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Mail Time! Our Special BYE Week Edition of the UWDP Mailbag

Just because the Huskies are taking a week off doesn't mean that your UWDP staff isn't on the spot. We've got answers to all of your BYE week questions and comments right here.

Chris Petersen is seen here discussing the finer points of blitz pickups with an unidentified zebra.
Chris Petersen is seen here discussing the finer points of blitz pickups with an unidentified zebra.
Steve Dykes

Week 6 is BYE week in Huskyville.  Unfortunately, we go into the BYE week with the heavy burden of a loss weighing on our shoulders.  As you might imagine, the bitter taste of the Stanford loss permeates all through this week's mailbag.  We are brave soldiers here at UWDP headquarters and we are here to power through all of your vents, rants, ravings and complaints.

Be fairly warned, we are going to discuss QB play and offensive coordinator performance.

(I can just hear a subset of our membership now ...)


Fear not.  It'll all be over soon.

Week 6 Mailbag

HSteele7 comments:

Two things have left an impression on me regarding the Husky, Stanford football game. First, the Stanford defense is the best the Dawgs will face all year. The second thing I noticed is that Miles is not in "football condition." I have watched the all of the games that Miles has played in this year, and by the fourth quarter his legs are gone. If he is indeed exhausted, that would explain why he is run down by defensive linemen. His ability to make good decisions would also be greatly affected.

UWDP:  These are fair comments.  In four games, the Stanford defense has surrendered a total of 26 points.  You can debate "quality of opponent" all you want, but that stat includes two Pac 12 games, one of which on the road.  That's quality no matter how you slice it.  To say that their Defense can wear down a QB - not to mention just about any other position group on the opposing offense - is a defensible position to take.

The question going forward for Cyler Miles and the Husky offense is whether or not they can capitalize on the plays that are there when they present themselves.  Everybody is moving a step slow and the rhythm is out of synch.  I'm looking forward to the Husky staff simplifying the playbook during the BYE week and getting the unit sharp in a narrowed down version of the offense.

Ironbreaker asks:

So whats the chances of getting Nuss back to the UW as OC? I have to say I'm not happy with Jonathan Smith at all. He's clearly in over his head at this level, his press time only reinforces that sentiment IMO.

UWDP:  The subject of Doug Nussmeier came up in a number of comment threads following the Stanford game.  Here is a quiz for you.  From the following list of teams, pick the one with the worst scoring offense so far in 2014:  Washington, Virginia, New Mexico State, Idaho, Michigan.

Obviously, the answer is the Michigan Wolverines which currently ranks 104th in CFB in scoring offense.  In case you were not aware, that is not good.  Furthermore, the huge step up in performance that the Alabama offense has taken since Nuss left that job is hard to explain.  This isn't to say that Nussmeier isn't or can't be a wonderful offensive coordinator, but it is to say that there are questions.  If we are going to give Nuss a benefit of the doubt in the face of the evidence to date, why would we not do the same for the man hand-picked by Chris Petersen.

What I will say is that the early returns on the job that Jonathan Smith is doing are completely unacceptable.  The playbook is complex, the execution is not sharp, the tempo is herky-jerky and there is no identity.  That said, we are still early in the season and there is a ways to go.  Sark showed that just like players, coaches have a learning curve.  We'll see how Coach Pete guides Smith through his.

BroadwayReps comments:

Beau Baldwin for OC.

UWDP:  Well, now you're talking.

LeeG comments:

I guess I am in the minority about the Stanford loss. It seems fans are more upset about a hard tough fought loss than a blowout one. UW was in this one til the end. Remember how worried about the D? They showed up.  UW will not face a defense like that the rest of the year and I think 9+ wins is very likely.

UWDP:  Lee, your comments are well-received.  I agree that lost in all of the consternation around the Huskies offense are the number of subplots that are working out positively for this team.  First and foremost is the astounding improvement curve that we've seen the defensive secondary climb.  While they've undoubtedly been aided by the sharpening play of the defensive line, that young secondary has really held their own and should get credit for largely holding a Stanford team that lives on play-action for long plays to just one play over 20 yards (and that was on a broken coverage by Budda Baker).  In fact, at 6.8 yards per attempt, last week was only the fourth time in the last two seasons that Kevin Hogan has been held to less than 7.0 ypa (ironically, that has happened twice vs UW).  That's pretty good.

The ball protection is also far better than a year ago - a stat that is highly correlated to winning.  Washington's +2.2 turnovers per game is tops in the Pac 12 and #4 in the nation - behind names like Florida State and Michigan State.  That kind of differential is a great equalizer against teams that may have higher overall talent or that are more precise in their execution.

Finally, we can't ignore that defensive line.  They are playing at a very high level.  Even without the gaudy sack numbers against a Stanford, an analysis of their play showed that they did a nice job in gap integrity and that they were often collapsing the pocket and making it difficult for Hogan to get eyes down-field.  After a questionable start versus Hawaii, this unit has been the foundation of the entire team.

Uwdawgsfan4life comments:

What's with the dawgs losing two players, mustafa branch and Isaac Garcia from Bellevue to Stanford and USC? I know its early, but we need to keep those players home. Would this be a time where we need a local legend like Tui on our staff to keep the locals home.

UWDP: While this would seem to be a blow to the hope of Petersen keeping the "fence" around the state and securing a steady pipeline with powerhouse program Bellevue H.S., it's not as bad as it appears on the surface.  Regarding Branch, he didn't have an offer from Washington.  With a large number of LB's being targeted by this staff, you can read between the lines - they clearly didn't rate him as a priority recruit.

Garcia is a player the Huskies want, but he grew up in Fontana, CA and considered the Trojans his "dream school", so it wasn't much of a surprise that he committed not long after getting an offer from USC.  He's a 2016 kid, so there's plenty of time left with his recruitment.  He's indicated he's still thinking of taking visits, so it's not yet a done deal.  But I don't think having Tui on the UW staff would make much of a difference in this case.

Jim asks:

Why have we not used the tight end and Kasen Williams more?  Our offensive line is overrated.  Do you think it's time for a change at quarterback?

UWDP: Against Stanford's front line, the tight end was frequently asked to stay in as a blocker.  When the tight end did run a route, it mostly appeared that Miles either didn't have the time to go through his read progressions to get to the tight end, or frankly, missed seeing him running open in the middle of the field.

I wish I knew the answer on Williams.  The biggest thing I can come up with is that "open" with Williams isn't the same as "open" with some of the other receivers.  He doesn't get tremendous separation from his defender, but can use his size, strength, and jumping ability to make catches even when he appears to be covered.  Miles doesn't appear to want to take the chance on a pass to a seemingly covered Williams as much as we'd like to see.  Hopefully, that improves over the bye week.

Was the offensive line highly rated?  I'm not sure it was.  It was experienced, and I think people thought it'd take a step forward due to that, but some of that continuity was lost based on choices the coaches made with regard to positions and starters, and the injury to Ben Riva.  The line is underperforming collectively for sure.

The quarterback debate has raged here all week long.  You can read about it here and here, and in the comments section of just about every article this week.  Some think it's time, some don't.  But there are bigger problems on the offensive (up front, and with the running game), and changing the QB may help, and even help a lot, but it's not a magic elixir.

RockDawg asks:

Is it just me, or do other folks notice that Kasen Williams has a significant limp?

UWDP: He sure does.  Petersen actually commented on that at the start of fall camp.  He said when he looked back at film of Williams the last couple of years, he noticed the same "natural" limp.  Just given how long Williams has been in the recovery process, I doubt he's 100%.  It's probably more a question of how close he is.  I'm not sure the limp is necessarily a sign of anything.

skystriker comments:

Sark's recruits .all of them stink how about the kid from Tacoma that's starting for Colorado . Why didn't we recruit him?

UWDP: Really?  You seriously think all of Sark's recruits stink? All of them?

Regarding the recruitment of QB Sefo Liufau, Sark early on targeted Troy Williams in the 2013 class as his choice at QB.  As a 4-star recruit with reported offers from Auburn, UCLA, Florida, Wisconsin, Arizona State, Arizona and Ole Miss (among others), Sark certainly wasn't the only one that thought highly of Williams.  Liufau was a good-looking QB too, but not as highly regarded: a 3-star recruit with no other listed offers than the one from Colorado.  He's looked good so far for the Buffs, but who's to say where Williams would be in the depth chart today if Sark were still at Washington?

buckwheat comments:

Now that KeiVarae Russell has been dismissed from Norte Dame, any chance UW picks him up?

UWDP: To clarify, Russell hasn't been dismissed - he is currently suspended and awaiting a ruling from the school on accusations of academic fraud.  While he's expressed frustration at the pace of the investigation, there's no indication currently that he plans to leave Notre Dame.

ATotalWhimp asks:

What is Miles' skill floor as a QB?  A lot of people think he'll improve from week to week, but will those improvements transform him into a Pac 12 level QB?  Or are we going to be handcuffed for conference play until he makes great leaps of improvement?

UWDP: I'm assuming you mean his ceiling.  Physically, it depends on what he can do to increase the speed of his release and the velocity he can generate on the ball.  He also needs to improve his accuracy, but I think that that's at least partly a function of his delivery right now; the amount of effort he puts into throwing a pass is so great that it pulls his body in several different directions at the same time and likely prevents him from both being consistent in his delivery and hinders his accuracy.  Mentally, he needs to get through his progressions much quicker, and begin delivering his passes before the receiver comes out of his break.

His velocity isn't going to change this season, because it takes months of throwing a couple of hundred passes a day with the proper technique to unlearn bad habits and learn new, good, ones.  He can improve in the mental aspect of things, and hopefully that's what's happening during the bye week.

What remains to be seen is who Miles is as a leader.  He's well-liked by his teammates, but that isn't the same thing as leading them.  It'll be interesting to see if he can get the rest of the team to rally around him.

The offense is likely to be limited this season, especially against the upper half of the conference.  If Miles remains the quarterback, there's just no quick fix.  The defense should be able to keep the team in most games, but it's tough to see the offense scoring enough points against teams like ASU, Arizona, Cal, etc. if those teams can get the Huskies in a shootout.

dgdawg asks:

Bye week haiku contest?

UWDP: Wheelhouse.  You go first.

haie asks:

Is Washington doomed to be like Cal?  By that I mean a great academic institution that just cares about being in the top half of the conference to put butts in the seats, and maintain a clean program.  Sure seems like if Petersen can't turn things around in the next 2-3 years, UW is going to lose what little credibility it has left to call itself a football school.

UWDP: I don't think the UW is destined for anything right now.  Cal's problem is the same as Michigan's problem is the same as Texas' problem is the same as Florida's problem.  Hiring the right coach.  At Washington, there's no real issues with resources for the football team (exhibit A is the amount of money Steve Sarkisian was given to hire a new defensive staff, exhibit B is the stadium upgrade that was bonded by the UW, exhibit C is the amount of money committed to hire Chris Petersen).  While President Young may not be a Husky fan per se, there's no desire on his part to see a middling program.  And regardless of how people feel about Mark Emmert and his not stepping in and firing Tyrone Willingham, the firing of Todd Turner was 100% about football and was actually the more critical move in the long term.

If Petersen can't turn things around in the next handful of years, he'll be fired.  And the Huskies will roll the dice on another new coach.  They may not get it right, but it won't be for a lack of effort.