Ask Coach Baird

Hello from Eugene, Husky fans. The opener in Eugene is less than 10 hours away as this story goes live. I am excited to answer your letters again for yet another season on Dawgman.com, the best site on the Internet for coverage of the Dawgs. Glad to have you aboard for another season. And now onto the letters. . . .


From Dan Baker
Coach Baird,
: I have a basic question about defense. Please explain the philosophic difference between a 3-4 and 4-3 defense. What are the pros and cons of each? Also do they dictate what you may or may not do in the secondary?

Thanks Dick. I really appreciate your articles that give true insight into what the current coaching staff is going through. Your words keep me sane when all around me I hear impatient and, probably, unknowledgeable people call for them to be thrown to the wolves...or worse.

A: Much has been made of the difference between an odd and an even front because basically that is the basic difference between the 3-4 and the 4-3. Essentially in the 3-4 there are 3 down linemen. One is a nose-man aligned on the center's face and two defensive tackles playing outside shade on the offensive tackles and in the 4-3 there are 4 down linemen with two aligned outside the offensive tackles and two shading the guards. Of course both fronts can be adjusted with "over" or "under" calls meaning they can shade the center or either guard or essentially "reduce" down so that the even front looks odd or the odd front looks even. In the 3-4 there can be anywhere from 2-5 linebackers depending on which personnel package but in the 4-3 there are usually just 3 and sometimes 4 linebackers making it a 4-4 or 2 making it a nickel meaning there are 5 db's. Ed also believes that you need a full package which includes some of all the above. You need to be offensive with your defenses in that you have to make the offense guess what they will be seeing on any given snap. The key is disguise and having a multiple package that gives you enough different looks so that you can "attack" the offenses protection schemes or how they protect their quarterback with their offensive linemen.

Most defenses "react" to the offenses giving the advantage to the offensive play caller. Under Coach Donatell I think you will see a much more aggressive approach with the Huskies mixing it up both in their fronts, linebackers, and secondary alignments. For the past decade the Huskies have basically shown the offenses what they will be in and dared them to beat them, which they basically have done. They played the same basic defense as the rest of the country, what I call "America's defense", with a shade 4 man front with 2 inside linebackers and one outside backer to the strength of the formation and a 2 deep look with 2 safeties playing zones with either 2 deep or !/4, !/4, halves meaning they play cover two on one side and divide the other half in two between the safety and the corner. Linebackers essentially are "spot" drop players meaning they drop to a certain spot on the field if they read pass. Of course any or all coverages can be turned into and called "man" meaning that the corner takes #1 strong, the strong safety takes #2 strong and the linebacker picks up #3 with the corner on the "weak" side picking up #1 his way and the linebacker picking up #2 weakside leaving you one "free" safety to play zone.

The key is to mix and match your man and your zone calls so that the offense never knows what you're in. It also involves changing your front at the last moment or walking you linebackers into different alignments prior to the snap of the ball. All of these actions are elements of disguise and designed to keep the quarterback guessing.

I hope I haven't confused you but the point is I believe we are finally going back to a "multiple" defensive package that will be constantly changing and always using disguises. I don't think Ed is a 3-4 proponent any more than he is a 4-3-cover 2 guy. He knows how to mix his calls and will have separate game plans for each opponent. I think he is probably the best game day defensive play-caller we have had since Jim Lambright 15 years ago.
From Aaron Stark
Coach Baird,
: Coach Baird, if both Deandre Coleman and Latu Heimuli commit to the Huskies in this years recruiting class, would they be better than Alameda Ta'amu and Craig Noble? Who do you think would be the two starters at defensive tackle out of those four guys?

A: None of the four kids you mention have ever played a down of college football. I don't think it is fair of me to evaluate kids I have never seen with the exception of a few highlight clips. I hope all 4 end up at Washington playing for Randy Hart as it will help each to develop into a great player. Until then they are all simply potential prospects to play at the college level and I couldn't possibly tell you which would be the best. As for Coleman, my understanding is that he has a TON of work to do to become eligible, so until they get into school and on campus, you can't really evaluate who will start and who won't. Sorry.
From Rick Ryen
Coach Baird,
: Greetings from the Island Lake area of Kitsap. Could you please enlighten me as to what it is coaches are looking for in recruiting kids to play center? What are the qualities and characteristics that differentiate a Center candidate from Guards or Tackles?

A: Center is indeed a unique position although often times many of those who play it in college played guard or tackle in high school so often times you just teach a kid to snap after you recruit him. The mental aspect of playing center is key, so smart kids really help but quickness is essential as they often are blocking linebackers on the second level. Having quick feet is pretty important to the position. With all of the shotgun being used today they have to be able to snap in the blind (not looking back thru their legs) Many are shorter than tackles because a low base is critical to handling nose men.

If Juan Garcia makes it all the way back from his injury the Huskies will have a center in the mold of all the great ones who played there over the years starting way back with Roy Mckasson in the early 60's then Ray Mansfield and guys like Blair Bush, Tom Tenure, Bern Brostek, Franky Garcia, Ed Cunningham, and the great Olin Kruetz ( who is still playing) and finally Kyle Benn. I really think there is a freshman this year who meets all the requirements and is being given a chance to show it due to an injury to Matt Sedillo. His name is Mykenna Ikehara and he wears number 51 so if you see him play don't be surprised if he hits the field. He is already about 6-2 and 300 and really strong with a low base and really quick feet. He is also about a 3.8 student out of Kamehameha high in Hawaii. I think he is going to continue that great tradition of Husky centers I mentioned above. It all starts with the center who makes all the calls for the offensive line and really handles the show besides snapping the ball to start the play.

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.


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