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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

December 30, 2008 at 1:25 PM

December answers, volume nine

One more round, though before we get to those, news today from the Los Angeles Daily News that DeWayne Walker will become the new head coach at New Mexico State.
This could not only have a major impact on the efforts of former Husky coach Rick Neuheisel to rebuild the UCLA program — Walker was regarded as not only a top-notch DC but also a solid recruiter and Neuheisel made it a priority last year to keep him in the fold — but also maybe on UWs search for a DC, as well. With Ken Norton Jr., apparently not likely headed to UCLA, Neuheisel may be also casting a wide net for a new DC.
Now on to a few more questions:
Q: Since players have 5 years to play 4, any chance that Steve Sarkisian will redshirt some of the freshman that played this past year that may still need another year of lifting an practice before they are Pac-10 ready while also spacing out roster spots for positions that may have too much depth(relatively speaking). I am thinking specifically about running backs(Dailey/Freeman), and WR(Bruns). Is this something that happens regularly with the Huskies or other teams?
A: That’s a really good question that like a lot of things, I don’t think has a firm answer to yet with Sark having just taken over. I would imagine they will definitely think about that, but they might not decide those kinds of things until after spring ball when they have a chance to really evaluate everybody up close. I still think, however, that the number one priority will be trying to field the best team possible next season, so if the coaches feel those players are needed next year, I would imagine they would decide to play them. But they might decide to do that with a couple of players to space things out, as you suggested.
Q: We have been told that the team needs to toughen up and get a lot stronger. Is this because the players were not working hard enough in the weight room, or because they weren’t being told to? Was this a coaching deficiency or a player lack of motivation?
A: To be fair to the old staff, they thought the team needed to get a lot stronger, as well. A lot of it was simply how young the team was this year, which was more of a roster management issue than a motivation issue or anything of that sort. That would have been a priority no matter who the coach was. That said, I think coming off an 0-12 season and having a new coach will entice everyone to work that much harder — especially with all of these players knowing that this is who their coach is going to be for the duration of their UW careers. There was so much uncertainty last year that I think that helped lead to some lack of focus on the part of some players. I don’t think that will be an issue this year. Also, a new way of doing things may simply make some guys respond better, as well.
Q: Don James used to have a rule about the 4th quarter — if they lost the 4th quarter regardless of the outcome of the game, there was extra work involved in practice. I miss that attitude out there. Any chance it could make a comeback?
A: I’ll again say that to be fair, I think the old coaches stressed the fourth quarter, as well, though since we never saw practice, I don’t know the specifics of how they did it in practice. One thing to keep in mind, there are now even more stringent rules on how often you can practice and for how long, so a lot of things have changed since the old days, meaning you can’t really just compare how things used to be and hope they can be done the same way now. That said, I’m sure Sarkisian will put a heavy premium on the fourth quarter, though I’ve never been around a coach who hasn’t.
Q: I had a question on the running back situation. Are there any frontrunners and who is likely to start.
A: That’s another question that’s really hard to answer right now as tailback may be the most unsettled position on the team. Five guys got starts at TB this season — Chris Polk, David Freeman, Brandon Johnson, Willie Griffin and Terrance Dailey. We can apparently also add Curtis Shaw to the mix of TBs, and Brandon Yakaboski, assuming he gets healthy, is also on the list. Given Sark’s stated “clean slate” for everyone, I would think that no one really will go into spring as the front-runner, with all getting a look. Of the five who played this year, Freeman and Dailey probably did the most. But I don’t think you can rule out Polk. As discussed in an earlier Q-and-A, he didn’t have good numbers when he did play, and he has to get healthy before worrying about anything else. But assuming he comes back 100 percent, there’s too much potential there for him not to be right in the mix, as well.
Q: Speaking of Shaw, when he left, he said it was due to ‘family problems.’ But was it a rift
with Tyrone Willingham that made him leave the team this year? My second question is that he said he wants to move back to RB. We have so many more backs since his freshman year. Would he be willing to play WR again?

A: There’s lots to blame on Willingham, but Shaw’s depature this year isn’t one of them. Shaw and his family have wanted to be vague on why he left the team and that should be honored, and I understand that that vagueness will lead to questions. But I can state clearly that he did not leave because of Willingham or anything to do with the football program, and you may just have to be content with that unless Shaw decides at some point to talk about it. As for his position, he says he wants to move back to RB and since he just said that in the last few weeks, I doubt he’d already want to move back to WR. Sounds as if RB is his position of choice and he has put on about 25 pounds or so to make him a better fit at that spot. So I think he wants to give RB another shot.
All for now.

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