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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

October 9, 2008 at 4:33 PM

Bye week answers, volume four

Another batch, though before I proceed, a quick note to make clear that these posts are my attempt to answer questions asked by readers. These are not questions asked by me of Tyrone Willingham or anybody at UW, but questions submitted by readers that I am attempting to answer. So hope that is clear as a couple of my e-mails have expressed some confusion over that. Thanks.
Q: This year we have one of the worst defenses in the country. Looking at the returning players next year and the prospect of some coaching changes (which most consider to be inevitable at this point), realistically how much of an improvement can we expect for the defense next year?
A: As you point out, so much could change between now and next season that it’s hard to do a lot more than guess. But if experience means anything, UW will have a lot of it next year on defense, probably as much or more than any other team in the Pac-10. UW is starting just one senior on defense right now, Mesphin Forrester at one cornerback spot. I know some will argue that a bunch of returners off a bad defense may not be such a good thing. But I do think there are legitimate reasons to think that a lot of the younger players have a lot of upside. The biggest problem this year is probably that UW has had to play too many young players (particularly true freshmen) up front and gets consistently pushed around. Missed tackles in the back end have been a problem, as well. Experience could go a long way toward solving those problems. I wouldn’t suggest in any way this team would suddenly become one of the best defenses in the Pac-10 next year, but with health, a year of experience, and who knows what in terms of a new look, it’s possible to see this group improving quite a bit and becoming at least a middle-of-the-pack crew.
Q: Can you break down the classes. How many seniors will we have over the next four years. Trying to assess impact of all the freshmen and redshirt freshmen running out of eligibility at the same time. Another way to look at it is how many scholarships will be available each year over the next 4-5 years.
A: By class UW has 16 seniors (though one is Jason Wells who is expected to redshirt and return in 2009), 10 juniors, 15 sophomores, 15 redshirt freshmen and 25 true freshmen (12 of whom have played this year and 11 of whom are likely to have this year count as a year of used eligibility). That adds up to the current 81 UW now has on scholarship out of 85 available. So the simple math would indicate UW would have roughly 20 scholarships available for this year. But more could open up if there is any attrition in any way, and there is almost always at least some. The class that could be smaller than usual would be 2010, when UW could have just 10 or so seniors, a result of the smallish 2005 recruiting class. It’s really impossible to predict with much accuracy a whole lot more down the road than that. But obviously a concern of some is that with so many true frosh playing this year, there could be a small senior class in 2012. But so much can change between now and then.
Q: I would like to know your thoughts on the lack of emotion Tyrone Willingham shows throughout his time at Washington. He doesn’t allow the bad to affect him (which could be a positive) but he doesn’t fire the players up like Rick Neuheisel did. What are your thoughts about his lack of emotion?
A: To me, this is almost one of those chicken-and-egg type questions. If UW were winning, everyone would probably be praising Willingham for showing such a calm demeanor on the sidelines and keeping his players poised, the kind of thing you heard a lot when he was at Stanford and his first year at Notre Dame. Point being, all kinds of styles can work — look at the difference between, say Joe Torre and Lou Piniella in baseball. Everybody talks in retrospect about how Neuheisel always had the Huskies fired up. But I remember getting a lot of complaints back then about how the Huskies never seemed ready to play at the beginning of games, the reason they always were forced into so many fourth-quarter comebacks. That was a particular issue in Neuheisel’s last year — UW was outscored by eight points in the first half that year but ended up outscoring opponents by 56 for the year. Not trying to pick on Neuheisel, but just to make the point. I think all manner of styles can work. Willingham’s obviously did to a certain degree at Stanford, but so far hasn’t here. Maybe this is just a group that needs more of that outward emotion. Or maybe it’s more about what is, or is not, happening during the week leading up to the game.
More later.



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