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Mailbag: “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring” Edition

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Surprising little Jimmy Lake talk all things considered plus a little MBB sprinkled in for good measure

Oregon v Washington Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

We’ll start out with some follow-up from the actual game last Saturday, turn to bigger picture issues, and finally close out with a little basketball talk. Nice and tidy.

***

Why that punt? - Rhaego

Not what I would’ve done. I don’t agree with the logic but I understand it. Let’s run through what Jimmy was hoping for in his head:

Washington had 2 timeouts left with 1:57 remaining in the game facing a 4th and 10 from UW’s own 10 yard line. Let’s say the Huskies get off the punt as normal and Race Porter manages another great punt which goes 50 yards without a return. Now Oregon has the ball on their own 40 yard line with about 1:47 left. They run the ball for no gain. UW takes a timeout. They run the ball for no gain. UW takes a timeout. They run the ball for no gain and take the full 40 seconds off the play clock. Given each of the previous plays runs for about 4 seconds each we’ll say 52 seconds run off the clock and Oregon punts from their own 40 with 55 seconds left. Let’s say they somewhat shank it and it only goes for 30 yards and now UW has 1st and 10 from their own 30 with 45 seconds left.

Is it worth it to trade 2 timeouts and over half of the remaining time on the clock to best case scenario move the ball 20 yards and get a fresh set of downs? Probably not. Washington had only 5 plays that gained at least 10 yards to that point in the game. The odds of them completing a 4th and 10 in that situation given what we’d already seen were probably less than 10%. And if you don’t get the first down then the only way you still win the game is recovering a random fumble in the next 3 plays. It was a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. I don’t completely fault Lake feeling like the best chance he had at scoring was forcing a fumble and returning it for a touchdown or Oregon muffing a punt.

Still it comes down to Lake despite what he said in his opening press conference seemingly always taking the least aggressive, most conservative option possible even if the odds of it working weren’t that much worse.

Did we set a record for number of under review calls for a half? - Gary from MI

Yes, yes we did. It didn’t end up mattering because UW wasn’t winning that game no matter what with their offensive performance. But the officiating especially in the first half was as bad as I’ve ever seen. Letting the next play happen, then stopping to review, then after several minutes announcing it wasn’t legal to stop play because they had already run another play? I mean, holy shit.

Or how about the review where Oregon clearly got a first down, fumbled it, but they had the clear recovery? Then the refs just said after review it’s a 1st down with no mention of the fumble when he got the 1st by like 7-8 yards. If the Huskies had ended up losing that game on a last second field goal or something I would be more furious about the officiating but given how it was it’s more of a stunned incredulity instead.

What is remaining to be paid contractually to Jimmy Lake after the season? - Rockster

This is an easy one so might as well answer it. The start/end date of each year for Lake’s contract is in January. For 2022/23/24 Lake is owed just barely short of $10 million total. If he’s fired before the end of his contract then the UW is required to pay him that $10 million in normal installments as if he was still the head coach. The exception being that if Lake gets another coaching job at any point before the 2025 season then whatever he is making monthly gets subtracted from what UW owes him.

Who could I hire as OC that a.) would want to work for me at UW and b.) could make my job 100% secure? - James Lake

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news James, but that person doesn’t exist. The quality of name it would take to fulfill the 100% secure clause wouldn’t be willing to come be the OC at Washington without making more money than Lake himself. At which point they wouldn’t really be working for you anymore as much as you’d be working for them.

To put this in a slightly more useful phrasing: there isn’t anyone that Jimmy could hire as OC that would single-handedly allow him to keep his job. If there’s a savior type hire for OC that agrees to come to UW with Lake as the head coach then I think there’s just as likely a chance that they would be willing to come with another head coach.

Lake just doesn’t have the coaching tree to make anyone think he is on such good terms with a premier OC candidate that he alone could bring them to UW. His tree is the Petersen coaching tree and there just aren’t exactly many absolutely brilliant offensive minds out there producing at the college OC level who you Lake could secure without a ridiculous bag drop.

What if the substitute coaches actually produce a win this weekend. Does that reflect positively or negatively upon Lake? - Curious

I think you have to say it would reflect negatively on Lake when you remove him from the occasion and the Huskies pull their biggest upset since he took over. If Washington’s offense goes out and scores 30 points then it reflects most poorly on John Donovan but that still ultimately falls back on Lake’s shoulders for making the hire. If the defense suddenly stops the run at least a little bit against a dominant ASU rushing attack then it reflects negatively on his game planning.

I’m having a tough time coming up with any scenario where Washington winning reflects well on Lake. He could attempt to take credit by saying see, the team isn’t actually that bad if they can beat ASU with a makeshift coaching staff but that seems pretty dubious. Even if UW gets beaten by 40 points in a blowout loss it’s easy to spin it back on Lake’s absence being a giant distraction for the team and of course they did poorly when the head coach and OC both disappear on Sunday night/Monday morning.

We’ve had some great RBs here, a critical piece of our offense. Do you see the next great Husky running back on our roster? - Dawgfan22

I’m of the personal belief that the struggles with the running game this season have more to do with the predictability of the play calling and struggles on the offensive line than about the running backs themselves. Here are the average yards after contact for each Husky running back this season versus for their entire career:

Pleasant- 4.53 (2021), 3.11 (career)

McGrew- 2.56 (2021), 2.45 (career)

Davis- 2.52 (2021), 2.63 (career)

Newton- 2.51 (2021), 2.6 (career)

Kamari Pleasant is having by far the best season of his career when he’s on the field but the other 3 guys have been just about exactly as reliable as they normally are from the point that they first get hit. The problem? They’re getting hit much sooner. Per Sports Info Solutions, Richard Newton was hit at the line on 31.5% of his carries coming into this season and in 2021 it has been 51.3%. It’s a much smaller sample size for Cameron Davis but similarly is at 43.6% this season and was at 33.3% last year. There have been 23 seasons since 2016 in which a UW running back has gotten at least 15 carries and Newton in 2021 has the highest hit at line % of any of them and Davis is 3rd. I’m sure some of that is about their running styles but it’s hard to think it isn’t more about how bad the offensive line has run blocked in some of these games.

As far as what the question is actually asking...yes. Given Newton’s injury history and what we’ve seen so far I don’t think he’s going to be the guy. I still have hope that Cam Davis can be a good running back for Washington but don’t think he’s suddenly going to be Gaskin or even Ahmed. I really like Jay’veon Sunday and it wouldn’t shock me at all if he had a monster offseason and won the job going into next season. Emeka Megwa is essentially brand new to the team but highly regarded coming out of high school. Plus you have Caleb Berry and Sam Adams waiting in the wings. I would consider it more likely than not that one of Davis, Sunday, or Megwa has a 1,000 yard season within the next 2 years.

Do we know anything about Junior Adams’ play calling ability? Should we expect it to be the same offense? What differences might we see? - Rhaego

I wouldn’t say that we know a lot. Adams was the offensive coordinator for 2 years at Western Kentucky (2017-18). In 2017 they scored 25.5 points per game and in 2018 they scored 21.1 points per game which led to the coaching staff getting wiped out. That latter figure is basically the same as what Washington has done this season except of course Western Kentucky has vey different talent and a very different schedule.

The one thing we can say with certainty is that this is going to be the same offense. By which I mean I don’t think Adams is sitting at his desk this week drawing up brand new plays on the whiteboard and putting them into the offense. At this point in the season we’re stuck with what has already been installed.

One of the nice things about that though is a lot of the worst elements of the offense have been about the sequencing. We saw Washington throw out an effective RPO game against Arkansas State (I know, I know, it was Arkansas State). We’ve seen play action completely disappear at times despite teams playing the Huskies for the run so frequently. If Adams just simply doesn’t run it up the middle for 2 yards on every first down it will automatically look like a different offense.

Probably the only thing that could potentially be gleaned from Adams’ stint at Western Kentucky are the run/pass ratios. However, they were pretty radically different. Adams’ first season there the team threw it just short of 60% of the time and in his second season they actually ran it more frequently. That’s likely because in 2017 his QB was recent New York Jets sensation Mike White who was a prototypical statue pocket passer (4000+ yards with a 26/8 TD/INT ratio). Then after he graduated they had 3 different QBs throw at least 99 passes while their primary starter also ran it about 8 times per game. Hard to say much about how that translates.

Huard has played in two games. Do you agree he should start two of the remaining games? - 1Highlight

If Morris comes out and looks just as terrible against Arizona State as he did against Oregon then I think I agree with this. It’s kind of a raw deal for Morris if you force him to play in Donovan’s offense all season then finally get rid of Donovan and give him no chance to be the quarterback. That seems like a dick move. If you’ve stuck with Morris all this time then I think you commit to at least giving him one full game with a different play caller to see if there’s any immediate improvement.

The upside of turning to Huard is if he comes in and is the winning quarterback against Colorado and WSU to get Washington to bowl eligibility it gives some optimism for the fanbase going into next year. If Huard plays really well it helps you to get a head coach and/or offensive coordinator who sees that they have the most important piece for instant success already in place on the roster.

The flip side is if Huard struggles. That isn’t unreasonable to think will happen considering he has pretty much never gotten first-team reps, will have an OC who started playing calls for the team the week before, and is playing in front of an offensive line that has really struggled to pass block this season. Now the most likely savior of the 2022 season has the shine taken completely off and you maybe erode Huard’s confidence similar to what has already happened to Morris.

It’s a hedge answer but I’ll stick to saying if Morris looks extremely competent with Adams calling plays then you let him finish out the season, if he struggles badly put Huard in for Colorado, and if it’s somewhere in between then...I’m okay either way.

Now that the truly disastrous John Donovan era is over on Montlake, who are 3-5 names that the Dawgs are likely to - or ought to - consider for the position? -dyork55

I’m not going to pretend that I’ve done a ton of research looking at every available candidate. The only list I’ve really looked at is Jon Wilner’s 8 potential options. But here are 4 total coordinators who I think are both realistic if UW pays at least as much as they did for Donovan and are guys I think I’d be okay with if we hired them tomorrow. The first 2 are off of the suggested list by Wilner and the other 2 are options someone out there may have suggested but I haven’t specifically seen mentioned.

Ryan Grubb (Fresno State OC/QB Coach)- He has taken Jake Haener and helped turn him into a legitimate potential NFL draft pick after he left UW. Grubb has been both the QB coach and the OL coach so he could help support either position group. The Bulldogs are 9th in passing yards per game so if you want to keep Huard, Odunze, and McMillan around then he likely helps.

Brian Lindgren (Oregon State OC/QB Coach)- The Beavers are practically in a 3-way tie with USC and Oregon for most yards per game in the Pac-12. It’s possible you want to just give the credit for OSU’s offense to head man Jonathan Smith but Lindgren has been an OC in the conference for the last 9 seasons and at the very least brings a baseline level of competence. And if Smith really is the mastermind at the moment then hopefully some of that rubbed off on Lindgren.

Anthony Tucker (Utah State OC/QB Coach)- These are the two candidates I haven’t seen brought up although I purposefully haven’t looked at every list out there on the web. This is his first year with the Aggies and they’re currently 7-2 with a win over Wazzu. Starting QB has gone from averaging 7.0 YPA in his career to 8.8 YPA this season with Tucker at the helm. Before that Tucker was at UCF as a RB coach and co-offensive coordinator when they had some extremely explosive offenses. He’s from California but outside of this season doesn’t have much west coast recruiting experience.

Robert Anae (Virginia OC/TE Coach)- Anae was the OC at BYU for Bronco Mendenhall then followed him to Virginia. This year the Cavs are #1 in the country in yards per game and 2nd in passing yards per game with Brennan Armstrong emerging as a darkhorse Heisman candidate out of nowhere. Before going to Virginia he’d been in varying capacities at Hawaii/Boise/UNLV/BYU/Arizona so he has experience throughout the West region. Would prefer to have a QB coach attached rather than a TE coach but not the end of the world.

What will it take for UWMBB to make it to March Madness, beyond “win most of the games”? Who becomes The Dude, that they ride to Ws when it gets tough? - Chris

If you are trying to put together a script for how Washington earns an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament then this is what it looks like. I think every one of these bullet points is possible but obviously the odds of all of them happening become unlikely.

  • Terrell Brown Jr. and Daejon Davis both stay healthy the entire season and wind up combining for approximately 27 points, 8 assists, and 5 turnovers per game with solid 3-pt shooting. That gives the Huskies a pair of reliable ball handlers in crunch time who are capable of getting their own shot or setting up for others.
  • Jamal Bey gets inspired by Q-Pon as an assistant coach and finally becomes more assertive on offense. He increases his shots per game by about 50% but still keeps up a better than 40% 3-pt percentage.
  • Cole Bajema does a Jamal Bey-lite impression off the bench and also shoots better than 40% from deep with a few games where he goes for 20+ to preserve narrow wins.
  • Nate Roberts slims down a little and regains some of his bounce to become just an average shot blocker and takes another step as a rebounder. He finishes top-5 in the conference in both offensive and defensive rebounding rate (was 5th and 10th respectively last year).
  • Langston Wilson becomes the ultimate glue guy with his energy and ridiculous leaping ability. He experiences rapid growth throughout the year in just his 3rd year of organized basketball and in the final 5 games of the regular season averages 10 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks (plus numerous deflections) in just 20 minutes per game.

You get all of those things or else replace one of them with a different Husky stepping up then this becomes an NCAA team. I’m going to put the odds of each one individually occurring though at roughly 40% which means the chances of all of them happening are...about 1%. 2 out of 5 is the baseline for this team being competent, 3 out of 5 puts you in the middle of the pack, and 4 out of 5 means at least an NIT squad.

As for who will be “The Dude”? My money is on Terrell Brown Jr. I think at the end of games he’s going to be the most capable of creating his own shot and getting to the rim or get fouled.

I read your writeup on the exhibition game, but how did they look to you? Are you excited or expect more of the same? Were they fun to watch?

I think this team has a higher floor than the last several Husky teams we’ve seen by virtue of bringing in several guys who have at least been starters for good teams even if they weren’t all-conference level performers. I think it’s evident already that the players have fun on the court and like each other which clearly wasn’t the case on last season’s team.

We saw large sections of full-court press against Central Washington and it looked like UW has against Oregon’s press in recent years. If the Huskies are able to deploy that in spurts and do it effectively then it really adds to the fun level. A good press completely rattling the other team and forcing turnover after turnover is the most fun version of basketball to watch when your team is the one dominating with it. Even if this is a more traditional defense against other Pac-12 teams I think they look closer defensively to the teams we saw in Hop’s first 2 years. The half-court offense is absolutely going to go through some long scoring droughts and there are going to be a lot of guys shooting in the low-30’s from 3-pt range. But the hope is more transition opportunities will keep it from being quite as bad as recent years.