Chris Petersen Pre Fall Press Conference

Year two of the Chris Petersen era at Washington gets started on Saturday, but this afternoon, the Husky head coach met with the press to give his thoughts on the Dawgs before things get started tomorrow morning...

Opening Statement: “We’re excited, Year 2, a chance to move this culture forward. I always think of this day as a little bit like Christmas Eve and tomorrow’s Christmas — you finally get to go out there and see so many of these young guys we’ve been so excited to get out there and play football with. Most of them have been here all summer training with our strength coaches, but not doing football with us. So it’s always a really fun, interesting, intriguing day-slash-week (when) you get to get out there and see what these guys are really all about football-wise. And secondly, to see since spring ball ended how far some of these other guys have some. So really excited about tomorrow. A lot of administrative things getting out of the way this past week and then through today, and now we get to go play.”

Biggest difference now compared to a year ago entering camp? “I think we’re making good progress in terms of just the guys understanding how we do things and everybody just being more on the same page. It’s hard to describe other than a feeling. We have a ways to go — we do for sure — but it does feel different. And I think that’s exciting. We miss the guys that have graduated and moved on, really do, but that’s also the beauty of college football, is to get all these young guys that we’re excited about, take a look at developing those guys.”

Looks like Naijiel Hale has announce he’s leaving UW “Yeah, so, unfortunately, that always happens. Naijiel's been dismissed from our program. We need to move forward. Wish Naijiel the best.”

It’s a disciplinary thing? “Yes.”

Anyone else going to be held out Saturday, injury or otherwise? “We’re pretty good health-wise. If somebody is (injured), it’s very minor. We’re actually in the last week or so, everybody’s making decent progress. I think we might have a hamstring, an ankle, so we’ll see where that’s going a little bit. One of our freshmen is still recovering from a hernia surgery he had before he got here. So eventually we’ll get everybody up and running, but for the most part we think we’re pretty good.”

Nothing that will jeopardize a player’s season? “No. No. If we stay like this (health-wise) for the year, we’ll be feeling pretty good about ourselves.”

On balancing QB reps in the first week “All three of those guys are going to get pretty equal reps, meaning Jeff, K.J. and Jake. Coach Smith has it all charted out in terms of the team reps and how many those guys are going to get. And then we’re going to evaluate as we go, kind of week to week. I think with everybody — and I really mean this — the first two practices we divide up between, for the most part, the older guys, the more veteran guys and the young guys. But it’s not just clear cut. We need some older guys in some of the younger practices to show guys how they do it. So we do that so everyone can get more reps, so we can slow our teaching down. … The second week, certain guys deserve more reps based on what they’ve done in the past, but it truly is a seating chart. We’re trying to evaluate everybody and figure out who’s going to help us: ‘This guy might not be ready right now, but in another month you think, Wow, this guy could do some things.’ All those things in mind.”

See new defensive leaders emerging “I think so. We will. The leadership thing always starts with the coaches and getting these guys to play like we want them to play. The leadership thing starts through example and then those kids gain credibility as they make plays. We have some seniors who will be out there, a couple of our linebackers and Tani (Tupou) and guys on the D-line who have been around here for awhile and guys really respect (them). Budda’s played a lot and he’s only a sophomore. Sidney’s been out there quite a bit. We’ve got some guys, and that’s part of the evolution of the whole thing. And that’s what makes it exciting, to see these guys step up and not only play better but take a leadership role.”

With the QBs, is there one trait that stands above all else? “No, there’s not one. There’s a handful of things. … We’ve said a lot, we’re into accuracy, decision-making, those types of things. But also just not making a real negative play. We’ve had those guys who can make some plays but every 10th play is something negative and puts the rest of our team at a disadvantage. So it’s a combination of all those types of things.”

On weighing short-term vs. long-term aspects with two young QBs “Yeah, you figure those out. You’re trying to figure out who’s ready to play now. And things always change. Our job as coaches is to always continue to evaluate. If we’re not doing that, then we’re not doing our job. And if it’s one guy, the other guy is not shut out. The other guy’s going to get more opportunities, but a guy behind him is still going to be evaluated, he’s still going to get his chances and you keep improving — I mean, this thing is never over.”

Are there some guys to keep an eye on in camp who have had a good offseason? “I think that’s what really intriguing about this whole thing — we have so many new, young guys that we’re as excited to go watch them as you probably are. You’ve heard all these things. I think as a team in general they had a good summer, from what’s been reported to us. But again that’s not necessarily playing football; that’s a lot of lifting weights, a lot of running … and that matters; that builds a nice foundation, but that’s not playing football. So I think there’s a handful of guys who had really good summers in terms of what Coach Socha would say, and I think so much of what we do starts and ends in the weight room — in terms of menality, but again it’s not football. And it’s time to go play football. You can ask me that question in a week and I’ll give you a better answer.”

What should we focus on in practice? “Well, I would focus on the quarterbacks. Don’t even watch those guys (smiles). That’ll narrow things down for you. Go everywhere else but there.”

On Travis Feeney’s Role “I’m excited for Travis, a little bit like I was for Hauoli (Kikaha) and Danny (Shelton), and I’m not putting the cart before the horse and talking about him, I’m just talking about a senior that’s played a lot of football and has a lot of potential and has done a lot of excellent things. I feel the same about Cory Littleton. I’m really anxious to watch these guys. I hope they take their game to the next level. If they do they will be outstanding players in this league. It’s really going to be a big key for our success and if they do they are going to be impact players in this really good conference we’re in.”

On Feeney possibly playing ‘BUCK’ “We’ll move guys around and get as much speed and playmaking ability on the field. From that BUCK position, if it’s played right, you can make a bunch of plays so it really is an interesting position because it’s a hybrid and it’s probably a big outside linebacker type of a guy and that’s what Travis is.”

On what’s different for him this year “I think the second go-round, going through it, we’ll be more efficient with how we practice and how we do everything. Although we pride ourselves on going back to square one and ‘here we go again’, I think we can move more quickly and hopefully get to the details of the program and that the guys will know what’s coming in terms of some of the meetings I have and embrace it and get it and understand it, as well as our schemes and how we do all of those things. I talked to a buddy of mine in the NFL and they’re in year two too and they’ve been practicing a few days and it’s the same thing, it’s different in year two.”

On if there were any surprises last year “There was a lot of things that we’re trying to implement with how we do things and just getting everything going. There’s so much to be said for continuity, we’ve got our staff back, starting with that, everybody’s back, we feel great about that. We’re on the same page as a staff and I think our players are more on the same page as a team and away we go.”

On the return to Boise State to play them and if it’s impacting the players “We’ve had zero conversations about that at all. In my mind, we’re a ways away from that game and we always just need to concentrate on ourselves and worry about getting our guys to play the best football they can play. Heck, we know they’re going to have a really good team so we’re not worrying about that. We’re worrying about how good we can be.”

On if this camp will be different than the one they had a year ago “It’s going to be very similar. It’s going to be really, really similar. Like I said, I think that the second time around, things sink in a little quicker and a little deeper, and that’s what it’s all about. It comes down to the details, it comes down the fundamentals, being ingrained where there’s not a lot of thinking about the fundamentals, that’s just, we’ve been doing this for over a year with a lot of these kids, so we’re really making progress there and then in terms of assignments, schemes and techniques and we get to the details. That’s what it always comes down to, the details of the game, so if we can operate there, the really good teams make it look simple but they’re taking care of so many details that it does seem simple.”

On what he’s learned about the conference “If this can be considered learning, it’s as good as advertised. We thought it was going to be really and it is really good. The coaching is really good, the players are really good and there’s no ‘ok, we get to play these guys this week’. You put the tape on and you’re thinking, you’ve played a really tough team and you don’t want to see many good players and see a lot of holes in where they’re doing and it’s more like ‘this is what we saw last week’ so that’s probably the main thing that was confirmed. A lot of people talk about this, but from the inside, it’s really good.”

On the underdog role/mentality “My mentality, how I’ve always gone through the ranks, it’s kinda been having that underdog mentality and I think even if you’re really good and you’ve done a lot of things, the successful guys always have that underdog mentality. That’s what they have. They’ve never arrived, they’re still trying to prove it to themselves and others and they’ve got that chip on their shoulders. So, with all of the guys we’ve lost, with the schedule that we have, through all of those things, if that gives (the players) that underdog mentality then I think that helps us.”

On Dwayne Washington “Another guy that’s been around and played some pretty significant ball around here and I think he could be in line for a breakout year. If we get our o-line going a little bit and he can hit some creases, I think he could do some special things. There’s a handful of guys who have played some significant football around here who need to take that next step and I’m excited to see what happens and then we’ve got a lot of guys who are good players, but just need to get some experience, that are going to do some really good things and we’re excited to coach them. I’m telling you we’re going to compete hard and we’re going to fight hard and I know these kids and we’re excited to get out there and go.”

On Washington taking the lead at tailback “We always want a guy to elevate their game, but even with that being said, we’re going to need a couple other guys. You just can’t, it’s very, very rare to have one guys do it all, so to be smart about it, you need other guys.”

Open to using multiple QBs? “We really are. We’re open to everything. We are very open to whatever we think’s going to give us the best chance to score points, and that’s the bottom line. Does everybody has their prescribed way that they love it? Yeah. I don’t think there’s a coach in the country that’s probably any different. We’d probably all like Russell Wilson running the show for us. Tom Brady. When you’ve got that, awesome. But until we get that, we’ve just got to figure out what our plan is. I think that’s kind of, again, some of the intrigue for us as coaches is figuring this out. We’ve got a couple ideas of how this could possibly go, but we really don’t know. And we need to say, OK, it’s going to look like this, or a combination of this, and away we go.”

What went into decision to use Lindquist in certain packages last season? “It was kind of based on plays. Maybe some field-position type things, but certain things. And we’re always trying to – one of the things that we’ve done (since) way back when is we’ve played a lot of guys. Maybe not so much at that quarterback position and the next-least probably the o-line, but everywhere else, we’ve completely prided ourselves on playing a lot of guys. Give them a piece of the gameplan. And I really think that helps, and I hope we can do that. And I even hope we can do that on the o-line, and if it comes down to quarterback, I think everybody doesn’t think that’s like the ideal situation, but if that’s going to help us score points the most, so be it, and it’s good because now we have more guys involved.”

Do you need the quarterback to be more comfortable taking some chances this year? “Do we need to hit more explosive plays, I think maybe is how I would think about it, absolutely. I think if you look at our completion percentage, it was pretty good. Real good. And I think how many interceptions we threw was real good. But we’ve got to do more there, yeah. We’ve got to have some more there. And I hesitate to get into this because again, as we all know, we can make stats kind of work for us how we want to, but do we need to hit more explosives? Would we like to throw for more yards? Yeah, we would, for us to be effective on offense. But the bottom line, at the end of the day, really, we’re talking about points. That’s why I always hesitate to go into this yardage thing. But I think when you look at your ideal, how you want it to look, yardage-wise, balance run pass, those type of things, we’ve got to do more things in the pass game.”

From a strictly positional standpoint, will one of those defensive stars be harder to replace than the others? “Another good question. I think it’s just my opinion, but I always think that elite pass-rusher is always a special guy, because when you’re hitting the quarterback and sacking the quarterback, that has a lot to do with influencing the outcomes of games. But when you look at a guy like Danny (Shelton), how dominant he was in there, it’s hard to say ‘hoo, maybe he was the guy.’ We’re talking about the best of the best, and then Shaq (Thompson) was so awesome because he was just so versatile. What did he do best? Everything. … Certainly on defense, we can talk about that, that pass-rusher or that cover-corner … so I don’t know if it’s just one. Those guys were really good players.”

There’s been some talk of Budda Baker maybe playing some offense “Is that Budda talking about that? (laughs) … Budda’s an interesting athlete. He really is. That guy is special in terms of what his mindset and how hard he works and practices, and really even plays the game. He’s only been with us a year. He’s such a young guy. But there’s not many guys that I’ve been around that really approach the game like he does, and so that being said, are there some things he can do on the other side of the ball? There probably are. And if he does it better than somebody else that we have, then we probably will … and we did a few things with him in spring.”

On Austin Joyner “I hesitate to talk about a guy that hasn’t practiced with us one day, but I mean, Austin Joyner is the type of guy that was like, yeah, running back? No doubt. DB? Yeah, pretty good, no doubt. We’ve got to get him good at one thing before we start watering everybody down.”

How is John Ross doing? “He’s doing great. He really is. I’ve been so impressed with him, just how positive he has been. I mean, that’s hard. These guys put their heart and soul into this stuff and to have a setback coming back like that … he’s been awesome.”

How do you replace Ross? “You don’t. that guy is elite explosiveness, so you’re not just going to plug the next guy in and go, ‘OK, go out and make seven guys miss and return this thing 100 yards for a touchdown.’ I refer back to my great coaching on all those moves, but usually it’s a little bit more than that, and I’m well aware of it. But we’ll get some other guys going, and they will, and we’ll be productive, I’m telling you. We’re excited to get out there and go.”

On K.J. Carta-Samuels “K.J. has really been impressive since he’s been here, just in terms of really his focus and really learning what we’re all about. You know, when a guy redshirts, it’s easy to kind of redshirt. And we probably expect a little bit more out of that quarterback to not really take that mentality. And most don’t. But I think he was very dialed in to what we were doing all season long, so I think that really mattered. The other thing I think about him is he’s a really, really hard-working kid. Not too many times the strength coach is going to mention the quarterback in the weight room and say, ‘hey, this is one of the guys we’re really, really impressed with,’ and he’s been like that since he’s been here, and he was productive in the spring. So like I say, that’s another guy that’s like, let’s see. Let’s see where we are.”

On Vita Vea “Well, Vita’s a redshirt freshman, so I’m not sure if I’m ready to say he’s ready to replace Danny, but we’ve been really pleased and proud of Vita in a lot of different ways. He’s really working harder than he’s ever worked. He’s a really good person. We all love to be around him. He’s done a really, really nice job with his academics. So he’s done everything that we’ve wanted him to do in his redshirt year, and now it’s time for him to get some more to that and see how he does, so I’m excited for him being in the mix.”

Visit the rest of our Top Stories