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Mailbag - "Less than a Month to Football" Edition

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Ah, women. When they see that you'll do anything they tell you to do, they're bound to respect you.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Useless facts for discussion:

  • The most common street name in the Unites States is "Second Street."
  • The sweat drops drawn in cartoons are called "pleuts."
  • The most common day for babies to be born is Tuesday.
  • The HyperMart outside of Garland, Texas has 58 checkout stands.
  • In the 1980's, American migraines increased by over 60%.
  • Poland is the "stolen car capital of the world."
  • Among other things, Thomas Jefferson invented the monetary system, the dumbwaiter, and the folding attic ladder.
  • The S in Harry S. Truman didn't stand for anything.
  • Horses can look forward with one eye and backward with the other, at the same time.
  • Shakespeare is quoted 33,150 times in the Oxford Dictionary.
  • The word Pennsylvania is misspelled on the Liberty Bell.
  • On average, Americans spend a total of seven years of their life in the bathroom.
  • A family of 26 can go to a movie in Mexico for the price of a single person in Tokyo.
  • Approximately 10,000 Dutch cows pass through the Amsterdam airport each year.
  • On average, someone pulls his or her hamstring in an aerobics class every seven minutes.
To your questions!

Rhaego:

Give us a controversial prediction for the upcoming season. Let's get heated.

UWDP: Talk about a loaded question....Easiest way to generate some heat would be to predict a loss to the Ducks in Eugene.  And the odds are the Dawgs aren't going to be favored in that game.

But I'm not going to do that today.  So, here are some other ones.  "Controversial" is in the eye of the beholder, though....

  • The Huskies aren't going to win the Pac 12.
  • The Huskies aren't going to win the North.
  • Someone other than John Ross will be the "best" receiver in 2016.
  • Jimmy Lake will leave after the season.
  • Jonathan Smith will be retained.
  • Azeem Victor will be on the receiving end of at least one targeting call.
  • Jojo Mathis will lead the team in sacks and tackles for lost yardage.
  • Jake Browning will miss at least one game.
  • USC or UCLA will lose at least four conference games.
  • WSU will pull a massive upset.
  • The winner of one of the Pac 12 divisions will have three conference losses, and the other will have two.
  • Fans of Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, UCLA, and USC will be calling for a coaching change after the season, but none of those will be made.
Rick Anacaona:

I see Isaiah Renfro is still listed on the roster.  What's that mean?  A chance for him to get back some day?

UWDP: I've wondered about that as well - I keep seeing his name on the roster, and hoping to hear some good news about him.  I'm sure there's a chance for him to come back, but he sure sounded like a guy that was totally done with football when he announced he was leaving.  Things surrounding him have gone quiet since the end of May.  It could be a mistake that he's still listed on the roster, it could be that he's still enrolled and on scholarship, so he's still listed, and it could be that he's reconsidering.  I don't know if he attended classes throughout spring quarter or not.

My guess, and it's totally based on what he said, is that he's not going to be coming back.

onewoodwhacker:

Instead of looking for another Power-5 team outside our conference to play a home and home every year, why doesn't the PAC-12 just go to a 10 game conference schedule with 2 OOC games at the beginning? "Personally", I'd rather see a home and home with Colorado than one with Rutgers or BSU or BYU, or....

UWDP: So, let's pretend we're back in the good 'ole days when the Huskies actually played at least one good non-conference team each season.  And that they're going to drop from three out of conference matchups to only two.

Which game do you think the program would drop?  If the Huskies were to do that, I'd wager we'd never see a game against Michigan, or Ohio State, or LSU, or....in Husky Stadium ever again.  Frankly, I love those games, and it hurts me in the heart a little bit to not have seen one the last several years.

It makes no sense for the conference to play another game.  It guarantees half the teams an additional loss.  There's already an issue with the nine game schedule (versus other conferences that only play eight).  Self-penalizing even more isn't going to happen.

This year, I agree with you.  I'd rather see UCLA than Rutgers.  That isn't always the case, though.  Play good games.  It's fun to see the intersectional matchups.

PalyDawg:

All the talk down here is how Stanford reloads their defense, how Mccaffery is the best football player in America, and how the QBs in waiting are vaunted recruits. Can we focus on HOW we are going to be able to beat Stanford in our Pac-12 home opener? Nice and nitty gritty analysis?

UWDP: In fairness, Christian McCaffrey is in the conversation for "Best Player in America."  Ryan Burns and Keller Chryst were well-regarded as recruits.

The talk about the Cardinal's defense, though....I don't think it's clear Stanford is on the verge of re-establishing dominance there after a very mediocre 2015 effort (60th by FEI, 40th by S&P).  The secondary should be much improved, but there are lots of issues along the front seven.  Particularly along the line.  I'd say the same thing about the offensive line.  Stanford loses a lot up front.  A singularly great class made up the bulk of the rebuild after the Harbaugh era, but that same level of talent doesn't exist on the roster today.  It's now up to a strength and conditioning program and player development that have both approached the level of mythology of late....

The keys to beating Stanford aren't really a secret; in fact, I'd say there really isn't a team in the conference that telegraphs what they want to, and are going to, do on offense.  Stanford is going to line up and go right at a defense.  There will be a shot or two to attempt manufacturing a big play, and they will run play action to take advantage of defenses that overplay the run.  Stopping that has proven to a monumental challenge the last seven seasons.

To win, the Huskies have to contain McCaffrey.  It's not that they're going to force Stanford to throw the ball, because David Shaw has proven time and again that he's stubborn with the run to the point that he can coach his teams out of wins on occasion.  Second, the defense and special teams can't give up more than two big plays in the form of deep passes or long returns.  On offense, the Huskies are very similar to Stanford, except with more of a penchant toward the pass.  The Huskies haven't shown a ton of consistent big-play ability, so they need to sustain methodical drives.  They need to avoid being in third-and-long on a consistent basis by being solid on first down, and they need to turn drives into touchdowns and not field goals.  In general, it's really not complicated.  The team that executes the best is going to win.

I think it's going to be a fun game, even if a lot of casual football fans wind up thinking it's a "boring" game.  One of the very few old school matchups in the conference in 2016.


80sIMADawg:

Lots of speculation out there by national publications as to who will start on our O-line this fall.   Many have Shane Brostek coming off the bench.   Better/Worse/Neutral expressed one take.  Do you have a different take on who starts and who plays meaningful minutes, and in what role(s)?

UWDP: I tend to agree with jeffreagorman's
take on the starters on the line. Trey Adams at left tackle, Jake Eldrenkamp at left guard, Coleman Shelton at center, Shane Brostek at right guard, and Kaleb McGary at right tackle.  Of that starting five, I'd say the two guard spots are the biggest questions, although I'd posit only the right side is a real "question."  Eldrenkamp has earned the spot on the left side.  If someone else gets a lot of time there it's probably due to injury - unless Henry Roberts proves to be a true player in the making.  Brostek hasn't made much of an impact in his time here, due to illness, injury, and time spent flip-flopping from offense to defense and back to offense.  He "feels" more like the default here.  That doesn't mean he hasn't earned the nod, just that it's not proven yet.


I'd wager the battle here would mostly involve Brostek, Jesse Sosebee (who had two starts here in 2015), and possibly the aforementioned Roberts.  Sosebee will be a key backup regardless.  Andrew Kirkland made starts at both tackle spots (a total of seven starts combined), and also filled in some at guard.  He's the versatile backup teams need.


The starting five is a solid unit, and could end up being "good."  The depth isn't what it needs to be quite yet, though.  I don't think the Huskies are at the point that they'll do much rotating just to keep players fresh; it's most likely going to be due to injury or someone in serious need of a break.  But we shall see....

chaboing40:

How does Sidney Jones compare against Desmond Trufant and Marcus Peters?  How would you rank the three?

UWDP: Favorably.  Very favorably.

Marcus Peters had a really good sophomore season.  He was second team All Pac 12, and a case can be made that he missed first team due to the players ahead of him being repeat performers that didn't necessarily live up to their reputations.  Things obviously went downhill for him the next year.  Peters was a bigger, stronger, more physical corner, but I think Sidney Jones is faster (I don't actually know this, but Peters' speed was never a strenght, and I've never thought that about Jones) and a little less prone to getting beat when he doesn't "win" at the line of scrimmage.  Jones is a better cover corner, but I think Peters was a little better at playing the ball.  Jones also hasn't shown any of the attitude things that plagued Peters.  I think Peters is a shade more naturally talented overall largely due to that size- a higher ceiling - but I think Jones is more likely to reach his ceiling (which is also exceptionally high - just not as high as Peters').  Jones stays on the field.  That's probably the trump card.

It's a little unfair to compare Sidney Jones as a sophomore to Desmond Trufant following his senior year.  Both were the best corners in the conference in their most recent respective seasons as Huskies.  Trufant was a little bit bigger and probably faster (faster than I thought - he ran a 4.38 at the NFL combine).  But Trufant as a junior was only a little bit bigger than Jones right now, about to enter his junior season.  Comparing their sophomore campaigns, though - Trufant was very good, but about the only edge I think he had would be speed.  Other than that, Jones is better in just about every way.

Desmond Trufant is arguably one of the top 10 cornerbacks in the NFL.  Marcus Peters was defensive Rookie of the Year in 2015, and will probably be on those types of lists in 2016 or shortly after.  Sidney Jones is going to join them all too soon.  Enjoy him in 2016 Dawg fans, because seeing him in purple and gold in 2017 (not playing for the Vikings, that is) will be an upset along the lines of Napolean Kaufman coming back for his senior year.  Along the way, he's going to collect All-American honors that Trufant may have deserved as well.  When it's all said and done, Jones is going to be in the conversation for the best that's played the position at the University of Washington.  Maybe the best.

80sIMADawg:

DW was great on the so-called wheel route due to his speed and hands.  He also protected really well.  Who do you think fills his role this year?  Or does anyone?  And would he have benefited from another year here?

UWDP: Not just the wheel, but pretty much anything you wanted to throw him out of the backfield.  And as you said, a really undervalued blocker.  He really only had two flaws, but both (or either) were fatal - he had next to zero patience as a runner, and he simply couldn't hold on to the ball.

I don't think there's a back on the roster that fills the role single-handedly.  I think Myles Gaskin can be a dangerous receiver out of the backfield, but more as a make-people-miss guy than a real downfield threat.  I think Gaskin can be a good blocker, but I'm not sure if he'll have the strength to do what Washington did.  Lavon Coleman has better size as a blocker, but hasn't shown anything as a receiver.

I think the coaches are going to have to create a new weapon to replace what Washington did out of the backfield as a receiver.  Maybe it's Darrell Daniels.  Maybe it's Chico McClatcher.  Maybe it's none of the above, and it's just something that doesn't exist in 2016.

I don't know what to think about his leaving early.  It doesn't take a jenius (or a genius) to see that the lion's share of the carries were going elsewhere, so maybe he decided to take whatever opportunity to play pro football came his way without an additional year of wear.  The injury he had that caused him to much around half the season was described as "chronic."  The decision was a surprise due to the timing, and that it came at all.  He's a man without a real position in the NFL, outside of third down specialist and possessing the physical attributes to play special teams.  Those hardly seem like reasons to leave school early, though.

DptDawg:

How the Heck is this UW team getting so much Hype?  I understand we have a bunch of guys coming back but seriously I think its a little ridiculous- First beat Oregon and ASU - win a few games in AZ,  Peterson has been mediocre at best in his first two years - Does unwarrented Hype like this actually damage the psyche of this team?

UWDP: The hype is coming from 1.  A really, really good defense, and 2.  A really young team that lost to good teams by close margins.  It doesn't take a monumental improvement to get to a lot better record.

Streaks.  People get way more hung up on them than I do, I guess.  Losing to Oregon sucks, but this team (with Chris Petersen as the coach) has only lost twice.  Granted, in two opportunities.  Same with ASU.  As for wins in the desert, well, the most the Huskies are going to pick up there in 2016 is one, since they only play one.

I had no real idea what to expect in 2014, but 2015 was largely what I expected record-wise.  A 6-6 regular season.  I didn't have any idea how they'd get there, but all teams that hover around mediocrity are frustrating to follow as fans.  Because they don't win enough.  But if you look at how and why they lost, that's what establishes the trajectory for the next season.  The Huskies coughed away winnable games against good teams, and blew out bad ones.  With a really young roster.  If you're forced to live with 6-6, and we are, that's probably the best case scenario when it comes to establishing trajectory.  They weren't mediocre with a roster full of seniors that got blown out by every good team they faced.

The hype train - it's arollin'.  A bit out of control, with some of the prognostications, I agree.  That stuff is for next year, even with what could be big losses on defense.  But I'm pretty confident that this team is going to be a lot better in 2016.
Dawg in Portland:

With fall camp less than a month away, what are some story lines we should be watching for during August practices?

UWDP: Just like this past spring, fall camp 2016 is looking to be as boring as any at Washington in at least a decade.  As far as fascinating story lines or intriguing position battles, there just really isn't much.  Even where there are new starters, the succession is pretty well set.  And of course, there's that whole "limited information" thing we are forced to deal with as fans....

Here are a few things I hope to hear about as things move along, starting with the defense.  First, how Jojo Mathis develops as the Buck.  His versatility is going to go a long way in determining how versatile the defense is overall.  Second, how the cornerback depth develops.  The Huskies have three very solid starters, but in a league that throws as much as the Pac 12, I'd love to see a fourth and fifth option develop.  Austin Joyner?  Byron Murphy?  Someone else?  Same at the safety spot next to Budda Baker, and behind him. Two of the highest-regarded defensive recruits were outside linebackers, and Pete Kwiatkowski isn't afraid to play true freshmen right out of the gate.  Do Brandon Wellington and/0r Camilo Eifler crack the depth chart, or are they behind the "veterans" from the class of 2015?

On offense, the biggest story is where John Ross ends up.  Does he take over for Jaydon Mickens and keep Chico McClatcher on the bench, or does he play outside with McClatcher in the slot?  is the line solidified right away, or is there shuffling or players and positions?  Does K.J. Carta-Samuels keep hold of the backup QB spot?  Can the offense make some hay against the defense from jump street, or does the D dominate?

Who punts?

seasalt14:

Quarterback debuts under the Petersen regime at UW have been rocky. Lindquist at Hawaii, Browning at Boise State, and Carta-Samuels at Stanford were all subpar to awful performances. Cyler Miles opener against Eastern Washington was okay, but I don't like remembering that game. My question is, in year three of the Petersen/Smith system, can we expect better performances from a backup quarterback?

UWDP: I'm not sure which one counts as awful, but I agree, none were great.  You can also add Troy Williams to your list.  Outside of Cyler Miles, each was also making his first career start, so I'm not sure what any of those games actually tells us.  Freshmen and sophomores struggling in their first significant action isn't exactly outside the norm.

I certainly don't think there's anything fundamental to Petersen's system that precludes backups from playing well.  In all cases, it wasn't just a matter of the QB struggling either - it was the entire offense that failed to get things done.

I do agree that things need to "look" better in 2016.  If Carta-Samuels is the backup, he should be more prepared than he was against Stanford just having faced the fire and being a year older.  Odds are pretty strong that someone other than Jake Browning is going to have to play meaningful snaps in 2016.

TxDawgFan:

When a program starts recruiting at higher levels, like Petersen is doing, year after year, it must be very tempting to "suddenly senior" some guys to make room for new shiny toys to add to the program.  Our last staff certainly liked to do that while Petersen takes the developmental approach to get that senior player to play at a high level for the team.  It started with Hudson who was brought back from the abyss by Petersen's staff to have a very productive senior campaign.

If you were the old staff looking to make room for some new recruits, who on the roster would pop out you? and who in that group do you think Petersen will get a very productive senior season from?

UWDP: The first thing to note is that scholarships in the Pac 12 are fully guaranteed for four years now, so that isn't even a possibility now unless a player chooses to leave.  Second, while Sarkisian was callous and public about the practice, I really don't think Petersen is immune from it.  While he probably would never force a player to leave, I'm sure he'd be very honest about a player's odds of seeing the field in the future.  Maybe even suggest transferring would be in everyone's best interest.

A bit of a morbid question, really.  There aren't many scholarship seniors on the roster, period.  The only one that you can look at as not filling any essential role is Jeff Lindquist.  That'd be a bad move.  The only seniors that aren't projected as starters right now are Brandon Beaver and Damion Turpin.  If Beaver was healthy, he might very well be a starter.  I could see either having a big role in 2016.  Both, even.  Not on an Andrew Hudson level, but necessary parts of the team.


OsidePup:

The coaching staff is starting to get attention from around the country, especially those that coach defense.  Which assistant coach would be the one that would be missed the most and be hardest to replace if he left for a better job??

UWDP: I think it comes down to Pete Kwiatkowski and Jimmy Lake.

Lake is frequently mentioned as one of the best recruiters on the staff.  The defensive backs have become stalwarts; even though they struggled in 2014, that was a group that lost two of its best players early in the season (Jermaine Kelly and Marcus Peters).  It became true freshmen, backed up by other true freshmen.  They made huge strides in 2015.

The defensive design is Kwiatkowski's.  I don't know much about him as a recruiter.  Chris Petersen thought enough of Lake to give him the title of "co-defensive coordinator."  I've no idea how much of the "promotion" is due to his coaching, versus a means of throwing him a bone to keep him as a recruiter.  To Kwiatkowski's immense credit, his ego wasn't so big he couldn't handle the situation.  That's a rare thing these days.

Lake.  But I don't think it matters.  He's going to get a better offer, likely at the end of this season.

Rhaego:

If our offensive and defensive schemes were songs, what would they be?

UWDP: I'll throw out some ideas.

Offense:

1.  "It's Hard" by The Who
2.  "Respect" by Aretha Franklin
3.  "Ocean" by the John Butler Trio (live version)

Defense:

1.  "Immigrant Song" by Karen O and Trent Reznor from the "Girl With a Dragon Tattoo" soundtrack
2.  "Fight the Power" by Public Enemy
3.  "Who Let the Dogs Out" by Baha Men  (but not really)

Rhaego:

Top 5 best football movies?

UWDP: I'm sure this will be unanimous.

My personal Top 10 (sort of in order, but not really):

1.  Friday Night Lights
2.  Remember the Titans
3.  Invincible
4.  Any Given Sunday
5.  Wildcats
6.  All the Right Moves
7.  Best of Times
8.  Brian's Song
9.  The Program
10.  Undefeated

Narrowly missing the cut (in no order whatsoever):  We are Marshall, The Replacements, Varsity Blues (though I'm not totally comfortable admitting it), The Express, Leatherheads, Gridiron Gang, Heaven Can Wait, Little Giants, North Dallas Forty

First person that mentions "Rudy" gets punched in the nose.

Andrew M Smith:

No home games sold out in 2015, right? Not even the Apple Cup. Do you reckon any home games will sell out this year?

UWDP: No, the Apple Cup in 2013 was the most recent, as far as I know.

If the Stanford game was on a Saturday, I think that one would sell out.  With it on a Friday, the start time is known well in advance, so that'll help, but I think in the end, it'll take an undefeated Husky team against a zero- or one-loss Stanford team to get enough people to fight the traffic.

USC is possible, but I don't think a Trojan team with two or three losses would get it done unless the Huskies are undefeated or something.  If Steve Sarkisian was still the coach at USC, I'd probably give better odds....


dawgincostarica:

I'd like to know what the curriculum entails  with the LEAP program ?
...and are football players the only students who attend?

UWDP: The idea behind the LEAP program is to transition players from high school to college from an academic standpoint.  It's a six-credit program designed to provide a soft landing for student-athletes.  One of the biggest differences between the two is what is required from a writing standpoint.  That's the single biggest focus of the program.

From an athletics standpoint, the LEAP program gets incoming freshmen on campus so that they can participate in voluntary offseason workouts.  Without the program, they wouldn't technically be enrolled as students at the UW until fall quarter, and wouldn't be able to participate.

I'll let you guess which aspect is actually more important....

There are about 50 students that attend each year, which typically includes all of the incoming football players.  Additionally, any student-athletes that want to begin voluntary offseason activities would need to attend.  I'm sure incoming basketball players are there, especially in years when the teams participate in summer tours like the men did in 2015.  Beyond that, I'd assume that athletes in most fall sports are there.

HUSKY-57:

JB has been practicing throwing deep all summer?  Any improvement?

UWDP: I hear he's actually gotten worse.

This is a question that really comes down to what you mean by "deep" - the arcing rainbows 40 yards plus down the field, or metrics used by people like Pro Football Focus, where deep is everything 20 yards or more in the air.

Browning was actually very accurate on the deep-intermediate stuff.  One of the best in the country, actually.  Those are the really important passes, because QB's throw about five times as many of those per game versus the really deep stuff, and complete them at double the rate.

That truly long pass - the one that brings fans out of their seats and makes women swoon - is such a small part of the offense as to almost be insignificant.  The common perception out there is that Browning didn't throw them well.  That might be true.  That 20 yard post might get a nice solid fist pump from the average fan, but those throws are far more important.  Browning's pretty good at them, too.

Word up.  That's the code word.