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Post-Spring Mailbag Part Two

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Recruiting, officiating, development, the offensive line and more in this second edition of the UWDP post-spring mailbag.

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99 days until Husky football.  "99 Luftballoons" reached #2 on the US pop charts.  Is there a correlation?  Not that I can find.

On to the questions.

Grad and Dad:

I would like to here your views about the progress to date (the long view) of getting the program back to PAC 12 championship caliber year in and year out. How is the transition to Pete's "built for life" program being implemented just over a year in. In my view this is exactly what is needed to get back and so far he is making good progress.

UWDP: Taking the long view, Chris Petersen stepped in to the UW program and immediately filled a leadership void at the top position that I think has been missing for a long time.  He's a guy that commands respect the minute he steps into a room with the subtle strength of his personality, and his belief and comfort in his convictions.  The program has a fundamental direction that goes beyond coach speak.  The foundation is being built, even if we can't see quite yet what the finished building will look like.

How that translates on the field remains to be seen.  On the micro level, things were far from perfect with the sample size of one single year in 2014.  On the macro level, a team with a defined direction is better off than one without that sort of vision.  The problem with "Petersen Way" and the benefits it provides a program is that they aren't things that necessarily manifest themselves as quickly as some fans will want to see.  He's building for consistency in the future.  Many fans have pointed to the 2015 season as being a rebuilding season due to the realities of the roster no matter who was coaching the team, but for those that expect Chris Petersen to be a miracle worker based on his success at Boise State, I fear a lack of patience will set in if things aren't immediately great in 2016.  I hope I'm wrong, because more than any coach the Huskies have had since Don James, Petersen's value to the program is greatest in 2017, 2018, and beyond as opposed to the short term.

Even though 2014 was middling at best, and I have a tough time reasonably forecasting more than meeting that same success in 2015, in many ways, Petersen is already exceeding expectations.  Recruiting is obvious.  But beyond that, I'd say that Andrew Hudson's success in 2014, and that JoJo Mathis is not only still on the roster but ready to assume a veteran leadership role in 2015 are tangible examples of Petersen's culture "working" at Washington.

When you say "Championship Caliber," I take that to equaling the Don James Legacy - being in the conversation for the conference championship well in to November on a yearly basis.  I think that's Chris Petersen.

McKinleyville:

Give us a summary of what's happened with the Pac12 officiating. The last I heard was that the director position has been changed from part-time to full time. (You can imagine my amazement!)

UWDP: On thing that didn't happen was the conference didn't fire every last one of the officials and replace them with new and better ones.  But yes, you are correct, the conference did hire David Coleman to serve as the Vice President of Officiating in a newly created full-time role.  Coleman's credentials are fairly impressive, as you can read here. Even though commissioner Larry Scott has come out in defense of the officials on many occasions, you can take this hire of his tacit acknowledgment that things aren't good.

It's probably worth noting that, as bad as the Pac 12 officials have been over the years, they really aren't as bad as Pac 12 fans want to think they are.  One truism of football fanhood - everybody thinks their conference's officials are bad.  Probably "the worst."  That's largely an effect of sample size.  Familiarity breeds contempt, and fans of the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, Pac 12, etc. are most intimately aware of the mistakes the officials make in those respective conferences.

You really want to improve officiating?  Make it a full-time job.  These guys work 9 to 5 jobs Monday through Friday, and then run out on Saturdays under the brightest of lights for not a lot of money.  And there's enough money in college football to pay a decent salary to officials to undergo continuous year-long training and evaluation, and to recruit from a potentially more qualified pool of candidates.

Waltham:

What group most needs to perform well beyond expectations for the team to win 8 or 9 games? Your odd on that happening? You can only pick one!

UWDP: It comes down to either the offensive or defensive lines.  Since I'm more comfortable with what I've seen coming back on the defensive line, I'll have to go with the offensive line.  No unit has struggled as consistently as the o-line at the UW over the last 15 years, and it's to the point now that there's a segment of the fan base that's never actually seen good play there.  At every other position group, we've had competent, and even very good, play at some time in that time frame, but not on the offensive line.

If the offense can come out and consistently run the ball, they have a chance to significantly improve in the passing game, as it will be a complimentary aspect of the offense instead of something that the Huskies will need to carry the offense to wins.  If the O can't move the ball on the ground, and the passing game is put at the forefront, the offense will likely struggle to even match the productivity we saw in 2014.

There are strengths on the defense (namely the secondary) that can serve to mitigate what will likely be a decline in play up front.  On offense, if the team struggles in the trenches, we could be looking at a very long season.  If Chris Strausser is the coach we hope he is, then the offensive line could be the pleasant surprise that leads this team to success.

Ozdawg:

Make a prediction as to which "big-name/highly ranked" out of state recruit the Huskies will get a commitment from withthis recruit also having offers from USC, UCLA...?

UWDP: There are people far more qualified to answer this than me, so I'm going to throw out some possibilities and let you all chime in:

DT Boss Tagaloa

TE Devin Asiasi

WR N'Keal Harry

WR Seffon McKnight

OG Michael Eletise doesn't show an offer from USC, but I wouldn't be surprised if that comes this summer.  If it does, I think he's the most likely.

Atomic Dawg:

1) Is Richey still with the football team?

(2) By the end of the year will any Freshmen (RS or true) be in a starting position this year?

UWDP: If you mean walk-on lineman Morgan Richey out of Bellevue, no, he's not on the UW"s roster.

As to the second part of your question, I'd say the odds are strongly in favor of this happening.  Like 90% in favor.

K.J. Carta-Samuels is still very much in contention at quarterback.  Since 2007, UW's primary QB has made every start only one twice.  Even if Lindquist is named the starter, it's likely the backup is going to make a start.  Or two.  Any of a number of freshmen could end up starting at wide receiver.  Matt James could end up being a starter on the offensive line.  Either Vita Vea or Greg Gaines could start on the defensive line.  There's enough talent coming in with the true freshmen - guys like Benning Potoa'e, Austin Joyner, Chico McClatcher, Myles Gaskin, etc. - that they might force their way onto the field at some point in a starting role.  One guy that's assured to NOT see the field this year in a starting role, but will likely come in on the second play of every game is LB Jusstis Warren.  He's been given the Onewoodwacker Jinx Seal of Approval.

With even a "normal" injury rate this season, there are enough young guys in the two-deeps that one of them will undoubtedly be a starter this year.  Probably more than one.

Paul C.:

Many have noticed that the Peterson-Strausser regime tends to prefer bigger offensive linemen than Sark-Cozzetto did. I don’t think, however, that I’ve seen much if any discussion of whether this corresponds to a change in blocking scheme (zone, power, etc.), or whether it’s just a preference of a different OL body type for doing the same job.

Related to that: When the coaches chose to start Atoe instead of Criste last year, in conjunction with the observation that the OL guys were bulking up more than previously, this seemed to indicate a preference for really big and heavy linemen. However, this spring, they seemed to be grooming for future key roles a couple of guys with basketball or tight-end backgrounds (Burleson, McGary), this suggested a different emphasis ("length," presumably meaning "tall guys with long arms"). (Also, Matt James, who’s reportedly one of the lighter guys on the line, seems likely to play a key role even sooner than Burleson and McGary.)

Can we reach any conclusions about what the ideal Peterson-Strausser OL would look like, and how that relates to the blocking that they want the guys to learn?

UWDP: Others might want to add to this.  I'd say the evolution of football is such that just about every team runs some form of zone blocking the vast majority of time, and incorporate aspects of power blocking into it.  Really, it's a sliding scale more than a true differentiation.  But let's start with this:  Here's a basic description of these two types of blocking, and the players coaches look for in each.

You read that and it seems like Strausser is the epitome of a "power blocking" coach.  But if you read about his own description of his offensive lines,it's 75% zone concepts up front. Hence, the sliding scale.

Length equates to size in order to carry strength and bulk.  That's the type of guy that Strausser is ideally looking for.  Big and strong, with the ability to read a man and drive him into the stands.  Compare that with the UW under Dan Cozzetto, and Oregon under coach Steve Greatwood - athleticism, footwork, and the ability to read and react to the defense are paramount.  While strength is still a prerequisite, there's some willingness to sacrifice here for flexibility and movement.

So, there's a question that's been at the back of my mind since all of the offensive line talk has erupted on the uwdawgpound.com.  That is, Does a run-based spread option attack run at tempo work with the type of offensive line Chris Strausser wants?  Are zone-read components compatible with a more power blocking philosophy on that sliding scale, or would the Huskies be better served to move back in the direction of athleticism over power?  Of the teams that run, and quickly, more than 50% of the time, from this article about adjusted pace of play, far more of them have offensive lines that look like Oregon's than look like Washington's.  And although there are way too many variables (injuries, talent level, schedule, program changes, and on and on and on) to make any kind of proclamations, Chris Petersen/Chris Strausser's worst offenses were the last two seasons when the decision was made to scrap the pro-style offense and move to the hurry up spread.  And a lot of those struggles can be traced back to offensive line play.  On a certain level, it's intuitive.  Big, bulky guys are less likely to be able to move as well, quickly, consistently, as smaller athletes are.

Like I said, I'm not making any sort of statement.  Just something I'll be interested to watch develop over the next few years....

Dawg fans, enjoy the sunshine, tip your servers, and get ready for Boise.