Mid-Spring Review: All About The Details

With two weeks of spring practice in the books, one thing about the Chris Petersen era is clear: the culture on Montlake is changing. Former head coach Steve Sarkisian left a program with talent on both sides of the ball, though it was a bit sloppy and undisciplined.

Petersen's first order of business has been to get back to the basics – every little thing counts. "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 said.

The new staff is placing an emphasis on details and the players are taking notice. Center Mike Criste, who played under Sarkisian for four years, mentioned the biggest difference between the two coaching staffs was their attention to detail.

"Just the general feel I got was that they are more focused on the tiny, tiny, tiny details instead of the big picture," said Criste.

Tight ends coach Jordan Paopao, the only assistant retained by Petersen, thinks the transition has been smooth thus far. He believes the new coaching staff's experience and knowledge are phenomenal, but what really stands out is their coaching style.

"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," said Paopao. "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."

Despite the emphasis on fundamentals, Paopao believes the urgency and the tempo of the new staff rivals that of the old. UW fans will see a familiar approach to pace of play this upcoming season: the Huskies ran 81 plays per game last year – the exact same number Petersen's team in Boise State ran.

Petersen's renewed focus on details extends off the field, as well. It's been made clear that student-athletes really are students and not just athletes.

"[Petersen] is just like a parent," said safety Trevor Walker, who played just one year under Sarkisian. "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."

Offensive tackle Ben Riva, who played under Sarkisian for four years, echoed Walker's sentiments. The new coaching staff has brought a new sense of accountability with it, similar to the one most students could expect from their parents.

"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," said Riva. "You're definitely held to a much higher standard… Be on time, be early, take care of school, pick up your stuff - same thing mom and dad got on you about."

The transition overall has been tough on the players, as is expected with every coaching change. Slowly but surely, though, they are buying in.

"[Petersen's] record speaks for itself," said Riva. "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."

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

Jeff Choate, Mathis' defensive line coach, has demanded attention to detail from the very beginning of spring practices. "We try to break things down into core fundamentals," he said. "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."

Make no mistake, it's not just the linemen that are focused on every aspect of what they do. And that has ultimately been the biggest storyline of spring to date.

"I have to be a technician…you've got to be a technician all the way around the board," said cornerback Marcus Peters. "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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