Practice Spotlight - Day Two

SEATTLE - On Thursday there was more talk about the passion, more talk about the details, the things that the current Washington players have said when asked to compare Chris Petersen's new regime at Washington and the previous staff under current USC Head Coach Steve Sarkisian's. And it's not just coming from those that were seemingly left in the wind to twist.

"(Petersen) met with some of us - me, DiAndre (Campbell) - those guys that had another year and other guys as well," senior defensive end Andrew Hudson told Dawgman.com Thursday. Hudson was one of a few ‘suddenly seniors' that walked with those matriculating last year despite a year of eligibility remaining. "We talked and I really like his staff - they seemed to think really highly of me, which is awesome. It was both ways; I wanted to stay and he wanted to see who was in this program right now."

For Hudson, it was definitely all about a second chance. But for others, like sophomore defensive end Joe Mathis - who initially hinted via Twitter after Sarkisian left for USC that he would be looking hard at leaving UW - even he has come around to Petersen's way of thinking. Mathis was the poster child for the typical Sarkisian recruit; tough, athletic, nasty - but not without some flaws, flaws that allowed Sark to pull a top target like Mathis away from the traditional California powerhouse programs.

"It's been pretty hard, but the coaches are all cool and they are all willing to work with us and give everybody opportunities," he said. "I think it's pretty cool that we've got different coaches because we needed some change."

Pretty telling stuff, if you ask me.

Whatever the reason, it appears as if the transition between Sarkisian and Petersen has been smoother than initially anticipated. "It turned out way better than I could have imagined," said junior corner Marcus Peters. "They came in and they told us what they were going to do and they told us to buy into it and the guys are buying into it and we're just working hard right now."

There was always talk during Sark's tenure of the first-time head coach heading to upper campus to check in on classes, make sure his guys were being held accountable. In hearing some of the players talk about the differences now between Sark and Pete, you wouldn't have been aware of much accountability - at least on the outside.

"Just with coach Pete, he's on us now," sophomore safety Trevor Walker said. "I called my Dad, I was talking to him last night…(Petersen) is just like a parent. He's on us for everything; not coming to class, not going to tutoring sessions, missing team dinners later on at night…we don't really like it in terms of us wanting freedom, but we know in the long run it's going to make us disciplined. Us leading the Pac-12…I know we had a lot of penalties last year, but I know us just focusing on the little things - like being early to stuff, being on time - that's going to help our transition when we're on the field."

Position Flexibility: Whether it's out of need - as in the case of the linebackers, where LB Coach Bob Gregory stressed that with at least three influential players currently out, it's important that all the linebackers learn every spot - or out of curiosity, players are already getting used to trying new things, or continuing to pursue multiple positional roles.

Thursday, Shaq Thompson got his first taste of running back while working out in individual drills, and John Ross got some face time with Defensive Backs Coach Jimmy Lake for a little bit. Petersen said Monday that Thompson and Ross were definitely two players he was intrigued with when talking about double, or even triple-duty. Ross is also a standout kick returner.

Peters was asked about Ross playing some more defensive back, like he did at the end of the 2013 season. Ross, man he's an amazing athlete," Peters said of the sophomore from Long Beach, Calif. "That's all you can say about him. He's fast, quick on his feet and he's going to be a perfect asset to the defense when we need him."

And his take on Shaq getting some running back reps? Peters laughed. "He's a monster," Peters said, matter-of-factly. "He's a monster, and it's going to be real unique seeing him run the ball. Everybody talks about Myles Jack running the ball; Shaq Thompson really can run that ball."

Thompson to running back even got the Bob Gregory seal of approval. "If it makes us better, I'm all for it," he said.

More Quotable: Here's a sampling of some more things said at Thursday's practice:
DE Hauoli Kikaha, on the new staff emphasizing details - "Yes…it's evident. I had to do a little extra work now because I forgot a few things. We have to be on our p's and q's. I got the message loud and clear."

DE Andrew Hudson, on his perceived differences between the two staffs he's played for - "For most of it, the overall vibe I feel from the coaching staff is that they are here for us, they are here to help us grow and help us be the best we can be. There's no getting on and cussing the athletes out. That just makes a huge overall difference. No one takes any shots personally and can grow from those things.

"From an individual level of coaches that I deal with - between the defensive line coach and coach K (Kwiatkowski) - the third d-line coach I've been working with since I've been here? The beginning is the same. You work with them, they work with you and take what we've got and go with it because we're already behind…but yeah. It's been great. It's been awesome."

LB Coach Bob Gregory, on moving on without John Timu for the first half of spring and how they are compensating as a group - "We just go on. We don't think about it. I wish he was here for the kid's sake, for the team's sake, but he's not here so we keep going. It gives a chance for our young guys to get more reps. Really what we're doing right now is…all of our guys are playing all positions. It's a lot of the young guys…Azeem Victor is playing our inside position, Sean Constantine, Connor O'Brien…even Shaq took a couple reps in the inside position. Really, we're short a few guys so everybody has to take reps everywhere."

DE Joe Mathis, on how much he has changed since he came here last summer - "I grew up a lot. I grew up and matured and started to become a man, started to take criticism and the coaching. Before that I was like, ‘Why are they on me?' because I had never had coaches that were on me like that. Now I listen to what they say and try to fix it."

CB Marcus Peters, on what he's already learned from DB Coach Jimmy Lake - "I have to be a technician…you've got to be a technician all the way around the board. You've got to be a technician watching film, you've got to be a technician on the field with your coverages and everything."


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