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Husky Mailbag Special: Happy Holidays Edition

So much to cover, so little egg nog.

Fresno State v Washington
Dubs the Husky
Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

I’ve no fun facts or weird factoids to share with you. Sorry. That’s Brad’s schtick.

I’m just a guy with a family, two dogs, two hamsters and an ample supply of egg nog, vodka and Kahlua on hand.

Egg Nog Mudslides!

If that doesn’t bring the holiday cheer, I don’t know what to tell ya’. On to the mailbag.


Cal is ranked too high! But in all seriousness how many more scholarships do we have left to give? Also you guys run a great blog.

Chris: Thank you for the compliment. Much appreciated.

Scholarships are kind of tricky this time of year because of two factors. One, we don’t know specifics on who is in and who is out in terms of transfers and early NFL draft declarees. Two, we don’t know which walk-ons have earned a scholarship (if any).

There is enough information out there to make an educated guess on what the roster looks like. We know that Bryce Sterk has left the program and we can assume that Vita Vea will declare for the NFL draft this spring. We also know now that Kyler Gordon has signed as the 19th member of the 2018 class. If we further assume that DE / OLB Ryan Bowman is now on scholarship, that greyshirt Ali Gaye will not enroll and that Temple transfer Josiah Bronson is a walk-on, then UW projects at 86 scholarships going into the 2018 season, one over the limit.

Chris Petersen indicated in his press conference on Wednesday that UW may be prepared to take a few more players or possibly to stand pat. This would indicate that he is expecting further attrition to the roster either through early entry draft candidates (Myles Gaskin? Greg Gaines?) or through true roster attrition (focus on upperclassmen who have struggled with injury or who haven’t found the field at all). I would expect that UW could take 1 to 2 more recruits and have confidence that there would be scholarship spots for them this fall. That number could possibly get as high as four.


With the vast majority of the ‘18 recruiting class already signed, and coming off playoff berth last season, how important do you feel the Fiesta Bowl outcome is for the development of the program? Would a win over Penn State vs a loss have that much of an impact on the Dawgs’ trajectory?

Chris: Tough question.

In general, I do not believe that the results of bowl games themselves often do much to alter the trajectory of a program. Trajectories are driven by talent and by coaching.

Penn State v Maryland
What would a win over Penn State mean to UW?
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

You are correct in observing that UW is doing just fine in recruiting and, indeed, it seems to be getting better each year. Better and deeper incoming talent should fuel a strong trajectory.

That said, there is something to be said for “program credibility” when you get to the stage of evolution that UW has reached. The Huskies are in the NY6 / Final Four for the second straight season. This puts them in that rarified airspace of college football otherwise occupied by programs such as Oklahoma, Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and USC ... programs who are expected to be top 10 contenders every year.

Ironically, Penn State is the other team that is starting to encroach that same airspace. A win over the Nittany Lions in this year’s Fiesta Bowl, I think, would solidify the program credibility and position UW for a higher ranking to open next season. If they do open as a top 10 team next year and then can find a way to beat Auburn in the opener, you would have to expect that UW would have a very clear path to a playoff spot even if the rest of their schedule lays out in the same fashion as 2017 did. There just wouldn’t be much for east coast-biased media to debate.

If that doesn’t happen - if UW loses this one and then falls to Auburn - we’ll be in another year-long cycle of having those around the college football aristocracy wondering if Chris Petersen’s program is actually legit.

Thus, my long-winded answer boils down to “yeah, kinda”.

OsidePup "A win in the Fiesta Bowl finds UW ending up where in the final AP seasonal ranking?

In the Coaches final ranking?

And a loss finds UW where in both those rankings?"

Chris: Hmmm. Answering this question the hard way involves projecting results from every bowl game and then trying to predict how irrational voters will ultimately vote. Answering this question the easy way involves not doing any of that and just making an educated guess.

Since I have a lot of questions yet to answer, let’s go with option B.

Washington is currently ranked #11 in the CFP and 12th in the AP and Coaches polls. The teams behind them that could jump UW in the case of a loss in the Fiesta Bowl are relatively few: #13 TCU, #15 Stanford, #17 Oklahoma State and #16 LSU are probably the biggest threats. Of those, TCU and Stanford are playing one another. So, thumb in the air, the most UW could slip in either the AP or the Coaches Poll with a loss is probably three slots.

Should UW win, they would certainly end in the top 10 and could catapult as high up as USC’s #8 position. For that to happen, you’d only need to see UCF lose to Auburn, USC lose to Ohio State and Miami lose to Wisconsin.

I don’t really see any scenario where UW could end up higher than 8th, even if they destroy Penn State.


Who's more important to have back for the bowl game-Lavon Coleman or Hunter Bryant? (Pettis is obviously the most important of the three.)

Chris: It has to be Hunter Bryant.

Fresno State v Washington
Hunter Bryant could be a real x-factor in the Fiesta Bowl
Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

I love Lavon and I think he is a difference maker in a big game like this. But Bryant is a true x-factor against a team like Penn State. The Nittany Lions have a tough rush defense that is keyed by safeties who like to involve themselves in defending the running attack. S Marcus Allen and S Troy Apke have seven run stuffs between the two of them and contribute to PSU defense that was 13th in the nation with 3.38 yards per rush attempt defended (UW was first at 2.68).

The Huskies are going to need the threat of a passing game to loosen things up for Myles Gaskin and co. The presence of Hunter Bryant not only puts a true playmaker on the field, but it forces Allen - perhaps their best player in the secondary - into the role of pass defender, a role that he is less comfortable with.


Haven't seen anything on chico. Is he coming back next year?


Any status on Chico or Miller? They both seemed to have leg fractures this season and I hope they are healing well.

Chris: For Chico, there is no reason to think he won’t be coming back.

Unless one of the young receivers - looking at you Trey Lowe - explodes on the scene, the Huskies will be counting heavily on Chico’s playmaking abilities. His absence has been sorely felt on the offense this year.

Jordan Miller should also be expected to return. However, he suffered his serious injury later in the year and might have a different timetable. We don’t have anything official from the school.


You're a 2-3 star linebacker with lower tier offers, do you skip the early signing period and then become a hot commodity in February and the best linebacker available for schools that missed on their targets?

Chris: I’m not sure that there is a single answer to this question.

The first thing that we have to do is dispel the notion that every four and five star player out there took advantage of the early signing period. While the period is technically still open at the time of this writing, we did not see that happen. In fact, SB Nation reports that 37 of the nation’s top 100 recruits did NOT sign on day 1.

That’s a lot of talent still left on the board.

If you are a high two or low three star linebacker, the odds are that you are already a recruit that is going to get an opportunity but that you are probably not going to be a high priority among the elite or the nouveau riche of the CFB scene. The best calculus for you is to focus on fit and relationships with the staff. If you have a fit and a relationship with a school who hasn’t yet offered but has indicated they will if something doesn’t break their way during the early signing period, you should certainly wait and see if that situation materializes.

Options only have value until they are exercised.

If a school who you think you have a fit and a relationship with says that they won’t take you after the early signing period and you can’t afford to let miss that opportunity, you have two options. The first is to wait until the day 1 wave of the early signing period has passed to see if any more offers come your way. The early signing period, after all, is actually three days long.

The second is to take the offer and pass up on the possibility of a later offer coming your way.

Either way, I would think you would need to carefully consider if the fit and relationship you value really exists with that first option.


Give me 2-3 possibilities for the 10th coaching slot?

Chris: Great question and one that we’ve not talked much about.

The same basket of rules changes that resulted in the early signing period also allowed programs to hire a 10th assistant come January.

This little development is sure to set off a second wave of the coaching carousel in college football as teams with dollars for assistants pillage teams who don’t have quite the same resources in their assistant pools.

Should UW be thinking about a successor for Jimmy Lake?

It is hard for me to know what might be going on in the head of Chris Petersen as he looks at how he might use that 10th spot. He doesn’t seem to be as interested in building an all-star list of assistants like Sark was or like a Justin Wilcox is now. However, I suppose that it is possible that he might look to add somebody who could supercharge his recruiting or add some diversity.

More likely, I think that Petersen will look for “fit”. That could mean going after a grizzled veteran not unlike what he did when he had Jeff Tedford around as a consultant. It could also mean that he might dip into his pool of current or recent graduate assistants and give one of those young coaches their chance to be an assistant, possibly as an understudy to a coach like Jimmy Lake who may not be long for this staff.

If I had to bet a paycheck, it would be on that last scenario. Terrence Brown is a name to watch. He is a Stanford Grad, and L.A. native and a current GA who has been working with Jimmy Lake on the secondary since 2015. He might be the perfect candidate for a tenth spot.


Are the Huskies wearing purple or white in the Fiesta bowl? Which team is designated the home team? Heard chrome gold hats will be worn.

Chris: I know that there was a tweet from a player on the helmets. I also am under the impression that UW has been designated as the visiting team (though I can’t confirm that as I don’t recall the source for that). I’m not at all aware of any public announcement on uniform combinations for the game.


Brad, Can the athlete department provide an insurance policy to a draft eligible junior to cover lost wages if they come back for their senior season and are injured, thus lowering they're draft value?

Chris: Brad is indisposed at the moment.

Brad and Mrs. Brad are out spreading Christmas cheer on their very own cable television program.

The NCAA has something called the student assistance fund. That fund provides money to every university and can be used in any variety of ways to support student athletes. Insurance is one of the possible uses of these funds.

Universities are not required nor do most provide such insurance to prospective NFL players. This can partially be explained by the fact that the kinds of policies that would apply are not really cost-effective for most players. This is because the so-called “loss of value” policies that you’ve read about some NFL prospects taking out are actually additions to disability policies. The cost of those add-ons are very high because of the high risk associated with playing football (maybe someone with an underwriting background could comment on this below). Thus, it really only makes sense for the very top end of the draftable player pool and only for those players that play more coveted positions.

But, yes, it is permitted.


What do you think happened to Azeem Victor? What is his status with the University now? Will he be at UW pro day?

Chris: I know that there are many rumors out there on Azeem Victor and his situation. The truth is that I have no first hand or inside information that I can bring to the table.

The bottom line is that Azeem Victor has been a great Husky who has battled adversity at his time at UW. He’s made his own mistakes, but he has achieved great feats both on and off the field. He’ll grow from this experience and I think that he’ll get a shot to shine in the NFL.

Whether or not he plays in the bowl game remains to be seen.


What are some of the mental aspects of the game that are taught in football that carry over to researching school projects?

Chris: I never played college football, so I am not qualified to answer this question. However, I was a college football fan who had to go on to do school projects during my time at UW. Some mental aspects of fan-hood that carried over? Those might include:

  • how to focus on reading and writing while distracted by sleep deprivation and hangovers
  • how to collaborate with classmates, particularly those of the female variety that looked exceptional in UW-themed attire
  • how to multi-task: eating pizza, hanging with friends and doing keg stands are things that you can do while studying OR watching football


Do you see less reliance on pounding the rock and a move towards airing out the ball with Hamdan making the play calls?

Chris: Playcalling is to offensive coordinators as a scripted role is to a broadway actor. It is part of what they do but it is hardly all that they are.

I think Bush Hamdan the offensive coordinator is a great addition to the UW staff in that he’ll bring a different kind of energy, a special talent as a recruiter and a different voice to the offensive meeting room.

NCAA Football: Washington State at Washington
This is Jake Browning’s offense.
Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

I think that Bush Hamdan the playcaller will feel a lot like Jonathan Smith to the average fan.

The first reason for this is that this is ultimately Chris Petersen’s offense as enacted by Jake Browning the quarterback. Bush Hamdan will be dealing with basically the same kinds of personnel and the same kinds of opponents that Jonathan Smith faced when he called plays. Given all of that, I wouldn’t expect wildly different play call decisions between two coaches calling from the same playbook with the same players reporting to the same boss seeing the same defensive situations.

The second reason is that I don’t think that most fans know what they are looking at when they see a play get called. I would include myself in that observation, though I’ve gotten much more educated thanks to the UWDP Film Study Hall. As fans, we generally tend to see results and then determine if the play was “good” or “bad”. What we don’t really do is judge whether or not the play was situationally appropriate or inappropriate, power or zone, option or not, executed well or executed poorly ... you get my gist.

Thus, I think that Hamdan will do what Smith did - emphasize a multiple approach to offensive playcalling that leverages the pass to set up the run and tries to establish advantage by being hard to identify and difficult to predict.

not nba fan, aka college BB is best, h/s 2nd

My question is: Do you think many P5/G5 coaches / ADs have taken ""fast track"" 16 team playoffs proposals to presidents for conference hashing?

Chris: There was more to this question as it relates to a specific type of 16-team playoff proposal. I’ll spare the details.

In short, I do not believe that there are any good 16-team proposals that are floating out there demanding attention from university presidents or the NCAA.

I get that fans would like to see eight or even 16 teams show up in the playoffs. It makes for good drama and increases the odds of your team getting into the championship.

But from the perspective of the NCAA, those are all proposals that solve problems that don’t really exist. In fact, most of those ideas create new problems of both the “time” and “money” variety that make them hard to even debate much less operationalize.

First of all, the current four-team playoff format doesn’t really have any flaws from scheduling or a revenue perspective. Every NCAA team is able to play their full 12-game schedule and the bowl system that has been so lucrative stays intact.

Enactment of a playoff system that goes beyond four teams creates challenges for the NCAA because it impacts the ability for all conferences to effectively schedule 12-week seasons and it creates cannibalization challenges for non-playoff bowl games. These were the bedrock principles that had to be preserved in the current playoff format and they have not changed (and there is no way that you’ll convince a majority of schools, most of whom will never reach the playoffs).

This isn’t me sharing my opinion on whether or not we should have a an expanded playoff. It is me simply describing the issues that make it difficult for the NCAA to get alignment on any kind of proposal for playoff expansion. If these issues were easy to solve, they already would have been.

J. H. Christmas

If Santa was a 4* recruit coming out of HS, would you redshirt him?

Chris: Oh “ho’ yeah” I would.

I have to stop here or we’ll soon be going over the 3000 word mark. You won’t like me much after 3000 words.

So, from all of my family to all of you ... Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, you filthy animals!