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Post Spring Mailbag Part 3

QB's, talent level, program direction, and more in this week's mailbag.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

In his letters to his children, Theodore Roosevelt wrote:  "I am delighted to have you play football. I believe in rough, manly sports.. But I do not believe in them if they degenerate into the sole end of any one's existence. I don't want you to sacrifice standing well in your studies to any over-athleticism; and I need not tell you that character counts for a great deal more than either intellect or body in winning success in life.  Athletic proficiency is a mighty good servant, and like so many other good servants, a mighty bad master."

In an interview, former University of Houston wide receiver Torrin Polk was asked his opinion of his coach, John Jenkins:  "He treats us like men.  He lets us wear ear rings."

Football in a nutshell, ladies and gentlemen.  On to the questions.


How do you think our talent stacks up against the other schools in the pac 10 this season?

UWDP: Tough question to answer.  On a macro level, the talent level was good enough to finish about dead middle in the conference in 2014, and is probably good enough to finish within a standard deviation of that again in 2015.  So, the short answer is "in the middle."

When you look at recruiting rankings, taking aside how much stock on might put into them at the moment, here's how the Huskies have finished in the conference by average star rating in the classes that will be on the roster this season (2011-2015):  5th, 5th, 4th, 7th, and 5th.  That suggests the Huskies are somewhere in the upper middle of the conference, higher than most people think they'll finish this year.  But when you look at the players in those classes that are rated four stars or higher, or in the top 50 in their position group (ignoring super specialties like center and fullback), 1 of 10 remain from the 2011 class, 3 of 9 remain from the 2012 class, 9 of 15 remain from the 2013 class, and all remain from the 2014 and 2015 classes (thankfully).  All teams have attrition of course, but that's a lot at the top of your roster.  Just take a look at the class of 2012 - the guys that should be redshirt juniors and true seniors, and be the backbone of your roster - less than half of that class is still on the roster.  Only 8 remain from 2011 - your redshirt seniors.  The Huskies have already lost 8 members of the class of 2013.  That level of attrition doesn't mean the Dawgs are untalented, but it does mean they are very young.  And inexperienced.

Obviously, simply looking at recruiting is highly flawed, as it discounts the ability of coaches to develop their players.  But when you survey the coaching landscape in the conference, the talent level there is likely at an all-time high.  Even with the addition of Chris Petersen, Washington doesn't hold the same, inherent advantage there to the same degree it once did over schools like Arizona, Arizona State, or even Oregon State.  And Petersen is a year or two behind most of them in molding his team, so we probably won't see the real advantage he provides in creating talent in 2015.

If we boil this pedantic reply down to math, ((Talent Level as seen by recruiting + development) - Attrition) = 7th in the conference for 2015.  But it's trending upward.


UW QBs looked pretty good in the spring game in my opinion. I think this years QB will be an upgrade compared to last year. What's your opinion? QB better this year or step back?

UWDP: I don't quite share your level of optimism about the spring game, but I fully admit to being hyper-critical of the QB position.  In that uber-controlled environment of what amounted to a simple practice, the QB's get too many do-overs that would otherwise amount to drive-killing turnovers or incompletions that dictate the momentum of a real game.  I thought all three showed flashes of talent, but none was consistent enough to actually "count" on yet.  On the other hand, that scrimmage environment didn't allow us to see the benefits those guys could add with their legs, either....

2014 is a pretty low bar for me with regard to QB play.  Whatever benefits Cyler Miles added with his understanding of the offense and ball security were negated by his physical limitations.  Personally, I'm a little less risk-averse than Petersen or Jonathan Smith with regards to ball security, too.  At some point, you need to make plays to win games, especially when you don't enjoy the rather dramatic talent advantage Petersen had in the majority of his games at Boise State.

There's a lot of potential at the QB spot, but the mental aspect of the game could take a step back even if the physical part takes a step forward.  I'm hoping at worst it's a push, and is actually a big step forward, but with as many moving parts as there are to being a successful Pac 12 QB, I'm gonna spend this summer keeping my powder dry and wait for Boise in the fall.


I see a lot of angst about the Huskies getting ʺback to championship levelsʺ and wanting to know how long its going to take.

A little research: Prior to Don James the UW has a 405-246 record (62%), during the James era UW was 153-57 (72%) and since then 129-123 (51%). Our totals for the program are 687-426 (61.7%). We had one period where we averaged 7 wins a season and the rest of our history we are a 6 win program.

I believe in Coach Pete, I'm all in with his program and I believe he will get us at least back to the Don James level.

Are our expectations too much given the programs overall history? Is it too much to expect the program to compete with the Alabama's, USC's of the country every year for the next 10-30 years?

UWDP: This is an oft-asked question, but I love the fact that you added some context here.  Otherwise, "back to championship level" is a nebulous term open to a lot of interpretation.  For me, it's the Don James Level of Success.

To add a little more to your records, James won 72.6% of his conference games.  Roughly a 6-3 average over time.  James won, or tied for first in the conference 6 times in his 18 years, so every three years on average.  Maybe just as important, after getting things rolling in the 1977 season, James finished worse than second in the conference only twice in his last 16 seasons.  To me, that legacy means "being in contention for the title into November every year," not necessarily winning it.  If people expect Petersen to replicate what James did in 1990-1992, they will probably be disappointed.

In the 22 seasons since James retired, the Pac 10/12 conference champion has had two losses four times, was undefeated five times, and had a lone conference loss the remainder.  I think Petersen has the coaching chops to meet that bar, but equaling James' winning percentage means that Husky fans will likely have to live with a few three or maybe even four loss seasons sprinkled in there.

Petersen's job is more difficult than James' was, because Petersen has to win an extra conference game each season.  Add to that, the Pac 12 is a lot deeper the way things sit today than it was during most of James' tenure, although that could change in the future.  Even if Petersen is the coach we hope he is, I find it doubtful that he'll ever equal James' accomplishments, simply because like James, I don't see Petersen coaching much beyond the age of 60.  But if Petersen is here until he's 60 (nine more years), and can win the conference three times, then he's largely equaled James' achievements in intensity, even if not in longevity.


Will you give us some insight for summer workouts that the Huskies are implementing in preparation for Fall football practice?

UWDP: We'd all love to get updates and glimpses into what's happening in the critical time between the end of spring practices and the start of camp in the fall, it's just not something we're going to get much of in the information vacuum we're forced to live in.  We might get occasional reports from a player or two, and maybe a handful of blog videos with strength coach Tim Socha, but we simply aren't going to get the detail I'm sure we'd all love.

There's no doubt how critical the summer is to the development of the team.  And even with the rule changes implemented before the 2014 season allow the coaching staff some amount of contact with the team, the strength coaching staff is still among the most important members of the staff because they're the ones that oversee any and all of the workouts the team does.  Those rule changes allow Chris Petersen and staff to make mandatory offseason work of eight hours per week for a period of eight weeks.  Up to two of those hours per week can be film review with the players and coaching staff.  But most importantly, it allows the staff to make sure the players that are enrolled in summer school are actually going to class, and that everybody is at least getting some work in during the season.

What we do know is that there'll be a lot of lifting.  There'll be a lot of conditioning.  And since most of the offense and defense were put in during the spring session, there will be a fair amount of non-contact scrimmage-type work, mostly between the pass offense and pass defense.  And with the  unsettled nature of the quarterback spot, the development and continuity between the receivers and QB's will be critical.


I really like how the coaches motivate bonding. Success is a byproduct of team unity ʺworkingʺ for a common cause.
Support the Petersen philosophy; and, Go Dawgs!

UWDP: Me too.  All coaches want to promote camaraderie and team building, but some are more successful in actually developing it than others are.  This buy-in is something that Petersen obviously feels is tremendously important, and fundamental to the overall culture of the team.  And it seems like something that's building here.


In March CL wrote about players with the most to gain in Spring Ball, and Travis Feeney was on that list. His comments about Feeney potentially being a standout leader resonated with me, yet since that article there has been very little written respective to Feeney and less on the LB's as a whole in comparison to other positions. I feel like this group could be a rock for us, but the lack of print has me on my heels. Can you guys break down the status of the LB's again?

UWDP: The reason you didn't hear anything about Feeney this spring is that he was either out or very limited the entire time.  Other than noting that each day (which the beat guys did), there just wasn't anything to say.  While that's certainly not an ideal situation, Feeney will be ready to go in the fall, and really, he's a known quantity at linebacker by this point.

Adding to the injury report, Keishawn Bierria, one of the most experienced returning guys, also missed virtually all of spring with an injury.

Maybe there was less posted about the linebackers, but I don't know.  And without a ton of full-contact tackling, it's a bit tough for those guys to shine outside of pass coverage and touch sacks.  During the spring, Azeem Victor consistently ran as the starter in the middle of the 3-4 hybrid scheme, and was most often flanked by Mathew Lyons Scott Lawyer and Corey Littleton.  If you remember, Lyons Lawyer came on strong at the end of the 2014  season.  Sean Constantine and Psalm Wooching also got a significant amount of work.

There's definitely a lot of potential with this group, and a lot of athleticism.  Outside of Feeney, though, the starters will all be new, and that includes JoJo Mathis at the Buck (who, like Hau'oli Kikaha, will likely primarily be a down lineman).  I expect this is a position group will battle it out into fall camp.  Hopefully, that competition leads to depth.

Feel free to add your own answers in the comments below, and GO DAWGS!!