Practice Spotlight - Day Five

SEATTLE - It didn't take Ben Riva long to get over the fact that Steve Sarkisian was gone and Chris Petersen was going to become the new head coach at the University of Washington. Coaches come and go; that's just a fact of life in college football. But Riva, now a senior right tackle, didn't need to be sold on Petersen's way of doing things.

"I was probably one of the first ones (to buy in)," Riva said Thursday as the first half of spring practice winds down this weekend. "His record speaks for itself. Maybe some people aren't all the way there, but I feel like more and more - more reps, more practice, conditioning, all that stuff - more people are starting to buy in."

"We asked them from the get-go; we wanted some buy-in and there's some new ideas and some new thoughts and the kids have been great about that," added UW Offensive Coordinator Jonathan Smith. "Obviously they've got some relationships already built, both quarterbacks are well-liked. People seem to like them; they are poking fun at them, so that usually means they like ‘em. But I think it's a good atmosphere and good chemistry on this team."

Getting the players to buy in to something completely new is one thing; how is it for a coach? That's the situation Jordan Paopao found himself in when he was the only assistant from Steve Sarkisian's 2013 UW staff to be retained. But the former Husky Graduate Assistant said the transition was not only comfortable for him, but easy. How?

"The cool thing about this new staff has been the wealth and experience and knowledge these guys have brought to the table and really the focus on fundamentals - getting back to basics on exactly what fundamentals are and really taking pride in establishing what that is in your own position group," he said. "And that's been awesome. At the end of the day it's going to be a cool little mesh of the offense, the up-tempo stuff that we were running last year and a lot of the creativity that Boise State has been known for in the past. But these guys have been awesome. It's an unbelievable transition and just looking forward to get after it."

Paopao carried that transition over to his own room, and found ready and willing players to join him. "It was different," admitted sophomore tight end Darrell Daniels. "I committed real fast. Coach Pete is a good dude. We really bought into what he has to offer to the table and it's been good so far. For me, I like his whole grinding mentality and how he wants everybody to work hard. Coming to this tight end position I had to work hard and learn how to get the basics of the position down. I really bought into that."

Sophomore quarterback Jeff Lindquist believes that if there were any non-believers out there before spring, their heads have been sufficiently turned. "After these five practices they get to see what these coaches are about and what our new system would be like and how successful it can be, so guys are really starting to work hard for these coaches and work hard in the new system, and I think it's going to look really good for us," he said.

Being Held Accountable: It's weird to continue to talk about accountability because there was nothing in Steve Sarkisian's five years at Washington to suggest a lack of accountability in the program; they suspended or booted players for team violations, and at the same time continued to bump up team GPA and APR scores. The program appeared to be on fine footing in that regard. But accountability seems to be the word of spring so far, maybe even more so than ‘competition' - and there has been definitely plenty of that. At the beginning of spring we heard from sophomore safety Trevor Walker compare Coach Petersen to having another parent out there; on Thursday there was more talk of tough love and being held responsible for your actions.

"There's definitely a lot more accountability," Riva said, matter-of-factly. "If you mess up you're going to hear about it, you're going to know about it and you're going to pay for it. You're definitely held to a much higher standard, I feel."

Getting Back To The Basics: Riva touched on another big aspect of a Petersen-coached spring practice: fundamentals. It's all about going to square one and building a set of fundamentals that act as the foundation for great play.

"Techniques are a lot different, what they emphasize is a lot different," Riva said. "But other than that, the concepts are all the same; you can only run the same play so many ways. Technique and all that is definitely a lot different. For me, being a taller guy and stuff, they are really emphasizing more knee bends and stuff - playing with your chest up. Which is essential for everyone, but I would say they emphasize it a lot more."

Smith echoed Petersen's long-held mantra about quarterbacks having to be accurate and make good decisions. "We're really putting an emphasis on where their eyes are at and decisions they are making," he said. "We feel like we can clean up the technique and the physical end of that - but where their eyes are at and how you decide and how you make your decisions out there."

For Daniels, this spring is all about making sure his hands are on point and that he's got the details of the blocking game down. "It's the same thing rolling over from last season, because last season when I moved to the tight end position I was getting reps but now it's more detailed, working on fine-tuning my game, and good things like that," he said.
Quotable:
Jonathan Smith, on developments with the QB's after the first half - "Not a ton. They are splitting even reps. I think both of them have done some good things. It's going to be a long process. Today, we put in red zone for the first time so this was their first crack at that. We're evaluating all of that. One thing I will say about both of them is that they're working really hard. We're putting some new things on ‘em and we're stretching them mentally. They are trying to grasp on that, but they need way more turns to start separating themselves."

Jeff Lindquist, on being conscious or aware of the quarterback competition when he's practicing - "I think personally it's more about learning the offense and getting comfortable with the system. Maybe on the back end of practices in spring it'll feel more like a competition, but for right now, especially me and Troy, we're just splitting reps 50/50, trying to get a good grasp on all the plays and trying to get comfortable with the system. Right now I would say it's more learning-based than competition-based, but that could definitely change."

Jordan Paopao, on the tight end competition so far - "Josh Perkins has really come out and established himself just because he has the most playing experience in the group. Michael Hartvigson has come out and had a really solid spring and Darrell Daniels has put out some really unbelievable stuff out there athletically. David (Ajamu) is still learning. At the end of the day he's still a young kid but he's done some really good stuff and I like Derrick Brown as well contributing to the mix."

Darrell Daniels, on bringing a hard-hitting, defensive mentality to the tight end position - "Any time I can bring the punch, I'll bring it. I like to hit. I'm a big, physical dude, so any time I can hit it's a good feeling."

Ben Riva, on avoiding punishment from the new staff - "Be on time, be early, take care of school, pick up your stuff - same thing Mom and Dad got on you about."
Thursday Practice Report
Thursday Practice Videos
Jonathan Smith Thursday Video/Quotes
Jordan Paopao Thursday Video/Quotes
Jeff Lindquist Thursday Video/Quotes
Darrell Daniels Thursday Video/Quotes
Ben Riva Thursday Video/Quotes


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