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Mailbag - "School's Out!!" Edition

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Family. Religion. Friendship. Those are the three demons you must slay if you really want to succeed in this world.

Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

First, your useless facts.

  • "Facetious" and "abstemious" contain all the vowels, in order. There are other words that do as well.
  • The first episode of "Joannie Loves Chachi" was the highest-rated American program in the history of Korean television. In Korean, "chachi" translates to "penis."
  • Giraffes have no vocal cords.
  • The pupils of a goat's eyes are square.
  • A standard slinky measures 87 feet when fully stretched out.
  • The highest per capita Jell-O consumption in the U.S. is in Des Moines, Iowa.
  • If a rooster can't fully extend its neck, it can't crow.
  • There were always 56 curls in Shirley Temple's hair.
  • Worcestershire sauce is essentially anchovy ketchup.
  • Rhode Island is the only state where the hammer throw is a legal track and field event at the high school level.
  • The average lifespan of an eyelash is five months.
  • A spider has transparent blood.
  • On average, each acre of American crops harvested contains 100 pounds of insects.
  • Prince Charles is an avid collector of toilet seats.
To your questions....

Rhaego:

Would 8 wins be a disappointing season at this point?

UWDP: Assuming that the Huskies have a "normal" number of injuries this season, then to me, 8 wins would be a disappointment.

With the soft non-conference schedule, 8 wins means one of two things has happened: Most likely, the team has gone 5-4 in the Pac-12, and remains mired in conference mediocrity. It would mean that the Huskies have a 15-year run going back to 2001 without finishing with fewer than four losses in the Pac-12. It would mean that the team, in year three of the Chris Petersen era, has failed to take a step forward of any significance. It would mean that what will likely be the best defense on Montlake in at least two decades was largely wasted. It would validate every criticism ever thrown down against Jonathan Smith, and would implicate Chris Petersen's ability to assemble an offensive staff. Whether schadenfreude or not, it would raise questions about Petersen's ability to win at Washington.

A less likely scenario is that the Huskies trip up against a non-conference opponent (almost undoubtedly Rutgers in the opener), and then manage to win six games in the conference. A loss to a team the Huskies should easily beat, at home, would be a bitter pill. But in all honesty, if the Huskies are going to eight in 2016, this is the scenario I prefer. I'd much rather lose early and finish strong than to level off to a flat line.

I've got a lot of confidence heading into 2016. At the end of the year, I don't think we'll have to spend any energy worrying about this, and that all but the most disillusioned Dawg fan will be pleased with the trajectory of the program.

Rhaego:

Name one close game within the CP tenure that had we won, we'd be sitting even prettier at this point.
UWDP: You could make a case for Arizona or Oklahoma State from 2014, but really, winning either of those two games would only serve to make the stumbles in 2015 look worse than they already do. As it stands right now, I think most Husky fans would argue that the 2015 team was marginally better than the 2014 version, so there's at least something of an upward trajectory.

From 2015, Cal was probably the most winnable game that the Huskies lost. The Bears weren't a great team, and at home, the UW should've been able to pull that one out. It would've given the team a nice start to the season. However, it still would've left the Huskies losing four out of five in the middle of the year. Utah was the best team the Dawgs had a reasonable chance to beat. That would've been a confidence-inspiring win. But beating ASU probably would've done even more - it would've ended a long losing streak to the Sun Devils, it would've been a win in the desert, and it would've given the Huskies a four-game winning streak to close out the season. Even though the quality of the win wouldn't have been as good as beating the Utes, the total package of a victory then would've done more than beating Utah and then subsequently losing to ASU.

OsidePup:

Which single player A) on offense and B) on defense can the Huskies least afford to lose to injury this coming season.

UWDP: Wow, tough question to answer. There are lots of guys on both sides of the ball I don't think the Huskies can afford to lose. I think depth is a much bigger issue than first-line talent for this team; more so on offense than on defense.

The offensive line would struggle if either Kaleb McGary or Trey Adams missed the season. Matt James actually started the first game of the season at right tackle at Boise State in 2015, and didn't have a very good game. Especially in pass protection. When McGary missed time later in the year, Andrew Kirkland moved outside from guard. And it was Kirkland that played for Adams at left tackle when Adams was injured as well. So at least based on what we saw in 2015, Kirkland is the key backup at both tackle spots. If Adams was going to miss a significant amount of time, I wonder if McGary would move from the right side over to the left...

Losing Myles Gaskin would be a huge blow. He was a revelation once he took over the starter's carries, culminating with his 4 TD, 186-yard performance in the bowl game. He's already solidified himself as the next in what's been a very good run of Husky running backs. And the depth behind him hasn't really established itself.

As tired and cliched as it is, I'm going to pick Jake Browning at quarterback. For one, I think he had a very good true freshman season, and I expect him to take a rather large step forward in 2016. But maybe more importantly, he's a very cerebral player in a quarterback-centric offense, and the drop behind him is pretty substantial. I think K.J. Carta-Samuels has potential, but he was a project for this offense due to the system he played in in high school, and he needs a tremendous number of reps to really improve. I think he could eventually do the job, but just given the number of decisions the quarterback has to make on every single play in Chris Petersen's offense, it'd be a steep learning curve that would come at the expense of losses Husky fans would have a tough time tolerating. Browning is a great fit for this team, and losing him would probably cost this team the season in a way that nobody else would.

Now for the defense. First, All-American Sidney Jones is the best player at his position on this whole team. Next April, he's going to be a very wealthy Husky alum. But he plays at a position that's as stocked as any on the roster, and while his loss would be tremendous, the Huskies could weather it better than with other players.

Budda Baker's value might be the greatest to the team on a pound-per-pound basis. He established himself as a leader as a true freshman, and the team definitely missed him in 2015 when he was out. He will push Jones for the title of "best player" in 2016, but like Jones, he plays a well-stocked position.

By the end of the year, the answer to this question might be Elijah Qualls, as I expect he's going to thrive as a playmaker on the line moving away from the nose tackle position. Even though he's played a lot of football for the UW, he missed almost half the 2015 season, and the time still thrived. That may change in 2016, but it's up to Qualls to prove it.

For right now, I'm going to go with Azeem Victor, who captains the "All Pac-12 Ultra-Snub Team." Outside of dropping a couple of easy interceptions, I'm not sure what more Victor could've done in 2015. As a sophomore. But more than just what he can do running around swallowing up ball carriers, Victor sets the tone for the defense. While he toes the line a bit, he's the guy with the attitude and the swagger that seemed to feed the defense in the same way Dave Hoffman did in the early 90s. There's a lot of talent at the linebacker spot on this team, but I'm not sure there's anyone that could come in and replace the intensity Victor brings to the defense.

HUSKY57:

Last year YUCKS had probably their worst team in ten years and we lost.  This year they could be worse.  We can't lose to them can we?

UWDP: If that was the worst Duck team in ten years (it wasn't - 2006 and 2007 were both worse), then it's a testament to how good Oregon's program has been the last decade.

The defense was bad. Maybe really bad. But Oregon was a tale of two teams - the one with Vernon Adams at QB, and the one without. Without him, the offense struggled to complete a forward pass, was entirely one-dimensional (although with Royce Freeman at running back, that dimension was pretty damn good), and put a ton of pressure on the back of that bad defense. With him, and even with that terrible defense, Oregon was in the conversation for the best team in the Pac-12. Good enough to beat Stanford in Palo Alto, even with that defense (and a little luck).

I think Oregon's offense will take a step back in 2016 without the big-play ability of Vernon Adams. The defense likely won't be very good, given the losses they suffered up front, but the secondary play should be significantly better given the fact that the played so many young guys in 2015 (sort of like the step the Huskies made between 2014 and 2015). New coordinator Brady Hoke wants to create big plays, but will likely give up big plays in order to do it. But Husky fans hoping Oregon is set for a precipitous drop off the face of the earth are probably setting themselves up for disappointment in 2016. It's not likely.

The Huskies can easily lose to Oregon in 2016. Even though the fan base isn't regularly as rabid as it once was, you can count on a raucous crowd in Eugene filled with booze and anti-Husky sentiment. Winning road games in the Pac-12 is never an easy proposition.  The Huskies are going to have to play a really good game on both sides of the ball to win.

(And they will)

chaboing40:

I strongly believe that the development of our O-Line, along with our health will determine whether we end up with 8 wins or win the Pac-12.  How much potential is there in our O-Line?  And dare I ask, are they strong enough to potentially compete against the nation's elite?

UWDP: The best Husky offensive line in the last 20 years was probably in 1996. The second best was probably in 2000. The 2016 version of the offensive line probably won't be as good as either of those - that won't come until 2017. But it's reasonable, and probably even likely, that the 2016 offensive line is really going to begin to emerge and assert itself by the end of the season.

The issue is depth, particularly at tackle.  And youth (even though a lot of Husky fans are tired of hearing about that particular all-too-real issue). If the Huskies were to lose Kaleb McGary and/or Trey Adams for significant amounts of time, the line will likely struggle. That's much less an issue along the three interior positions.

There's as much potential on the offensive line as there's been at the UW in well over a decade. How close to realizing it they eventually come is the question. I don't think it happens in 2016. And by no means do I think this version would compare favorably against the nation's elite offensive lines, nor fare well against elite defensive lines. Those are propositions to be reserved for 2017. But as I said, by the end of 2016, I think people (not just Husky fans) are going to see the potential of the line moving forward, and it'll start to get positive buzz.

Dad and Grad:

During the summer doldrums, one's mind can easily drift to items of minutia.  One's mind could even wonder about Socha's strength/conditioning/speed program.  Specifically is there a difference in focus in the summer leading up to Fall that is different that in the Winter, where there might have been more heavy lifting?  Have we already seen most major body shaping (there we some remarkable weight gains and losses), and will we now see more fine tuning, to enhance speed and quickness?

UWDP: I don't have specific information about what Tim Socha's program looks like, but if I had to guess, it'd be something like this:

Shortly after the season ended, winter lifting begins. Typically, this is building the base of strength, power and endurance. High numbers of reps at lower weights to change body structures, as you mention. Lifting four or five days a week. After a few months of this, reps decrease and weight increases to really focus on strength. There's going to be lifting during the weeks of spring practice, but probably scaled back some. Then, in the summer, there's a gradual increase in weight lifted and reps decrease, working toward lifting max weight with low (1-2) reps each time. There's an increased focus on aerobic training and more football-specific drills.

Mikesbike:

Since this a Father's Day edition I wanted to ask a Dawgfather related question. Don James is often cited by former players as having had a great influence on them that went far beyond football. Coach Pete clearly is having the same kind of impact, but seems to go about it differently. Can you talk a bit about the contrasts and similarities between coach James and coach Pete in that regard? I think we mostly have a handle on coach Petes solid values and built for life thing, so I am asking more about coach James in comparison. I certainly was a fan in spades in the James years, but we didn't hear much about that side of things.

UWDP: All I can really do is a disservice to answering this question, having spent no real time with either of them.

But I think they share a lot of the same leadership characteristics. Both seem to lead without trying, just by sheer force of personality. And they do it without coming across as phony rah-rah motivational speaker types. They just have a presence that commands respect. It's something that you can't really teach or learn; you either have it or you don't.

Do you remember the clip of Chris Petersen and Cory Littleton from the USC game last year? Littleton was called for a penalty, and Petersen had him pulled out. Littleton came to Petersen with his hands up and some excuses. Petersen gave Littleton a few choice words (very few, in fact), and turned away. When Littleton continued to plead his case, Petersen fixed him with a look and took a few steps toward Littleton. Littleton backed away and shut his mouth, as if he didn't have 5 inches and 60 pounds on Petersen. The situation was done. The exchange was over, and Littleton knew it. Petersen didn't have to shout and cuss; the look conveyed everything that needed to be said. Don James had that same thing. More correctly, his players had that same level of respect for James. Kind of like a Dad that can make you understand just how serious he is without raising his voice, and if he actually yelled, then you knew that you'd really messed up.

With far less exposure from the media when James was a coach, you didn't get the chance to really hear him preach his philosophy as much. And it's very possible he didn't have as formalized a program as Petersen does. But I'd bet it was very similar.

Ragu:

Road game destination of choice for this season? What about if you could choose any opponent in the country?

UWDP: Ideally or realistically?

Oregon would be a good choice, because it's the first legitimate chance the Dawgs have had to win in Eugene in quite some time. And being a visiting fan there during a win is a truly sweet experience. While the bulk of fans will simply ignore you, the bad seeds there are among the worst, and probably in the highest percentage. I've been there enough times to not want to make that five-hour grind of a drive again for a little while. Lodging is tough, as you'll probably have to drive some distance to a hotel after the game (I've always stayed in Salem), and it can take a long time to get out of the stadium on that two-lane stretch of I-5, particularly if Oregon State has a home game on the same day.

I've never been to Rice-Eccles before, and I love the high desert. Utah would probably be my top choice. The train system around Berkeley makes getting in and out of the stadium a breeze, and I've never seen the new Memorial Stadium since the remodel. That'd be my second choice.

There are lots of places I'd love to see a game. I've never experienced football in SEC country. A night game at Florida, or Georgia, or Auburn would be an amazing experience. Probably the top of my list. I'd love to see a game at Texas. Wisconsin. Oklahoma. Lots of places.

UWRosebowl:

Can you recommend a nice Burgundy?

UWDP: Besides Ron?

bowdown15:

I'm going to list a knee-jerk predicted score for each 2016 game and you tell me your knee-jerk prediction for which score UW has in each matchup. THEN tell me one game whose score you think I have completely wrong and give me a new one with how much UW has in that one.

UW-Rutgers: 37-13
UW-Idaho: 45-3
UW-PSU: 38-17
UW-UA: 31-19
UW-Stan: 24-17
UW-UO: 31-20
UW-OSU: 49-16
UW-Utah: 35-23
UW-Cal: 28-21
UW-USC: 24-20
UW-ASU: 45-13
UW-WSU: 38-31

UWDP: Those all look like UW wins to me. I could see Stanford or USC or Oregon with the UW on the wrong side of the score you list. I think the ASU game will be closer than that either way. If Utah is a loss, it'd be akin to a collapse (much like the one in 2015) to give up 35 points.

If Portland State is 38-17, there are problems. The Huskies should head in at halftime with that many points, and Portland State had better not hit 17 for the whole game.

(anonymous):

I read a few weeks back that in 2000, the huskies were ranked top 15 preseason coming off a 7-6 year in 1999. Sounds familiar to this year right? So what are the similarities from this year to the 1999-2000 offseason?

UWDP: I think they were actually 7-5, but there was certainly some context to that record. It was actually more like 7-3. In the first two games of that year, the Huskies, featuring a running QB in Marques Tuiasosopo, came out throwing the ball nearly every play in the first two games of that season. The first was a loss to BYU, when the Cougars scored late on a long pass to pull out a 7-point win. The second game was an absolute turd against Air Force. In the third game, the Huskies completely restructured their offense to feature the option ground attack against rick neuheisel's former team in the Colorado Buffaloes. Outside of a game against ASU in Seattle when the Huskies played like the ball was covered in lard, the Dawgs controlled the Pac-10 pretty well. In fact, they were in position to clinch the Rose Bowl at UCLA and prior to the Apple Cup, but booted the ball around the field that day. In the Holiday Bowl, they matched up against a Kansas State team that would've played for a national championship had their star QB Michael Bishop not fumbled the Big 12 title game away to an outmatched Texas A&M team playing with a backup QB that couldn't complete a forward pass prior to overtime. The Huskies played with a top 5 KSU team all night in San Diego, until Bishop led a game-winning fourth-quarter TD drive.

The 1999 team was close - very close - to reaching some big heights that year. They had virtually every key player returning in 2000, including a QB who was on the verge of being a star. The 2015 Huskies were a lot less successful, but were a lot younger. They also had that key player back at quarterback. More importantly, they had a dominant defense, which the 1999-2000 teams did not. The 1999 and 2015 teams were both loaded with potential. The 2000 team almost entirely realized theirs (and maybe overachieved; they seemed to get every lucky bounce the entire season outside of a single game in Eugene). It remains to be seen what the 2016 version of the Huskies can do.

Darin Johnson:

Did you hear that the Vikings won the West Seattle 5/6 grade flag football scallions?  Why is this not getting more air?

UWDP: Consider it properly mentioned.

The real question is why they didn't manage to win it all. From what I hear, there were some pretty significant coaching deficiencies. Look for lots of players to transfer out this offseason.

Rhaego:

Over under for CP choosing to run a trick play should be set at what?

UWDP: "Trick" play is kind of a sliding scale. But I'd put the over/under at 12.5. One per game.

Rhaego:

What other team in CFB is most similar to the Huskies in play style / caliber?

UWDP: The most obvious answer here is Boise State. A head coach right off the Chris Petersen Tree, and they really don't even try to disguise the fact that they run the Chris Petersen Offense. The Broncos and the Huskies are about as similar as they come.

I think the Huskies are the better team in 2016.

Outside of BSU, I think the Huskies are going to look very similar in style and result to the Michigan State Spartans this year.

Thanks for the questions, everybody. Have a safe and sane 4th of July. Sparklers for everyone.