Practice Spotlight - Day Four

SEATTLE - It was a gorgeous day out Tuesday morning as the University of Washington football team took the field at Husky Stadium - the kind of day where you know there's going to be a lot of work done. Add to that the fact that it was the first pads practice of spring football, and the sense of urgency was there - even if it wasn't necessarily backed up by crisp play.

Whether it's having to think before reacting, or learning new terminology, spring football is where all the kinks get sorted out.

Don't Think, Just Play: "It's always kind of a whole-part-whole method where we're going to have tempo and sometimes when you're trying to go fast any sort of thinking is out the window - which is, at the end of the day what we want…they know what they are doing…but half the guys don't know what they are doing," UW Head Coach Chris Petersen said Tuesday when asked about tempo during the last team period of the day.

"So that's the process of cleaning this up."

And listening to Petersen, you might as well call him ‘Mr. Clean'. It's the act of constantly fixing mistakes and cleaning up technique and assignment errors that makes him smile. He knows that when mistakes are cleaned up and the process is working, progress is being made.

"We have a lot of different things going in so there's a little bit of confusion going along with that progress, so it's a little bit of two steps forward, one step back…but the guys are working hard," Petersen added.

Some Speaking French, Some Speaking Spanish: For some of the positions, terminology and just the language barrier between the players and coaches has been one obstacle to overcome. In some instances, the coaches have been able to hybrid calls the previous staff used to what they want to implement this spring

"Yeah, there's a little bit of that going on," UW Defensive Coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said. "There's a couple fronts we're calling that are similar and coverages that are using the same terminology. There's a blend going back and forth there."

"Even though we may use some different verbiage, a lot of the techniques are the same from what they've done in the past here," added Defensive Line Coach Jeff Choate. "And there's only so many ways that you can play blocks anyway."

Changes…Lots Of Changes: With some position groups, wholesale changes are going into effect. With the defensive backs, it's a case of out with the old and in with the new, as Defensive Backs Coach Jimmy Lake is bringing his philosophy in. That means Keith Heyward's style of doing things has effectively been eviscerated.

"I wouldn't say it's hard for them to pick up; it's just a mentality of the way we run our techniques, the way we do our man coverages, bump coverages, off coverages - all the things we need to know within our man schemes and our zone schemes, where our eyes need to be…it's completely flipped from everything that they've been taught before," Lake said, noting that the position group will be greatly improved when they get their full compliment of players in the summer, including the seven defensive backs they signed in February: Budda Baker, Naijiel Hale, Sidney Jones, Brandon Lewis, Jojo McIntosh, Darren Gardenhire, and Lavon Washington.

In fact, Lake is co-opting players from the offensive side of the ball to help get the job done in spring while waiting for the Magnificent Seven to show. John Ross already put some work in at nickel during the end of 2013, and Lake hinted Tuesday that he's not the only receiver that could see some time in the secondary this spring.

"John Ross," Lake said, "And Jaydon (Mickens) too. I look at (Mickens) as an electrifying player who can get out there and play some nickel for us, play some corner. So I think we've got to utilize all the speed that we have on the whole team."

Shaq Attack: Petersen made no secret of the fact that he wanted to try and use Shaquille Thompson in about as many ways as possible. Steve Sarkisian used the former prep All-American as a returner, while Petersen has eyes on Thompson being a big back change-up on offense. He got his chance Tuesday by getting a number of reps as the first team running back in the final team period of practice.

This was on top of him having the defensive play of the day, a de-cleater on Dwayne Washington earlier during an RB/LB drill.

Chris Petersen, on the biggest adjustment to his staff for the players so far: "I think the biggest adjustment is probably all the little tweaks in scheme. Even though it's pretty similar in general there's some language that's different, and when they have to think…this is a game where you don't want them to think that much. But there's a lot of things going on. We've got to continually go over it so they can play fast and react and not have to think - and they are definitely in a thinking mode right now."

Pete Kwiatkowski, on what he's seeing so far from the defense: "Right now we're not so dialed into the results; it's more about teaching, alignments, assignments, calls, fundamentals, techniques - because we have so many potential ones with threes, or twos…we don't know where these guys are going to end up being. It's more about the details - the assignments, alignment and fundamental football."

Jeff Choate, on what he's looking for from the defensive linemen so far: "We try to break things down into core fundamentals. There's only two possible types of stances; a speed stance and a power stance. Are they in those proper stances when we need them to be there? Are their eyes where they need to be? Are they giving us great effort? Right now we haven't proceeded much past that. A good stance, are your eyes where they need to be, and are you playing with good effort…there's other things we've got to build on down the road but that's the starting point for everything that we're doing."

Jimmy Lake, on if he's using anything from the previous staff for his group - "Oh no, we're changing everything; techniques, all the technique has changed. All of our coverage concepts have changed. So everything has changed. We're bringing in everything that I've done in the past; technique-wise, man coverage-wise, zone coverages…everything has been turned upside down. It's all changed."

Travell Dixon, on if he thinks this is a clean slate for him with the new staff - "I don't call it a clean slate; I call it a blessing. That's all it is, and I'm going to take advantage."
Tuesday Practice Report
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Chris Petersen Tuesday Full Quotes
Pete Kwiatkowski Tuesday Full Quotes
Jeff Choate Tuesday Full Quotes
Jimmy Lake Tuesday Full Quotes
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