the other way around.

I think the past six NFL drafts pretty much tell the state of Husky football with regards to the talent level of the program. There have been lots of coaches come and go over that six-year period, and certainly that inconsistency has been a factor in the development of talent - but the bottom line is good players win games and Washington has not had enough of the really good players to consistently win.

It looks like that is on the verge of changing. Top Stories