Husky Coaching Staff retooled for Spring

Husky Coach Rick Neuheisel has completed a one-third make over of his coaching staff, and these changes should prove beneficial for a run at the Pac-10 championship.

It's always positive to have everyone in place for spring drills. This enables the newcomers to fully adjust and adapt to the differences in terminology, philosophy, and the general way of doing things.

Coach has added three more coordinators to an already very experienced staff. Although only Phil Snow will actually hold the title of co-defensive coordinator here, John Pettas returns to Washington having served last year as the offensive coordinator at Louisville, and new offensive line coach Dan Cozzetto formerly served as the offensive coordinator at Arizona State.

These three ex-coordinators join current coordinators Keith Gilbertson and Tim Hundley as well as ex-Husky defensive coordinator Randy Hart and Chuck Heater, who besides being the recruiting coordinator once served as the defensive coordinator at Colorado State.

Wow! Seven coordinators should mean their are lots of potential lead dawgs for the sled. This is an excellent indicator as to the quality of coaches that Coach Neuheisel continues to add to his staff. Hopefully somewhere in this mix we'll find a special teams coordinator, but I suspect it will be a coordination by committee when it come to kicking.

One of the keys to continued success in football is continuity of staff. Programs like Florida State, Penn State, Nebraska, and Michigan all won year after year because they had the same nucleus of coaches staying in the system. This is particularly important in recruiting. Each assistant coach is assigned a specific geographic area. The longer a coach works his specific area the better he develops relationships with the high school and junior college coaches. Knowing an area can greatly save time in communication and transportation.

The nice thing about these newest Husky coaches is that they come with a lot of experience and familiarity with the western prospective student athlete base, honed from years of recruiting at other conference schools.

Just exactly what is the role of an offensive or defensive coordinator, anyway?

Essentially they are the next in command to the General. They work within the system's structure to make practice and game plans as well as establish the basic philosophy on each side of the ball. On game day these are the people who have to come up with a call every 30 seconds. They pick the plays to be run based upon a chart of tendencies of the opponent along with their anticipated plays to be run in every possible situation (IE: the "game plan").

Of course, every coach on their side of the ball hears every call but basically the coordinator is making the decisions on his own from high in the press box. Now many schools like to have their coordinator on the sidelines but I think this is mostly for TV ego time. For best concentration and thought organization as well as overall visibility of the game, the press box is the way to go. It's been that way at Washington for over 40 years.

Besides, no one can see you in the box and you don't have to cover your mouth when calling the plays. It's also a nice spot to throw tantrums, swear, and otherwise act foolish if the need hits.

Being a coordinator is usually a progression within the coaching ranks, and usually you need to become one before being promoted to head coach.

Now this is not always true as in the case when Coach Neuheisel became the head coach at Colorado. It does however explain why coaches leave a school to take the title of coordinator at some other school. Such was the case of Washington losing Tom Williams to Stanford or Tony Alford to Iowa State.

To me such moves are not always for everyone. Who would want to coach football at a basketball school (Stanford) or in a place like Ames, Iowa? Only people who want the title of "coordinator".

Not me – I'll take living in Seattle, thank you.

One of the great things about Coach Neuheisel is that he promotes his assistants, even if it hurts the continuity of his own system. There was even a story out of Boulder that he got a job interview for one of his current assistants, and then went to his own Athletic Director and got the guy a pay raise under the premise that if they didn't pay him more, they would lose him to this other school.

Sneaky? Maybe, but extremely loyal.

Coach Neuheisel really goes to bat for his assistants. Washington's assistants are now among the top paid coaches in the Pac-10 conference. It's about time! For years Washington was flat out cheap. They (the administration) would take the attitude that there are hundreds of coaches out there who want your job, so if you didn't like the pay, go somewhere else and coach. The other factor was always that the "State" won't allow us to get raises. This had nothing to do with coaches James and Lambright. We were winning lots of games and championships and were always ranked fourth of fifth in salary, despite bringing in more money than any program in western America.

Coach Neuheisel changed this thinking and has put together the most experienced staff he could find. His last three hires reflect just such thinking. They are all true ball coaches. Having competed against all three, I can tell you they are all excellent coaches and motivators.

Unfortunately they all spent too much time in the sun. As in the Sun Devils. All three worked for ASU and are out of the Bruce Snyder school of tough hard-nosed football. They are the ultimate "grinders" and all are happy to be here. The best thing about UCLA football (another basketball school) in the past few years has been their defenses, coached by Phil Snow. The best hard-nosed running team in the conference for a big part of the nineties was ASU coached by Dan Cozzetto. I watched Louisville give Florida State fits on offense this past season and John Pettas ran their offense. These three coaches are going to make the Huskies tougher and better.

But, one of the best hires by Coach Neuheisel in this off-season was the addition of one Steve Emtman to the weight and strength staff. Nobody who follows Husky football needs to be told how important this addition will be. Emtman has been hired to specifically work with football and assist Pete Kaligis in the weight room. He brings the greatest resume of all the new coaches. Championships are won in the off-season and Steve is the man to bring these kids to that level. The last time Pete and Steve worked together resulted in a Rose Bowl victory and Coach Neuheisel's greatest year.

Combine Steve with Coach Cozzetto's toughness and you will see a definite transformation of the offensive line. I will venture to say the Huskies will be one of the top rushing teams in the conference next season regardless of who is carrying the ball.

So the staff has been retooled to get back to the hard-nosed approach to football. This is one of the impressive things about Coach Neuheisel - his selection of a staff that will adapt. He is not threatened by the age or success of his assistants. He goes after guys that he knows will fit in. Cozzetto started with Gilby, so they are already on the same page. Pettas has already been in the program before and is being rewarded for his hard work. He also knows Cody Pickett very well. Snow, together with coaches Hundley and Hart, gives the Huskies three coordinators on the defensive side of the ball.

Sometimes when you have an off year, you need to retool and make some changes. Quite by chance, Coach had the opportunity to make some changes. I, for one, believe the Dawgs will be a better team because of them.

And if they aren't, then Emtman is liable to kill them in the weight room.
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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