On to the second batch:
Q: In your opinion, what philosophical/admin/organizational change has occurred at the UW so that UW fires Jim Lambright after a 6-6 season followed by a bowl loss, but it won’t fire Tyrone Willingham after three consecutive losing seasons?
A: Well, for starters, the people in charge are all different now than they were then. The situation and the expectations were also a lot different — Lambright followed Don James, Willingham followed the messy Rick Neuheisel-to-Keith Gilbertson transition. As much as you might dislike what is going on now, you have to admit Willingham got a shorter draw than Lambright did in terms of the situation at the time he took over. I get the sense you are insinuating that the people in charge don’t care as much about winning as the people now do. I don’t think that’s the case. I just think that when they hired Willingham, they felt they had to give him the requisite amount of time to try to make it work. It obviously isn’t working, and if it continues not to work, a change will be made.
Q: Do you think Steve Sarkisian is someone who would be a good coach in the Pac-10, and a good fit for the Huskies?
A: Frankly, I have no idea and I don’t know how anybody could. I know you were looking for more insight than that, but I’m using it to make a larger point that hiring any assistant is basically a shot-in-the-dark. Who knew Jeff Tedford would be as good a coach as he is when Cal hired him? Every coach ever hired was hired with the thought he’d be the right guy. Anyway, as for Sarkisian, he has one thing I think is a decent indicator of success as a coach — he was a college quarterback. I’ve always thought that like catchers make good baseball managers, QBs have a better chance of success as coaches because they grow up having to understand the entire field — Don James was a college QB, so was Dennis Erickson and Tedford, to name a few. But I really think they’ll go for someone with more experience and who is more proven.
Q: I read that Jake Locker has nine (did I read that right), pins in his thumb. So my question is what are the chances of a person coming back from what sounds like a significant injury. Will he regain complete use of his thumb; including feeling, strength etc. Sounds like this will not be easy for a QB.
A: Actually, I think Tim Lappano said on the radio last night that it’s 12. Either way, that does sound like a lot, and as Lappano said, I think this is a more complicated injury than has been realized. Which is one reason I think there is no chance Locker plays another position this year. If you paid attention, Willingham backtracked quite a bit last week on Locker playing another position after initially saying there was a chance, saying that the focus had to be on Locker recovering. I’m not enough of a medical expert to guess whether there are long-term implications. No one has said anything like that, though they usually don’t go into a lot of detail with us. But Locker indicated in his one press conference that he didn’t expect any real problems down the road. But the more we learn about this injury, seems like the smart money might be on the back end of the 6-8 week projection for Locker’s return.
Q: Is there any evidence that players got better after Willingham left the programs at ND and Stanford? I know Brady Quinn picked up the production but was there any effect like that down at Stanford or any other Notre Dame player?
A: Stanford’s a tough one to judge. The team was so senior-laden Willingham’s last season that a pretty big dropoff was inevitable no matter who the coach was the next year, Willingham included — the Cardinal had just nine position starters back in 2002, the year after Willingham left. The Cardinal has obviously really struggled since, but given that the personnel changed pretty quickly, as well, hard to know where to assess all the blame there. You are right that a lot of the ND players did a lot more the years after Willingham was gone. But was that better coaching (as Willingham’s detractors would say) or the natural improvement of maturity (as his supporters would say).
Q: What is Willingham’s record regarding historical use of true freshmen at ND and SU? Can you ask him why he didn’t play Locker in 2006 if he really believes in playing the best players? And can you recap President Mark Emmert’s history of making public statements about Willingham, e.g., appearing on KJR? Did he make statements during the season last year? What criteria, if any, did he set forth for judging Willingham this year?
A: On the first question, both Stanford and Notre Dame are schools that traditionally go by academic years, with fifth years decided at the end, which Willingham brought to UW. At both schools, particularly Notre Dame, the general philosophy has been to just play the freshmen and worry about redshirting later. So it’s really hard to compare his stance there with his stance here due to the differing traditions of the schools involved. As for Locker in 2006, he has been asked that and he’s said Locker wasn’t to the point where he was ready enough that it was worth costing a year of eligibility down the road. Quarterbacks are always judged a little differently in that regard because of the nature and value of the position. In 2010, a lot of people might be pretty happy Locker didn’t play in 2006. As for Emmert, I know he’s been on KJR a few times but I can’t recall every single instance. Here is a link, however, to some of what he said after the decision was made to keep Willingham. I don’t ever remember him saying, either last year or this year, that there was a “specific” criteria for the football program other than a general statement that he’d like to see significant improvement.
Q: This is a serious question: Is that really tobacco chew in Jake Locker’s mouth when he is standing on the sidelines?
A: I’ve been told it’s not. I was told at the Stanford game, anyway, it was a tootise roll type thing or something like that.
On to the second batch:
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