Letters to the publisher
From Dan P
Dear Dawgman: I've noticed that our pass rush this year is painfully inadequate. However, your column seems to indicate that you believe that the physical talent is there to provide a successful passing defense. The dawgs don't seem to be mixing up the blitz packages as much as they typically do. For instance I don't think I've seen a corner blitz at all this year. Is this because the coaches are worried that an aggressive blitzing scheme would make the passing defense even more vulnerable? Or is there some other reason such as the defensive backs are not experienced enough or mentally ready to execute a complicated blitzing game? If the former is the case, I'm not sure that we have much to lose on passing plays. It also seems that our blitz package has been pretty successful on running plays. For a second question, I've been wondering what the mat the Huskies use on the side of the field is for. It is a green mat with (I believe 10) yellow numbered circles.
A: They do send blitzes, and I've seen quite a few corner blitzes. Chris Massey is sent on blitzes quite often when he's not playing safety. Carothers blitzes often from his SS spot as well. Yes, it does make your pass defense more vulnerable when you bring secondary guys, particularly when you don't get to the QB. The blitz packages can be very effective on the run, as long as the guys inside stay home. If they don't it can get ugly in a big hurry. That is how Rich Alexis went 84 yards right up the middle last year against ASU, the Devils called a blitz and the ILB was blocked. Rich only had to beat one guy and he did it. The mat you see on the side of the field is used for kickoff coverage and return teams, so the personnel can get lined up and accounted for.
From Dave A.
Why the reluctance to throw deep? We have so many talented receivers and throwing deep keeps a defense honest. All we seem to do is throw a simple out or hook. I'm also surprised that since we have not had a running game that we haven't gone to more of a spread style offense. Neu did a good job of tailoring the option to Marcus' strengths whereas Cody's is more of a pro-style. Your thoughts?
A: They do throw deep, but only when the safeties aren't playing two –deep. A lot of teams are only rushing 3-4 guys against the UW because they aren't respecting the run, so they drop 7-8 in coverage. That allows the safeties to drop as deep as they want, so there is no way to really throw over the top of them. However, against USC they went deep, once to Wilbur Hooks and once to Paul Arnold. I recall them going deep against Michigan three times (once to Arnold, twice to ET (one for a lucky TD)), and against Arizona Cody tried deep balls to ET and Reggie. They do go deep, but teams are definitely able to take that away from Washington because they have had trouble running the ball. The safeties can drop as deep as they want because normally they have linebackers in front of them to pick up the underneath stuff. Lack of a running game hurts what Pickett can do in this offense. Getting guys open against eight defenders can be troublesome.
From B Hags
The season is depressing and what hurts is I saw this coming from a mile away. It was obvious that Rick would lead the team to where they are. Look at his reign at Colorado for instance, quality teams his first two years and then the downward spiral began. Lucky enough for CU Rick jumped ship and they now have a good, solid program. But for us, we're stuck with Rick for the long haul. What can we expect from Rick and the rest of the coaching staff to fix the many problems? With Rick in charge, my guess is that it's going to get worse before it gets better. Any thoughts? Also, do you know the where-abouts of Sean Sweat and QB Ryan Porter?
A: It might get a little bit worse before it gets better, you may be right. But I still think Rick is the right guy and will get it done. At CU he was young and inexperienced. He now has experience to draw on, and he has an exceptional team returning next season. If this team struggles next year, then the red flag should go up. This team needs to be able to run the football, above all else. The defense will get corrected, it's the offensive unbalance that has me most disturbed. Defenses all over the Pac-10 are struggling because of the skill position wealth and the great Offensive Coordinators in the league. Sean Sweat returned home to San Diego and we've lost touch with him. I'm not sure he's playing football. Ryan Porter transferred to SW Missouri State.
From Curt E.
Paul Arnold was one of the most sought after running backs in the nation, when he graduated from high school. As a freshman running back he was tremendous. I know Alexis was supposed to be the star, but he is not. Why isn't Arnold playing running back? As a cougar I hope he doesn't, but I am curious.
A: Arnold was born with a back condition called Spondylosis, where the spinal canal narrows, and can pinch nerves. It created serious discomfort for Paul when he was a TB, so they moved him to WR where he wouldn't suffer so much wear and tear. He won't be returning to TB for his final four games as a Husky, no worries.
From Mark in Edmonds
Always check out your site and appreciate your work, anybody that is as into Husky athletics as you are is alright in my book. Having read your recent "Ask Dawgman" column, you answered a question regarding Rick Neuheisel and his ability to turn things around because of his intelligence. My question to you is, WHEN? Since the first game I saw him coach at the U, (they played BYU on Thursday Night) when I saw their Secondary 12 (Corners) and 17 (Safeties) yards off the line of scrimmage I knew in my heart that times were going to be tough for Washington. I mean, how do you even come up with a concept like that? I couldn't even talk for two months after I saw that scheme. Even though they have brought their players up to the LOS, their soft concept still remains the same. When they went to the Rose Bowl, how many come from behind wins did they have? 6? 7? The reason they had to come from behind is because their defense gave up late touchdowns time and time again. Their problems were masked because with Tui they could run the ball and keep opposing offenses off the field. RN took away the attacking defense of the Huskies, and when he took that away he took away the toughness. I hope you are right and I'm wrong, but I think that this UW Staff has been the worst of anybody in the Pac-10. Against ASU, when ASU has the ball on their first scoring drive at the Husky 15 they run a screen play to the left to take the ball down to the 1 yard line right? Their next scoring drive they have the ball at the Husky 13. What do they do? They run a screen to the right for a TD, and it's like it was a surprise to the Huskies. They had no clue it was coming.
A: I thought the coaching staff did an outstanding job in the first two seasons that they were here. They instilled new life into the program, rose spirits, and got them back to the Rose Bowl in two short years. Also, there were some clever coaching adjustments made during the games and they never appeared to be out-coached. It is ultimately up to Rick to determine whether or not he needs to make changes to address this. I recall the deep cover-twos they played against BYU and allowed Sarkisian to throw for 500 yards, but that defense eventually worked successfully in getting the Huskies to a Holiday Bowl berth against Kansas State. The lack of seniors has hurt the ability to stack depth up, particularly on the DL and in the secondary. Both of those units should have adequate depth and experience next year, so that excuse will be gone after this year. I still believe that Neuheisel is the right guy for the task at hand. Your comment about Tui and the comebacks is duly noted. It may have covered up some weaknesses, but the biggest thing that team had was a belief that they could win any game. They'd look into Tui's eyes and just KNOW that they were going to win. I'm not sure this team has that magic. They'll need to find it next year.
From Allison T
Hi, Keith Gilbertson is an outstanding offensive line coach - with the O-line being disappointing thus far - shouldn't Gilby be tapped to coach the O line again? Somebody else can coach the tight ends. I don't necessarily mean change position coaches in the middle of the season, but for next year.
A: There is no doubt that Keith Gilbertson is a great coach and that he got results when he was the offensive line coach. Will Rick choose to move in a different direction like you've outlined? We'll see. The current OL coach is Brent Myers, who brought with him offensive coordinator skills while at Boise State, a team that was high scoring. In his first year as OL coach the team got to the Rose Bowl, so he has had success at Washington.
From Ivar P
I am troubled that our Dawgs are having so many problems defending the opponents Passing Game. First, our Corners appear unable to stick with Receivers even though they line up 7 to 10 yards from their assignments. And, maybe even more important, we are not getting consistent pressure on Passers. For a good many years I have believed, "it's what's up front that counts," on both sides of the ball. Running backs do not create running lanes, linemen do. Linemen on the "D" must do the bulk of pressuring passers. Are there recruits out there that we have a chance to sign with the size, quickness and nose for the ball on defense? And, how about recruits for offense? Ideally, how many linemen does our Coaching staff pursue each year?
A: Washington has had trouble against the pass, it's no secret. And your points that it is both the DBs and the DLs jobs is well taken. With more pass rush, your DBs look a lot better. Against ASU the defense did a much better job, who would've known the offense was going to implode? Your credo of "it's what's up front that counts" is very true. The recruits that can help the most in this regard are OL Drew Radovich and DL Brandon Mebane. Both look like solid recruits for the trenches. Washington should take no less than EIGHT OL/DL in any class. That ensures depth in the trenches.
From Mitchell T
Dawgman I took this quote directly from the DUB website and I think it speaks volumes about the Huskies dilemma:
"Tim Hundley is in his fourth year as the defensive coordinator at Washington. He also coaches the Husky outside linebackers. Upon his arrival at UW, Hundley moved the Huskies to a multiple 3-4 scheme after Washington played primarily an eight-man front for 10 years. The results speak for themselves".
I don't know about you but the defense is about as pitiful as you can get, when is something going to be done to bring back the days of the Purple Reign.
A: The Purple Reign defense was a 4-3, and had more characteristics to today's defense that Lambright's 4-6 attack defense. Purple Reign was run in the 1980s and featured Steve Alvord and Ron Holmes in the middle, Fred Small and Tony Lewis on the outside, Joe Krakowski, Joe Kelly, and Tim Meamber at the LBs, cornerbacks Vestee Jackson and Tony Zachary, and safeties Tim Peoples and Jim Rodgers. It was a very special group to be sure, which also had three All-Americans on it. I'm not sure it was the scheme so much as it was the recruiting of amazing athletes. The defense of the early 1990s was amazing, and earth breaking in that it only ran one safety and had nine guys at the line of scrimmage in the box. No one except Buddy Ryan's Bears had done that before. But you'd better have a Steve Emtman inside and some incredible corners (like Dana Hall and Walter Bailey) that can cover out on an island. Washington doesn't have that same type of talent this year on defense. I mean, Jaime Fields, a linebacker, ran a friggin 4.38 40-yard dash, ILB Chico Fraley ran a 4.4, and DE Andy Mason ran a 4.49! Those guys were freaks, not the norm. And they played that attack defense like no one else ever did. When receivers would see 215-pound Tommie Smith and 210-pound Shane Pahukoa back there, they didn't' really want to run across the middle too much. Then they had a 6-2 corner (Dana Hall) covering them in press. You have to tip your cap to Dick Baird's ability to bring these types of athletes in, which is what was required to play that defense. Those guys aren't here anymore. I don't mind the 4-3 that Hundley runs at all, but the pass coverage zone drops have been abused. The secondary has been torched, sure. More pressure on the QB would help that a lot.
From Chuck S
Why are Husky fans so impatient? If we don't have instant success, we want to fire the " entire coaching staff " etc. How foolish. Be patient. We are seeing improvement every week in some areas. Might have to wait till next year for real success, but it will come.
A: Next year sure appears to be the year. Depth and experience everywhere except at TE. I think if Washington can get more pass rush out of their front four and develop a free safety, they'll be very solid contenders for a top bowl game. BUT, they must fix the running game. That, to me, is the lynchpin.
From Dave W
You have a great site although this year I don't spend as much time here. What I see on the field and have seen since last year is unmotivated players who are not fundamentally sound and are many times out of position (this applies mostly to the DB's especially the safeties.) The problem with having highly skilled recruits is they may have not had to be as fundamentally sound or as tough in high school, because they were so much more talented than other players. I really believe this all points to coaching. I believe that coach Neu's biggest fault was not getting more involved (by either firing or changing the style) after last year's disaster. They certainly need toughness (especially on the O-line). Our safeties are worse than our corners. There is no leadership and I blame Carothers (the veteran) on this. He continually is out of position to cover the deep ball and has twice admitted in the newspaper that he mixed up the calls (See Wyoming and USC). This is not something you need out of your veteran safety. He is a good hitter, but a lousy cover person and is certainly more jazzed to make the big hit on a running back than making a play on the ball on a pass. He should be moved to linebacker. I am pleasantly surprised that the D-line is progressing and maybe the only unit on the team that has gotten better. (Thanks to Randy Hart). I believe that we have as much talent as anyone in the Pac-10, and for Neu to make excuses of youth and to have the nerve to say it isn't as if we can get other players (how defeating a statement for your players to hear), especially when he recruited most of these guys. Here is a thought. Make practices harder. Spend 1/3 of the time on tackling and blocking (fundamentals). Make the ones play the ones at least once a week in practice. If players get injured then they were not tough enough to play in the game. WSU is 7-1 with a bunch of rejects and not a single Parade All American, but I guarantee that their practices are much more physical. Overall, I like Neu, think that he is a very intelligent and an excellent recruiter, but I really hope that he has the backbone to be able to adjust what he is doing and replace the necessary coaches and focus more on toughness and fundamentals. Additionally, he needs to stop making such poor comments in the press. It is bad for his image and for his players. I know I wouldn't want to play for a coach who says that he can't go out and get other players. Let's hope he changes.
A: Thank you for your letter Dave. I'd be willing to bet that Neuheisel will make any necessary changes. He is highly motivated to do that, with a new contract extension in hand. He also hates losing as much as anybody.
I've been looking at the DB's this year and was wondering whatever happened to Eric Shyne? Is he still at the UW?
A: Eric is redshirting this season. He is still on the team and will hopefully develop into a fine corner after a year of weight training and practice with the scout team.
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