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The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

April 1, 2007 at 10:28 PM

Coach speak: The secondary, and more

Here’s the rest of our conversation with UW defensive coordinator Kent Baer, where he discusses the secondary and the team’s defensive philosophy:
QUESTION: Talk a little bit about the secondary, the play there last season and who is coming back for this season.
BAER: Losing those guys (Dashon Goldson, C.J. Wallace) who are going to play on Sundays is going to hurt, though when you really look at it, in a way we only lost one because Dashon wasn’t really healthy all season. But when he was healthy, he was pretty good. The concern there is just our overall depth. We are bringing in four-five freshmen (in the fall) and two or three of them are going to have to play. I wish they were here for the spring because that would give us a jump there.
Jason Wells was a starter at (free) safety and really learned a lot. He was really only a true sophomore because he played only one year of JC football and was in a totally different scheme than what we are playing here. He’s a guy I think is going to be that much better this year. I’m not sure that he totally understood all the things we are doing. He’s also got to stay healthy. He put his hat in there and got beat up a couple of times (with concussions). He has to understand how to stay healthy.
Mesphin Forrester played a lot for us last year in our nickel and dime packages and he could end up being a starter for us in our base package. The thing I like about him first of all is that he’s a good athlete. He has good range and he’s physical — he gained about 20 pounds during the off-season. Another thing I like about him — I don’t remember him missing a single practice. If he’s hurt, he never lets me know about it. He’s always there. That’s huge because I think he could have a really good year for us. He understands what we are doing, it’s just a matter of playing time for him in our base package.
At one corner there’s Roy Lewis and he’s got a lot of talent and he works hard. Across the board, all of those guys have talent. We just have to play with more consistency. He should have a big year for us considering all the playing time he’s gotten. He’s got to be a leader for us.
Jordan Murchison was a JC transfer a year ago and when we brought him in, he was probably a little bit overweight. He’s done a nice job of getting in shape. He looks better now than he ever has.
There’s some other guys in the picture like Matt Mosley (a redshirt freshman), but he just doesn’t have any playing time. Desmond Davis (a junior walk-on) is a guy who can run and he’s been in the program a couple of years now.
QUESTION: What’s the status of safety Darin Harris (who missed last year with injuries)?
BAER: Sounds like they will let him play and that will be a tremendous help. He was a starter for us for two-three games our first year.
It’s a good group of guys, we just don’t have enough bodies right now. So the key for us is to get through spring ball healthy. We’ve got to have everyone take a lot of reps and stay healthy. That will really help us.
But spring ball, 15 practices in three weeks, is a grind for everybody. The upside is it’s all football and they are learning all the time. I like that. Push it at them and they are forced to learn it. The downside is if they get hurt, if it’s a hamstring or something like that, they basically miss spring practice. But to me there’s not a whole lot of difference in having spring ball over four weeks and having a few extra days. (Editor’s note: UW spring ball has generally been spread out over about three-and-a-half weeks in recent years, usually beginning on a Thursday, but has been condensed a few days this year to allow for it to start after the Easter holiday and still finish by the end of April).
QUESTION: Will there be any major scheme changes this year?
BAER: I’m very happy with our system overall, we just have to play some things better. We are always changing things and tweaking things a little bit. But look at Florida as an example. One of the co-defensive coordinators (Greg Mattison) is a very good friend of mine, worked at Notre Dame when I was there. He said they don’t have many defensive plays, they have four-five defenses total. But they have talent and they understand what they are doing. That’s what we have to do. We have to get to that point.
QUESTION: I’m sure you hear often from fans who want the defense to be more aggressive. What are your thoughts on that.
BAER: Everyone thinks pressure is the answer — I even hear that from my mom. But you have to be careful about what you can do and what you can’t do. That (pressure) can hurt you more than help you at times depending on what teams do against it.
Over the years, in terms of what I’ve done, people have probably but that tag on us that we were aggressive and that we got after people. We haven’t done a lot of that the last couple of years. But I’m not going to play a scheme just to play a scheme and be a pressure team all year if we can’t handle that. I’m more about putting your guys in positions they can handle and not putting them in positions they can’t handle. There were situations last year, and I’m not pointing fingers at anyone but myself, but there were times I thought we couldn’t handle the situations or schemes that we got in. There was one glaring TD in a game that hurt us and I put that on me, where we had a player in a position I don’t think he could handle.
But I would say that 80 percent of what we did last fall will be back in and we are going to run it all this spring and see what we can handle and what we can’t.
QUESTION: I think one reason being aggressive is a popular topic among UW fans is they remember the 1991 team which seemed to bring pressure on every down.
BAER: They did. But the game has changed so much since 1991 with the schemes teams are using. People are putting one back in the backfield, no backs, things like that. The game has changed so much and it’s going to continue to change. You look at the most successful teams in the NFL and they are not pressure teams. They do enough of it, but they aren’t big pressure teams. Look at Tampa Bay when they won their Super Bowl — they were an 80-85 percent cover team.
We’re going to do what we can do best. But I do think we will be a better pressure team. We do have some linebackers that can get after it and that’s the key. But it’s also an entire team package, so we’ll just have to see.

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