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Mailbag: “New Coach, Who Dis?” Edition Part II

Answering questions about the end of the Jimmy Lake era and the beginning of the Kalen DeBoer one...part 2

NCAA Football: Cal. Poly - SLO at Fresno State Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

If you missed Part One of the mailbag you can find it right here. Now on to more of your questions.


Which players have no more eligibility? Which ones do we know have graduated with eligibility but won’t be coming back? And which ones do you think leave early for the NFL? - UWDadVanc

First we have the super seniors who have exhausted their eligibility and cannot come back next year. That list is: QB Patrick O’Brien, RB Sean McGrew, RB Kamari Pleasant, OL Luke Wattenberg, OLB Ryan Bowman, and P Race Porter. All except for O’Brien ended up being key contributors on this year’s team even if McGrew, Pleasant, and Bowman all missed time due to injury and/or staff incompetence.

There were several other players who walked at senior day including: WR Terrell Bynum, OL Henry Bainivalu, TE Cade Otton, CB Bookie Radley-Hiles, and S Alex Cook. All of them have one more year of eligibility thanks to the mulligan for the 2020 pandemic year.

We only know the status of 3 of them. Cade Otton published a thank you to Husky fans this week on social media and will certainly be entering the NFL draft. Meanwhile Terrell Bynum stated directly he’s returning for 2022 and Alex Cook’s post on twitter this morning certainly suggests he’s returning. I could see the other 2 on this list going either way. I personally don’t know if either Bookie or Bainivalu would get drafted in the 6th or 7th round but it wouldn’t surprise me if they try. Especially Bookie who transferred to UW largely to be under Lake’s tutelage and who has a longer track record of success.

Then we have the other early entrants not on that list which I expect to be OL Jaxson Kirkland, CB Trent McDuffie, and CB Kyler Gordon. I have seen all 3 in the top-25 of various big boards at some point this year and think barring an injury in the next few months should be picked in the first 3 rounds of the draft. Gordon yesterday had an article he was interviewed in come out that states he is leaving for the draft but he has not publicly released a statement.

Really the only other candidate at all is Zion Tupuola-Fetui but I just don’t see how he showed enough coming back from his Achilles injury to justify anything but a late round flier. If he comes back next year and looks anything like the player he was in the first 3 games of 2020 then he has 1st round upside rather than a team gambling on him with a 7th round pick (of course he also risks injury so I wouldn’t fault him if he just went for it right now with a new coaching staff coming in).

Put it all together and I think out of the 14 players named above we see only Bynum and Cook come back.

As Haener debates reuniting with his head coach while trying his hand at the Husky QB competition for a second time around, who would you rather see start for the Dawgs next year? Haener, Huard, or another Husky QB? - Locker Stalker 27

If you told me that whoever I picked was going to be able to put up the same stats as anyone else then I would pick Huard because he has more eligibility and it would raise excitement among the fanbase if he was the guy. I’d much rather see Sam Huard put up an all-conference season than Haener or Morris.

If I’m picking based on who I think gives the team the best chance to win next year then it’s Haener. Let’s say we take his stats down by about 10% as he moves from the MWC to the Pac-12 in the same system. That would mean approximately 3,400 passing yards with 27 TDs and 11 INTs on 7.6 YPA. This past year Morris and Huard combined for 2,700 yards with 15 TDs and 16 INTs on 6.6 YPA. Jacob Eason in 2019 threw for 3,132 yards with 23 TDs and 8 INTs on 7.7 YPA. A 10% drop off for Haener would be a massive step up from what we saw last year and pretty equivalent to what Jacob Eason did. Given where we are right now I would take that.

The real question is am I so sure that Haener is going to be better than Huard that I would risk Huard transferring to have that upgrade next season? I’m incredibly torn on it. Ultimately I think having a Haener/Huard competition for the starting role next year is probably worth the risk. Given that I’m expecting Morris to transfer no matter what (although maybe he doesn’t if Haener doesn’t come) then you’re going to have to bring in someone via the portal anyways. Do we intentionally want a worse QB to come in just to make sure that Huard doesn’t have any real competition? That doesn’t really make a ton of sense either.

Give me Haener and hope that Huard doesn’t pull a Haener and lose a narrow QB battle and transfer without even being willing to serve as the backup. Haener got really beat up and played hurt for Fresno State this year and so if he’s the guy then I wouldn’t be shocked if at some point the backup is going to be needed as well.

How much better would Husky life have been these last 3 years if Petersen crowned Haener (like he clearly wanted to) over Eason? - Jordan from Idaho

It’s certainly an interesting hypothetical. First of all the Husky fanbase would’ve become completely unhinged had Chris Petersen named Jake Haener the starter coming out of fall camp. There was so much anticipation for what the cannon-armed Eason might be able to do for Washington’s offense that the choice of Haener might have caused a revolt. Let’s say though that Haener played well in the first couple of games and eased the tension.

At that point Eason has already transferred once and used up his redshirt season so he’s likely stuck on the roster since the transfer rules haven’t been touched yet. That gives us a Haener, Eason, Sirmon, and Morris depth chart. Eason in reality had 7.7 YPA with a 23 to 8 TD/INT mark. Let’s say that a sophomore version of Haener has a slightly higher YPA but throws a couple more picks instead. The team probably still goes 8-5 and Petersen probably still retires.

Then the pandemic hits and spring ball gets cancelled. After the Pac-12 says they’re initially not playing a season I think we might’ve seen Eason bolt and try to get a waiver for immediate eligibility somewhere else. Kevin Thomson wouldn’t have transferred in so now we have Haener as the established starter and Sirmon, Morris, and Garbers fighting for the #2 spot in that delayed fall camp. Again we have to assume that Morris wins the backup spot and with Huard also coming in that Sirmon and Garbers once again transfer after the season.

As far as the results go it’s tough to think that Haener is demonstrably better than Morris was that year. Maybe with an established QB we open things up more against Oregon State and Jimmy never wears the Run the Damn Ball hat. But Morris threw for 8.2 YPA in those 4 games even in Donovan’s offense. Let’s give Haener 8.5 YPA and 7 TDs to 3 INTs instead of 4 to 3 for Morris. The way the defense played against Stanford it’s still probably 3-1.

Now we get to 2021 and it’s Haener starting with Morris as the backup and Huard redshirting. Is Haener good enough to make Donovan’s offense work given the injuries in the early year to the Husky receiving corps? I don’t really think so. Maybe UW wins the Oregon State and Colorado games with Haener playing instead of Morris.

So in the end we’re potentially going to be in the exact same spot except the team went 6-6 this season. And that might have been enough to allow Lake to scapegoat Donovan and keep on as the head coach so similar to the other hypothetical it’s possible that Haener staying would’ve just elongated Lake’s tenure.

Given the surging popularity in PAC-12 schools (Utah, USC, Oregon), what’s your approach to make Washington stand out against other PAC-12 schools? - HollywoodZero

It’s a reasonable question. There’s not really one thing that Washington can put its stamp on to be fully unique. Under Petersen it was the OKG philosophy and the belief that you would get coached up better than anyone else in the conference. Now, that’s Utah. Looking for the big city life? USC. Want great facilities/uniforms? Oregon. Great academics? Stanford.

The Huskies without the right leadership philosophy can feel caught in between. We’re not viewed on the same level academically as Stanford and Cal. We aren’t in as big of a city as UCLA and USC. Coach DeBoer has an offensive track record but it’s not going to be viewed as better right now as that of Oregon or Arizona State until he can get on the field and prove it.

What Washington does have is the ability to appeal to just about every kid that isn’t hoping for a small town college experience. If you come to Washington you don’t have to settle in terms of academics, city life, football tradition, or facilities. The Huskies may not be #1 in any of those categories but they’re in the upper half of the conference in all of them. Hopefully the Montlake Futures is able to become a rallying point for recruiting but at this point that’s still just theoretical.

It will be up to Coach DeBoer to decide what his approach is going to be and be completely genuine in sharing it with the players to get them to Washington.

What happened to the doom and gloom of the early COVID-19 pandemic days, when athletics departments were bracing for long-term damage to their financial models and laying off staff? The inflation in coaching salaries and length of contract is mind boggling in light of future uncertainties. - Gou Wei

It turns out that when you don’t pay for the majority of your labor that you have a tremendous amount of money left over to pay the rest of your employees. There are several things that contribute to how we got here. More than ever the revenue in college sports is about the television deal rather than gate receipts. Schools feel good about being able to make up any temporary shortfalls based on their next TV deal and are kicking the can down the road.

There’s also the fact that even though athletic departments lost revenue because of the pandemic, overall the wealthiest in American society got even wealthier. There are a lot of people who made a lot of money over the last 2 years and the ones who are boosters have even more money to donate to oust the current coach and install a new one.

Also it turns out that supply and demand is a real economic factor. We had a year where there were very few coaching moves due to the initial concerns over the pandemic. That seemingly caused a backup where suddenly there were more schools looking for coaches. Schools had to overpay in the form of extensions to keep their current guys from getting poached and then LSU and USC went over the top.

I’d like to see an alternate universe though where Michigan State’s Phil Knight equivalent doesn’t do anything and LSU hires Mel Tucker for something like $6-7 million per year. Does USC still end up with Lincoln Riley at that price tag and that’s what resets the market or do salaries stay sane for a little while longer without the Tucker comparison point? There’s a chance that about 6-7 coaches this year make $2 million less each if Michigan State doesn’t offer him that contract.