We are trying out a new feature this week: The Dawg Pound Mailbag.
We've been mulling this idea over for awhile, but we've been unsure if there were any fans out there desperate enough to get our answers to their questions. Putting the link to submit questions out there doesn't come without risk. What if you put the link out and nobody submits a question? Would our mailbag go the way of A&E's The Hasselhoffs? Would I have to write a special post and acknowledge my failure in the most publicly humiliating way possible?
Not so fast, my friend.
Imagine my surprise at opening my mailbag yesterday and finding, HOORAY, questions! It made me feel like dancing.
So, without further ado, let's get into the mailbag, volume 1:
---- ElvisLovesUW asks: "Hawaii played with high intensity and heart; how do you figure the other PAC12 teams would have fared if they played Hawaii last Saturday? Would there possibly be a "wake up call" for more than one top 25 team?"
UWDP: The first game of the season is always a difficult one to assess because you lack the context of other games to compare to. Our natural tendency is to go to the previous season and attempt to draw conclusions on the relative strength or weakness of an opponent based on that data set. The problem is that this is college football and every season brings with it a new team. Using last year as a barometer is always a dangerous proposition.
Trying to toss aside the context of 2013 and evaluate Hawaii just on its merits, it would seem that they were "better than advertised". Their 240lb running back showed that he is strong between the tackles and that he doesn't go down on the first hit. His offensive line, which returns four starters from a season ago, also demonstrated an ability to, at the least, hold the line. It would also seem that the QB has taken a big step forward in his poise from a season ago. He demonstrated pretty good patience against a Husky pass rush that definitely was present and he was more than willing to take the underneath stuff that was allocated to him by the Pete Kwiatkowski defense.
Defensively, it is really hard to tell you how good or bad Hawaii is. Much of their success can be traced to poor play on the right side of the UW offensive line as well as, obviously, the QB play. There weren't a lot of different looks coming out of Jonathan Smith's playbook, so it was fairly easy for the Hawaii D to anticipate what was happening. Put another more seasoned offense in the same position and, well, who knows? We saw how slow Hawaii was on the two John Ross TD plays in addition to a couple of plays that could have gone for big gains if they had been executed. I'd expect that Hawaii would get a lot more than 17 points scored upon it against a team that wasn't experimenting or struggling as much as UW was last weekend.
In the end, I think Hawaii is a pretty well-coached team that has some pieces, but probably not enough to win too many games against Pac 12 opponents.
---IDHuskyFan asks: "Washington's best receivers right now (In my opinion) are John Ross and Jaydon Mickens. Kasen Williams is still not 100%. With the best two guys being slot/speeder type of players, what do you guys make of the lack of more bubble screens and overall opportunities (Hawaii Game) to get the ball into their hands so that they can make something happen in space? Do you think that we'll see it more? Will Cyler Miles change everything?"
UWDP: This is a pretty astute question. As Anthony has noted in his passing chart work, the UW staff seemed to shy away from "space creating" plays like bubble screens and jets during the second half of the Hawaii game. We also didn't see too many plays that required Jeff Lindquist to make run-pass decisions or multiple route reads. This kind of playcalling was in stark contrast to what we saw from Steve Sarkisian a year ago.
I'm going to go on a limb here and guess that the coaching staff did NOT come to Honolulu with a game plan of "not getting the ball in the hands of our speedster guys in space". Rather, I think the staff was trying to deal with a few other priorities in the passing game. First, I think they were trying to play to Jeff LIndquist's strengths - whatever they felt those were (it would appear that allowing him to run and to target receivers on flat or crossing routes were among those things). Second, I think that the staff was more interested in establishing a real rushing game with their running backs rather than relying on short, horizontal passes to augment the rushing attack. Putting guys like J-Ross into an outside position and threatening the defense with his deep threat potential is a legitimate strategy for creating room to run the ball.
Going forward, I think the staff knows what they have in players like Ross, Mickens and Kendyl Taylor - all of whom saw plenty of action last weekend - and I fully expect that they'll continue to layer in horizontal passing plays into future gameplans.
---jhik asks: "Is the Dawgpound staff able to get access to field passes, presser invites, etc?"
UWDP: Unfortunately, the UW Athletic Department has made it a policy to not credential fan blogs of any sort for any sports. Their rules dictate that, to be credentialed, you must generate your primary income from your writing and you must be affiliated with a "recognized" media outlet. We've been in regular touch with the UW Athletic Department and they have been very gracious, but have not yet been willing to alter their policy. By my estimation, about half the schools in the PAC, including Oregon, do allow for credentialing of SBNation sites and, in fact, I have been credentialed at a few other venues. This policy could change and we will let you know when/if that happens.
---JaaronGriffeyJr asks: "The most worrisome part of the Hawaii game was the running game. It really didn't pick up until the very last drive. How does an O-line who did what it did for Sankey not look really good versus inferior competition?"
UWDP: I think that this question is on the minds of a lot of Husky fans this week. Although I admit that I have not gone back to watch the film a second time, three things come immediately to mind concerning the Huskies rushing attack. First, there were a few new names in new positions on the line in Week 1, the biggest of which (figuratively AND literally) being 381 lb James Atoe at RG. Second, the team was running a relatively new scheme in the rushing attack that featured less zone blocking (which really exploited Bishop Sankey's vision and 'slashing' style) then what the team ran a year ago. Watching them run their plays, they just seemed a step slower than normal as they grappled with their new schemes. It leads me to believe that there was a lot of thinking going on out there - particularly on the right side of the line where Atoe was joined by fellow new starter Coleman Shelton. Finally, and let's not understate this, the inability of the Huskies to establish a horizontal passing game (which Sark used as an extension of the run attack) really allowed the outside backers and safeties to pinch down on Lavon Coleman and Dwayne Washington. This was my primary play calling complaint for the game as I don't think the staff adjusted very well to the fact that Lindquist couldn't find his rhythm in the second half. I expect it will be rectified this weekend as the staff prioritizes getting both Jaydon Mickens and John Ross more involved in the offense.
---SawPurple asks: Why do you think it is so hard for some players to gain weight? They have a comprehensive weight program and as far as I know can eat as many meals as they want. I will give the true freshmen a pass, but guys like Feeney, Shaq, a few DL guys, TEs and WRs and especially the DBs seem way under weight. Also, I do know we want to be athletic for the spread teams but we still seem very light. Part of the reason we had so much trouble with that Hawaiian RB.
UWDP: I don't know, but I'll have a little of whatever those guys are having. /rimshot
In seriousness, I don't think that gaining weight is the problem. Making that weight useful and keeping it on once you accomplish it are probably the bigger challenges. During a football season, a player in a "running" position such as DE, OLB, CB or S - positions that are going into flat-out sprints at some point in just about every play - need to consume about 25 calories per pound of body weight per day simply to maintain their playing weight. That's nearly 5,700 calories a day for a 225 lb linebacker. Let's put that in context. The average35 year-old male who is slowly gaining weight in a moderately active lifestyle is probably consuming around 3000 calories per day or so. As fun as it sounds, consuming a 5,700 calorie daily diet isn't much fun, especially once your body tells you that you "are full" after the first 2,500 calories.
The good news is that our strength and conditioning coach, Tim Socha, has a Master's Degree and Nutritional Sciences. My understanding is that he has individualized plans for every kid based on the objectives that the coaching staff wants to have in their various position groups. Also, don't forget, those same "light kids" haven't had much problem standing stoutly up against other power rush teams the past few years - including Stanford each of the past two seasons.
---Califonrnia Husky asks: "What is behind the Mike Criste situation? What's going on with him?"
UWDP: This question is related, no doubt, to the angst that I'm sure many Husky fans felt related to the lack of a solid rushing attack in Week 1. I wish I could relay a rock-solid answer concerning Mike Criste. The truth is that I simply don't know what the circumstances are related to his demotion and I do not believe that Chris Petersen is going to tell me anytime soon. The obvious answer is that the new offensive line coach, Chris Strausser, saw something he liked in 298 lb Colin Tanagawa, a former starter at OG, as a Center. Panda has long been considered one of the most "heady" of Washington's offensive linemen and he has always been at his best in doing battle inside of a phone booth. Both of these attributes are useful for your starting C. When given the chance to compete with Criste, he may have simply just beat him out.
The good news is that the Huskies have not had this kind of depth on the offensive line in a decade. To think that we have the luxury of bringing former starters off the bench, including a Rimington Award watch list candidate, is truly a luxury and a really good sign for this team. As for this weekend, I think we'll all be interested to see who actually takes the field and in what role. We know what the depth chart says, but we also know that the competition hasn't stopped. The coaching staff can't be happy with what they saw from that unit last weekend and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a change or two in rotations, if not in the starting five.
Dawg Pound Reader Question
Thanks for taking the time to help me get this mailbag off the ground. As a way to wrap it up, I thought it would be fun (and a cheap way to score some comments) to ask a question back to you. Since I already made reference to The Hasselhoffs, which A&E cancelled after just two episodes back in 2010, I thought it would be fun to put a TV question to the crowd. What is, in your opinion, the best TV show to ever be cancelled far too early by a network.
My vote? Lawless starring, yup, you guessed it, Brian Bosworth. BOOM. I love that guy. Give me some Boz, a cheese sandwich and a bamboo back-scratcher and I'll be entertained for an hour.