Ask Coach Baird

Dick is back from the land of the sun, Arizona, where he's been watching the Mariners' Spring training. He stopped home long enough to answer a small pile of the email that awaited. Thanks to those that wrote in, and now heeeeeere's Coach B...

From Ricky M
Coach,
: When will the Huskies expand Husky stadium? All the major football college programs have in access of 100,000 capacities. Can't the Washington Huskies expand to at least 90,000 to be competitive and lure some big names during recruiting season.

A: Coach Lambright proposed the remodel to expand over the closed end about seven years ago, and Barbara thought he was nuts. Like you, I think we should take the stadium to at least 90,000 so we can afford all of the other 22 sports that don't make money. I still think a complete horseshoe with upper deck wrapping around would be a great idea. There is no question it would help recruiting and the finances.
From Dennis
: Coach James always believed in balanced recruiting classes. The last few classes haven't seemed very balanced to me. Where's the beef? Our roster must lead the nation with 5'11" 180 lb. players. I realize we've been trying to strengthen the cornerback position but haven't we been trying to do that since Rick got here? We are about the same age so I come from the old school and strongly believe that defense and special teams win games and championships. I know speed will help on special teams, that you can never get too much depth at corner even though it appears we have 3 pretty good ones back for this year and that we needed to add depth at wide receiver, but won't these imbalanced classes lead to more up and down teams??? Back to the beef. It seems like the O-line has lots of potentially good players but the D-line really concerns me and has for quite a few years. I liked what I saw in Hopoi for such a young player but the rest seemed so inconsistent with no visible depth. We all know Emtman spoiled us for Husky eternity and that Tripplett was a good player and before them Browning, Martin, Jenkins, Holmes and Rogers. I don't see anyone in the program like them on the D-line. Tell me I'm wrong Dick, please!!!!! Can Snow and Cozzetto make enough difference to get us back to where we want to be? We met and talked a couple years in a row in Longview at the coaches' tour. I always had questions for you about the program and you always had time to talk and always had straight answers. I appreciated it.

A: Dear Dennis, Hang in there. Stay loyal to the kids because they are our team, after all. I do agree that balance is critical in recruiting, but there weren't very many in state linemen this past year. Let's face it. That is where most of the linemen in this program come from. There are, however, a lot more next year. Watch for the Huskies to take 10-12 linemen next year.
From Tom
Coach Baird,
: I love listening to your analysis on KJR. I have an observation and question about the Huskies and the option play. When Marques ran the option he often appeared to pitch "blind." If this were so, it would allow him to concentrate on opportunities to run the ball. What I observed was that the back was always in the same spot, about five yards away and 45 degrees of angle so Marques could throw to a spot.

Last year, the option was synonymous with fumble. What seemed clear to me was that who ever the back was, was never in the 5 yard 45 degree position. Sometimes two yards at 90 degrees but totally inconsistent so that Picket had to look at the running back and take attention away from his possible path. To me that suggested that the coaching staff had never really committed to spending the time, in practice and spring ball, to develop this previously effective weapon. It seems to me that even without better running and better line play, an effective option would allow the "one dimensional easily defended" attack of last year to be much harder to defend. Of course, we hope some more competition and new faces and some off-season work by the offensive line will also make a difference in the running game.

A: You make some excellent points with regard to the option., I really believe after Cody leaves that they will return to the option and a running style QB. In fact, I believe that Cody should be encouraged to run more himself. It does take a lot of time to practice and run it correctly, but you also force the defenses to prepare for it with a lot of their time in return. I, too, believe we need to establish some sort of outside game, to keep defenses from stacking the middle and denying the Iso's and inside counters. Make them cover sideline to sideline. I would love to see more option, or at least the toss sweep.
From Boyd B
: The current talk on sports radio and information I read in papers out side of Seattle continue to have one common thread - sloppiness. The Huskies are just plain sloppy! Why the big difference between when you where on the sidelines and now? The Huskies were known as paying attention to details and for great special team play. I can't remember any game this current staff has won with special teams. What is it? I know you can't trash the current staff and I don't expect you to but damn there is a big difference from when you and the James gang was running things.

A: The Huskies won the Apple Cup with special teams and an attacking defense. I basically rest my case there. These coaches are very detail oriented in their approach to the game but Coach James was a fanatic in taking notes during practice and games, and always coached the coaches off the field with his observations. That is why he chose to watch practice from the tower - so he could observe all three phases of the game. He just didn't miss a beat and that partially explains his great attention to detail. I know Randy Hart is a total fundamental and detail coach. He is not the only one. They are all involved. Personally I think there needs to be a more coordinated approach to the kicking game. I am positive, however, that it is being addressed and we will see some blocks and returns next year and (hopefully) won't have any against us. Trust me though, they are attending to detail.
From Tom
Coach Baird,
: I sent a letter with some of the same thoughts you expressed in your article about Coach Neuheisel to Dawgman.com and I thought perhaps I would share a few of my sentiments with you as well. First of all, the media's treatment of this story borders on the absurd. I am intrigued as to how a job interview can be front-page news, right there with the war on terrorism, increasing tensions in Korea, and the faltering local economy. I can't imagine what would happen if Rick ever actually accepted one of these jobs. I also don't see a counter argument to the assertion you made regarding the universality of covering up the truth, a.k.a. lying. Who among us hasn't attempted to cover up a bit of information that would be better left unsaid? A lie is a lie, and all of them can be criticized and all of them are wrong. However, Rick's lack of candor is hardly unique to the human race or the coaching profession, despite local rumors to the contrary. I'm sure Rick didn't want to be portrayed as interviewing for yet another coaching position and he didn't want to unnecessarily alarm Barbara Hedges. After all, nothing was offered and nothing was accepted. But he got caught in a lie and the clamor could be heard throughout the West, and especially here in Seattle. I guess it comes with the territory, but we've got to get some of these Cougar alumni out of the media and get more guys like you and Hugh in it. I know Hugh had a part in breaking this story, but he didn't belabor it ad infinitum ad nausium. I often wonder why the same standards applied to Rick aren't used for other coaches. Didn't Gary Barnett do exactly what Rick did when he left Northwestern? Hasn't Mike Bellotti been recently criticized for his failure to take any kind of action when a recruit was taken to a party and offered sex and drugs, no doubt as an inducement to a letter of intent? Isn't that kind of scandalous? I suspect the general rational is that such behavior is simply commonplace on a college campus.

A: I agreed with everything you said. It's really a no news thing, which only made him look bad because he just didn't say, "No Comment!". I think Rick is an honest person and just chose to stay blindly loyal to the program. It really seems stupid now, particularly when you look at the sport of basketball right now. Appreciated your comments.
From Jim L
Dear Dick,
: I remember hearing about the monster recruiting class you guys had brewing right before the Hobert loan fiasco and resulting investigation hit. If I recall, you felt very good about your chances with Reagan Upshaw and Tavian Banks, among others. Now that it is all ancient history, would you mind taking a trip down memory lane and telling us about what might have been? Glad to have you on board with the Dawgman team. Your insights are appreciated

A: No question, all the investigation and sanctions were a major hit on recruiting. That is why we went more local and sold the Washington kids on the honesty of the program despite the media and Pac-10 efforts to smear us. Fact was, we survived by the walk on program, which produced kids like Joe Jarzynka, Dane Looker and Todd Johnson, all of whom I might add were the MVP's of their team. But, Mac Tuiaea, Chad Ward and Benji Olson and Tony Coats all came because they could see past the crap in the press. The two best and most important recruits of the whole period were the two quarterbacks, Brock Huard and Marques Tuiasosopo. I think the Huskies will sign 10-12 local kids this year and pretty much for the same reasons. They can see past the negative slant of the media and get to know the coaches and build some trust. I will write much more about this in an article for dawgman.com later. Stay tuned.
From Norman C
Coach,
: I enjoy reading your columns as well as listening to you on the radio. I am far from an expert on the X's and O's of football. Although you don't state it explicitly, you seem to assert Coach Lambright was a successful coach and therefore he should not have been fired. I disagree, notwithstanding that I think (with little actual knowledge) that you were one of his assistants who lost a job through no personal failing. I believe you were a superb recruiting coordinator. I have the feeling (as distinguished from knowledge) that you have an avuncular appeal to the kids...ala Mike Price. You also seem to have found kids in some very unlikely places , the middle of nowhere, ..like Braxton Cleman. You sure came up with Willie Hurst at the last minute. I have never actually met you or Coach Lambright save a perfunctory shake of the hand at recruiting functions. Nonetheless, I harbor much goodwill toward both you and Coach Lambright (and Coach Neuheisel).

I do think you may have a tendency to overlook the fact that Coach Neuheisel's incumbency has been littered with self inflicted cuts ...one could liken it to the proverbial "death of a thousand cuts". Most of these cuts have some moral component to them. It is disturbing to me. I happen to think the recent imbroglio over U of C conduct whereby NCAA prevented him from making home visits may well have cost us one or both of the kids we "lost" to Cal this year. By the way have you any idea what he did to generate Kellen Winslow's hostility? I also think there is some amorphous quality about the man that generates unjustified hostility. Maybe, its because he is young, successful and glib.

A: There is very little doubt in my mind that Jim Lambright was one of the great defensive coaches in modern football history. He had great fire and his defenses actually controlled games. As a head coach he never really had the support or any help or time to develop. He was fired just as he had finally gotten us thru probation. He had obvious shortcomings as a head coach but had he been backed and helped, I believe he would've evolved into an excellent headman. He simply tried to do too much and his frustrations overwhelmed him. As far as a coach, though, he was excellent and would have figured it out better, if given the necessary time to develop. This is exactly why you stay with Rick. He is only going to get better.
From Chris L
: Do you honestly think that Rich Alexis can get healthy, stay healthy, learn how to run instinctively, learn how to run hard, and get in a winners' frame of mind in time for Ohio State? If not, who will be the best back in 2003 and how many yards will he run for? Is Cody Picket a legitimate pro prospect? What about his inability to throw deep (even with blazers like Arnold, Hooks, Frederick and Williams)? Does he have the fire to will his team to victory like Tui? Will he be a captain in 2003?

A: Wow, don't know where to start, so I'll go with Cody. I think he will be much better because he won't be asked to do so much next fall. There will be a running game improvement and that will reduce his throws but increase our ability to run the ball. Rich will be better as soon as we bring back some sort of an outside running game with either the option or the toss. Will he be the man? Hard to say because he just hasn't shown it yet. He will watch from the sidelines this spring and hopefully he learns to visualize so that he can at least stand behind the offense and watch every run to see how it develops. This could really help him to improve his vision, which is still his biggest problem as a running back. I don't think we can expect the frosh to help right away but you can bet that it's going to be real competitive. If he shows he can help, then don't be surprised to see Rankin out there. This spring will show what James and Sampson can do. James has juke and Sampson has speed. Both probably more than Rich has of either. Whatever, the O line is going to be much improved so look for us to jump right back to the top of the rushing teams in the conference. This will make Cody even better especially if they take the wraps off of him and let him run it as well, particularly on boots and scrambles. We'll see.
From Brian D
: What would you consider the most successful spring position change in your experiences as a coach with the Huskies? Donald Jones. Eric Bjornson. Other. And which player of the past would you have loved to have seen at a different position but for various reasons, it never happened?

A: Both of your suggestions were excellent moves. I think moving Tommy Smith to safety was good and this last year when they moved Wilbur Hooks it was good. Brian Habib should have been moved for the same reason Joe Toledo should consider it. He could play for 10 years in the show. Mark Jerue was moved from nose to linebacker then went on to the NFL. Joe Collier's move from D line to TE proved good. Chris Campbell's move from LB to D-End was excellent. On Don Jones, we had to tell him he was really a linebacker to get him to switch sides of the ball. Of course, then he never dropped into coverage once and always had his hand on the ground. You just get your best players on the field. Find a spot for your great athletes and then get them in position to make plays.
From Richard P
Mr. Baird,
: What a great addition you make to Dawgman! Despite your Wah-Zoo ties you have been a wonderful part of Husky football now for a number of years. I have had the good fortune to briefly talk with Coach Harshman lately. I asked him what he thought of all the "out-to-get-him" media coverage (and other coach backbiting) directed at Neuheisel. He said, as best I remember, "I think one of the marks of a good coach is the amount of backbiting he is subjected to by those who are not Husky fans. Neuheisel has obviously been good, with great potential. Some people obviously don't want to see that achieved for a variety of reasons." What does that elicit in your mind? Not only is Harshman a kind and bright gentleman (with W-Zoo ties) like you, he contributes to being a Husky fan a continuing joy.

A: Marv Harshman is simply the best basketball coach ever in the history of the State of Washington. I think what it really gets down to with the northwest media is, "Any news about the Huskies is good news, but if it's bad news, then it is even better." Think about it. They are only doing their jobs, and that mainly is to be interesting to read.
From Ross O
: Your new Q&A column is a fantastic addition to Dawgman.com. The past couple seasons our offensive and defensive schemes appear to be based on a premise that we are "bigger, faster, stronger" than our opponents. While this was a fact during the first half of the 90's, it is no longer reality. On offense, why don't we run more counters, traps and reverses? Especially reverses, to get ET and Reggie in open space. Texas had superior talent compared to us but ran misdirection against us in the Holiday Bowl, with great success. On defense, why don't we throw new wrinkles at the other team, like Cal did to us when they moved their safety to corner and had him mug Reggie the whole game? As Coach James taught us, if you're not "bigger, faster, stronger", you need to game plan to win. Specifically, win the kicking game, then win either offense or defense, and winning two out of the three will give usually result in a victory. Other than the road opener, our schedule is extremely favorable, and it looks like we have a great shot to win the Pac 10 next season. Go Dawgs!

A: Throughout the conference, teams are always pretty evenly matched with talent. Washington should be bigger, faster, and stronger, but don't expect that in the first game this next year. But in all the other non-conference games, expect the Huskies to have a decided physical advantage. We will be much older and more experienced this year and you can bet that Kaligis and Emtman will take care of the physical aspect. That should provide the edge against most in the conference with the exception of the LA schools. The best athletes usually win.
From Larry P
Hey Coach -
: Are there many ex-Husky players now coaching high school teams? Does having an ex-player coaching help our recruiting effort?

A: I think it is critical to use the ex-Dawgs as helpers in recruiting. It's legal and it works. That is what the spring clinic and Greg Lewis' efforts are all about. Keep them in the loop and stroke them enough to get them to help. There is no question that they can really help.
From Mark M
Hey Coach,
: I've loved listening to the Husky Honk Show, and am glad Dawgman brought you on board. I'm going to the UW-Ohio State game this upcoming season and I was wondering if you could share your experience when you visited the Horseshoe in the 90's. How crazy does that place get? Also, since I heard you went down to Arizona for Spring Training, I must ask. How do our Ms look this year? Thanks.

A: The "horseshoe" is awesome. In fact the bleachers in the end zone are incredible. When we played there they didn't mow the lawn for a week and it did slow our game down. The fans are right on top of your kids and they are abusive. It's best just to ignore them like you have to do in Eugene. But, as far as a football atmosphere it is one of the great ones in America. It would be the biggest win on the road in Rick Neuheisel's career here at Washington, and believe me, it could happen. Anything can happen in season openers and our team will not be intimidated. How cool would that be? Of course, we could also get our ass kicked. That is the beauty of college football.
From Tyler
Dick,
: First off I truly respect you and enjoy listening to you on Husky radio. As a member of Sigma Chi and a huge husky football fan, I find it hard to believe that the media decided to create such a story of such an insignificant incident. Like you said this sort of thing probably happens every Friday night. I agree with you that husky football players, like professional football players come under heavy scrutiny. However, I would like to add to what you had to say. This situation in no part had to do with race, the so called security guard, a member of our house happens to be 5'11" 250 pound Mexican. He had no motive to discharge due to race, the players were not on the guest list, on the other hand freshman basketball player Bobby Jones, and thus was in the party. Further, the offensive remarks made towards Rich (not by the security guard) had nothing to do with race, rather Rich became over confident after his initial admission denial and someone made the extremely stupid remark of "Rich, if you average 3.0 yard per carry, then next year maybe we will let you in" ...No race...just testosterone like you said.

I appreciate your articles and your views.

A: Thanks so much for filling in the details, Tyler. I know the Sigma Chi house well and realize that race was not a factor, and Rich acknowledged it. The old frat system as I knew it was racist, however, and beer plus hormones don't always mix well. I know the security guy was just doing his job. Rich has apologized already, so this whole thing should be dropped.
From Alan W
: Last year our running game was pathetic. Everyone looked bad from the players to the coaches. I think some decisions were made that adversely affected any chance the running game had to be successful--one of which was not allowing Cody Pickett to run the football. I understand, because he had the shoulder separation the year before, why the coaches would be reluctant to let him loose but when you throw as much as the Dawgs did. But that puts so many defenders into a pass pattern and the rest of the defense coming up field right at Cody, I believe he could have easily been one of our leading rushers from bootlegs and roll outs. He has speed and it would al least keep defenses a little more honest because they would have to account for his feet as well as his arm. So having said that, my question is do you think they should let Cody run more this year? He's a year removed from the shoulder thing so he should be healthier.

A: I totally agree with having Cody run more. We need that extra pressure on the defenses in coverage. They have to come back up field if he decides to scramble. I thought he could have run at least six bootlegs for first downs last year. It probably will depend a lot on how the backup quarterback position develops. If it's Stanback, then look out, because the running QB will be back, and Cody will be much better because of it.
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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