Huskies coach Chris Petersen met with reporters for about 24 minutes today, covering all of the topics you would assume a coach might cover on the Monday before his team’s season opener.
Here are a few quick notes and news items …
— Petersen said former walk-on DB Brian Clay and former walk-on DL Drew Schultz have each been awarded scholarships.
— Some of you asked about Kasen Williams, and why he isn’t listed as a starter on the depth chart. Petersen said Williams isn’t quite 100 percent recovered yet from the leg injury he suffered in October, but that he’ll definitely play and he’s interested to see how he fares in a live setting.
— LB Cory Littleton, another player mysteriously absent from UW’s depth chart, has been a little banged up recently, Petersen said, but he’s eager to see what he can do.
— On freshman Budda Baker, who is listed as a starter at safety, Petersen said what stands out the most to him is “probably how focused he is and how hard he plays. If it’s wind sprints, he tries to win them. 7-on-7, it looks like a game rep. During meetings, you can see his focus, he’s paying attention to everything. Very, very mature for a young guy in terms of those aspects of his game.”
— As special-teams coordinator Jeff Choate said last week, Cameron Van Winkle will have first crack at field goals and kickoffs. But don’t be surprised if freshman Tristan Vizcaino also kicks off a couple times, especially if the Huskies score a lot.
Here’s the rest of what Petersen said:
(Opening statement) “Excited. Time to play. Probably as excited as you guys are to see what we’ve got. I think the kids have practiced hard. It’s been a long and short 6-7 months, whatever that is, however many months that’s been. But I think it’s going to be interesting just because we haven’t been through any real games with these guys to see who is going to respond, who is going to step up when somebody makes a big play on us, things don’t go just right on offense, how we respond – and I’m curious, excited and ready to go.”
(How big a week is this for you?) “No bigger than any other year. They are all big. Like I told you guys way back when I first started coaching in front of 300 fans – I had the same exact feelings. It doesn’t change. You’re competitive, you want to do your best for your guys – it doesn’t matter what stage you’re on, where you’re at. My focus never changes on that.”
(What do you want to see the first five minutes of the game?) “That’s part of the battle, trying to get guys to calm down. That’s easier said than done. I think as coaches we can’t put any more undue pressure on them, they are going to be feeling it themselves. This is the first time out of the gate in a long time. It’s always interesting how games start out; you’ve got to weather the storms. For the high school kids, the freshmen – and even some of the sophomores – college game is a lot longer, a lot longer than the high school game. There’s going to be ebbs and flows. You’ve got to be able to withstand them. You don’t go one direction, back and forth. You’ve got to know that. It’s long and you’ve got to hang in there and keep battling.”
(Amazed how quickly the process has gone since you were hired?) “It always is. It’s exactly like the kids’ time here, I think. The days are long, but the time is short. There’s been some long, hard grinding days, but you’re exactly right. It’s like wow, it’s here already. Let’s get ready to go.”
(Envision playing both quarterbacks Saturday or will it be Jeff’s show?) “I don’t envision either. I don’t know. We’re just going to…there’s a lot of unknowns here. We’ll let Jeff go and adjust accordingly. We’ve got good confidence in him and I think he’s going to play at a high level. But we’ll see. I think we keep all options open in a lot of different phases of our games. Coaches are always prepared to adjust if we have to.”
(Comfortable giving him complete access to the playbook?) “I don’t think…like I told our kids, you don’t worry so much about the quarterback, it’s everybody else. There’s no way everybody can handle the whole playbook. We’ve thrown a lot of things at them but now it’s our time to tighten things up and say this is all we’re carrying into this game, these are all the things you’ve got to think about – not everything you’ve seen in spring ball or fall camp.”
(How involved were you in picking Jeff as the starting quarterback?) “For all our coaches when we have tight competition, I’m there for a little bit of outside eyes, maybe a bit of a fresh perspective. I’m not in meetings every single day with those guys at that position. I think it’s a good process. Some guys they haven’t said anything to me, and other guys say hey, what do you think? I put my two cents in. I think at the quarterback position it was very tight between those two guys. We had many discussions throughout spring ball and how it went in fall camp. At the end of the day just decided that we felt like Jeff deserved the nod, excited to see what he can do and fired up about it.”
(But is it easier to gravitate more toward the QB competition being a former QB?) “I always gravitate toward that position. Going way back I’m an offensive guy, I’m a quarterback guy. Our whole offense is trying to set up around making a quarterback successful. When you don’t have a returning starter coming back you don’t want to put it on any one guy, and if I was the coordinator I would want other input as well. Not from just me, but from the line coach as well, and I think we put all eyes on that position and everybody had a say and we came to a consensus and we’re rolling with it.”
(On Budda Baker and talking to coach Lake about Budda starting) “Yeah, I didn’t have any conversations with coach (Jimmy) Lake. Budda’s been going hard from Day One and he’s doing a great job. I think we’ve got some guys there that – at that position you’re going to see multiple guys going through there because at that position we have so many young guys and we want to keep the competition flowing. Budda’s done a great job from the time he got here in the summer ’til right now.”
(What stood out most about Budda Baker?) “Probably how focused he is and how hard he plays. If it’s wind sprints, he tries to win them. 7-on-7, it looks like a game rep. During meetings, you can see his focus, he’s paying attention to everything. Very, very mature for a young guy in terms of those aspects of his game.”
(Lavon Washington and Derrick Brown punishments?) “Lavon won’t be with us anymore and Derrick’s suspended indefinitely. We’ll kind of figure out his deal down the road, where we go from there. But guys gotta do things right around here. It’s been preached from day one, and if they’re not, we’ll take action.
(What did they do?) “We don’t comment on any of that.”
(Was it criminal?) “We don’t comment on any of that.”
(On overcoming adversity when guys get in trouble) “I don’t necessarily think it’s adversity – I think it’s adversity for those guys not figuring out how to do it – but I think this team’s moving on, moving on quickly. We’ve got other guys and we’re not looking back. That’s how it goes. Everybody’s got to pay attention, learn from others’ mistakes, and if they don’t, the same action will be taken.”
(Developing depth through first few games?) “There’s no question that we need to develop really good depth. I keep going back, I really wish there was five-year eligibility. I really do. I think it’d be good for the game, good for the kids, good for everything. What I mean there is, there’s no real redshirt. You don’t have to worry about that. And as depth changes throughout the year, it keeps kids focused, engaged. You don’t have to worry about burning a kid’s year really late. Because we know we’re going to need – we’re going to play a lot of freshmen. We know that going in right now. So who knows how the season goes in terms of injuries and those things? Everybody gets guys dinged up, loses guys, and if you have one of those seasons where it’s really not good, that’s where you talk about being friendly to the student-athlete – all of a sudden you’ve got to play a kid who sat on the bench for a long time and you don’t really want to do that, but you have to do it for the health of your team.”
(How much can Kasen Williams contribute?) “I think he’s going to paly. I know he’s going to play. There’s no question he’ll be in there. I don’t think he’s 100 percent but I think he can go. I think part of it is just him getting in a game. He’s going to have to go full speed. I think when we’ve done some scrimmage situations, he’s looked better. Doesn’t think about it as much and goes. He’s just going to be a work in progress throughout the season.”
(How much progress has Cyler Miles made?) “I think Cyler’s done a really good job. I’ve been impressed with him in terms of not having anything in spring, where he is mentally and really how he kind of runs the show out there when he does get out there. I was very surprised at that. He knew a lot more than I thought he would. Part of that is we’ve kept as many things the same terminology wise as we can. But he also has had pretty good memory in terms of recall certain things, ‘oh yeah, we’ve used this before in this game,’ and not all players can do that, and I think that’s kind of a sign or a characteristic of one of those minds that really, things stick in terms of his position.”
(On not screaming and yelling at players?) “I think players – I know this when I was a player: you don’t need to scream and yell at those guys all the time to get their attention. In fact, you can be calm most of the time, and just by the way we look at them or the tone of your voice, can have the exact same effect. I’m not saying we don’t get loud or frustrated at times. But I think we’re always trying to communicate to these guys in a positive way. One of the things I want these guys to do when we play is to cut loose and play fast, and if they make a mistake, they know that’s not just on them. That’s on us as coaches as well. We’ll go back and practice and fix this. I want them to have fun and I want them to take chances. And I think a lot of that goes to the style and the way we coach.”
(What do you expect to see from Hawaii?) “It’s a little bit hard to know because they have a brand new defensive coordinator. It’s going to be a completely different scheme. And then they’ve changed their offense as well. So you looking at some players, so it’s hard to not get caught up in their scheme when you’re looking at their tape, which we don’t feel is going to be the same. First games, who knows. I think those first three games, there’s a lot of uncertainty, everybody’s going to have new wrinkles that they’re saving for first game, second game, third game. But you know, I think Norm Chow, let’s not forget, that guy’s a phenomenal coach. To have success in the program, it’s more than just coaching. It’s administration, it’s support, all those things. I know some of those coaches on that staff, too, and this is a new year, and they’ll have those guys ready to roll, I know that.”
(Who starts at kicker) “Cameron (Van Winkle) has done a good with some place kicking things…I think he’s done a good job kicking off as well. We want to get Tristan [Vizcaino] in there so Cam’s leg doesn’t get too weary. Korey Durkee has done a nice job punting. Those guys have done a pretty good job I think it will be interesting when we get off the driving range to see what they got.”
(On who takes the first field goal) “Cameron will.”
(Coming from Boise what lessons did you learn about taking the Hawaii trip?) “It’s hard. It’s such a long plane ride. We’re extremely excited to get off that plane and get that nice ocean air and it feels like vacation. So it’s very easy to lose that mental edge and not be in tune to how it’s going to be and how it’s going to feel. Then to play the game, little bit of time change certainly the weather is different. Usually a little more humidity, sometimes some rain, always some sort of wind. After the game you have to get on that plane and get back here about 8 in the morning, get ready for the next week so there’s nothing easy about this trip at all. Everyone’s like ‘oh Hawaii, it’s great.’ Hard place to play.”
(On the offensive line) “They need to play well. We need to run the ball. Most teams want to do that. And that will take a lot of pressure off the quarterback if we can do some of those things. Secondly we’ll see what kind of leaders they are. I haven’t been with these guys in adverse situations, so we’ll see that’s where our eyes are wide open and readdress and make progress there.”
(On the improvements Dwayne Washington made) “He’s done a real nice job. I will say this, at that running back position I do think it’s a little bit of a seating chart. We’ll play them all and it may be all in the first quarter, it may be not all of them play this game. We’ll just have to see how it goes, so I want to make that clear. But I think he’s done some really nice things. He’s an explosive player, very fast when he gets in space, so Coach (Keith) Bhonapha decided he’d be the guy to get the nod and start it, but I think all these guys will play.”
(On Marcus Peters) “You know a guy that’s played as much as he plays to really be the anchor back there. We saw him as that’s a guy we don’t have to worry about. He’ll make plays. He’s had a lot of hype. I mean, a lot of hype. So we’ll see if he can live up to it. He’s done a nice job in fall camp but he’ll be tested now. If he can live up to that hype, that’s going to help our secondary tremendously.”
(On the overall health) “No, what you see is what you get. We’ve had a relatively good fall camp in terms of that stuff we’ve been very, very blessed. Just some minor things. We’ve been good there.”
(On Cory Littleton) “He’s one of those guys that’s been a little bit banged up, but nothing serious. He’s maybe missed a day or two, kind of been in and out a couple times. I think he’s making good progress. He’s a guy, I’m anxious to see him go because you go put the tape on from last year and he’s a guy that not a lot of people talked about, but I kind of saw him making a lot of plays. So I’m excited about him.”
(For you personally being settled, is it different being here now?) “It’s not different (because it’s) Washington. It’s just being in a new place. So getting through all the things we spoke about — from stretching in our pregame warmup and, is there music in the locker room before? All these little things seem to derail the kids when it’s not exactly the same, and we know that. So we’ve gone through the process of, ‘Yes, this is the same. Yes, this has changed.’ And it’s really not a big deal if the music is on three minutes before you’re used to it or you’re warming up on this side of the field vs. that, so we’re working through some of those things. For me, it’s fall camp, it’s the process, it’s the same. But it’s just getting everybody on the same page, which is a little bit more hectic, a little bit more frantic than when you’re at a place for a long time.
(Do you expect some confusion then on Saturday?) “Oh, there’s no question. And it wouldn’t matter if you’re at a place for a long time. You’re going to have stuff where it’s like, ‘Are you kidding me? How did that happen?’ You already know that’s coming.”
(On attributes of the four running backs) “Some of that’s still to be determined, because I think you’ve got to see it in live situations: Who is going to break tackles the best? Who actually catches the ball most consistently? How has the best feel for finding the holes? I think Dwayne might be the fastest, maybe most explosive. I think Lavon, he’ll be very interesting; I think he’s kind of a physical, hard-nosed type runner. I think Coop and Jesse Callier, those guys are kind of slithering-type guys; they kind of feel things and use their blocks fairly well. That’s my impression early on before really seeing them in the heat of the battle for an extended period of time. I think it’s a good mix, a good blend. I’m glad we have them all, and I’m excited to see those guys go. And we talk about our O-line: We need those guys to step up. We can block the play as clean as possible and it’s, OK, we got 4 yards.’ That’s how it is. (The defense) has two extra players when you have a quarterback and a ball-carrier coming to the ball, so you’re going to have to run through some things and that’s what we’re anxious to see.”
(On offensive tempo … do you have a target number of plays or a pace you want to play at?) “We don’t have a number. Because we’ve been in games where we’ve gotten ahead and we’re trying to slow the game down. … So we haven’t really gotten up on, hey, this is a good number for us. And I think the research even shows, when you’re running an extremely large number of plays, that’s usually not the best for your defense overall. So we want to change tempos.”
(More on Budda Baker: How rare is his maturity as a freshman?) “I think this is why Coach (Butch) Goncharoff and all the guys at Bellevue were so excited about Budda, because he’s such a good athlete, but he brings all these special intangibles to the table. I think that’s when any coach gets excited about a guy. We see a lot of good players. I think when coaches start getting so excited about a guy, it’s when they start bringing these awesome intangibles — they’re really a good person, they treat their teammates well, they’re so locked in; it’s all the things you talk about. And if you could get all the guys like this, you’d have something special. And in the time he’s been here, he’s been like that. I don’t want to put too much on his plate. It’s going to be hard; this is college football at a different speed, but he’s done a great job since he’s been here.”
(Budda on special teams) “He could start on all four of ‘em. But we’ve got to be smart with him and he is going to start on a couple.”
(On emphasizing importance of Game 1 to player) “I always think this: If I have to tell them why this game is important, especially the first game, or give them a fire-up speech in the locker room, we’re in trouble. I have some other things to tell them, but not that. I really feel like that.”
(What’s your Friday night speech like? Are you a fiery guy who bangs the walls?) “Sometimes. They haven’t seen this yet, but I’ve told them what’s coming: I always talk to them about life, life in general; it doesn’t have anything to do with football. It might tie in, but it’s usually about life. And then I’ll usually talk to them about what the keys to the game are and if it’s anything surprising, then we haven’t done our job as coaches. They should go, ‘Yeah, we know that.’ And then we’re locked in and away we go. Sometimes it’s emotional and sometimes it’s not; just kind of feel it as we go.”
(Any decisions on scholarships for walk-ons?) “We have two: Brian Clay has been put on scholarship (and) Drew Schultz has been put on scholarship. Two kids that have done everything right, worked their tail off; our weight room (staff) has loved them, the guys in our locker room really love those kids. And it’s always a good day when we can take care of guys who deserve to be on. And there’s probably a couple other guys who deserve to be on right now that we don’t have scholarships for, but hopefully down the road we will.”
(What’s the most important criteria for Lindquist in this game?) “I think, maybe why we selected him: Just stay within yourself. You don’t need to go out and win this game by yourself. We don’t need a bunch of critical errors. Everybody’s not going to play perfect; we get that. But we’ve got to minimize the critical errors and I think there’s enough guys around him to make plays. If he’s the distributor and takes the easy money, it’ll make his life a lot easier.”
Christian Caple can be reached at email@example.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple