Welcome to the Week 5 Mailbag. This week, Brad and I roped Kirk into the action to help answer your most pertinent and pressing concerns.
I know, exciting right? I know that at least a few people are excited.
Week 5 Mailbag
OregonDawg: Can you help explain why we seem flat (especially in the first half) of so many games. I am starting to have doubts about coach P and the new look. I used to hate that we were too emotional with Sark and believed his style lead to an unplanned lose each year. Coach P is the opposite and I miss some of the energy we used to have. What are your impressions of the emotional state of this team?
UWDP: I understand the spirit of the comment, but the truth is that the Huskies have started pretty fast in two of their four games so far. If you are trying to explain the Huskies and their status as the lowest rated offense in the Pac 12, I think that we need to examine other factors besides the dreaded "starting flat" theory.
When you look at the Huskies offense to date, you see underperformance in every single position grouping: running backs, offensive line, receivers and quarterback. There are no two ways about it - every single unit has played below average in the aggregate. This is somewhat confounding since two of the four groups are basically returning every single player from a team that set pretty much every Husky offensive record under Sark's up-tempo attack in 2013.
Given that evidence, the best explanation is that the Huskies have yet to really pick up on the new scheme that the staff is implementing. This is frustrating, too, given that we have seen teams like USC, Utah, Arizona State, and UCLA pick up the schemes of their new coaching staffs much faster. Still, there is reason to be optimistic given that we don't seem to have a talent challenge as much as an execution challenge. To that end, the the three things that I'll be looking for that will signal to me that the Huskies are improving on offensive execution are:
- Competent and consistent blitz pick-up - particularly by the RBs
- In-rhythm passing game with short passes getting to receivers in stride
- Good QB decision-making on zone-reads and package plays
I'll reserve judgment on play-calling until I see these signs that the players are executing on what they've been coached to do.
HuskyInExile: What do the authors drink to fortify themselves to review such a schizo game?
UWDP: We all have our own preferences as to what it is that we drink. The real question is how much of it we drink. We all agree that it must be "a lot" and it is generally preferred that we drink it fast. Kirk is our king.
Brandon: Who is the top ranked recruit not currently committed that you think the huskies will land?
UWDP: The safest answer is probably Benning Potoa'e, a 4-star DL from Lakes H.S. in Lakewood, WA. He's rated the 21st best DE and 197th overall by Scout.com and the 22nd best DE by Rivals.com. It's not a lock that he'll choose the Huskies - there was a lot of speculation that he wanted to head out of state to the SEC earlier in his recruitment - but the new staff has done really well with him. Washington is in on some higher-ranked recruits such as DE/OLB Porter Gustin, DE Canton Kaumatule, RB Cameron Scarlett, DB Dechaun Holiday, WR/CB Stanley Norman and RB Chris Warren, but at this point the Huskies are not the favorites to land any of them. With that said, there's a lot of time to go before Signing Day, and we'll have a much better idea as these guys set up their official visit plans.
Ozdawg: What is the general view of Peterson's approach to recruiting. In particular what looks like his lack of pursuit of top end recruits. I would think that even he has seen the stats showing a direct correlation between recruiting rankings and wins.
UWDP: I think perhaps there may be a misconception out there about Petersen's approach to recruiting. He certainly hasn't shied away from offering high level talent; by the Scout.com ratings and database, he has offered 61 players rated 4 or 5 stars in the 2015 class. Now, obviously he's only going to sign a fraction of that number - that's just a simple numbers game. But he has a good chance of getting official visits from roughly 12 of those kids, and has already received commitments from 4 players currently rated as 4-stars (Roberts, Browning, Renfro, Gaskin). And the current average star rating for the 2015 class (by Scout.com) is 3.21 - higher than all but one of Sark's recruiting classes, and only marginally behind Sark's 2013 class (3.26).
There are obviously differences in their approach and who they'll offer. Petersen is not going to offer as many kids as Sark for a few reasons:
- He's not going to offer a kid unless he's willing to accept their commitment;
- He would prefer that offers from the UW come with some prestige associated with them, i.e. they aren't just thrown around to every kid out there;
- Petersen prefers to do as much evaluation as he can on a kid before offering (which ties back to point #1 - he doesn't want to offer a kid unless he's sure he wants him)
As well, Petersen isn't going to waste time pursuing kids that don't show a genuine interest in the UW - he'd rather focus his resources on landing the kids he has a good shot with than swinging for the fences and risk coming up empty. And finally, related to the OKG thing, he's going to go after kids that fit his approach to football - you're going to see a lot fewer kids that are academic risks offered under Petersen, and fewer kids that are quite rough around the edges off the field. Sark and his staff were a lot more willing to take risks to land raw talent. For Petersen, he'd rather focus on kids that he's certain will make it into school, and kids that he feels fit in well with how he and his coaches teach the game. Pay attention to how many of Petersen's commitments not only stick, but make it into school and don't wash out right away.
Another factor to keep in mind - Petersen has a policy (like a number of coaches) that a commitment means something. He puts it in writing in his offer letters that a prospect that gives a verbal commitment to Washington isn't going to take official visits to other schools. While that doesn't guarantee he might not suffer some defections from his commitment list, it does reduce those chances. Recall that Sark had a number of highly regarded prospects give a commitment only to flip to another school before Signing Day.
Bottom line - the recruiting right now might not feel quite as exciting, but I think there's more substance to it. And if Petersen is able to find consistent success on the field at Washington, I think you'll see more of those premium 4 & 5 star kids really paying attention to Washington and more of them deciding to take official visits here and potentially commit.
Ozdawg: As a second question, after seeing the Jeckyl and Hyde Huskies in the non-conf part of the schedule and the general uplift in Pac 12-doormats what is everyone's view as to the over/under for wins. I have it at 8 (4-5 in conference)
UWDP: This is a question without a consensus answer. I think just about everybody expected the team to look at least a little better to start this season. At least a little more consistent. I doubt anybody is adjusting their expectations upward based on the performance in the non-conference slate, but it's up to you to determine if you want to keep them the same, or adjust them downward. Saturday might tell us more than the first four games combined. Let us know what your expectations were prior to the season, and what they are today, in the comments below.
CaliforniaHuskie: Thoughts? Based on the performance to date I could see the Huskies winning every game but two or losing them all, depending on which team shows up.
UWDP: There's definitely some uncertainty surrounding who the "real" Huskies are. How much of the first four weeks of the season was due to uneven execution, how much was due to adjusting to the loss of a few key players and adjusting to a new staff, and how much might be due to playing things close to the vest remains to be seen now that conference play is starting. As much as fans don't want to hear it, we might be looking at another inconsistent season as the team adjusts to playing each day the way that Chris Petersen and staff demand. Defensively, this team is starting to gain some traction, as the secondary improves with each game. That side of the ball should be able to keep them in most games in conference games. There's a little more uncertainty around the offense's ability to consistently move the ball and put up points.
Seven wins seems like the most optimistic outcome for the season. I'd say three wins is the most reasonable pessimistic outcome.
LeoG: How would you describe Coach Pete's coaching style? Is he a disciplinarian, a players coach, somewhere in between? It would seem so far he runs a tight ship, even down to how they should prepare for road games. To me, that is what was the issue with Sark's road woes, he is a player's coach, which UW needed after Willingham, but it seemed that his team's lacked focus leading to penalties and lack of road wins.
Coach Pete really seems to harp on this...what say you?
UWDP: In college football today, it seems like the best coaches have a foot (or at least a toe) in each camp. And I think that's Petersen. It's apparent that right now, he's looking to establish his way of doing things (the disciplinarian) with the team. At the same time, he's shown a good sense of humor and a willingness to have fun (the April Fool's uniform prank, the recent dodgeball game) with the team to keep him from coming off as an unapproachable curmudgeon.
What Petersen is, is extremely detail-oriented. And he very firmly believes in the way he does things - his process is the foundation of how he coaches in every aspect. Hopefully, it translates in to wins very quickly, both on the road and at home.
There are lots of theories as to why Sarkisian struggled on the road. Being too much a player's coach is certainly possible. But winning on the road wasn't a problem unique to Sarkisian by any stretch. It's just tough to do.
Drew_D: Cyler Miles hasn't shown much arm strength so far. Is this something that projects to be a liability against better Pac-12 secondaries heading in to the meat of the schedule? Can we hope for improvement, or is this just one negative we'll have to take along with his positives?
UWDP: It could be a liability, but it doesn't have to be. Miles doesn't generate a ton of velocity on the ball, but he has shown the ability to compensate for it with tremendous anticipation in making his throws, and good accuracy. As he gets more comfortable throwing the ball down field, that anticipation is what will help him both defeat the pass rush as well as mitigate for his velocity. There are certain throws he'll always struggle with - deep outs and drags, short timing routes that require the ball get to a receiver quickly - but the scheme of the passing game could certainly assist him.
He needs to get better at keeping his eyes downfield in the face of the rush. The lack of velocity cuts his margin for error way down. If he doesn't recognize his open receiver quickly, the added time it takes the ball to get to the receiver in flight may very well allow defensive backs to recover and knock the ball away or intercept it.
Fred: Can you see Jeff Lindquist as a full-time running back next year? He reminded me of Rick Feeney when he carried the ball.
UWDP: It's pretty unlikely. For one thing, Lindquist is the second string quarterback right now, which makes him a play away from being the starter. For another, while Lindquist is pretty fast for a quarterback, he isn't actually fast for a running back. He'd project as a fullback, and that's not a position that exists on the UW roster any longer. Part of the value he presents as a runner comes from the bona fide threat of him as a passer. I doubt he end up being as effective a runner if he was moved from the QB position.