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Post Spring Mailbag Part 4

Words. Lots of them.

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Wild ducks are the main reservoir of the influenza A virus.  They've been dubbed "The Trojan Horse" of H5N1 (commonly known as "bird flu") by scientists due to their surreptitious spread of the virus to domestic fowl, and to humans.

Kill the ducks, people.  It's our only hope to save humanity.

Atomic Dawg:

When do you believe we will have a dominant OL? This year's starters look to be mostly 3* and we will probably not see multiple 4* for a couple years. What does it take to turn the corner?

UWDP: This is the $64,000 question for the UW's offense.  The Huskies really haven't had a "good" line in about 15 years, much less a dominant one.  It's getting to the point that a generation of Husky fans haven't seen a quality offensive line since they were wearing short pants.  The short answer is that it's highly unlikely that it's going to be this year.

On to the long answer.

If you're just looking at recruiting rankings, then it's going to be at least two years until there are multiple four star players on the offensive line.  While I personally think the recruitniks get it right more often than they're flat-out wrong, I'd argue they're hit rate declines the further a position is away from a "normal" body type.  Linemen are about as far away from the norm as you can get on the football field, being both extremely tall and extremely large, and needing extreme strength.  Very few 17 and 18-year old kids have that combination out of high school, so after that top 1%, projecting a player into college is as much about genetics as it is talent when a player (usually) has to make large changes to an already large body.  Even the four star linemen on the roster have a ton of work to do; more than the average cornerback, running back, safety, or even linebacker.

The Huskies aren't that much different than most teams in college football on the offensive line.  They need a ton of developmental help at those five critical positions.  In the weight room, at the training table, and on the field.  I posit the first two are more important than the last, because I'd argue that the Huskies have been undergunned on the field more due to physical strength than technique or scheme.  They have to get to the point that they're maximizing the genetic potential of the guys on the roster.  That's what's going to turn the two-star recruits into three star guys, and the three star guys into NFL draft picks.

Another attribute worth noting is intelligence.  It's not really possible to know which way causation runs - are smart linemen successful, or are successful linemen smart? - but it's worth noting that of the reported Wonderlic scores for NFL players, offensive tackles scored the highest, followed by centers.  Guards are fourth, behind quarterbacks.  It could just be happenstance, but all of the offensive linemen that Chris Petersen has signed have been exceptionally good students.

The dominant line isn't likely to happen in 2015, because the work the Huskies need is a years-long prospect both in terms of development and recruiting.  Most of this season is going to be about trajectory and seeing how the work between December and August is progressing.

Lucas Shannon:

Hey guys, i'm an avid football fan, and there is no team in my mind that is more important the Huskies football team. I follow along pretty closely on the premium recruiting sites and whatnot, and was completely shocked by the recent signing of Tony Rodiriguez, as I had seen no mention of his recruitment anywhere. Can you tell me what this means in terms of the QB competition, the status of Cyler Miles, and if he will be a serious challenger to presumptive (in my opinion anyway) starter Jeff Lindquist?

UWDP: I think just about everybody was caught by surprise with this one.  Not only that Huskies signed a JC quarterback, but the timing of it as well.

As to the question on Miles, I see two possible scenarios.  One is that this move effectively closes the book.  There's just no way the Huskies can carry five QB's on the roster with none of them being seniors, and then look to bring another one in for 2016.  It's possible in scenario number two that signing Rodriquez means the UW won't be taking a QB this class, but my own personal guess is that as a coach currently in the "building" phase, Petersen would choose to backfill his roster with younger guys rather than older ones,  So I think we're going to hear that Miles is either transferring or simply deciding to give up football.

I believe that Rodriguez will be given every opportunity to challenge at the unsettled quarterback position, but coming in when he is puts him behind the eight ball.  If he doesn't win the job, and even if he's the backup, he could very well end up redshirting, which would balance out the roster at this position.  But right now, it's really a matter of how quickly he's able to pick things up in short order.

When you watch this highlight reel, he's reminiscent of a healthy Keith Price - before the pounding that Price absorbed took away his mobility and probably affected his pocket presence a little.  Rodriguez doesn't wow you with his arm strength (it's probably on the low side of average), but he has good touch, pretty good accuracy in the intermediate stuff, and gets the ball on his receiver well enough at the junior college level.  His footwork is very good, and he's adept at sliding in the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield instead of bailing wide.  Several times you can see him keeping a play alive, and coming back to his third or even fourth read.  That's good stuff.  He's a good runner, but seems more than content to take what's available and either slide or get out of bounds.

If nothing else, this all but guarantees that Jake Browning gets to redshirt.

On an unrelated note, I wonder if Troy Williams has any regrets about his decision to transfer....


What's (Bush) Hamdan's real role on the staff? Why did an OC with several years of position coaching experience take a non-coaching staff position at UW?

UWDP: A quality control coach isn't really an on-the-field coach, that's true.

Hamdan was a tight ends coach for a year, a receivers coach for a year, and then had two years at two different schools as offensive coordinator/QB's coach.  So really, that's not a ton of experience.  And when Brian Harsin was given the Boise State job, he elected to not take Hamdan with him, which speaks some to that inexperience.

There's a lot to be said for spending time as a QCC to shorten the learning curve of how to coach.  It's thousands of hours spent in film study, scouting opponents and your own team, preparing reports, and organizing practices.  It's an apprenticeship.  It might not seem as glamorous as being the offensive coordinator and QB's coach, but holding those jobs at Davidson is a tough row to hoe in making the move to bigger and better things.  Several NFL coaches began their careers at QCCs - John Gruden, Bill Belichick, Jim Mora, Eric Mangini, Tony Sparano, Steve Spagnuolo, Brad Childress, and several others.

It's actually not a bad career move.

Grad and Dad:

OK, how bout we take the question head on...what is a fair and accurate evaluation of OC Jonathan Smith. I recall a discussion a few weeks back with many thinking that he needs another season to fully judge. But not all. While the snarky and borderline mean spirited comments have declined, they are back with some frequency. I am not trying to defend.Smith, I can not understand the unkind comments at this stage of the staffs progress : a transition year and significant QB and O line issues, among others. He has been described as " to green" because he does not have PAC 12 experience (which he does now). Really, there have been many coaches, OCs and QB coaches coming out of the lower ranks that have had early success (with the right talent.) I say it is to early to judge his performance fairly, what say you. And please, a poor attempt at humor in no excuse for the snark.

UWDP: This is a question that may require two bags of popcorn.

First, there's no definitive answer here.  And it's because, as you mention, there's so little data and so many confounding variables.  Here's what we do know:  The offense wasn't good last year.  The quarterback play was sub-optimal.  The offensive line struggled.  After that, how much blame you want to apportion to personnel, to Smith, to Strausser (who always seems to get a free pass, for whatever reason), or to Chris Petersen is individual choice.

For my part, 100% of the blame, if there's any to actually be assigned, falls on Chris Petersen (or whomever the head coach is).  Chasing after assistants is a fool's errand.  It's the head man's program.  These are his hires, and these are his players now.  It's up to him to make it work.  If that's done in recruiting, fine.  If it's changing his staff, great.  If it's maintaining the status quo, then I'm on board.  Ultimately, the only person associated with the Husky football program that Washington actually chose, is Chris Petersen.  Everybody else is here because Petersen chose them (and I get that's not 100% true until he's had a few more recruiting cycles).  I'll debate what happens, because that's what I do, but all of the accountability rests in one place.

As for the snark, yeah, it can get old, especially when it's substituted for any sort of actual analysis.  But it's probably worth remembering that this is just a fan blog, humor is subjective, and nobody ever wins an internet debate.

Andrew M Smith:

What are the characteristics of a Chris Petersen-coached football team? I feel like we know a lot about recruiting philosophy, team-building ideas, academic considerations, etc. I have a vague idea of an offensive scheme. Beyond wins-and-loses, what should we be looking for in order to evaluate how much of Petersen & co's system is in place?

For example, when Pete Carroll took over the Seahawks, you could really tell how much of his defensive system was in place by how many penalties the team was getting. By 2013, the team was leading the NFL in penalties and leading the NFL in defense, just like his teams did at USC. Do we have a similar characteristic we could look at in 2015's football team and say "see, this shows the team is starting to look like a Chris Petersen team"?

UWDP: I probably would have had an easier time answering this question prior to the 2013 and 2014 seasons that Petersen coached at Boise State and Washington respectively.  For whatever reason, I have a bit of a tough time reconciling Chris Petersen's first seven years at Boise State with a ball control passing attack very similar to what the 49er's ran under Bill Walsh, with the shotgun spread attack of the last two years.  To me, that convolutes his signatures a little.

Carroll actually has that signature defense.  But as you mention, it's his philosophy of how the Seahawks play that's the greater value.  The abstract is more important than the mechanics.  And that's the same with Petersen.  Particularly the team building concepts.  I think that cultivating leadership and accountability within the players is tantamount to his "team."

On the field, I think Petersen's teams will largely look like whomever his coordinators are - he's definitely more of a CEO than a micro-manager.  Offensively, his willingness to be aggressive is largely driven by his confidence in his quarterback to minimize the negative.  Defensively, I think it's the same - as his teams show the ability to minimize big plays against them, he'll be more willing to attack.

I know that's sort of a feeble answer, but it's tough to define right now.  If the past is any indicator, we'll know we have a Chris Petersen-coached team when the Huskies start winning lots of games.


Why, do you think, the UW gets the short end of the stick in football scheduling from the PAC 12? Starting with the initial north south divide where Stanford and Cal still get their California rivalries, to appeasing Colorado, playing the Apple Cup at odd times and playing back to back USC, Stanford and Oregon, and the dreaded November night games, to mention a few things. What other team has been treated this way (other than OSU and WSU? Won't this hurt a lot in recruiting and ticket sales.

UWDP: There were definitely things I don't like about the split to two divisions, particularly the concessions for the California schools and a little too much footsie with Colorado and Utah, but I don't think that the UW is treated any differently than the rest of the conference with regards to scheduling.  I think all fans think their team gets the short end of the stick.  Familiarity breeding contempt and all....I could very well be wrong, though, so let's take a look, and rank the schedules relative to Washington's (since we don't know times, we'll have to ignore that for now, and the late starts?  I'm not as opposed as everyone else, I guess....)

Cal has a three game stretch of at UCLA, Oregon, and at USC.  That's pretty equivalent.

Oregon plays a lot of games at night, it seems to me.  Maybe not as many as the Huskies, I'm not sure either way.  The Civil War is the same day as the Apple Cup.  They play on a Thursday night, at ASU.  They don't have a three game stretch as tough as the Huskies do, but then again, they don't have to play Oregon.  Better.

Oregon State has two Friday conference games, so two short weeks.  And the games are Stanford and Oregon.  Their bye is October 3rd, so they have 8 straight weeks of football to finish the season, and five of those games are on the road.  That's worse.

Stanford has a Friday conference game and  Thursday game.  Their toughest stretch is probably Arizona, UCLA and Washington - all at home.  That's better.

Washington State has a Friday game.  They have a four game stretch of at Arizona, Stanford, ASU, and at UCLA.  They have nine conference games in a row without a bye.  That's worse.  Much worse.

Arizona has every conference game on a Saturday.  Their toughest three game stretch is either UCLA, at Stanford, Oregon State, or at Washington, at USC, and Utah.  Either way that's better.  BUT - Arizona doesn't have a bye this season until the very last week, when it doesn't matter.  That's tough.  Really tough.  But call it a push.

Arizona State has to play USC and UCLA back-to-back, but gets a reprieve in the next game.  They have one midweek game - against Oregon - but it's at home.  Their bye is right in the middle of the season.  That's better.

Colorado has one Friday night game.  They have a three game stretch of Oregon, at ASU, and Arizona, and another one of at UCLA, Stanford, and USC.  The only thing between those two stretches is Oregon State.  But the Buffs play a 13-game schedule due to playing at Hawaii, and they don't have a bye, period.  That's way worse.

UCLA plays two Thursday night games, and they're back-to-back.  That's just weird.  And it could really mess with a team's routine.  They have a three game stretch of at Arizona, Arizona State, and at Stanford.  I'd say the inconsistency of that schedule makes it worse.

USC has a Friday night game and a Thursday night game.  That Thursday game kicks off at 6:00 pm.  In LA.  Not sure how well that one will be attended, at least in the first half.  They have a five game stretch of Stanford, at ASU, Washington, at Notre Dame, and Utah.  They finish the season at Oregon followed by UCLA (and another possible matchup in the conference championship game against Oregon the next Friday).  At worst, that's a push.

All in all, it really doesn't look like the Huskies' schedule is all that much different.  They probably have the toughest 3-game set, but everybody has some pitfalls in there.

Paul C:

It's been noted that attrition has been a factor holding back the UWFB program, explaining the lack of experienced depth in spite of good recruiting classes during the Sark era. My question is: Can we measure how much worse UWFB attrition has been than at other Pac-12 programs? Or do other teams lose as many good prospects over time as we do?

UWDP: This is a tough question to answer, because there aren't any statistics kept on attrition rates.  The only real way to know is to go back and look at every team's roster and see.  It could very well be that the UW has had higher than normal attrition, or it could be that it's higher than normal with highly-rated recruits, or at certain positions, etc.  Part of me thinks this is a case of familiarity, but I'm not sure...

Of the top five classes signed in 2007, only 48% exhausted their eligibility. If a team averages signing 24 new players per year, half of whom redshirt, and 4 leave per class, the roster numbers would be 36 freshmen, 20 sophomores, 16 juniors, and 12 seniors for a total of 84 players on scholarship and an attrition rate that would average out to 66.7% per class over the course of eligibility. What was attrition like for Chris Petersen under Boise State?  It seems it would be kiwer, since he only signed an average of just over 21 players per class between 2007 and 2013 (suggesting that either he ran a program under the scholarship limit of 85 which I doubt, or was able to retain his players at a higher rate), but that average is highly skewed by a class of only 10 people in 2010.  I'd wager he also redshirted more than half of each class, suggesting that the attrition rate probably isn't all that much different under Petersen.  Obviously this math is dramatically oversimplified, but the takeaway is that attrition, for whatever the reason, is very, very high.

Is it higher at Washington among the most talented players?  Maybe.  I picked Oregon to cross-check.  Of the four and five star recruits that could potentially be eligible for the 2015, Oregon has lost eight.  Two went pro early.  One retired due to injury.  Five transferred.  Washington also lost eight.  Three went pro early, and five transferred.  If someone wants to look at other teams in the conference, be my guest in the comments.


I really like the way that coach Pete recruits. He is looking for guys that are good football recruits, but also good students. To many kids never make it to the next level and are unprepared for life. What are your thoughts on his total recruiting idea.

UWDP: I've gone on record many times as saying that I don't think Petersen's recruiting philosophy is all that dramatically different than any other coach's out there, so my comments might not be the ones you're looking for.  I'm sure others will chime in in the comments.

I do think Petersen values character more than other coaches do.  I do think he wants good students.  And I do think he's more methodical in his approach to extending an offer.  And I do think he expects a verbal commitment to be the finalization of a prospect's recruiting.

What I don't think, however, is that "OKG" or "Built for Life" are a means of weeding out prospects that don't already fit a certain mold as much as they are establishing buy-in ahead of time from the vast majority of prospects that can be molded in a certain way.

It's still about talent.  You.  Simply.  Can't.  Win.  Without.  It. no matter how great the integrity or character of the individuals on a team.  And when you look at the first guys that Petersen offered for the 2016 class, it's obvious he gets this, as he offered almost every player in's top 100 players that live on the west coast.  If someone wants to argue that all of these top talents also all happen to be this mythical cut above the rest, be my guest.

To sum it up in one sentence, I'd say that Petersen's recruiting philosophy with regards to character has much more to do with what the players are willing to do while at Washington than what they've done up until that point they become Huskies.

If you've made it this far, you've read just shy of 3,500 words.  That's a lot.