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Mailbag - "Husky Football Kickoff" Edition

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Hello, Dawg fans...

All-American Sidney Jones doin' All-American things....
All-American Sidney Jones doin' All-American things....
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

A few useless facts for game week:

  • Author Stephen King sleeps with a light on to quell his fear of the dark.
  • 38% of American men say they love their car more than they do women.
  • The first song played on MTV was "Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles.
  • William Marston engineered one of the earliest forms of the polygraph in the early 1900's, and later created the comic Wonder Woman about a displaced Amazon princess whose magic lasso forced people to tell the truth.
  • The Swedish equivalent of America's "911" is "90000."
  • The U.S. military operates 234 golf courses.
  • Bullet proof vests, fire escapes, laser printers, and windshield wipers (among many other things) were invented by women.
  • Superman is in every episode of "Seinfeld" in some form or another.
  • Lorne Greene had one of his nipples bitten off by an alligator while hosting "Lorne Greene's Wild Kingdom."
  • The average American consumes 11.9 pounds of cereal per year.
  • Over 1,000 birds per year die from crashing into windows.
  • The state of Florida is larger than England.
  • A jellyfish is 95% water.
  • There are 13,092 pieces of flatware in the White House.
  • Dolphins sleep with one eye open.
  • Honeybees have a type of hair on their eyes.
To your questions.

Gilly:

OC Jonathan Smith is a favorite target among Husky fans as to why the offense has been mediocre, but in reality there have been multiple factors why the offense hasn't been elite lately and not all of it has been on him.  Can you play devils advocate and defend why Coach P should keep him on board?  And how short of a leash is he really on?  What benchmark will it take for him to keep or lose his job?


UWDP: It's not difficult at all to defend his continued employment, for a few reasons.

First, the rebuild in 2014 - or at least what Chris Petersen's vision of the rebuild entailed - was a lot bigger than fans anticipated heading in to the season.  In 2015, I think we saw what is much closer to Petersen's vision of the program.  There are still steps, but they're incremental.

People are tired of hearing it, even though it's reality.  Youth.  At key positions, and those positions were largely backed up by other young players.  And it was youth coupled with inexperience - the double whammy.

Here are two more points that I've repeated ad nauseam - 1.  The offense in 2015 wasn't as bad as counting stats like total yards and the like would suggest.  You say mediocre, and that's correct.  By advanced stats.  FEI is a measure of the offense in terms of its efficiency on each drive.  The Huskies were pretty bad; 85th in the nation.  S&P is a measure of per-play efficiency, and the Huskies were in the high mediocre range; 37th in the nation.  What that says to me is that the offense was reasonably capable, but inconsistent.  About what you'd expect from a young team.

And 2.  This is Chris Petersen's offense.  Jonathan Smith was hired to run it, not design it on his own.  It's highly likely that someone else could come in and run Petersen's offense better than Smith does.  But it's a fool's errand to think that the biggest issue with the offense is the specific play called on a given down, or the sequencing of plays on a given drive.

Fans like plays that work.  Fans don't like plays that don't work.  Fans know far less about play calling than they think they do.  Far smarter people than me have said that criticizing a play call requires a lot more specific knowledge than you or I or he (Hugh MIllen in this case, with agreement from Mike Holmgren) can possibly have by simply watching a game live or on TV.  We.  Just.  Don't.  Know.

I don't much care about Jonathan Smith.  I hope for his enormous success because he's coaching my team, but I won't shed a tear if he's replaced.  A lot of people believe that the reason Jeff Tedford is a part of the staff this year is to audition for the job.  It's possible that the Evolution of Chris Petersen as a Head Coach means that he's willing to cede much of his impact on the offense to a guy like Tedford.  If I was to bet on it, though, I'd wager the new coordinator will look a lot like virtually every hire Petersen has made for the job:  young, intelligent, relatively inexperienced, and with a desire to be groomed by a coach like Petersen.  Somebody more like Bush Hamdan, for example.

If Smith is fired, I think it will be more about the development of the quarterbacks than the offense.  Which is still young, by the way.  If Jake Browning doesn't improve, and if the backups don't, that's what's going to get Smith fired.  The offense isn't going to be sexy in 2016; don't expect video game numbers in points and yards.  But it should be much more efficient.  Like the offenses at Boise State were when it was a mature program.

Benno:

What result in the Rutgers game would cause genuine concern about the team?  Obviously a loss would, but what else would you look for to gauge how good the team is?  To me, the inability to establish a run game when Rutgers is expecting a run would be a concern.  Also, if the D was unable to stop a power running game, which was a problem last year (caveat - I don't know if Rutgers is capable of running downhill effectively).  those would be the two things I want to learn about the Dawgs in this game.

UWDP: Outside of a loss, I'd be concerned if the Huskies have to mount a comeback in the second half to win.

I don't think the offense is going to put up a ton of points.  Maybe 38 as about the realistic max.  It's a work in progress, and I don't expect the Huskies to do much but work on the things the staff wants to develop for conference play.  I think it will be a conservative design.

Inability to run the ball wouldn't be a good way to start the season, for sure.  I don't mind seeing mistakes (on either side of the ball) made out of aggression, but I don't want to see a bunch of dumb mental mistakes like offsides, misalignments, poor form tackling, etc.

I think the defense will be fairly vanilla, much like it has been in the opener the last two seasons.  That could very well mean seeing a lot more of Jojo Mathis in coverage (like Hau'oli Kikaha was against Eastern in 2014) than we will later in the season.  That means Rutgers will probably complete a high percentage of its pass attempts, but a bad sign for the D would be seeing those spread-staple pop passes turning into more than three or four yard gains.

I'm tremendously excited for Husky football to finally start, but my expectations for this game are somewhat tempered.  I think things will look very bland.  I expect people to complain (here and elsewhere) about lack of progress and even regression.  I expect Jonathan Smith to catch quite a bit of heat.

jdke:

The Dawgs open as 26 point favorites. Is that more indicative of how good we are perceived to be, or how bad Rutgers is perceived to be? Should we be disappointed and/or concerned if we don't cover?

UWDP: Both.

Right now, I'd call Rutgers pretty much entirely an unknown.  And I think the hype is running away a bit with the Huskies.  I think the spread is too high.  Not that Washington can't meet it, but I don't think they're going to try to really pour things on.  It'd take a defensive or special teams score, or a number of short fields, to do so.

I don't want to call this a glorified scrimmage by any stretch, but I think that if the Huskies get to a point that the lead (however small) is secure, the focus of the game moves a little from "winning" to "development."  Putting the team in stress, and forcing them to execute.  On both sides of the ball.

OsidePup:

The TV announcers will use a spotter to help them identify the players by jersey number. Who will be the "spotter" for UW and how did he get the job. Is he the one responsible if the announcers mispronounce a player's name? Does he get minimum wage for performing this duty? What union does he have to belong to?

UWDP: "Spotting" for college football is a competitive venture.  Most good spotters have at least four year degrees these days, and an increasing number have gone through graduate programs like the one offered at the University of Washington (a large part of which is name pronunciation).  While there's a union, membership isn't required, but games involving state-funded schools like the UW are required to pay prevailing wage.

DawgInCentralWa:

I have enjoyed learning that the Zone will possibly be shut down for good. Is there a chance that Jen Cohen goes full Dawg fan and makes some other changes, including perhaps getting rid of the distracting video stripe that goes around the field, or, even better, moving the students and the band back to their spot at the 50 yard line?

UWDP: Shut down for good?  That'd be news to me.  The only thing I've heard is that it's closing earlier at half time in an attempt to get fans back to their seats.  It makes money.  It isn't going anywhere.

No on the ribbon boards.  They make money.  But they're incredibly annoying, especially at night, in my seats.

The students aren't moving back, nor is the band.  Those seats now come with a $750 premium on top of the ticket price.  There's just no chance the athletic department will ever even consider giving that money up.

2001Husky:

Husky Stadium in the 90's/2000, Quest Field in the 2010's, or Mariners 95 playoffs in the dome...who was the loudest (taking into consideration stadium acoustics, crowd capacity, and pure subjective opinion)?  Will husky stadium take back its reputation as the loudest Seattle sporting event if the huskies start winning championships?

UWDP: Baseball fields are so large, and the number of fans in attendance so small compared to football that the acoustics simply can't match.  But in full disclosure, I don't attend many baseball games.

Husky Stadium had the record for the biggest decibel reading at a sporting event for a while.  It was the Nebraska game in 1992.  You could almost see the noise that evening.  You could certainly feel it.

Qwest surpassed the decibel level at one point; I vaguely remember some sort of mini-noise war between some NFL teams a couple of years ago.  It's a well-designed stadium acoustically.  At this point, it's the loudest.

Yes, if the Huskies win championships, it could be the loudest again.  I'd like to see it happen.

Rhaego:

Which team is better? The 2016 Huskies or the 2017 Huskies?

UWDP: I thought that this was a team that was built for 2017 back a few years ago.  But I didn't expect the defense to have as much success as it has, and now I think that there's a strong possibility this year's defense represents a peak (not that the fall off will be very significant).

I think the offense will be significantly better in 2017 than 2016.  I think there's a likelihood the defense takes a step backward (assuming some key components leave early).  On the whole, I think the team overall is better next year, but that the step is less in grandeur than I would've predicted back then.  In part, because the team has a chance to be better in 2016 than I would've predicted, an the incremental steps get much tougher to take....

GinkoUW:

If I see another comment on Facebook or here calling our OOC schedule "shameful",  I am going to flip. Okay, its thr internet so I'll be doing nothing, but my point stands. Why can't more fans and journalists understand or have the sensibility to acknowledge that these opponents are scheduled normally 3-5 years in advance!?

Calling this scheduling shameful now is an indictment on the current administration and coaches because they are the ones living with it,  but for whom were not heading this scheduling or even with the team when it was finalized.

Look, in 2012-13 when Rutgers was put on the platter, they were coming off back-to-back 9-4 seasons tied for 1st in the Big East. Cupcake scheduling? Not at the time! Tell me I'm not crazy and the grief UW is getting for the schedule is not entirely founded? They are playing what they got, purely unfortunate is the condition of their opponents programs.

UWDP: I'm not the person to take up your rallying cry, because I think this is a really poor schedule.  It requires buying Rutgers as a high-quality opponent, since nobody can pretend the other two games are anything but throwaways.

The game was added in March of 2014.  The previous five seasons to that Rutgers had been 9-4, 4-8, 9-4, 9-4, and 6-7.  In what was the weakest BCS conference in the nation.  And without any sort of history that would suggest that the team entering Husky Stadium would be "A" level quality, which was especially necessary given the other two absolutely horrible matchups already on the schedule.

The non-conference schedule this season is absolutely horrible.  I will make no attempt to defend it.

karth295:

(Maybe better as a poll): Should we retire "Bow Down to Washington"?

UWDP: Retire a fight song that's been used for more than a hundred years.....Hmmmmmm.......

I'm going to go ahead and vote "No" on that.

I'll admit it's not the catchiest fight song out there, but I have to believe it's the most arrogant.  That's a huge plus.

"Best in the west, we know you'll do your best!" just doesn't get it done for me.  Participation certificates and Capri Suns....But Go Cuogs!!

Ragu:

Take a crack at the power rankings 5 years from now: 2021 Pre-season

UWDP: Take this to the bank:

1.  USC
2.  Washington
3.  UCLA
4.  Oregon
5.  Stanford
6.  Utah
7.  ASU
8.  WSU
9.  Arizona
10.  Cal
11.  Colorado
12.  Oregon State
Tyler Ragu:

What would it take to get Jonathan Smith fired at the end of the season? Is it a yardage per game? Is it a number of wins (losses)?

UWDP: Man, some people are dead set on getting this guy fired.

No, yardage per game is positively irrelevant.  Wins and losses are important, but mostly as they relate to the processes to attain them.

In this order:

1.  Development of the quarterbacks (or lack of same)
2.  Offensive efficiency (or lack of same)

There isn't a metric of some sort he has to meet to keep his job.  Or, if there is, it's Chris Petersen's proprietary property, and none of us are privy to it in any way imaginable.

UWFAN99:

What are your expectations for Sean McGrew in 2016? Who will get more carries, Coleman or McGrew?

UWDP: If he plays, which isn't 100% a given right now, I expect him to have a role much like Chico McClatcher did for the Huskies this year.  Meaning, he's a part of the rotation, but not necessarily a focus, and the staff looks for creative ways to get him three or four touches per game.

I think Lavon Coleman ends up with more carries this season.

OsidePup:

Is there a weight limit on the contents of the clear plastic bag?

UWDP: Whatever you can fit in it and still carry.  For me, that's 1,600 pounds.

Rhaego:

Which inspirational speech/tv moment/movie moment does UW football need to watch the night before we play Stanford?

UWDP: For the defense, it's Coach Yost's "Not another yard" speech from 'Remember the Titans.'

For the offense, it's Coach Gaines' "Perfect" speech from 'Friday Night Lights.'

KevinUW:

I didn't see Benning Potoa'e on the 2 deeps. Kinda expected him to work his way into that. Is this just a reflection of how deep we are on D-Line?

UWDP: I think it definitely says something about the depth on the line.

I expected to see him there, too.  But I certainly hope nobody starts throwing around the "bust" word for him.  When you have a guy with supreme athletic gifts, sometimes is takes a little longer to learn how much more there is to getting on the field than just being the biggest, fastest, and strongest.

I think Benning Potoa'e is going to be fine.  I think there's something that's going to happen that's going to flip the switch for him, and when it does, he's going to be a big part of the defense.

SalemDawg:

If you could be a fly on the wall of an opposing team the week leading up to game day which team would you choose and why?

UWDP: I think it'd be really interesting to hear how Chris Petersen handles the Huskies in the week leading up to the Oregon game.  Not only is it a rivalry, but I think it's almost impossible that the mental part of losing to the same team twelve years in a row doesn't enter inot the locker room at least a little.  I'd love to hear how he handles that - if he tries to pretend it doesn't exist, or if he can figure out a way to utilize it for the Huskies' benefit.

This week, I'd love to be in Houston's locker room.  The Cougars have an outside chance to completely blow up the college football playoffs, but winning on Saturday is an absolute must in that regard.  It'd be tempting to start preparing for Oklahoma back last March, but that sort of focus is prone to causing a let down if that first goal is reached and there's nothing after it.

In the Pac 12, I'd want to be in USC's locker room.  Double digit underdog to the #1 team in the nation, in what'll probably feel like a road game...

Darin Johnson:

Predict please the following:

1. UW total yards.
2. Rutgers total yards.
3. UW sacks.
4. Rutgers sacks.
5. UW percent rushes with positive EPA.
6. Rutgers percent etc.
7. Attendance.
8. Final score, minus all conversions.
9. Number of UW running backs with at least three carries or catches.
10. Number of passes thrown by a UW QB other than Jake Browning.

UWDP: In week #7, or the game against each other?  For the whole season?  Next year?

I'm not sure what you're asking.  But since you are so vague, I'm going to give my prediction for this Saturday's matchup between the two teams.

1.  457
2.  331
3.  4
4.  1
5.  89.4%
6.  71.1%
7.  55,186
8.  33-15
9.  Four
10.  Zero

PandG:

Have the times for all home games established. Meaning no more 6pm games?

UWDP: No, only the first four games thus far:  11:00 AM on Saturday, 2:00 PM on Saturday the 10th against Idaho,  5:00 PM on Saturday the 17th against Portland State, and 6:00 PM on Friday the 30th against Stanford.

The first three are on the Pac 12 Network, and the last is nationally televised on ESPN.

Of the remaining three home games, any of them could be at night.  I'd count on at least one of them being a late kickoff.  I wouldn't be surprised if they all are.

Ben Nice:

Is it a certainty that the true freshman that are going to play this season will see action in the the first 3 games (non-conference games) thus being ready for the conference slate? Also, can we conclude that any true freshman that does not play in the non-conference games, barring injuries at their position the coaches want to redshirt those players.

UWDP: Anyone that is positively going to play will play as soon as possible, I'd wager.  If not this week, then certainly next.

With each passing week that a true freshman doesn't play, it gets more likely that he'll redshirt.  So there's some validity to your conclusion, but I wouldn't say it's 100%.

McKInleyville:

Who do you think is the backup QB?

UWDP: I think it's going to be K.J. Carta-Samuels, but I really don't have anything to base that on outside of a guess.  I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Tony Rodriguez takes the spot.

I'd expect both will get some snaps over the next three weeks, and even though it will likely be in garbage time, how each handles the game will go a long ways in solidifying the depth chart.

Jon May:

Any chance UW comes out aggressive on offense and dictates scheme vs cat and mouse approach to see what the Rutgers defense is playing?

UWDP: I think the Huskies are going to dictate scheme because they aren't going to do a ton of real game planning for Rutgers; the offense will mostly look like the one the Huskies have run the last three weeks in fall camp, and the game Saturday is going to largely be setting the baseline for the rest of the season.

There's just not much to go on with the Scarlet Knights, given that they have an entirely new coaching staff.

Jon May:

Am I jinxing the Huskies by going to Illinois instead of staying for the game?  In my defense, the wife is making me go.

UWDP: You'll have to provide data to answer this question:  number of Huskies games you've watched in person, on TV, in Washington, in Illinois, etc. and the records for each locale.

Don't blame your wife, Jon.

DawgInCentralWa:

What are we going to see different than last year as far as the offense's first fifteen plays?


UWDP: More success, hopefully.  Other than that, I really don't think you're going to see things look all that much different than they did last year.  The offense the Huskies ran last season seems to be the version of the Chris Petersen Offense that he and the rest of the staff are most comfortable running.

Darin Johnson:

There are seven in our group.  There are seven letters in "HUSKIES."  I have paint.  a) Are you in?  b) Is your wife?

UWDP: a)  Yes.  b)  Duh.  But she already got the "I" tattooed (I told her it limited seating, but she didn't care), so she won't need paint.

Ragu:

In 5 words or less, describe the Pound's mood this off-season.

UWDP: Old, new, borrowed, blue

Rhaego:

Does anyone declare for the draft a year early after this season?

UWDP: All-American Sidney Jones is a virtual lock to go pro.  If Budda Baker weighs the same after the season as he does now, it's better than even money he goes pro as well.

With outrageously successful seasons, Elijah Qualls and/or Azeem Victor could as well.  Victor seems the more likely of the two.

I'm setting the over/under at 2.5.

Rhaego:

Do we have a future Heisman contender on our current roster?

UWDP: It's a shame that they won't change the rules and make defensive players eligible.  If they did, the answer is a definite "yes."

If Jake Browning has a stellar year, he could get some buzz in 2017, but I don't think he'll have the opportunity to put up the numbers to ever win.  The same goes for Myles Gaskin.  Really, I don't think anybody playing at the UW will ever be a big enough "star" under Chris Petersen to win an award like that - there's always going to be some dual-threat QB that throws for 4,000 yards and rushes for another 800 in his way.

(Anonymous):

What are four notable names to look for on Rutgers football squad?

UWDP: Darius Hamilton on the defensive line is very talented, but he's coming off an injury that forced him to miss the 2015 season.

Isaiah Wharton is young, but looks like an up-and-comer at cornerback.

Wide receiver Janarion Grant was named to the preseason watch list for the Hornung Award, and was a preseason first team All-B14G selection - mostly for his work as a return man, where he's very dangerous.

Robert Martin and Josh Hicks will both see the ball quite a bit out of the backfield.

That's all for this week, Dawg fans.  Be there Saturday!!