Archive for the ‘Tyrone Willingham’ Category

Weird End to Ugly Era

October 28, 2008

As Art Thiel wrote in the P-I today, these things never go well, do they? The Paint Dry Ty era came to an announced end yesterday….five games before the end of the year, which is weird….but an end that everyone in the free world saw coming since he was retained last year. And nice touch with the purple-n-gold sign, eh? That is someone who spent WAY too much time on something derogatory towards their own coach. Must be a pretty proud moment for a guy that age to get his picture in the paper for his sign ripping the local college football coach. And nice purple satin jacket on the guy on the right. (‘m thinking 1982, K-Mart?)

Obviously UW fans are beyond frustrated. This was year four of the Ty Willie experiment, a year in which they had planned on taking a big step forward. They blew a few games last year in a 4-9 season, and it was sound enough reasoning to say that if they could have held on in the Apple Cup, the Hawaii game, and the Arizona game, all games they had at least a two-score lead, UW could have been 7-6 and a bowl team last year. So, sure, they would probably struggle early with a tough schedule, but after some lumps it would be the year it all turns around. But alas, here they are, down Jake Locker and a host of other players, sitting at 0-7 and staring at a certain 0-8 after they “bow down” to USC this Saturday. Willingham is 11-32 overall, just a brutal record. And I heard it was so bad during Saturday’s blowout loss to Notre Dame that, during a commercial on the big screen featuring Willingham doing charity work with children, the fans booed. The masses are so down right now though, they could throw a picture of the Easter Bunny, Santa, and puppies on the big screen and they would get ripped. Tough crowd.

So here’s a question for the WSU faithful – and I’m serious here – but is UW what it used to be? The KJR types are yakking it up about how they need to go hire a rock star head coach to return UW to prominence. But is it that easy? Can they ever get back to how things used to be? I don’t care if they hired Nick Saban, Steven Spurrier, Les Miles, Jim Mora, Lane Kiffin or Mike Holmgren, right now this job is NOT what it used to be. Consider:

1) The record – Since Y2k – and this INCLUDES their 2000 season where they went 11-1 – UW is now 44-59. That is good for eight in the Pac-10, ahead of only Stanford and Arizona. This isn’t a one or two or even three-year downturn. This is a disturbing trend, especially when you consider where they started the decade. For what it’s worth, with UW’s loss vs. Notre Dame, they have now clinched their fifth consecutive losing season. Their last non-losing season was 2003, where they went 6-6.

2) The facilities – You know the drill. They have been touting for 18 months how badly UW needs the work done on their aging old lady on Montlake. The place is literally falling apart. And yes, they have their hand out for $150 million in public funds. Good luck with that. For a stadium that would be used, what, 5-6 times a year? The track would be removed in their renovation, so they can’t argue it would be used for that. And Qwest Field is already hosting soccer, so that’s out as well. So let’s see – in a major economic downturn, with a huge state deficit, they are paying Willingham $1 million alone to disappear, and they are saying they are going to go “big” on their next head coach, speculated to be in the $2 million per year range? AND they want public money to pay for half of their $300 million renovation, the most expensive college renovation EVER?? Whatever. Don’t ask don’t get, sure, but for them to cry poor mouth right now is insane.

3) The Landscape – While UW has struggled during the Y2K decade, guess who has climbed right past them in the NW? No, not WSU (although WSU has finished ahead of UW in the Pac-10 standings for seven straight years, and has 11 more wins than UW since Y2K….not that anyone is counting….but still). Check out what’s been going on in Oregon. Did you know that outside of USC, Oregon and Oregon State are two-three in the Pac-10 in terms of record this decade? Better than Cal, better than ASU, better than UCLA. This isn’t a mistake or misprint. The Oregon schools have taken off while UW has slid down the pole.

Why? Well, sugar daddies help. Phil Knight with Oregon obviously, and Reser has been a boost. But with the sugar daddies also came better facilities. And nobody can argue against the idea that Oregon and Oregon State have two of the nicer venues in the west. They both have built a strong donor base, filled with rabid fans who expect to win games.

And, when you combine success and great facilities as well as some excellent head coaches in the two Mike’s – Bellotti and Riley – well, you can see how the Oregon schools have been heading off the California talent at the pass. Back in the day, when UW was winning Pac-10 titles, the flow of talent into Seattle was impressive from SoCal. Today, not so much.

The biggest thing the Oregon schools have done is to completely hurt the depth at a school like UW. Every school suffers injuries, even the USC’s of the world. But they simply reload with all-Americans. With Oregon and Oregon State nabbing that talent that used to show up in Seattle, now, UW has lost their layers of depth that they used to boast as simply reloading, never rebuilding. They’ll still get the Jake Locker’s of the world, but it’s what is next to him and around him that is just as important.

Now, I know, I know, I shouldn’t throw stones from this glass house. But I’m really not. WE are in the middle of completely bottoming-out, staring at 1-win world right now. But guess what? We’re actually one step AHEAD of UW in the process. I know that sounds crazy. But when you think about it, we are already a few phases into a stadium renovation that, when done, will be a pretty cool game-day setting that will only help in recruiting.

And despite the sniping this year from some of you with our big drop in quality, we already have our coach with which to rebuild. Wulff had an OK first recruiting class last year, but this year is off to an excellent start in the verbal commitment department. UW still has a facility headache on their hands, and, they need to get their next coach to start the process.

So there you have it. Willingham coaches out the rest of the year while UW begins the search for his successor. A weird end to an ugly era.

Enjoy your Tuesday, and GO COUGS!

Pac-10 Stuff

July 7, 2008


With some trickle of news here and there, thought it was good to check around the Pac-10 and see what’s going on.

First off, WSU news – another commitment? That’s right, defensive end Chris Mastin from L-C in Spokane has committed to Malik Roberson and Paul Wulff. According to the story, Malik developed a good relationship with Mastin. In fact Malik went to L-C himself so he can speak first-hand to what’s in store for Mastin. But Mastin is an interesting speed-rushing prospect. A little undersized at 6-1.5, 205, but really quick off the edge, he could be in that Isaac Brown-DD Acholonu mold. He’s a 3-star guy per Scout.com and a top-50 defensive end prospect for the upcoming class. If you are scoring at home, that’s four commits for the class of 2009. Yes, that’s one more commit in July vs. the three that Wulff had when he took over in December. Keep it up fellas.

What up with UW? Still no commits. It has to be said, that uncertainly around Ty has to be having an effect. Rumors are that Ty has made a little noise about a contract extension, citing the uncertainly as a main obstacle in landing some top-shelf talent. It’s hard for an NCAA coach to come up on the last year of their deal without any assurances. But they are still without an AD, since Todd Turner announced he was stepping down in December and Scott Woodward has passed on the job (or has he?). Maybe more than any other sport, NCAA football and NCAA hoops rarely see a coach enter the final year of their deal. You either see the coach fired or extended at that point. We’ll see what happens, but the situation bears watching. The pressure has to be high right now, especially with the new energy in Pullman? I’m not flat-out suggesting that we’ll out-recruit UW, but, things are a little different this summer vs. last summer?

UCLA’s Ben Olson is taking baby steps to return to the field. If you remember, Olson broke his foot one play after QB Patrick Cowan blew out his ACL in the final spring practice. Brutal. But Olson has made significant progress, to the point that he could be ready to go when they start fall practice on August 5th. UCLA has issues offensively right now, with 8 of their top 10 linemen on the 2-deep who haven’t had any significant playing time. They also lost a projected starter for the season at right tackle in Sean Sheller to an ATV accident a few weeks ago.

Oregon State is down a couple of safeties. First Al Afalava, who got into some hot water with a DUI accident and fleeing the scene on foot, destroying a city bus stop in the process. Afalava will be suspended for the opener vs. Stanford. Now safety Bryan Payton has suddenly quit the program, with very little explanation. Payton was a pain to the staff over the years, getting sent home from the insight.com bowl a few years ago and had some academic issues over his career, but he definitely had ability. His biggest moment was a huge game vs. USC in their monumental upset a few years ago, where he made some big plays, including a big INT. Oregon State has already lost their entire front-seven to graduation, so the last thing they needed was more losses in the secondary.

ASU is copying us. They now have a practice bubble too, but for very different reasons. It’s the oppressive mid-day heat from August through October that forced the team to practice at night only. Now, they can head indoors and come up with a regular practice schedule, just like everyone else. And it’s even potentially a “green” structure, as they’ll look to solar power for the AC. Hooray Dennis.

An LA Sheriff rammed Pete Carroll. Seriously. Carroll was cruising in the fast lane through Malibu when suddenly a Sheriff pulled right in front of him to make a U-Turn, crushing his car in the process. The rock star wasn’t hurt, and even made it to a camp the next day.

Spring Fish Wrap – The Jake Locker’s Edition

June 26, 2008

This won’t be the same as the other “fish wraps” we’ve been doing around here. Why? Because if you are reading this, you likely know UW pretty well. WSU fans are well aware of what’s going on at UW (uw football blog east?). It’s the little brother thing I guess. Whatever. It is what it is. So, I don’t think what follows will actually be all that “newsy” to you, but here goes.

First of all, I thought about making fun of all things Jake Locker and UW. You know, the love affair with #10, the unrealistic expectations that he’ll never fulfill. But I just can’t do it. Why? Because Locker is a hell of a kid. A great leader on and off the field, with countless anecdotes of what a class act he is in every thing he does. There is no joy in trying to tear anyone down, especially a kid like Locker who does so many things right. So there won’t be any BS about Locker.

That said, is Locker really all he’s hyped up to be? Is he really the Tim Tebow of the west?

Now, Locker is a great athlete. He’s a big, physical runner who is strong as an ox. He could probably play running back, linebacker or safety and be a top-shelf talent at any position. He’s that athletic. He ran for an unbelievable 986 rushing yards last year, with 13 TD’s. His yards per carry average of 5.7 was actually better than leading rusher Louis Rankin’s 5.6 average. For a QB to average more yards per carry than the leading rusher on the team is very impressive. Even better, Locker’s average of 82.2 rushing yards per game was good for 5th in the entire Pac-10. The only runners ahead of him were Jonathan Stewart, Justin Forsett, Yvenson Bernard and Louis Rankin.

And you know that he’s a heck of a baseball player as well, reportedly armed with a 90+ mph fastball. He’s even playing some outfield this summer for the Bellingham Bells. According to this article, Locker would have been a first-round MLB pick out of high school if he would have sent strong enough signals to baseball that he would consider signing. But this whole thing about playing QB and throwing the football, well, that part of his game needs a little polish.

For some proof (and you can’t hide from the stats), check out Locker’s passing line from 2007: 155 completions out of 328 attempts, good for a 47.3 completion percentage. Locker tossed 14 TD’s, but he did throw 15 INT’s. His 171 passing yards per game placed him 7th in the Pac-10. And his passing efficiency rating was 8th in the conference, ahead of only Stanford’s Tavita Pritchard.

In other words, yes, this kid might become John Elway. But he isn’t there yet.

I think the media hype can be a little much. For example, I heard KJR’s John Clayton a few weeks ago claim that Jake Locker was “a better passing version of Tim Tebow.” Seriously Mr. Clayton? Hmm, let’s see – Tebow was “only” 234 out of 350 passing attempts last year, completing 66.9% of his passes with 32 TD’s and only 6 INT’s. And oh yeah, Tebow also ran for 895 yards and an amazing 23 rushing TD’s. Granted Tebow won the Heisman, with arguably the greatest first-year starting QB that the game has ever seen. But this isn’t a shot against Locker. It really isn’t. It just shows that the media slant on Locker in the northwest is so strong that even John Clayton, the hall-of-fame NFL writer, can get lost in the glare.

The other thing with Locker is the whole running QB thing. You can run people over if you have the junk in the trunk, and Locker as is strong and thick as they come at the position. But ultimately kid, the tread will wear out on the tires. You have to wonder how many hits he can take before something serious happens.


There was the scary headline shot he took vs. Oregon State, where it initially looked like he might have suffered a major injury that could end his career. But he took an absolute beating last year vs. Ohio State and USC, including some very cheap shots as the opposing defenses looked to rattle the kid:

If I was a Husky fan, I would literally hold my breath every time #10 tucked it and ran. As exciting as he is, there is no doubt he’s got a bulls-eye on his chest, and the opposing teams aren’t going to lay off when they get the chance.

Anyway, on to the Dawgs, and how things look post-spring/pre-fall camp.

2007: A disappointing 4-9 record, including a 2-7 record in the conference, good for last.

Offensive scheme: Somewhat traditional/west coast offense, with two backs, a TE and two WR’s in the regular offense. But UW introduced a lot more shotgun last year, and even looked at some schemes that teams like West Virginia ran with QB Pat White to see how they could take advantage of Locker’s talents. Tim Lappano remains the offensive coordinator after some rumors about his head coaching candidacy last year, including some links to good ‘ol WSU.

Top Offensive Player: Duh.


Defensive Scheme: It’s a whole new world for Ty Willingham. Ed Donatell comes to Montlake, an experienced NFL defensive coach who brings a fresh approach to the defensive side of the ball. Donatell’s ideas are welcome to improve maybe the worst Husky defense in SCHOOL HISTORY last year. The Dawgs allowed over 446 yards per game last year, ranking ninth in passing defense and last in the Pac-10 in rushing defense and total defense. Six different teams ran for at least 219 yards against them last year, topped by an unreal 465 yards rushing by Oregon at Husky Stadium. In a word, brutal. Nowhere to go but up here.

Top Defensive Player: I am tempted to say it’s LB EJ Savannah, who totaled 111 tackles and 12 tackles for loss. But Savannah has battled some injury issues with his shoulder and neck, and to top it off, broke his arm in the last few weeks while arm wrestling? Strange story. Anyway, instead of Savannah I’m going to pick defensive end Daniel Te’oNesheim.


The junior pass rusher had a team-high 8.5 sacks last year, and will be far and away the best defensive lineman on the team in ’08.

Top Spring Questions:

1) How much will Ed Donatell really help the defense?

This has to be the top question for the team coming out of spring. UW nearly had UCLA’s hot coordinator of the year, DeWayne Walker, but at the last minute he fell for Rick Neuheisel’s charms. But Donatell is a really strong “get” for UW. However, it is hard to look at the numbers and think this will suddenly become a fearsome defense, no matter who’s wearing the headset. 446 yards per game and 32 points per game in 2007 is overwhelming. But the spring produced some positive buzz about how much better things should be on that side of the ball. Some personnel was shuffled around to inject some energy into the unit, and Donatell’s D showed more aggression and physical play.

But a coach can only do so much. It’s still about the material he has to work with if he is going to be successful. While Te’oNesheim is a stud up front, he’s the only one out of the top six defensive lineman from last year who is returning this season. You can bet opposing offenses will pay a lot more attention to him this year. Savannah’s injury is a big question mark, as he’s right there with Te’oNesheim as potential defensive MVP and all-conference selection. That said, the secondary might see a real boost this year. That area is Donatell’s specialty, and three starters return in corners Mesphin Forrester, Byron Davenport, and safety Jason Wells. There’s also some good young talent back there in Nate Williams and Quinton Richardson.

2) We know how great Locker can be, but what about the skill positions?

This is an exciting, yet scary area for UW. Louis Rankin became the first 1,000+ yard rusher for the Dawgs since 1997, but he’s gone. Brandon Johnson will probably start at tailback, and he looked good in stretches last year, including 121 yards vs. a Cal team that simply quit last year. But the WR’s are a real concern. Only ONE player out of the top seven pass-catchers from last year is back, and that’s TE Michael Gottlieb with 12 catches. There is youth everywhere with kids like Curtis Shaw, De’Andre Goodwin, Anthony Boyles and Alvin Logan. But the young one everyone is drooling over is Chris Polk, the true frosh who was in for spring ball. Polk is a dynamic athlete with incredible speed and could be a real game-changer once he settles into the offense.

3) What is up with that schedule??

Say this about UW, they aren’t afraid to beef up the schedule. They’ve had Notre Dame on the schedule off and on for the last several years. They’ve scheduled Ohio State and Oklahoma as well as up-and-comer Boise State. They’ve already added LSU to 2009. But this year could be the toughest yet, as Phil Steele has ranked UW’s schedule as the toughest in the nation. In a year that has Ty Willingham on the hottest seat in the Pac-10, a brutal schedule might be the worst possible thing to happen to his job security.

WSU Football Blog bottom line: As good as Locker can be, there is bound to be some growing pains while the young skill position pups get their feet wet. They open at Oregon to start the season on 8/30, and that’s no picnic. This first game could be a real land-mine in front of the Autzen crazies. So many times you hear the experts talk about how it takes a little while of game experience for WR’s to “get it” in terms of the timing with the QB. You see it in the NFL all the time, where a WR is drafted high based on his college stats and his incredible combine numbers, but once they get to the NFL it’s a slow start. Why? Because the instincts haven’t taken over yet, and the player is thinking too much on the field. If the player thinks too much, maybe he’s a couple of steps too slow in his indecision and route-running, and suddenly the phenom becomes rather ordinary. And it’s one thing to throw the ball around in the indoor practice facility in shorts and a t-shirt, it’s quite another to strap it on and have an opposing defense trying to get inside your head.

But it isn’t just the Oregon game that is a concern. Then they have to come home and play BYU, a team that many are touting as “this year’s Boise State” in terms of a talented, experienced team from a less-heralded conference that could upset the BCS apple cart. But the week after that? Oklahoma rolls into Seattle on 9/13, a team that everyone has in their pre-season top 5 and returns eight starters on offense from an 11-win team last year. There’s also a potential sticky game at Arizona on 10/4, and they also travel to USC on 11/1.

At first glance, you would think UW will be improved just given another year’s experience by Locker. His ability could elevate the game of those around him. And they will be better on defense with Donatell, but unless Locker absolutely explodes into another stratosphere, there will be some struggles on offense based on all the youth.

One huge key is that UW has potentially lost 6th-yr senior center Juan Garcia to the dreaded lisfranc foot injury, and that could make it even more dicey on the offensive line. Garcia is regarded as an excellent center and a real leader up front. His loss could put even more pressure on Locker’s shoulders to lift the entire program. There really does look to be too many questions to place them high up the Pac-10 ladder, but I do believe they will be better than last year. How much better remains to be seen, but I don’t think this is a last-place team.

Thursday Ramblings

June 5, 2008


For absolutely no reason whatsoever, I thought I would post the picture of the real-life Peter Griffin for you Family Guy fans. The resemblance is uncanny.

Moving on, Phil Steele’s pre-season rag hits the stands in the coming days. If you love to read these things like I do, you know that Steele is about as good as a pre-season read as you can find. The national version is good enough, but the regional version per conference is outstanding. Thanks to Bob Condotta of the Times for pointing this out. Here’s a look at Steele’s All-Pac-10 teams:

Nice to see Gibson getting his due. He’s been first on every Pac-10 preseason team I’ve seen. We highlighted it the other day, but Oregon’s secondary is pretty stacked. USC, big surprise, has the most all-league picks, with 23. WSU? Last, with 7. Again, big surprise.

Another thanks to Condotta for this story (and even though it’s a UW blog, he does a hell of a job for the Times). The San Jose Mercury News runs down the salaries of the Pac-10 head coaches from 1-10, and places a win share, or dollars to wins to see who is doing the best based on salary. High School Harry (Pete Carroll) gets the most at 2.8 large, and yes, he’s worth every penny. Our own coach Wulff is down the line a bit at 9th, slightly ahead of Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh. Not a surprise he’s down there, given his lack of D-1 experience, but I guess I was a little taken aback that he’s ahead of Harbaugh, although not by much. I thought these quotes were interesting:

“The most overpaid coach, when comparing dollars to wins? Washington’s Tyrone Willingham.

The most underpaid? Oregon State’s Mike Riley.”

Tyrone’s 1.47 million seems awfully high for a guy who’s gone 11-25 and still has his job. But given the 1-win disaster he took over, I think it is unfair to judge him purely on the record. Like it or not, he’s drastically changed the culture, and went way outside the box to bring in a top-shelf d-coordinator this year that should pay instant dividends. I know, “UW FOOTBALL BLOG EAST” or whatever you want to call it, but it is what it is. “Riles” as the most underpaid is accurate as well. We’ll get into the Beav’s more in the next couple of days with another spring fish wrap, but to think that he coaxed 9 wins out of that team last year with all that was going on is a fantastic coaching job that cannot be understated!

Finally, John McLaren had a Jose-Guillen-like meltdown of epic proportions yesterday, after getting ripped by Chuck Armstrong before the game.

The only thing I can say is what took you so long John?? Someone pointed it out yesterday in comments, but Jose Vidro hitting 4th?? Brutal. Jose Vidro shouldn’t hit 4th on my son’s coach-pitch team, but to think he’s the starting DH and hitting 4th on an AL club is just mind-blowing. That shows how poorly this team has been put together, and you just have to wonder how much longer this will go on. Maybe after today’s MLB amateur draft they will blow it up. The worst thing is that it seems like they really don’t have a clue as to what to do to turn it around. Chuck Armstrong gave Bavasi and McLaren very loud votes of confidence a few weeks ago, decisions that look worse by the day. I heard Pat Gillick interviewed on KJR the other day, about how he said it was too early to give up on 2008 and you have to wait until at least the All-Star break. HUH? 15 games out, worst record in the bigs and it’s June 6th. IT’S TIME.

Not Feeling it? You will.

November 21, 2007

I know some of you aren’t really “feeling it” this year. It is, after all, as many are saying, a pillow fight between two 4-win teams. But you know what? By the time Saturday gets here, you WILL feel it. Just like you do every year when these two get it on.
Here’s the end of the 2005 AC in Seattle that I just ripped from a DVD and uploaded. That win capped a 4-7 season, but so what! They wanted it in a huge way. I’ve got more video to upload and I will do so in the next few days.
Especially pay attention at the 2:50 mark, as Willingham “big-times” Harrison, who crushed the Husky D for 206 yards that day, at the end of the game by barely raising his hand to shake it. Then he brushes by Trandon Harvey, the guy who took the bubble screen 40 yards to the house for the game-winner, as if he was invisible. I had forgotten how ugly that game ended and how it could have really turned into a bad scene, but luckily cooler heads prevailed: