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Mailbag: “Finally, a Night Game!” Edition

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Washington v Stanford Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Straight to it.

Husk:

What can we hope for next year ? We'll still have Browning...

UWDP: We can have the exact same realistic hope we had during the Don James years - to be in contention for the Pac 12 title through November.

If you choose to expect more than that year-in and year-out, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment the majority of the time, to not enjoy college football, and to loathe your team, your coaches, and the players.

Even with his limitations, I’m glad that Browning is going to be back next season.

Texas.dawg:

Did Michael Vick ever run on 4th an 21?

UWDP: Probably at some point in high school. And he probably got it.

That was an exceptionally bad decision by Browning.

MadballNova:

How absurd is it to think KJ Carta-Samuels should get a shot?

UWDP: Like a 9 on a scale of 1-10.

ATotalWimp:

How would you rate this season up to this point? Disappointing? Expected? Surprised? And will the last 3 games change your opinion?

UWDP: In the offseason, this is a reasonable expectation, no matter if anyone actually hoped for more (and even expected it). During the course of the season, it’s hard not to be disappointed.

Time and the benefit of hindsight will change how this season is viewed. The 1990 and 1992 seasons were disappointing in the moment. Now, they’re part of a great run of Husky football.

Jon May:

Percent chance the Cougs defense can hold Washington under 40 points?

UWDP: 85.631%. WSU’s defense is very good. While strange things frequently happen in rivalry games, the 2017 Apple Cup is setting up to be a relatively low-scoring game.

Kluberto:

WTF doesn’t Browning throw the ball away!?!

UWDP: I just left him a message asking him. I’ll get back to you when he lets me know.

Holding the ball - either because he’s not throwing to a Husky receiver, or because he’s scrambling around to avoid pressure - is at the top of the list of issues Browning has had this season. And last. And the one before. It’s likely to exist in 2018 as well, no matter how fans feel about his future performance.

All QB’s are flawed. That’s one of his.

If he can cure either that, or his over-response to pressure (also near the top of the list), he’s going to have what fans will call a “bounce-back” year next season. But he’s never going to be perfect, so don’t expect it.

Jon May:

Sign of the apocalypse: Petersen loses 3 PAC 12 games in two years and the fandom is jumping off the cliff. Is there any therapy to prevent bridge jumping?

UWDP: (grabs canned goods, heads to underground fallout bunker....)

Fan:

What is the ceiling for the Program's performance?

UWDP: In any given year, it’s the national championship. Heading in to each season, it’s to be a conference title contender all year long (which will mean being “in the playoff conversation” a lot of years.

Last season, the Huskies had good luck with injuries (even with Azeem Victor and Jojo Mathis getting hurt). This year, not so much. For a team like Washington, that isn’t (currently, at least) a perennial top 10 recruiting team, the team needs net “good luck” to make the playoffs. Some teams can get there with “neutral luck” or even overcome “bad luck.”

Everett:

How do they get to the next level?

UWDP: The Huskies are showing to be one of the few teams that is at least “pretty good,” and where the total exceeds the sum of its parts. Compare rosters of the four teams in the playoffs last year....

Recruiting is on a slow, steady, uptick, and that’s the answer. The Huskies’ coaches develop players well, but the overall talent on the roster still has room to get better. It’s not an overnight fix.

Scott223:

My concern when Coach Pete was hired was that he'd recruit the same kind of athlete that he did while at Boise State. Those teams could win an occasional game against a power 5 team, but I thought that these teams would struggle with nine games per season. After some tough losses against big schools that recruit bigger / fast players (USC, Stanford, Alabama), it sure seems that our players, while fast but small, sure get pushed around by these bigger athletes. Am I off base?

UWDP: Generally, I agree that the answer is recruiting, but I don’t think this team is really “too small” as a general statement. Specifically, size (or lack thereof) at cornerback hurt against Stanford, but neither of those guys are starters. Myles Bryant likely slides back over to his nickel spot next year, because the guys the Huskies are really counting on at corner are simply young. But the team as a whole checks the requisite boxes for height, weight, etc.

You’d like to see more sheer power across the offensive line. At least one or two bigger bodies at receiver, that are able and willing to use their bodies to catch routes like slants.

The coaching staff has done a great job of developing players. I think they can do even better when they get the chance to work with guys that have higher natural ceilings (and I’m not suggesting it’s just about star rankings).

Maverick2270:

I think Jake Browning is the biggest issue with our offense! Our current receivers practice against NFL caliber DBs everyday in practice. There is no way they aren't open as much as it seems! What do you think JB needs to do or change if anything? Do you think he's to scared to through into tight windows? We recruited all these big body receivers and rarely if ever through up 50/50 balls using them? Confused by his play? Maybe it's the OC IDK!

Otis:

I'm not on the Jake Browning hate wagon but he doesn't look like the same quarterback we have grown accustomed to seeing. Do you see this as fixable? Would Mike Leach have temporarily benched him by now like he did Falk?

Drhusky:

Why does it appear that Jake Browning, has taken a step backwards? I looks like Browning, could be ill.

ProsserDawg:

Question about our QB situation... I don't even like asking this question but is this Jake Browning and nothing more? Not to say that is bad but I had a convo with some fellow Dawgs fans and there are concerns. Of course the WR core comes into question but as we know good QBs can make lesser WRs look better than they truly are . What's your take on this? Do we need better WRs to get more from Jake or has he topped out to a certain degree talent-wise? And how much of this is related to OC Smith and his play calling? I'm still very concerned with his overall approach to the passing game this year, I'm not seeing adjustments made as I hoped, especially in game changes and adaptations... I believe Jake can and will do better but I know there are others that feel we've seen his best already. What's your take?... we miss you Chico

UWDP: Maverick, certainly agree the receivers get to practice against top-flight defensive backs. How do they do in those matchups? I don’t know either way.

Browning has been hesitant to make contested throws throughout the season. There were a couple of obvious examples highlighted against Stanford of him missing wide-open guys. But if you watch the games in person (vs on TV) you can see that it’s far from the only issue. The receiving corps simply isn’t the strength of this team. It’s not the only “fault” but it deserves blame if you feel the need to assign blame to begin with.

Anyone that expected Jake Browning to take another huge step forward in 2017 using statistics as the measuring tool was bound to be disappointed. There’s a reason that 43 TD passes is a huge accomplishment - it’s incredibly hard to meet. Far harder still to exceed.

Jake Browning had a lower ceiling than guys like Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, probably Baker Mayfield, because he isn’t the same kind of athlete. Fortunately (or unfortunately, for Husky fans), he’s come close to reaching his very early in his career. That means he’s going to potentially give Husky fans a good, long run of high-level play. But as has been written here before, it also means that he isn’t likely to show huge year-over-year improvements, and that’s going to be seen as regression. There’s no doubt his numbers are down this year; that’s a “well, duh” statement. There’s no doubt he’s made mistakes and missed receivers.

Browning provides a huge benefit to the offense with what he does before the snap. After that, he’s not nearly as likely to “wow” fans as other quarterbacks. He’s not as likely to make them look for sharp objects, either. He’s not built to carry a team on his back. He needs talent around him. But with talent, he has the potential to be deadly efficient.

Fans pining for Josh Rosen’s arm aren’t ever going to like Browning. You can call him a relatively boring quarterback. At his best, he’s going to make many highlight-unworthy throws each game. He’s going to throw to open receivers, not covered ones. He’s going to complete passes and move the chains.

I, for one, underestimated the value of John Ross. I thought Dante Pettis would be able to step in as the #1 receiver more seamlessly. Pettis is great, but he isn’t necessarily that guy. He’s a far better complimentary player. That’s not a knock, because there are tons of guys that can’t fill that role, and Pettis is among the very best in the conference at it. It’s not just that, though; it’s the magnifying effect of having multiple good receivers on the field at once. When you have Ross, Pettis, and McClatcher on the field at the same time, defenses can’t give too much attention to any one of them, so they’re all better by the presence of the others. Pettis hasn’t enjoyed the same benefits this year.

Browning will be back in 2018. The receiving corps loses Pettis, but should get McClatcher back. There’s an awful lot of talent coming in that’s redshirting right now, and will be true freshmen next year. I hate to count on youth, but if I’m going to have to, I can’t think of a better position on the field than wide receiver.

Fans hate multi-year starters at QB almost as much as they hate their coordinators. Neither is unique to Husky fans.

Gary H:

Why didn't we blitz on their QB all night? The 3 man rush wasn't getting it done!! How long does it take to see what the Husky defense was doing wasn't working. Couldn't coach K see that the rush was not working. Change it up please!! It's too bad that Browning can barely avoid a sack and most of the time not... way too slow for this league Also he needs to pull the trigger a lot faster than he has.

Get the ball quickly... the receivers need to come back to the ball to help him out

UWDP: Not blitzing - or at least blitzing judiciously - has been a huge component of what has made the Husky defense so incredibly successful over the last two seasons. I don’t agree that the logic, while in the midst of the first relatively “bad” (key being “relatively”) performance in the last 24 games, is to throw the baby out with the bath water during the middle of the game.

Sometimes, guys don’t play their best games. Sometimes, it happens at key moments. Sometimes, the other guys exploit your injury situation. Sometimes, you just lose games.

“Most” of the time, Browning gets sacked?

Fwdawg:

What do you blame for the loss to Stanford? Trees taking advantage of size matchups at receiver? A determined, talented RB's will to win? Lackluster effort by the Huskies again, ala ASU? Lack of effective receivers besides Pettis? Other?

UWDP: Mostly, I blame momentum. Stanford’s offense came out of the gates with it (even though they didn’t score on their first drive, they moved the ball), and the whole team picked up a ton after stopping Washington on 4th down in the 2nd quarter. Washington couldn’t make a play on offense, defense, or in special teams to change it. The Cardinal simply got more and more confident as the game wore on.

That it took David Shaw’s ultra-conservative offense to finally take advantage to the injuries Washington has suffered at cornerback might’ve been the most frustrating thing for me. Credit them for getting the ball early and often to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.

All of the things you list played a part. The defense looked a step slow out of the gate. Special teams (particularly blocking on kick returns) was bad. The offense made critical mistakes throwing and running. Stanford played well.

TheDawgBrother:

Is it completely unreasonable to be really unhappy with anything under a New Years 6 game? We're literally only a year removed from those bowls (and not that much further from not even going to a bowl), but it feels so much worse coming from playoffs. Talk me off the edge Brad.

Brettj1203:

Not super certain how the process for bowl selection rules work. I think the 1,2,3 order means bowls pick in that order but aren’t forced to take teams in the order. I’m assuming PAC champ gets a NY6 bowl. If UW finishes 3rd in PAC12 behind Stanford and Conf champ USC, is it within the “rules” that Alamo could choose UW over Stanford. If possible, what are the odds that they would?

UWDP: It’s not unreasonable, but it’s not likely to happen, Brother.

When you get to a point that it’s “playoffs or bust,” the regular season sets up as one long negative opportunity. That’s not very much fun.

Yeah, it feels worse. Don’t jump.

You’re correct, Brett, the Alamo has the 2nd choice after the biggies. The only criteria is that it has to select a team within one loss of the highest-eligible team. That isn’t going to be an issue this year.

Right now, the Huskies need to beat Utah and WSU. The bowls are going to sort themselves out.

ProvoHead,SeattleHeart:

How much of last year's offense was John Ross III creating plays and demanding respect and how much of it was the offense as a whole? How much of the offense's lack of "electric" plays can be explained by Ross' absence?

UWDP: John Ross was the single-biggest playmaker in terms of huge plays. But Chico McClatcher also provided big benefits in the medium-big plays, so it’s not just as simple as removing Ross from the equation. And as I said up above, it’s the multiplying effect of more than one threat at receiver. Teams can eliminate one talent relatively easily with extra help. That becomes far more difficult when there’s two or three guys that can hurt a defense.

It’s the offense as a whole. Graduation, injuries, depth, recruiting. All of it. Losing Adams to injury hurts. It appears the offensive line has struggled to replace Jake Eldrenkamp far more than I would’ve anticipated.

Dawgtown:

As Petrol Papaknockonus (it’s something like that) noted during the Fumble at the Farm, the Huskies seemed at their best in their uptempo offense. So why don’t the coaches employ that successful approach throughout the game? Are they afraid of scoring too much.

UWDP: Part of what makes it effective is the element of change. They lose some of the surprise of it all when the team uses it as the base.

Typically, the Huskies get into it after the first 1st down on a drive. After the early part of the game, those were hard to come by.

They certainly could’ve done it more, and maybe they should have. I don’t necessarily believe it’s a magical elixir in and of itself, as a full-time thing.

Aus*Dawg:

Which positions will be weakest in 2018? Strongest?

UWDP: On defense, the secondary is going to be very good next year. On offense, the strength is probably running back. Defensive line is scary next season if Greg Gaines leaves as well as Vita Vea. Receiver and offensive line aren’t necessarily “weak” next year, but there’s an awful lot of “unknown” in there.

Benno:

What is missing from the passing game this year. Is it as simple as missing someone to take the top off the defense? Is it the decision making by the QB, or something else? And what are the prospects for next year?

UWDP: A deep threat is certainly nice, but I think balance and depth are more critical. Too many injuries in those spots.

The QB can certainly play better. I’m fairly confident that as the receiving corps improves, he will. Because he’s shown it.

I’m cautiously optimistic about the receivers next season. Losing Pettis hurts - bad - but Hunter Bryant, Chico McClatcher, an overall infusion of (very young) talent....

LoveStinks:

What are your thoughts on % chance that:

-UW wins the north

-UW beats WSU

-UW wins the Pac 12 championship vs. SC if they go

-UW wins their bowl game

-UW finishes in the top 10 this season

UWDP: In order:

  1. 8%
  2. 84.3333333%
  3. 53.21%
  4. 79.4%
  5. 66.666666667%

Purple in Pullman:

Are the Huskies better than the cougars?

UWDP: The Husky defense is better than the WSU offense. The WSU defense is better than the UW offense. And that’s far more a statement about how good WSU’s defense is this year than anything about UW’s offense.

UW’s defense is “more better” than WSU’s offense than WSU’s defense is than UW’s offense.

Signs suggest a low-scoring Apple Cup, which means that it’s probably going to be 58-53.

Won't somebody think about the children?:

It feels so good to expect to win every game. That is why we have in a very short time span turned into an elitist fan base. For anyone down on Jake Browning, just remember that he helped lead this team to a final 4 last year and he also is going to shatter every UW passing record by a wide margin. In light of this, do you expect our QB play to regress or get better with the incoming and current QBs on the roster? Who takes over the helm when Browning leaves? With the WRs coming in next year and the new QBs, do you think we'll try to become an air raid offense or stay balanced?

UWDP: I certainly agree with the first part of this.

Projecting high school quarterbacks on to college is a losing game. Odds are overwhelming that none of the incoming players are guys on the roster are going to be as good as Browning, if you want to bet money. I looked up a few years’ worth of QB recruiting info one time, and over a three year span, less than a quarter of four and five star QBs finished their eligibility without transferring, switching positions, or both.

The Huskies have some good raw talent coming in at QB, but it’s by no means a given that they’re going to even be Huskies in a few years, much less better than Browning. I’m certainly not saying it won’t happen (and I obviously hope it does), but don’t bet money.

Raul:

Chances on Jonathon Smith leaving for a better replacement for us and Yankoff/Sirmon/KJ replacing Browning next year? Hard to get excited about the team going to Atlanta to open vs. Auburn next year with Smith/JB leading the offense, as this season is pretty much over...

UWDP: The season is over?!?

Geez, man, have some perspective. Even with adding an extra game to the schedule, this team has the chance to be one of fewer than 15 games in Husky history to have double-digit wins.

Jonathan Smith isn’t likely going anywhere unless he’s hired away. Chris Petersen made it extremely difficult to fire him after this season, by giving him a guarantee of $700,000 for the 2018 season.

A true freshman isn’t going to unseat a 3-year starter. K.J Carta-Samuels is probably going to go play somewhere else as a graduate transfer.

Jake Browning is going to be the starter next season, and Jonathan Smith is most likely going to be the offensive coordinator and QB coach. If a huge game against a good team to open the season can’t excite you, then the issue isn’t the coaching staff or the players.

bigdave:

So what are our playoff chances?

UWDP: 0.35%

Andrew:

The offense this year has been rather disappointing, specifically in games or situations where the pressure was on and they needed to keep their chances alive. If we look ahead to next season, do you see any specific areas/position groups that we can reasonably expect to improve compared to this year? I am having a hard time seeing how the offense takes a step forward next year and expect a lot more of the same.

UWDP: When a team is fighting for a conference title and potentially a playoff birth, there’s no such thing as a game that isn’t pressure-packed.

I get that fans aren’t in love with this offense, but it’s not nearly as bad as people want to suggest.

gliderdawg:

This question is a 2-part: I realize Stanford played the better game, but don't you think as I do ( a good idea) in light of Stanford's genetically engineered roster heights that the curiously-soggy "natural" grass field was a huge advantage as an equalizer of UW's team speed and ability of defenders to jump and defend the pass? (6'7"ish WR's vs 5'8"ish CB's) Part 2: Given the inherent disparity of scheduling (ie. SEC), and other "private school" benefits, wouldn't it be better to standardize game surfaces to either natural grass or field turf? PS, Don't bother threatening me with Sir Brad showing me the "Pit Of Misery"... I watched the whole Stanford game.

UWDP: While the field surface matters some, I’d argue the difference is mostly psychological.

I love grass fields, and watching games with grass stains on jerseys and pants, and huge chunks of sod stuck in facemasks after diving tackles. I love the occasional mud bowl. I also love watching games on field turf, though.

The diversity of styles of play in college football is part of what makes it the greatest game in the world. To a far lesser extent, I’d probably apply it to the stadiums and surfaces as well.

If we’re going to change things about football, fields are way down the list.

ProsserDawg:

Do you feel Ahmed was utilized properly vs Stanford? If not what would you like to see them add to their play calling to possibly change it?

UWDP: No, obviously not. I’d like to see him touch the ball more.

Right now, though, he’s a barometer of offensive health, not necessarily a factor in it. When the offense is playing well, he gets more touches, but I don’t think that the offense playing well is necessarily a result of his touches. You can argue that that’s not true, and I wouldn’t disagree with a lot of conviction.

I don’t know if he knows the offense well enough to be an every-down running back. I don’t know if he’s an adept pass blocker. I don’t necessarily want to see an offense that’s designed around the “novelty” plays he’s executed well so far.

I think that if the game went differently on Friday, there’s more chances to get him involved. You can make a strong case that “forcing” his involvement would’ve been beneficial.

ProsserDawg:

Being from Prosser I am very familiar with Kellen Moore and what he did for Boise... do any of our current QB commits have a little Moore in him? A steady QB that never seemed rushed. Does Haener have any of that in him? And I'm really high on Sirmon but I see him as a different style of QB than Moore... I would love to find a cross between Moore and Locker, does that even exist?

UWDP: Yeah, Kellen Moore was a technician as a quarterback. Definitely a lot of fun to watch him lead an offense.

I really don’t know anything about Jake Haener, but I believe that that’s the upside with him. But with a stronger arm.

Jacob Sirmon is the physical prototype at QB. It’s a huge step between Bothell High School and the University of Washington, though. One that most guys can’t make. I wouldn’t disregard Colson Yankoff, either. He doesn’t have the same physical upside as Sirmon necessarily, but right now, he’s a better, more consistent passer. It’s going to be a fun battle to watch.

Yes, that combination existed. He went to Stanford, and his name was Andrew Luck.

ProsserDawg:

Gaskin is still criminally underrated nationally imo. Was there ever a chance that he could have gotten the respect he deserves? Did that come down to our late games and prosper not seeing him love enough or was it just being a Dawg that kept his name out of the top tier? What's your grade on his overall game vs Stanford ? Running and blocking

UWDP: Myles Gaskin doesn’t have the things that are going to make him a media darling as a running back. He’s not big, and he’s not overly fast. All he is, if you’re an outsider, is really good at running with the football. You have to watch him closely to see why - that shiftiness and vision, with enough speed. But it’s not nearly as obvious on any given run as a guy that just runs past every defender on the field, or trucks two linebackers on his way into the end zone. It’s more subtle...

Yes, he’s underrated. No doubt. He ran the ball very well most of the game against Stanford, but unfortunately the good things he did are marred by his fumble (and I’d argue a not-so-great run on 4th down). I’d give him a B, and note that “We expect better in the future.” He’ll deliver, too. Because he’s really, really good.

dgdawg:

Does Jake think his legs are a time machine that can take him back to last season so he can throw a pass to John Ross? Just trying to figure out why he's taken to scrambling around in the backfield like a madman, often getting sacked for game killing losses. Thoughts?

UWDP: Jake Browning has always scrambled around like a madman in the face of pressure. This isn’t a new thing. But it’s one of those negatives that gets glossed over on the way to the playoffs (in 2016) or written off as “he’s just a true freshman, he’ll learn” in 2015.

I hope he gets it out of his system, but your safest bet is to plan on being frustrated by it next year.

Fin.