Here are a few more notes and quotes from coach Chris Petersen’s 10-plus minute meeting with reporters earlier this afternoon.
— Petersen said junior receiver Jaydon Mickens will get first crack at returning punts, and sophomore receiver John Ross will begin the season as the team’s kick returner — though a few other players, such as freshman Budda Baker, will also factor into the kick-return game.
“I think Jaydon Mickens is going to be our guy to start off punt returning. I think Jaydon has had a really, really good fall camp. Not just as a punt returner but as a wide receiver. He’s been very consistent, has not missed a beat,” Petersen said. “His energy and focus has been great day in and day out. He’ll start as our punt returner. The kick returning thing, we’ll get John Ross back there. We have a handful of guys we can put back there so we’re kind of sorting some things out as we go there. We’ve got to develop depth there, so to me, I don’t get real worked up on who’s going to be that kick returner, because we’re going to work some guys back in there. I know John Ross will be there to start us out and Jaydon as the punt returner.”
It sounds as if Ross will be deep to return by himself, as opposed to sticking another returner alongside him.
“I think if you’ve got two guys that are kind of equal, I think it’s great, kick to either one of them,” Petersen said. “We want to put another guy back there that if they do kick to the other guy, he can get something done as well. I do think John Ross has some exceptional speed, so we’ll get him back there and see if they kick it to him.”
— At running back, Petersen said all four UW backs — Dwayne Washington, Lavon Coleman, Jesse Callier and Deontae Cooper — should see the field. But he did mention Washington and Coleman first.
“I think we’re going to see all those guys,” Petersen said. “I think you’re going to see Dwayne Washington out there. He’s going to get a good opportunity. I think Lavon Coleman you’re going to see out there. You’re going to see Jesse and Coop as well. All four of those guys are going to see the field. Again, like I said a couple weeks ago, who’s producing, who’s breaking tackles, not those big ol’ wide holes that I could run through, if we have any of those. It’s like, who’s getting hit in the backfield and spinning out and making something happen. I don’t make that decision but I’ll be down there on the running back coach going ‘can we get him the ball a little bit more?’”
— And here’s what Petersen said about the competition in the defensive backfield: “I don’t know if it’s totally settled. I think that’s more of a question for Coach (Jimmy) Lake. Those position coaches, for the most part, I defer to them. If they want my input, I give them my input. Hey, those are the guys that coach them every day. I know he’s kind of shuffling some guys. I know we’re going to see some young guys in the mix. Whether they’re starting out there, snap one, to be determined. But you’re going to see them out there.”
Here’s the rest of what Petersen said:
(Ideal the way QB played out?) “I think ideally, you’d probably like to see one guy where you go, he’s clearly the guy. Like I said, I think Troy’s done some really good things as well, so you can make a case for him. But we’ve got to make a decision at this time to get a guy a few more reps. So we were splitting hairs. I feel good with both those guys. So Jeff will be the guy to get us going.”
(Want to stick with one guy at Hawaii?) “You can look at it two ways. I think at all positions, you like to feel like he’s our guy. But on the other hand, you like to have some good players who are competing and pushing each other every day. And I think we have that at quarterback.”
(Budda Baker at kick returner, too?) “Budda’s working there. Budda’s doing so many different things, not only on defense but on all of our special teams, that if he can start at another … Like, we’re going to work him in some punt returning, we may have him in that front line and be a backup returner – we can’t water him down too much. But he is working back in there as a kick returner.”
(Health?) “I think we’re pretty good. I really do. I think – knock on wood – as far as fall camp goes, you’re going to get guys dinged and all that, but overall, I think we feel pretty good about this. We’ve still got a hard practice tomorrow that should be a pretty physical practice. Hopefully we come out of that one feeling good.”
(Preparing for long road trip?) “The only thing that we really do is try to prepare them getting on the plane, that they have some sort of plan. That we’re not just getting on the plane and going ‘it’s five hours until we get there? What am I going to do now?’ They need to have some work to do, some tape to look at, some football test to take. We want them to kind of plan out their trip like we do everything. Hydrate, going a long time on that plane is a big factor for us. All those little things.”