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Mailbag: “Definitive Determinations of Washington’s Roster and Coaching Staff” Edition

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US-MURDER-HORNETS-NEST
This picture has nothing to do with anything, but still, murder hornets.
Photo by ELAINE THOMPSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

We played a football game. It’s time to start talking about firings and benchings.

DawgFan: So fine with Morris being starter but seemed to have come out of nowhere, did Sirmon and Thompson not step up?

UWDP: This was an interesting offseason for lots of reasons of course, but one of the biggest was the tight-lipped quarterback race that no one really got to watch unfold.

I’m not really sure Dylan Morris getting the start came out of nowhere. He’s the guy I would’ve given the best odds, since his skills set - accurate, good decision-maker, high football IQ - most closely correlated with what I assumed Jimmy Lake would want from his offensive leader (since Lake’s only real offensive influence is one Chris Petersen). It’s also easy to forget how highly regarded he was as a recruit, too. Whereas someone like Jacob Sirmon was as highly regarded as he was because of his physical measureables, Morris was equally highly regarded in spite of his.

I fully admit that I didn’t expect much from Kevin Thomson as a legitimate challenger for the job; I saw his addition to the team as more about balancing out the classes on the QB depth chart. We’ll obviously never get any real statement from the coaching staff about how close the race was (and maybe still is), but it sounds like Thomson definitely did his part to push the whole group.

We can’t really say who did or did not step up this offseason. All we can really say is that no one has stepped as far as Morris has at this point.

Eli: Why didn’t UW commit more defenders in the box and make OSU beat UW with the pass which is their strength?

UWDP: Going back to the beginning of the Pete Kwiatkowski/Jimmy Lake era at Washington, this is simply the defense they run. The base is a nickel, with only two true defensive linemen. It’s very much predicated on preventing the big play, and relies on the front four to occupy the offensive line and allow the two inside linebackers to - hopefully - make lots of tackles in the run game. We seem to get this gnashing of the teeth every year, maybe even multiple times. But it’s incredibly hard to argue with the sustained success of the design and the team.

Oregon State gained right about 250 yards of total offense. There are a few fairly significant things to clean up with the defense up front in terms of execution, and hopefully in personnel with getting a few guys back healthy. But don’t expect the defense to start playing schematically differently.

PeoperdineDawg: What does Sean Mcgrew have to do to win the starting RB job? He was absolutely the best player on the field against OSU, averaged 10 yards a carry and he only got 9 carries. I believe that was good for third behind both Newton and Pleasant.

tomahawk18: Why not more McGrew? Even last year he stood out as the most electric guy in the backfield. Then, in this game he got a run of snaps in the 1st quarter with a lot of success and a TD, then we hardly heard from him again. He seems like a good kid and has a lot of talent.... what gives?

UWDP: I’d wager the reason is the same as it’s always been - that Sean McGrew struggles as a pass blocker, and that limits the offense in terms of play calling and the audibles available when he’s in the game. Which in turn, limits the number of snaps he can be on the field. I think McGrew might very well be the best back on the team when he has the ball in his hands, and he definitely should’ve had at least a few more carries on Saturday. But I think he’s always going to have a tough time staying on the field multiple snaps in a row.

Dawgmanic: Is this a boring offense? Or are we moving to a more run first offense to impose our will? Or was this just a warmup game for Morris?

UWDP: It’s very possible that on the surface, this offense will look boring to some fans. It’s the classic counterpuncher offense, one based on matchups and the long strategy as opposed to flash and “imposing its will” as it were. The fully developed version of this offense can definitely attack and score lots of points, and looks like the 2016 Huskies, or the Kellen Moore years at Boise State. But it’s fundamentally risk-averse first and foremost, and in a game with a young QB making his first start, not great conditions, and a running game that’s working very well, the coaches are more than happy to shorten the game, lean on the defense, and minimizing the likelihood of something screwy happening.

Yeah, boring. Also a warmup for Morris. Probably boring.

SuperFinn: What is your revaluation / grade for the Husky linebacker play versus Oregon State?

UWDP: I thought Eddie Ulofoshio was very good, that Ryan Bowman was his usual solid self, that Zion Tupuola-Fetui made two (almost three) really nice plays but also spent time playing a little wild, and that Jackson Sirmon needs to really spend time watching the film and making sure he knows his role. I think it would be great to add Laiatu Latu back in the mix, and that this group, by the end of the year, could be the best, deepest in the Lake/Kwiatkowski era.

TexanHusky: Please help end an ongoing household debate. Who is the biggest Husky rival, Oregon or Washington State? Thanks for your help.

UWDP: Whichever one is better at the time. Oregon right now.

1Highlight: Do you expect the TE’s to play a more active roll in the passing game? Did we only see a small fraction of Donovan’s offense?

UWDP: As the season goes along, yes, definitely. And yes, we didn’t see very much on Saturday.

It’s going to be such an awkward season to use as judgment of the team for lots of reasons. At tight end, two of the best on the team are true freshmen, that would probably be playing their best football by game 9 or 10 in a normal year....

OsidePup: In this shortened season, which doesn’t count against scholarship eligibility - other than due to injury or for mop-up action - will we be seeing another QB besides Morris starting for the Huskies ?

UWDP: At this point, maybe the most definitive thing we can say about Dylan Morris is that he has a high floor. Outside of him getting injured, I think he starts the rest of the season.

Ragu: Someone I know recently called Dylan Morris a ‘Jake Browning Clone’. Is this person right and/or smart?

UWDP: Yes, he’s correct, unless you decide to get bogged down in the semantics and choose to miss the point of “clone.” Which, knowing you....

Dylan Morris’ greatest “adds” to the Husky offense are his accuracy and football intelligence, just like Jake Browning; note the freedom to audible in just his first game that Morris was afforded. Morris is a game manager, which fans will use as a compliment at this point in his career, but will move to becoming backhanded, then an insult, if Morris remains the starter the next few seasons as familiarity breeds the requisite contempt of the fanbase that nearly all multi-year starting quarterbacks eventually engender. Just like Browning. Morris is undersized, but a better athlete than one might initially suspect based on the “eye test.” Morris probably has a stronger arm than post-torn labrum Browning, but it doesn’t appear to be a cannon. On the other hand, it’s not a limiting factor, either. All in all, Morris appears to be a quarterback that, with the requisite level of talent around him, can shift the gears of a complex offense and make it successful at the college level. Same as Browning.

Bonus points if this person also said the same thing about Sam Huard....

Mere Mortal: I prayed that the field goal would go in. It didn’t. Brad/God, why didn’t you answer my prayer?

UWDP: Yeah, I was on the hopper. Must not have heard you.

I always hate chip shots that need to be hooked in. Tougher than they look. Should’ve made it.

Doin a concern: Was Jefferson and the OSU running game good or was our run defense bad? Or both?

UWDP: First, I think everyone needs to give some credit to Jermar Jefferson. He’s very much in contention for “best running back in the Pac 12.” Big, fast, tough, very physical running style.

It was definitely both, though. Of the front six, the only guys that I would say actually consistently played well against the run were Ryan Bowman and Eddie Ulofoshio. There were guys that played well on certain downs, and not so well on others. With the style that Washington employs on defense, which is built on counting on a relatively few number of big bodies to consistently make the right play, it’s tough if there’s even one breakdown on a given play, much less two. Which we consistently saw.

I’m not sure anything that went wrong rises to the level of endemic issue quite yet. It’s a concern, but one that can be fixed. Getting some bodies back up front would definitely help.

Rhaegu: ZTF performance an outlier or should we expect more of that?

UWDP: Are you grading his performance solely on the two strip sacks? If so, then it’s likely an outlier.

If you subscribe to the notion that there’s a bit of luck in getting two of those in a game, and then look at the entirety of his play, then yes, expect more of it. It was good. A great foundation. Far from perfect, though.

Concern?: Any of that result due to Oregon State getting to play a game already?

UWDP: Sure. Oregon State definitely knew more about itself than Washington did.

Oregon State also had to play on the road in front of a hostile crowd, so the Beavers would probably argue that it was even.

There is a ton of youth on the defense in particular (but the offense as well). The overwhelming majority of the two-deeps are underclassmen. It’s reasonable to expect big strides from week 1 to week 2.

Dear Abby: I have a friend that texts me doomsday, negative Nancy shit all game, even when we are up. How would Brad handle this person?

UWDP: Put your Text-o-Matic 2170 away. I pretty much tune out the world when the game is being played.

Football: Do you think I’d be a little better if I allowed less time between plays?

UWDP: It sounds like you think the game is too slow?

No, I don’t really see that as an improvement. It’s already a fairly big ask for receivers that have run 40 yards downfield on a play to get back to a huddle or line of scrimmage, get the new play (even from a hurry up/no huddle) and be ready to go.

I would suggest exercises to increase your attention span. Probably help in general, not just in your enjoyment of football.

The Count: How many games do we play this year? Prediction?

UWDP: Over/under of 4.5

jusky57: Haven’t heard much lately about OKG and the PIPELINE? Did they go away?

UWDP: That’s interesting, now that you mention it, I can’t really remember the last time I heard OKG or Built for Life. Of course, there’s been little about the team period, so it’s hard to say.

As for pipeline, precisely one person said that, person who may or may not be husky57.

ORKris: Dylan—only 3 completions over ten yards. His one for 42yds made up about 1/3 of his total. Any thoughts or concerns about his abilities/the offensive game plan? Sean Mcgrew—9/91yds and only four carries from the second qtr. on. Do you have any thoughts on why he didn’t see more carries? And lastly, my eyes seemed to notice that Josiah struggled getting off of blocks and staying clean throughout the night. Sirmon had his struggles also. Any thoughts on those two and on the D-line?

UWDP: Throwing short is the result of the quarterback’s decision, but not necessarily the primary route, or the result of a specific call or plan. We didn’t really get to see routes develop regularly (a common symptom of TV), so it’s tough to say if Morris missed guys open deeper, or they were covered, or what.

No, I’m not terribly concerned about any of this after one game.

I think Sean McGrew should’ve had more touches. Jimmy Lake suggested so as well.

I think those two - Josiah Bronson and Jackson Sirmon - definitely struggled. Bronson has played better in the past. Sirmon was making his first start. I’m certainly not giving up on anyone quite yet. But those guys certainly can play better than they did.

Otis: I’m glad to be 1-0. I’m not so glad to see our inside linebacker play still the week link in the defense. Eddie seemed to play well but Sirmon didn’t. Where is Calvert? Where is the “hammer”? Any chance we see those guys this year? Is there anyone else who might be able to help?

UWDP: Sure, I expect both will play more as the season progresses, even if it’s just special teams. Josh Calvert is still in “recovery mode” from his injury last year, so it’s not a complete surprise the coaches may decide to be careful with him in a season that won’t count toward his eligibility. Danny Heimuli, it sounds like he just needs to keep getting better. Lots of talent, sometimes it takes guys longer for things to “click” than others. Don’t forget about MJ Tafisi and Alphonzo Tuputala in the meantime, though.

KPreston: With a shortened season and no real championship aspirations (5 or 6 wins not getting into playoffs) #SECcorruption, why not try a bunch of QBs and wild gadget plays? Just to see what might work for next year. Just science experiment the whole year maybe?

UWDP: I’m with you on trying things to see what will work next year, but I think the time investment is better on “the offense” as opposed to tricks and the like.

Darin Johnson: Which was the more alarming problem: the inability to stop the run inside, or the inability to get yards through the air? Please answer by Limerick.

UWDP: Limericks are tough. And if you’d asked your question in the form of a limerick, I’d feel more obligated to answer that way.

Agashed up the middle by Beavs

A defense left flat on its knees

An average Morris pass

Equal to the length of a hair on his ass

Both units need to roll up their sleeves

Seriously, that’s a tough ask. Even with all of the bawdy potential available due to the opponent, limericks are hard. I’m sure we’ll get some better examples in the comments, amirite?

Darin Johnson: Is Elijah Molden the best football player on the field now that Miles Bryant is gone?

UWDP: Yes, and there’s a strong case to be made he was the best prior to Bryant leaving.

Darin Johnson: In iambic pentameter, how does the North stack up now, in your estimation?

UWDP: About the same as it did before this shamofaseason began.

Darin Johnson: What’s the conventional wisdom on running a fly-sweep on the goal-line? (Haiku)

UWDP:

“Great calling of plays

Is more about randomness

not down or distance”

I don’t think there’s anything that qualifies as conventional wisdom there. I didn’t like it, not one bit.

RockDawg: Brad, much criticism abounds on the board about the offensive play calling and Morris’ play, your take?

UWDP: I think, based on what we could see watching the game on TV, that Morris was “fine” considering that it was his first start. I don’t think he had a tremendous impact on the game (good or bad), and that with the running game working the way it was, that was okay. I think Ty Jones definitely should’ve had a touchdown catch, and that Rome Odunze should’ve fought a little harder for one as well.

If this is the offense that the Huskies are going to run, then I don’t really have any complaints about the play calling. It was conservative, in a game the Huskies led almost throughout, in less-than-ideal conditions, with a freshman QB taking his first snaps as a Husky. Bigger question is if this is the best offense for this team to run.

RockDawg: Brad, do you agree with me that McGrew should be limited to 10-15 touches a game to preserve his health?

UWDP: As I said above, I think McGrew’s touches are self-limiting to an extent at this point. But I agree that he’s not the best-suited back on the roster to be a 20+ carry guy due to his size.

RunningFaster: Is Arizona’s success against USC an indication that we should be concerned, or, like we saw with Gebbia’s struggles against our defense after a 300+ yard game against Wazzu, should we be confident that our defense will handle Gunnell without much trouble? (Assuming, of course, we face Arizona...)

UWDP: Even with a less-than-stellar performance against Oregon State’s running attack, Washington has earned the benefit of the doubt as being a superior defense to either USC’s or WSU’s.

Grant Gunnell, by and large, looks like he has the makings of a pretty good quarterback. It’s going to be fun to watch the Husky D take him on.

Rhaego: You see that Western Michigan fake spike game winning touchdown pass vs Toledo? So good.

UWDP: Just watched a video. Good stuff.

AUS*Dawg: Should we be concerned about the receivers? Instead of “Run the Damn Ball!” shouldn’t the motto be “Catch the Damn Ball!”

UWDP: Yeah, there weren’t a ton of drops, three for sure and maybe four, but they all seemed really big, like they would’ve gone for first downs or touchdowns, and they were all mostly of the really easy variety.

I’m not concerned at this point, the sample sizes are too small. But it certainly would’ve made the score and the stats look a lot better.

AUS*Dawg: What should a punter do when the ball is snapped over his head? Seems like he should just try to either fall on it or run with it rather than punting it?

Maybe the Husky D could have held OSU to a field goal.

UWDP: Simply falling on the ball is the safest thing to do at that point. It’s the best choice to make sure what happened, doesn’t happen.

RunningFaster: How many passing yards will Morris have against Arizona? Do you think Jimmy Lake’s hat was intended as misdirection?

UWDP: Dylan Morris is probably going to finish with fewer than 30 attempts again against the Wildcats, and might be below 200 yards again as well. Probably something in the neighborhood of 17-25 for 188 yards.

Do you think the hat was announcing the game plan for the upcoming week?

All for this week, Dawg fans.