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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

February 18, 2009 at 11:23 AM

February answers, volume nine

Scratching off a few more. …
Q: What is the current state of getting former Huskies more involved in the program? I know that prior to Steve Sarkisian’s press conference to announce his hiring, he met with a lot of former players, coaches and alums. Has involvement been put on the back burner, or are some former Huskies taking an active role in the program now?
A: One thing to remember is that there is only so much they can do with ex-players. They can’t just bring these guys in to coach or help out whenever they want as the NCAA has rules on how many coaches are allowed, who can work on the field, etc. What I think is a bigger issue for many ex-players is simply feeling wanted to be around the program again in terms of being allowed to come to practices whenever they want, sideline passes for games, that sort of thing. Players were allowed to come to practice under Tyrone Willingham, but they had to get passes and sign in just like the media — I remember one day signing in and two players from the 2007 team were trying to explain who they were to the people manning the desk, which just seemed a little odd. And I’m not sure some of the ex-players loved having to wear the passes with all of the rules on them when they came back —- I walked up to a pretty well-known former player I know during one of the spring reunions a few years ago and he looked at the back and said rather sarcastically “I need to check if it’s okay if I can talk to you.” I think it’s more just having a general attitude of inclusion that most of the former players are seeking. Most of them don’t want to coach or anything like that, they just want to feel welcome when they do return.
Q: Last year Willingham brought in a boat load of talent but couldn’t coach the talent he had. The only example I could think of in all of college football is what happened down at Ole Miss. Ed Orgeron brought in a lot of talent to the SEC school but could never coach them up and was fired. Then Houston Nutt comes in and Ole Miss stuns everyone and wins the Cotton Bowl with a good coach. I know Ole Miss had a little more talent than UW and Nutt has more experience as a HC, but do you think that is a good example of what the UW could be in the future?
A: Maybe. I’d point out that Ole Miss was a lot more competitive in 2007 than UW was last year, almost beating Florida and Alabama, for instance. I also think we still have to be a little cautious about what we think we know of the class of 2008. It was the highest-rated of the Willingham classes, to be sure, which is really the only reason at the moment to assume there’s “a boatload of talent” there. And to play devil’s advocate, it also was fifth in the Pac-10 in terms of rating per player according to, really no different than a lot of other UW classes through the years. Not trying to be negative there, just saying that I think the jury is still out on just how good that class is, so to assume an immediate turnaround just because that class was fairly highly-rated (No. 14 by Scout) might be asking a bit much. I still think 2010 is the year when it makes more sense to project a real turnaround for this program.
Q: Of all the young running backs, I thought that the one who really stood out as high potential was David Freeman — hit the hole quick, good instincts. But he only got one or two starts, then went out with an ankle injury — which then was reported to be both ankles – and as it turned out, he never returned at all. I always thought that there might be more to the story with his absence, like maybe he wasn’t a favorite of the previous coaching staff, something like that. Do we know anything about his injury status? Might he be one of those players who really benefits from a fresh start? The answer I’m sure is “wait till spring ball and we’ll find out” but I wonder if I’m the only one who thinks he’s a big story just waiting to happen.
A: I agree that Freeman showed a lot of potential when he played last year — his average of 5.6 per carry last year was the best of any of the backs (though I would point out he also got most of his carries when Jake Locker was healthy, and Locker’s presence definitely makes a difference in how teams defend the Huskies, as became evident once he got hurt). Having talked with Freeman a few times, he said his ankles were a real issue. He got hurt against Stanford in game four, came back three weeks later against Notre Dame and left that game with a recurrence of the injuries. I think it was then decided the best thing for Freeman was for him to try to heal — especially since it was at that point that Willingham was fired and the season was lost. I don’t know if there was anything besides the ankles, but there’s no doubt the ankle injuries were real since we all saw him leave games with those injuries. (And as for not being a favorite of the former staff, he definitely seemed to get a lot of praise from Willingham at the beginning of the year, so I don’t really think that was an issue). No question he will be one of the more intriguing players to watch this spring to see how he fits into the new offense — he seemed to run his best out of the spread. And there’s also no question there will be an awful lot of competition at the RB spot this spring.
All for now.



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