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UWDP's Washington Huskies Mailbag - Nov 21

Surprisingly little discussion of certain end-of-game-theatrics in this week's mailbag. That's good, right?

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Let's jump in.

Racepug comments:
Personally, I was never swayed by C.P.'s record in Boise. Those who thought he was the bees knees coming in will give him more time. Me? I'm just waiting for the UW administration to kick him to curb where he belongs. Occasional wins over good teams do not make for an outstanding H.C., in my estimation.

Chris:  I can see where you are coming from on this.  Just one question:

CaliforniaHusky asks:
I have several questions:
1) is Petersen happy with the makeup of the roster meaning how the composition is by position , depth, and transition of position by class? I speculate he isn't.
2) Sonny Dykes at Cal had 27 players leave or transfer from program after his first year, with all the QBs we have for next year Myles, Williams, Lindquist, Karta Samuels and Browning doubt they all stay?
3) if Sark was still around my guess is the record might be the same or maybe one more win , wouldn't that have resulted in his firing in his 6th year?
4) doesn't Boise State have more NFL players currently than UW who are active? This speaking to Petersens development of players.

Chris:  Let's take these one at a time:

1)  Is Petersen happy with his roster?  I'd say the answer to that is "no" and we can support this notion based on a report that Adam Jude did earlier in the year where Petersen basically said as much (you can link to that piece here).  If Petersen wasn't feeling good about his roster makeup back then, imagine how he feels about it now that injury and attrition have set in.

2)  QB Stability?  I'm not sure what the link to the Sonny Dykes observation is but, yeah, I think it is realistic expectation that at least one QB on this current roster transfers in the year ahead.  However, I'm not sure it is as much of a slam dunk as you might expect.  The big question is whether or not Troy Williams feels like he is going to get a real shot at the starting job next spring.  If Cyler dominates the next two or three games, perhaps not.  If Cyler struggles, then I could see a guy like Troy feeling like he's got as good a shot of winning the job at UW as anywhere else he might transfer to.  The other guys - KJCS and Jeff Lindquist - are probably not inclined to go anywhere given their individual situations.  But, who knows?

3)  Sark's hypothetical status?  There is a question on this below.  Bottom line:  fun but pointless debate.

4)  Petersen's track record in player development?  This comes back to forecasting how well a "lower level" coach, even one as successful as Chris Petersen, will do in the Power 5.  People will argue that you can't just look at Petersen's career winning percentage and project from that what he will do in the Pac 12.  However, you could also argue that Petersen has put together a lot of other evidence that all indicate a probability of success that exceeds that of a young or rookie coach.  Player development is certainly one of those things.  You can also look at factors like sustained success, recruiting (relative success), and performance in marquee games.

BaconHusky asks:
The season is almost over. Do you think we would have done better if Sark did not leave? Is Petersen an improvement?

Chris:  This has come up in the comments a few times as well in the question above.  It is hard to deal in hypotheticals when it comes to what another coach (staff) would have done with this same roster.  If I had to guess, I would suggest that certain players - most notably Demore'ea Stringfellow - would still be on this roster and that the absorption of a new playbook would not be an issue that the offense would have to digest.  I think the incremental offensive output would have resulted in wins vs Stanford and ASU.

However, we'd still have major issues that this new staff would be contending with.  We'd be filling major holes in the secondary (with different players - including no Budda).  We'd be struggling with offensive line injuries.  We'd have issues at RB.  Those things plus Sark's known issues with traveling and with game management would likely have led to a few horrible losses that haven't happened on CP's watch - I'm thinking of EWU in particular.. maybe even Hawaii.

All in all, Petersen is a stark improvement over Sark.  While the results of this season are surely disappointing, it is easy to see the growth taking hold if you choose to look past whatever your initial expectations were. This team, unlike the past regime, has actually shown an ability to "clean things up" on a week to week basis (first blitz pickup, then run blocking, then tighter zone coverage in the secondary, then the QB working the middle, then the rushing attack ... etc).  This is evident that week-to-week coaching is happening.  I'm not sure we could say that Sark ever showed the ability to do that.  Give this staff one more offseason and I don't see any reason that the leapfrog over the Sark trajectory won't happen.

Dawgmanic asks:
Why is it that a simple play call of kneeing the ball seems to be outside the scope of comprehension of this coaching staff? Peterson was hailed as an offensive guru but yet time and time again there have been missed calls or just plain bad calls like what we saw during the Arizona game. How is the play calling going to be fixed? Does there need to be a new OC or does Peterson just need to get smarter?

Chris:  I think we are done debating the "should he have kneeled" point.  That's so over.

The other questions that you raise are related to the overall quality of the coaching and, frankly, they come across as a bit on the frantic side.  My advice to you, and to all Husky fans, is "Be Cool and Mush On".

This Husky team has shown continuous signs of improvement.  I noted some of those examples in an earlier response.  I get that most of us thought that the starting point of the rebuild should have been higher up the learning curve.  But, once we've come to grips with the fact that it wasn't, the signs of progress are readily apparent if you choose to look for them.

I'd also argue that we've seen significant revision of the playcalling in the second half of the season.  This is a credit to the coaching staff.  There has been a great deal more emphasis on the downhill rushing attack, the drag and crossing routes and, on defense, mixing up the zone schemes to keep opponents off balance.  Its coming together.

OzDawg asks:
This is a question about the Husky fans: Are the fans unrealistic in their expectations? of every play being perfect or what Coach Pete's team should be like. You get the emails and see all the comments. Are our expectations too high given the coaching change?

Brad: There's never going to be a consensus on a topic like this.  Personally, I had very high expectations coming in to this season, even though Petersen spent about six months implying that fans might want to temper them some.  But I hit the reset button on my own pretty quickly once the season started.  And I sort of figured out that Petersen isn't a guy that tries to manufacture fans' opinions and expectations.  He's just going to tell you what he really thinks.  Good or bad.  That's how I've decided to approach what Petersen says - there's no need to run it through any sort of filter.  It is what it is.

Some fans probably have expectations that are too high.  Some might be too low.  You probably just need to set your own, and then take the data points you get as the season goes along and adjust them as you see fit.

Ben Nice asks:

If Chris Petersen chooses to fire Jonathon Smith at the end of the season would it be more likely that he takes over as the play caller or that he hires another OC?

Brad: Even if Petersen decides to call the plays in the future, there's going to be somebody with the title of offensive coordinator.  Just like the Huskies had under Steve Sarkisian, when he was the play caller.

I don't think Chris Petersen is "hands off" with the players, but thus far, he strikes me as the type of head coach that's more inclined to coach his coaches, and then trust them to do their jobs.  I don't know how much input Petersen has in creating the offensive game plan (I'm sure it's substantial), but he may decide to increase his role there.  He may take a more active role in vetoing plays during games as they come down from the offensive coordinator.  But I'd be a little surprised if he becomes the full-time play caller for the Huskies.  I think he sees his position as the CEO of the whole show a little more important than that.

ElvisLovesUW comments:
I feel that the team played their hearts out; but, there were a lot of mistakes not normally made, such as penalties and turnovers. Is trying too hard really hurting us more than helping us?

Brad: I agree that the team played as hard as they possibly could.  It seems like it was the first time in a long time that they came out for the beginning of the game ready to play.

I think I get what you mean about "trying too hard."  I hadn't really considered that.  I think you can make a case that that's what's going on with Colin Tanigawa; the bad snaps are in his head a little bit, and he might very well be thinking about it too much.  You could make the same case for Cyler Miles to a degree as well.  As the snaps have gotten worse the last few weeks, he's looks like he's expecting the worst and lunging and jumping sometimes when he really doesn't need to.  The fumble by Miles that led to the fake field goal was maybe the result of trying to make a play when the smart thing to do would've been to just fall on the ball and live to fight another day.

I don't really think it's a team-wide issue, though.  The Huskies are one of the most-penalized teams in the country this year (91st in penalties per game), although 13 is certainly excessive.  Deontae Cooper's fumble was largely a good play by Arizona's defense.  Miles' soap dish pass in the red zone was just a fluke play.

There was some bad luck, and some bad choices on Saturday.  But I'll take the effort every game of the year.

TMoore206 asks:
Any word on if Romar will pick up anymore recruits in the 15 class?

Chris: The 2015 signing class is already jam-packed.  Romar has signed a top-10 quality class that includes a few premiere talents like Dejounte Murray and Marquess Chriss.  With six players incoming, and only four theoretical open slots, we are already going to need some other attrition to make the Romar math work.  I think the staff has moved on to the 2016 class.

Kirk's Conscience wonders:
With the overall lack of strength in the bottom half of the Pac 12 and the size of the UW frontcourt, is there anybody out there projecting UW as a dark horse in this year's Pac 12 MBB race?

Brad: Dark horse to win the conference?  That might be a bit much, with as good as Arizona will likely be.  I don't think the Huskies are ready to challenge for the top spot.  But as Jarreau rounds into shape, and the team gets used to playing with an athletic big man like Robert Upshaw, this team could be one that comes on late and challenges for the upper quarter of the conference and possibly a bye in the first round of the Pac 12 conference tournament.

The Pac 12 has a lot better reputation nationally than it had the last few seasons, with many people predicting that six teams could end up making the NCAA tournament.  The Huskies are certainly in a position to be one of those teams.

Drew_D asks:
With the excitement around the men's basketball program building, anything of interest with the lady ballers?

Brad: Did you happen to see Kelsey Plum's game against Oklahoma the other day?  45 points on 15-27 shooting, 12-12 from the line, 5 assists, 4 boards, 3 steals, 2 blocks, and only one turnover in 39 minutes in a 90-80 road loss.  The point total is the highest ever for a Husky, and also the most allowed by Oklahoma.  With even a little front court help, the Huskies could've opened the season with a big win.

Plum is the real deal.  She can get to the basket any time she wants to, against anyone.  She's definitely a shoot-first point guard, and she and senior Jazmine Davis could end up averaging 20 points apiece this year.  That's a good thing, because of the four returning starters and 5 significant contributors, only Talia Walton also averaged in double figures last year.

Aminah Williams is great on the glass, but the Huskies desperately need to get some offense out of the front court to really take a step forward this season.

Chris (UPDATE): We also now have the results from Thursday night's game to pass along.  Kelsey Plum had another ridiculous night (37 pts, 5 triples) as the Huskies win big over South Dakota.