A Qwest-free set of questions and answers:
Q: I’ve been wondering about Allen Carroll. He was a pretty big get in ’08 and had a solid plate of offers. He was also selected by Rivals.com as one of their top five OL’s in terms of agility and they noted “has great potential as a pulling guard.” Yet a year on, he’s mostly disappeared. As agility is something I believe Steve Sarkisian now wants, what’s the latest on his development?
A: Well, for one thing, Carroll’s one of the guys who has been dealing with some academic issues, so he’s missed a few of the spring practices, and that has obviously set him back — hard to make an impression when you’re not even there. He also battled some injuries last fall and he may not be 100 percent now. But I would also say it’s way too early to pass any kind of judgment on Carroll. He was a Class of 2008 guy, meaning this is his first spring practice. Linemen of all types tend to take a while to develop. I know there are exceptions — Olin Kreutz, Benji Olson — but that also makes the point. Those two were guys who played/are playing in the NFL for a decade or so and not really who you should compare most linemen to in terms of college progression. Many guys who have become very good college linemen needed a year or two to get into things. Carroll was running with the No. 2 unit at tackle at times when he was out there this spring so I think he was getting a good look. I’d say let time run its course a little longer on Carroll and any other of the young linemen before getting too concerned.
Q: I realize that it’s way early in the rebuilding process, and it’s tough to get a feel for how things will shape up in fall camp, but do you see the new staff making a near-total change in the schemes? I also realize the spread is nearly gone. I also wonder about the extent to which they will adapt what they want to do in the long run to suit the talent on hand, such as it is.
A: We’re not supposed to get real detailed in what we see scheme-wise so I haven’t done a lot of that in reports this spring. But the basics of what they are doing are pretty obvious and have been well-stated by the coaches themselves — a pro set on offense, a 4-3 on defense. The 4-3 is not a real departure at all from what UW did last year. The Huskies did experiment with three-man fronts at times last year but the majority of the time they were in a four-man front. What is different is stuff that’s a lot more subtle — pressures and stunts and all of that. The angles from which they will bring guys, and when they may call certain defenses. So it won’t be the base of the scheme that will necessarily be a departure, but how they will do things within the scheme. But as I often say, just look at old USC tapes if you really want to get a sense of what UW is likely to do. As for the offense, I think you’ll still see elements of the spread, just not as much use of it. And you’ll still see three-WR sets, just maybe not as much. The ideal is for it to be a two-man backfield set with liberal uses of the play-action —- again, like USC does a lot. But they are definitely trying to suit the offense to the talent on hand — that’s why there is any spread offense at all. They wouldn’t have that in there if not for the presence of Jake Locker, I don’t think. But since he’s there, they are doing some things to take advantage of what he does.
Q: Also, it seems to me that some teams resort to trick plays in part because they need to in order to level the playing field. Other teams put them in more because they can rather than need to. Clearly the Dawgs need to press any advantage they can, including surprise. Has Sark made any mention of inclinations along this line?
A: To be frank, not sure I’ve ever really heard a coach announce they plan to run a lot of trick plays heading into a season. They are called trick plays for a reason —- no one knows they are coming. UW fans should remember well that USC has called some trick plays in recent seasons — remember the fake field goal early in UW’s visit to L.A. in 2006 that turned into a controversial touchdown that ultimately helped swing the game USC’s way? Trick plays tend to be things you practice the week you may want to use them and not necessarily something you spend a ton of time on during the spring, when the emphasis is more on establishing the basics, especially in a spring like this that is the first one for a new coaching staff. But I have little doubt that you’ll probably see some trick plays. I actually thought you saw UW try a few last season — remember the Cody Bruns TD pass, for instance?
Q: I know you haven’t been watching the defense much but in the brief practice I saw, it seemed like they had Nate Williams attacking the line of scrimmage more. Is this an aberration or is the plan to get some tackles for losses from him? At USC Nick Holt (or Pete Carroll) played Taylor Mays extremely deep (A ridiculous 25-30 yards off the line of scrimmage, imo) so this seems like something new if that’s what they are planning.
A: What, are you spying on me? I’ve tried to watch the defense a bit, but I’m just not into all that running from one field to the other — if I wanted a workout I’d head to the gym. So I tend to stay planted by the main field (and yes, I’m joking a bit, I try to watch both sides as much as I can — usually it’s whether I end up talking to someone that determines what field I’m on). I actually think some of the difference you see in Mays and Williams is their position. Mays is a free safety at USC, a position that generally calls for being stationed far down field as the last line of defense. Williams is generally playing more at strong safety, a position that usually lines up closer to the line of scrimmage. A more accurate comparison to what Mays does at USC is Johri Fogerson. However, I write that cautioning that the coaches insist they don’t have strict labels to the two safeties and are still mixing and matching to get the right combination, so you’ll see lots of different guys working in lots of different roles back there, something I would imagine they would begin to pare down a bit once fall camp arrives.
I’m off now to the Pacific Northwest Football Hall of Fame Luncheon, where among the inductees are Joe Steele and Bob Rondeau, and I figure I’ll have some notes to pass along from that later.
A Qwest-free set of questions and answers:
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