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UWDP's Husky Mailbag

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Passing game woes, fan expectations and "most disappointing Husky" are all hit on in this week's mailbag.

Is Lavon Coleman the most disappointing Dawg of 2014?
Is Lavon Coleman the most disappointing Dawg of 2014?
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Mailbag!

As your curiosity expands, so do our answers.  Carry on, Dawg fans.

Benno ponders:
Now that we finally have a good grasp on who this team is, what are some of the expectations looking ahead to 2015? There are big changes coming in the OL, DL, and LB groups. The RB position is not as strong as we had hoped for. The QBs haven't progressed as we had expected. What players can we expect to step up into larger roles?

Brad: I'm only going to speak for myself, but I've held that 2015 would potentially be a step back from 2014, due to the losses you mentioned, plus Kasen Williams (who has turned out to be a non-factor).  Lots of new faces, for sure.  Working under the assumption that Shaq Thompson leaves early, only one starter is back on the front seven on defense in Travis Feeney.  On offense, Ben Riva has missed virtually the entire season, so instead of losing four starters, it appears to only be three.  But that's still not good.

Defensively, Elijah Qualls, Taniela Tupou, and Joe Mathis have gotten fairly significant playing time, and each has had his moments.  Nobody looks like Danny Shelton as of yet, but in fairness, Danny Shelton was just a great, big ball of potential as a freshman, same as Qualls.  While I've always liked Evan Hudson's effort, he's a guy the team should be able to replace without a huge step down.  Andrew Hudson has been a great surprise this year, but he's not an insurmountable loss either.  But Shelton....Somebody among the trio of Qualls, Greg Gaines, and Vita Vea is going to need to take a huge step forward next year.

The loss of Hau'li Kikaha is the toughest to fill at linebacker.  Losing him during the UCLA game really showed his value.  Whether it's Corey Littleton, Jarret Finau, Psalm Wooching, or some unkown candidate, it's almost impossible that his production will be reproduced.  John Timu has been underappreciated almost his entire career.  It' seems most likely that Azeem Victor takes his place.  Kieshawn Bierria struggled against UCLA, but has shown some flashes as a guy that can step into Thompson's role as well as anyone.

On the offensive line, the Huskies seem best-suited to replace Colin Tanigawa and James Atoe in the interior, and Dexter Charles should be back to full health in 2015.  Siosifa Tufunga has gotten a decent amount of time this year, and there's some potential in guys like Shane Brostek, Andrew Kirkland and Dane Crane.  Coleman Shelton has basically started this entire season, and should be back at one tackle spot.  There's virtually zero experience at left tackle to take over for Micah Hatchie, and that's a scary prospect.

All that being said, in the spring and summer I had expected better from the team in 2014 than what we've seen so far, and that lowers the bar for next season (not necessarily in a good way, I know).  We don't really know what another full year with guys like Tim Socha, Chris Strausser, and Pete Kwiatkowski is going to do to the guys on the roster, either - each wants a different type of player than what he inherited 11 months ago, and the changes that needed to be made don't necessarily happen in a single offseason.  There's some hope that the guys currently on the roster simply look different next year.

Ben Nice posits:
Taking Cyler Myles out of the equation, has Lavon Coleman had the most disappointing season this year?

Was I expecting to much? I am disappointed in his season and play to the point that barring an offseason turnaround I hope Myles Gaskins shows more and can start next year. What are your thoughts on Lavon Coleman?

Chris:  In a season where the entire offense has struggled, it is hard to call any single player the "biggest disappointment", especially a player like Coleman who has struggled to stay healthy.

I will submit that there were certainly big expectations surrounding Coleman.  Those were fed not only by the chatter from the coaching staff last season but also by the glowing reviews the current staff provided during both spring and fall camps.

Given that just about everybody has had trouble early in the season rushing the ball, I'm still interested to see what Lavon will do now that he is healthy and now that the OLine seems to be gelling a bit more in the run blocking.  Let's see how the next three games play out before we close the book on any of our RBs, in particular Lavon Coleman.

TexCat asks:
Could you talk a bit about Cyler Miles for a Wildcat fan who has not paid close attention to the Huskies so far this year? His raw numbers (65% and 12/2 TD / INT) look good to me. Has he met general fan expectations so far in 2014?

Brad: WHY AREN'T YOU PAYING ATTENTION TO THE HUSKIES, HUH??!!??  ARE YOU TO GOOD FOR US???!!??!

After the coaching staff, the quarterback is the fans' biggest scapegoat when a team isn't winning enough games, or in impressive enough fashion.  That's a factor with Miles, for sure.  And it's not just his fault that fans are down on the passing game, because it's all pretty much broken.  But.....

The Huskies passing game (especially earlier in the season) has been largely predicated on picking up yards after the catch.  While Miles completes a lot of those varied screen passes, they are often delivered without the precise accuracy and timing for them to really be effective plays.  He isn't a technically proficient passer, and his motion keeps him from generating the velocity to complete the more difficult mid-range throws.  He isn't great in a pocket that collapses so quickly that it'd take a "great" QB to be effective.

He's very limited as a passer, and he gets no help from his offensive line and very little from his receivers.  His attempts have been so limited that his numbers are greatly skewed toward the positive based on a handful of short-passes-turned-in-to-big-plays, a few very well thrown deep balls, and a schedule that includes 5 wins over some of the worst defenses in the country.  On a better team, he might very well be able to manage a game the way someone like Kevin Hogan does at Stanford.  On this team, he's the central lightning rod for criticism (not named Jonathon Smith, anyway).

OzDawg comments:
For all that people complain about the new staff, I find it amazing how many seem to pop up saying "I was worried about hiring this staff b/c I didn't think they could cut it at the Pac 12 level." Are people's memories so short. Given everything and his rep, Coach Pete was an amazing hire and even if it doesn't work out, who do these people think would have been a better hire???? Sorry not sure if that is a question or rant.

Saying that...what lessons do you think Coach Pete will take from this year? Do you think he will pull the trigger on staff after one year (especially when one looks that the very top teams have consistency in staff over a number of years (Stanford's demise this year and the loss of a number of key assistants has to be looked at)).

Brad: Only really addressing the second part, I can't see how Petersen won't take away that he needs a dramatically improved offense, in every single respect imaginable.  The only thing this unit has had the ability to do consistently "well" is draw penalties, and pooch punt.

Before making the decision to shake up the staff, Petersen needs to make sure that his vision of Husky offense actually works, both at the University of Washington, and against Pac 12 competition.  Once he's answered that question to himself, he's got to evaluate whether the staff he's currently employing can both communicate and teach his design.  It's easy to point the finger at offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jonathon Smith.  And it might very well be that he's a huge problem.  I've kind of gotten over that mentality though - It's Chris Petersen's fault the offense sucks.  And it'll be his fault if the defense sucks.  It's his job to fix it, however he sees fit.  If that means a new philosophy on offense, fine.  If that means new coaches, fine.  Here's the one that fans will have the toughest time swallowing - if that means new players, then (gulp), fine.  That last one takes the most time.  And it takes patience that fans might not have.

Victoria Husky notes:
This team is - 'tea bag in the ocean' weak. Haven't beat a good team(California at 68 this week) is the highest ranked. Much heralded defence has gotten clownstomped by Oregon and UCLA and

Brad: While I could try to talk you off the ledge, I'm not sure it's going to have any effect.  So, instead, given the cold weather we've been having here the last few days in the Seattle area, I'm going to pass along an easy, comfort food recipe for good old-fashioned beef stew.  It won't make the Huskies any better right now, but at least you'll be full and warm.

  • 2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth
  • 3 potatoes, diced
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped

Mix the dry ingredients, and cover the meat completely with them.  Place the meat in a slow cooker, and add the garlic, bay leaf, beef broth, and vegetables.  Cover, and cook on the lowest setting for 10 to 12 hours.  Feel free to experiment with the seasonings to your taste as it cooks.

Now, as you're reading this, I already know what you're thinking.  "What the HELL, Brad!!  If I put my slow cooker on high I could be enjoying this delicious stew in half the time!"  To that, I scoff.  No crock pot aficionado ever uses the high setting.  In fact, I'd recommend unplugging the cooker for an hour every other hour, and cook it for 20 or 24 hours total.  Sure, it's extra work, but that constant co-mingling of ingredients at the low heat is what truly makes this meal a "comfort food."

Go Dawgs.

Arizona Desert Dawg comments:
This is the first year for the Husky coaches in the Pac12. Why is it that nobody expected a learning curve for the coaches? This is the first year that all the coaches have to face 9 Pac12 teams in a year. Shouldn't we have expected some growing pains? That being said I don't believe our OC will ever be up to Pac12 standards. I guess my optimism has now turned to realism.

Brad: I dunno.  It's still football, right?  Same rules, same number of players, same shaped ball....The biggest difference between a lower level of college football and a higher one like Washington isn't the game, it's learning to manage personalities and create a roster that philosophically meshes with the designs of the offense and defense.  This isn't like moving from college to the pros or something.

I don't give the coaches a pass because they've moved up to a higher level (however small) of college football, but I do think they deserve the chance to build the team and environment that they think it'll take to win at the University of Washington.  And as I said above, as a fan, I've decided that every single aspect of the program is Chris Petersen's responsibility.  Including the offensive coordinator's performance.  Whether or not Smith is a problem remains to be seen (he hasn't been impressive to my eye either), but it's Petersen's job to fix it.  And really, that goes for each and every one of the assistants.

Andrew wonders:
I can't quite seem to get a handle on what the problems are with the passing game. I am sure it is a multifaceted issue but am wondering if you fellas might be able to shed more light on it. Cyler Miles may have technique issues but he can clearly throw down field (it has not happened often but has happened). Our o line may be beat up but they are experienced and can certainly provide a few seconds of protection, although not consistently. It seems like a lot of the sacks and scrambles are a result of Miles holding on to the ball too long. Is this a vision or confidence issue or are our receivers just that bad at getting open(not always in view on the TV stream)? Or is it that everyone's favorite punching bag, Jonathan Smith, isn't calling for or letting down field passes go? I have trouble buying in to the story that we just don't have the talent needed at those positions to succeed or at least be passable.

Brad: The simplest answer is that everything with regards to the passing game is almost entirely broken.  The quarterback has issues reading defenses and delivering passes, the line has difficulty creating a consistent pocket, and the receivers aren't doing their job to get open.

I'd probably grade each of these units as "not quite marginally competent" (with "marginally competent" meaning "average" in the Pac 12).  If they were proficient in two of these, as they were in 2013 with Price and a good receiving corps, they can go a long way toward mitigating that one weakness.  If they were only bad in two of them, they'd probably look a great deal like the 2012 passing offense that was mostly weak at receiver and on the line.  But being bad at all three at the same time results in what we're seeing right now.  Ineptness moving the ball through the air on anything approaching a consistent basis.