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Mailbag, part I: Answering Your UW Football Questions

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It's never the offseason in the 'Pound.

Jaydon Mickens may be the most important player on UW's roster going into 2015.
Jaydon Mickens may be the most important player on UW's roster going into 2015.
Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Jumping right into the questions.

Anon asks:  Are we going to change the OC this year?

Chris Landon:  Look out your window.  Turn your gaze towards the sky.  Do you happen to see anything that looks like swine floating in the air?  Perhaps even climbing in altitude?  What about unicorns?  Do you happen to see any of those?  Perhaps in the category of "pink and fluffy"?  If so, you can be sure that we'll see a new OC this year.  If not ... well ... you know.

BrettJ1203 asks:  Like everyone on the Pound, I would love to see the Dawgs go undefeated next year, and every year after that. However, that's probably unrealistic. I'm wondering about some bench marks we should be watching to assess success or failure of the Chris Petersen era and a realistic timeline for success. Are there other teams in a similar situation to UW (Power 5, similar resources, recent coaching change, talent level, etc.) who we should keep an eye on? Michigan was an idea that jumped out to me, others? Go Dawgs!

CL:  Thanks for the question Brett.  There is a lot to respond to there.  I'll start with evaluating "success" and "failure" in year 2 of the Chris Petersen regime.

I realize that this is a bit of a touchy subject on this blog, but the first metric everybody looks to is wins and losses.  Given UW's difficult schedule this season and given the fact that they return the fewest starters in the Pac 12, I'm of the opinion that fans ought to be thrilled if the Huskies find a way to bowl eligibility.  Put another way, UW had the benefit of a senior heavy class and four NFL early round draft picks starting on Defense and still only managed to clear the bowl eligibility standard by one game a season ago.

More so than wins or losses, I would think that we'd all be looking for visible signs that the Petersen philosophies of "attention to details" and "team cohesion" are taking root.  You'll see that progress in the little things.  Wide receivers who a season ago could never get open showing that they know how to use their hands to get off the line or find a soft spot in a zone.  Offensive lineman communicating at the line of scrimmage and correctly adjusting to a blitzer.  Quarterbacks actually making progressive reads instead of one-look and then a dump off.  An emergence of at least one star at each level of each side of the ball.

If you are looking for a good comparison, Michigan is really not that team.  Jim Harbaugh is actually inheriting a very upperclassman-heavy program that was already running a similar scheme to what he will install.  I'll be shocked if Harbaugh doesn't have instant success.

A better comparison would be one or both of Florida and Miami.  Florida is breaking in a new coach with a new system and is looking pretty young as a program.  Miami just had a draft similar to UW's with many players getting drafted off of a team that underwhelmed the season before.  Al Golden will finally have all of "his guys", as young as they may be, in place as Miami looks to turn the corner in 2015.

DawgyDawg wonders:  The UW has pulled blue chip recruits out of California since time immemorial (think Hugh McElhenny). I don't think we have ever pulled a blue chip out of Texas. Do you think we are wasting valuable recruiting hours in the Lonestar State or are the coaches onto something?

CL:  I was sitting here pondering some kind of witty retort to make light of this question and then thought to myself that this is actually a really big deal.  As you allude to, there are only so many hours and so many resources that a program can put into recruiting every season.  It really is up to the coaching staff to decide how to spend those in order to attract players in the short term while building pipeline relationships that will continue to pay dividends well into the future.  Is UW using its time wisely in attempting to do so in Texas?

The short-term results would say no.  If you simply took the circumstantial evidence available to us given Chris Petersen's recruiting track record at UW, you'd have to agree.  UW has landed just two players out of Texas over the past few years and only one of them - a two star Defensive End named Myles Rice - was recruited by Petersen's staff.  They did get close on 5-star RB Chris Warren, but that was viewed by many to be as much about Warren's personal connections to Seattle than anything else.

Assessing the lack of short-term fruit born from Texas is only one side of the equation.  The other side has to do with the opportunity costs associated with putting recruiters in Texas and not putting them in other important pipeline areas such as Hawaii and California.  There is no easy way to draw a direct connection between one choice and it's corresponding opportunity cost, but it would be fair to say that UW hasn't really torn it up in either Hawaii or California, at least when it comes to landing highly ranked and highly competitive recruits.

So, yes, this is a fair question.  With all of this said, however, I think you must still take a long view on this situation.  If Petersen has relationships that he think will bear fruit over time, then it makes all the sense in the world to go into a market that is as rich in talent as Texas and to try to compete.  The thing is that it needs to bear some results at some point.

Andrew queries:  How and when does our receiving corps get rebuilt? When are we going to have a big name, big production guy(s) catching balls?

CL:  The status of our wide receiving corps is a question that has been raised - and debated - on this blog a great deal since news broke of John Ross's season-ending injury.   The answer to your question as to "when" and "how" is actually pretty easy to answer:  "now" and "recruiting".

There is little that can be done about the receiving situation in the short-term.  UW ended the spring with just four scholarship players available in Jaydon Mickens, Marvin Hall, Dante Pettis and Brayden Lenius.  Of those four, Mickens is the only one who has had significant playing time during his career.  UW will have four more true freshmen arrive this fall.  Of those four, one or two of those players were already deemed capable of playing as true freshman.  With Ross's injury, it is most likely that all four will have to play.

The problems with this situation are obvious to the plain eye.  There is a tremendous amount of inexperience in this group.  A lot of fans like to dismiss that as not a big deal for receivers, but I think that this belittles the challenges inherent in the position.  Perimeter blocking, getting releases from the LOS, running correct routes, making mid-route adjustments, hand-fighting for the ball ... these are all things that take physical skill and experience to do well.

The other problem is that the unit is homogenous in make up.  There is a glut of guys who are ideally suited for a slot role and a dearth of guys who would be natural fits as outside players.  Fixing that issue can only be done through recruiting.  Taking a look at Petersen's current recruiting strategy, it is easy to see that this problem is not lost on the staff as they have offers out to many big-time wide receivers up and down the west coast (and in Texas!).  Addressing this problem is a top priority for this staff.

If your question was not answered today, fear not.  The mailbag had a lot of traffic this week.  There will be a part 2 coming shortly.