Letters to the Publisher

Thank you to those of you that submitted questions for the "Ask Dawgman" column. Happy Halloween, everybody! Let's hope the Dawgs can scare the crap out of the Bruins and get things rolling forward again. I believe they will do just that. And now on to the letters . . .

From Chris from Gilbert, AZ
Dear Dawgman: Once again, another blow to UW tradition. I must admit that with the bad weather bellowing over Sun Devil Stadium I felt that the Dawgs would pull this one out but as I watched the team run down the tunnel I didn't see any fire or competitive spirit from the boys. Just what exactly is going on? I'm really concerned about this coaching staff and the job they are doing. Time after time they ran the same plays with the results always being the same. It's just not working. Neu has turned a tradition and legacy of tough Husky teams into an afterthought. He is pass happy and doesn't get it that the UW brings the games to other teams, not the other way around. This is a disgrace and Husky football pride is on the line. Cut Neu or cut some of his inept coaches. I love your site.

A: The coaches know this better than anyone, that losing at Washington is not accepted. Do I think the coaches have done a good job thus far? No. But do I think Rick Neuheisel is capable of turning it around? YES, even if it does require some sweeping changes. Barring an 8-4 or 7-5 turnaround this season, he'll have some difficult decisions to make in the off-season. Rick is a smart guy and he'll figure it out, even if it takes a little while.
From Purple Sabbath
Dear Dawgman:
I am worried about the number of shoulder injuries that happen to our team. I remember the coach said that after last year they would investigate this. Do you know any details why guys keep injuring their shoulders?

A: I don't have the details as to why it has happened so often. They made a change in strength and conditioning procedures, as well as changed coaches in that department, so we'll soon see if that may have been part of the problem. It's pretty amazing the number of shoulder injuries this team has suffered. It doesn't appear to be FieldTurf, as there is no evidence to suggest it. Washington uses the same equipment on the field as everywhere else. I'm as flummoxed as the next person to try to explain it. Injuries are nothing new but having them all in the shoulder area is strange. We'll see if Pete Kaligis' training regimen helps. The shoulder dings this year are mostly injuries to pre-existing conditions carried over from the previous season(s). Roc's shoulder was never 100% since last year, and everyone inside the team knew it. It didn't respond to treatment and it got worse rather than better. Hopefully the surgery will allow him a shot at a full return to health.
From Speedy
Dear Dawgman:
It seems to me that the problem in our running attack is not so much in the RB, but in the offensive line. Our RB's are getting the first hit in the backfield. Am I correct? If so, what are we doing to solve that problem? Also, it seems that we are trying too many running plays. Wouldn't it be best to not try to run the ball until we are ahead by 14 points. At USC, after the interception on the first play, our commitment to the run left us with a field goal that was blocked. I say we should have passed it in, then run after we had a lead. What are your thoughts?

A: I would agree with you. I can count several instances where penetration into the Husky backfield has occurred before the tailback even got the ball. The run blocking has been very poor in my opinion. I'm not sure the backs are hitting the holes when they are there, but I don't think the holes are always there, either. Washington doesn't have an Onterrio Smith, a guy that can pick his spots regardless of where the hole is. As far as pass-first, definitely. It's what this team does best. However, they did run better against ASU but once you fall behind 14-0, that kind of gets lost in the shuffle and becomes moot.
From Patrick
Dear Dawgman:
How do you think the tailback competition will shape up for next fall. It seems that the three front-runners are Kenny James, Chris Singleton, Rich Alexis, and Shelton Sampson. I can't wait to see what James, Singleton, and Sampson can do when given a solid chance to prove themselves.

A: All will play, but I'm still not certain that Sampson will be a tailback. He has incredible speed that I'd love to see on the field, maybe on defense, if he comes in fourth in the competition at TB. I think James will be a great between-the-tackles guy like Willie Hurst developed. He looks like a natural at carrying the rock. I'd like to see Alexis used more as a receiver out of the backfield, he's got very decent hands, and he'll be a senior next year. Never discount the impact of your senior season, I know Rich won't. Singleton is the fastest of those three and I'd love to see what he could do if there were holes to run through. Chuck Heater has three talented young men to develop. Hopefully they Dawgs will regain their ability to run the football in 2003. Or sooner.
From Brenda F
Dear Dawgman:
Number one, I root for whoever Oregon is playing. Number two, Washington losing to USC, who defeated Oregon in Eugene, shows USC is good and Washington lost to a very good team. Listening to commentary on Oregon's pass defense, you'd almost think they were talking about the University of Washington. Can't defend the pass without a pass rush. As bad as Oregon's pass defense is, one thing Oregon does which Washington does not is tackle with authority. I saw the same thing in Cal's victory over UCLA last week. Are there any better high school or JC corners out there who are better than who is on Washington's roster? Could the reason Roc Alexander and Derrick Johnson lack confidence at corner is because they're converted running backs?

A: USC is very good, indeed. Those guys can play some serious defense, which is why the head coach (Pete Carroll) is his own defensive coordinator. As far as JC defensive backs that Washington is looking at, take a peek at Chijoke Onyenegecha, 6-3 205 from City College of San Francisco, and Donte Nicholson, 6-2 210 from Mount San Antonio College in Walnut, California. I'm not sure they are better than anyone on the current UW roster, but both are highly sought after. Alexander and Johnson didn't play CB in high school, very true, but both are also dealing with serious injuries. Alexander will need until at least next spring to rehab his torn labrum and Johnson still gets soreness in his foot after games. Matt Fountaine and Eric Shyne both played corner in high school, as is Derrick Bradley, so there are more young guys on the way that have some high school experience on the corners.
From HRdharberg
Dear Dawgman:
I know it will get better, but why can't Derrick Johnson or Chris Massey seem to stick with receivers?? Is it coaching, misevaluation of talent? I scream so hard when the Dawgs are on defense but they are continually chasing the receivers down the field 5 yards behind and not even looking for the ball in the air! It gets frustrating and takes the wind out of your sails. I won't quit cheering but what is the root problem!?

A: I think both guys are plenty talented. I think it's a combination of the receivers being good and the pass rush giving quarterbacks the opportunity to look at three different receivers before throwing to the open man. It's amazing what an improved pass rush will do for your coverage. Washington got after ASU QB Andrew Walter pretty well on Saturday. Often times you are seeing DBs five yards behind receivers that are not their responsibility. There have been a lot of coverage breakdowns and miscommunications back there. As for not making plays on the ball while it is in the air, that one has me stumped as well. Chris Massey and Roc Alexander have had trouble with this. Particularly with Massey, I have found numerous instances where his coverage is excellent. It's what to do when the ball gets there is what seems to be the recurring problem with the corners and safeties. Massey is playing some safety this year and that's new to him, so that has a learning curve. Johnson has gotten picked on a bit this year (see Arizona), and that surprised me. I think he's still dealing with regaining his confidence, and dealing with a sore foot. Nate Robinson has the mental make-up to be a great corner, he's tough and brash. He's only 5-8 though, so he has to be in perfect position in order to make plays. Even with his great hops, his height will give him less margin for error than a taller guy. Still, I love his future if he stays with football.
From Bo Jo
Dear Dawgman:
After listening to the ASU game on the radio I am so happy I did not have to watch it on TV. No more excuses, fire the entire coaching staff. We are not getting our money's worth. This has to be one of the worst Husky teams in a long long time. NO HEART! Will Barbara wait two years to make a decision? I certainly hope the alumni are on top of this. This is a joke, we are not that bad! What happened to that Husky dominance of old? Don James please come back!

A: Firing the coaching staff would be one step, but don't you think that may be a tad rash? This is a guy that has won a Rose Bowl and has 40 wins already for Washington. The Husky dominance of old ended with the sanctions in 1992, the scholarship reductions to 85, and the facilities improvements race that everyone is undertaking. Let's face it, the playing field is much more even now. The coaches in the Pac-10 have been upgraded and so has the recruiting across the board. The margin for error is much less than it used to be. I think Neuheisel is still just as smart as when he was coaching the team to the #3 ranking in 2000. He is certainly facing adversity now, but I think he'll get through it. I do think he may have some very difficult decisions to make in the off-season, but he is motivated to do what it takes to win. I have not lost faith in him, but I'll admit that this year's team does look at times like it doesn't want to compete as hard as Lambright's teams did. That must be fixed, and I'll bet it will be.
From Mathew T
Dear Dawgman:
Okay please don't sugar coat it anymore. What changes need to be made!

A: Washington must learn how to run the football again. Do that and the rest of the offense scores so many points that all it will take is an average defense to win the conference in 2003. I'm serious. With a running attack to help them, Pickett, Williams and Frederick will have huge seasons. The DL has improved this year, the linebackers are talented and tackle pretty well, and the receivers are studs. If this team learns to run block, finds a running back that can hit the holes, and they get better pass rush, this team may be one good safety away from being a national championship contender in 2003.
From Mark H
Dear Dawgman:
Dawgman, How are Stanley Daniels and Donny Mateaki doing in regards to recovering from surgery? If the Huskies make it to a bowl game, would they be able to participate in practice? How is Corey Jones doing, and besides Kenny James who are the redshirt freshmen who are looking like impact players in the future.

A: Both Daniels and Mateaki won't be back until spring, as both had their shoulders repaired. Corey Jones, I have not paid a great deal of attention to, but FB and OLB appear to be where he is suited best. The redshirt freshmen I'd watch if I were you are OL Clayton Walker and DE Brandon Ala. Those two are extremely impressive.
From Mike
Dear Dawgman:
Whatever happened to Rayshon Dukes?

A: Dukes transferred to Western Illinois. He tried WR, CB, and safety at Washington but never saw the field.
From Tyler L
Dear Dawgman:
An outstanding site that keeps me away from work more than my boss would appreciate! I had a hard time watching the USC game on TV and then in person down at ASU. One thing that bothered me was a comment made by Coach Neuheisel on ABC during the USC game, his goal for the game was to keep the game close and then hope to have a chance pulling out another great 4th quarter victory. Doesn't that give a wrong impression to a team? Shouldn't Neuheisel say how explosive this team can be so lets take it to USC early and often rather than giving them the impression that USC, or for that matter any Pac-10 team, is better than us? The confidence is not high on this team right now and I think it starts from the head man.

A: I think Neuheisel was attempting to not give USC any fuel for the fire. No coach really wants to provide locker room material, but your point is well taken. This team doesn't have any confidence right now.
From Bawana62
Dear Dawgman:
Hi Dave, love this forum. Does DM every put out, like a progress report on how our redshirts are adapting and progressing? Would love any info I could get. Thanks.

A: We do provide updates on how the younger players are progressing. We no longer provide practice reports, per UW SID policy, but we will do interviews with players and let you know how they are doing.

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