Petersen dishes dirt ahead of fall camp

Washington Head Coach Chris Petersen spoke to the media Sunday for well over 40 minutes ahead of Washington's first day of fall camp, which starts Monday morning. Here's what Petersen had to say on a full range of topics, including the transfer of former Oklahoma receiver KJ Young, Jeff Tedford joining the UW staff, his dislike of social media, and more.

Opening Comments - “This is great. I’m always entertained. It’s good to see everybody, I hope everybody had a good summer. Real anxious, excited to get back out there. I think our guys had a really good summer without us being able to coach ‘em in football, but I think coach Socha and his crew did a fabulous job. I think the guys feel really good about the shape and condition they’re in without really playing football. So the next few weeks, three weeks four weeks, is about getting in football shape. Really good summer. We’re excited to stop talking about all this stuff and start putting some work in, start on the process toward earning some things. We’re excited to go.

“We’ve got 105 guys coming in. The roster’s remained fairly stable. You guys know that we added one more in K.J. Young. We’re excited to get KJ in the mix. We’ve known about him for a long time. Went to Oklahoma, and obviously had an issue there. Did a lot of research, talked to a lot of people, been recruiting KJ for a while. We feel like he’s in a place where he’s going to come here and be successful. We’re excited to get him going.

“Probably a good time to review our injury policy around here. So I don’t really talk about injuries. It’s not because of you guys. I think it’s a competitive advantage when you’re talking about your injuries. If a guy is going to be long-term out for the season, we obviously announce that. If a guy’s week-to-week, couple weeks, month-to-month we don’t talk about it. But going in we’re relatively healthy. Probably more than relatively: we’ve got a sprained ankle in Andre Baccellia. He sprained it the last week of practice and sometimes those take a minute to get back. We’ll get him going. For the most part I think everybody’s going to be going and excited to get out there.

“Excited to see these guys compete. We have a lot of guys that have played, obviously, in some good conference games, and got some experience. The one thing the coaches really enjoy about this fall camp process is watching the competition go. So many people from the outside think guys are locked in to starters, and we don’t think of it like that. I think we’ve got some good players that have played for us but trust me - every job is up for debate and for challenge. I can’t wait to see some of these guys that have had really good offseasons push each other, and some guys that haven’t been on the field get on the field and do some great things for the Dawgs this fall.

“That being said, what do you got?”

How big is it to get KJ Young in with this receiving corps? - “I think our receiving corps is an area where we’re continually trying to build depth. So to get another player in there that has played at this level and has played a lot of football over the last few years is a really good thing. I don’t think you’re ever there depth-wise on your football team when I look at it. As the head coach there’s always going to be a group that’s like, okay we’ve got to continue to build depth there. For us it’s that wide receiver position. To get him in is good.”

When did you begin the process of looking at Young as a possible transfer? - “Early spring when the guys are out spring recruiting, Keith Bhonapha recruits that area down there and has known about him…we’ve known about him a long time. We knew he was down there so we paid attention to him. We talked to everybody we could get our hands on to talk to. I think you guys know we’re pretty thorough in terms of whoever we’re going to recruit. That process was no different for him than it was for any of the other guys we’ve brought in here.”

What did you need to see from him, considering he was dismissed from Oklahoma? - “I think we talked to all the people he’s been with the last four years and watched his body of work and put the puzzle together and talked to him. There’s no perfect people in this program, there’s no perfect people in this room. It’s about, are guys getting better, are they learning from mistakes and can they excel at this university? Can they excel in this program and do some good things? That’s what it’s all about, helping guys develop. When you think a guy can do that and fit in and be part of something kind of cool, you recruit ‘em.”

So you talked to Bob Stoops? If so, what did you talk about? - “Absolutely, and that’s just a conversation between us. We talked to all the people we could talk to. We’re going to be as thorough as we can. We get the age we’re living in and we want to make sure we’re not setting the guy up for failure.”

How do you balance expectations? - “I just don’t really think the expectations are one bit different inside our locker room then they’ve been since I’ve been here. I just don’t. We expect to win every game we play. And so the outside noise that might have changed their expectations - that doesn’t change anything. As long as these guys continue to listen to the coaches and take this thing not even one day at a time but one drill at a time and understand it’s like climbing a mountain and if you look too far ahead at all you’re going to slip and it’s not going to be good and you start looking in your rearview mirror and what’s behind you and that’s very scary as well…it’s being able to keep the mentality of one drill at a time, it’s not even one day or one practice. We have so much that’s going to go on here next month, but even though it’s about fall camp it’s about what’s our next meeting all about? What’s our next drill all about? It really is. If we can slow this thing down and pay attention to building skill and getting better and getting our competitive spirit where it needs to be, then I think we’ll feel good about things. But that’s where we are. We’re in good shape. They trained hard. But we still have a lot of work to do in terms of…it’s fairly easy the first week in terms of some of those things, but week two things can get stale and certainly in week three it’s like, okay when are we going to play this game? The good teams can go - and it comes from the locker room - we’ve got so much work, we can’t waste these days. We can’t wish these days away to go play. That’s the process as we go forward the next month…just slow down. Let’s just go one drill at a time.”

Jake Browning's progress and how much has he changed? - “The process through the year was kind of what we hoped in terms of…our expectations and hopes for our quarterback or Jake are no different than for anybody. Are they improving? Are they getting better? Are they learning things? We all kind of felt that from Jake. You want him to play at an extremely high level at all positions, because if you don’t have that than we’re not going to win like we want to win. So that can be painful in the process even though you’re getting better along the way. But we felt that from Jake. Everybody likes to talk about that quarterback, and rightly so. You’re not going to do anything special without a really good quarterback. I think we all know that. But I always believe so strong in his process of how he prepares, his mindset, how his life is so simple as a college kid and how he’s simplified things, that he’s all about football. If everybody else that surrounds him has that same mindset and prepares like he does, they and we are going to continue to build skill and improve.”

Can you explain the hype surrounding the team? - “Yeah…I mean no. I can’t explain it, but I completely get it. Your world amazes me all the time when I see how things go. Half the time it’s not reality. I mean, that’s true. People start jumping on bandwagons on whatever we’re talking about and you just shake your head and it’s like, really? That’s not even reality. So that’s what one of these things are. We’re 7-6, played no football games and now we’re ready to win the Super Bowl. It’s like, really? So go ahead. There’s nothing else to talk about, I guess. That’s what it is. So that’s what we tell our guys. If you want to sit there and pay attention to social media and, no offense taken, listen to you guys then you’re just heading down the wrong way, the wrong path. That’s not what this is about. We’ve got to go play games. Let’s talk after game six. Let’s talk after game six and then it’s like, okay - one way or another. But until then? It’s like so much unknown.”

On how good UW’s defense can be this season - “I think we have some guys that have played a lot of meaningful football. So I think that’s good. So I think they know how we run practices, how we run meetings, what the competition that they’re going to be facing is like. And so I think there’s a lot of real life lessons that they’ve been through, that when we’re talking to them they can connect the dots faster and hopefully this group – because we’re going back to scratch tomorrow. It’s Day One. It’s like, we’ve done nothing. That defense has done nothing. We lost four really good players off that defense, two of the best pass rushers that we had in the league last year (Travis Feeney and Cory Littleton), so it’s just back to square one, and I think if they have that mentality after the end of this month, of like, wow, got that chip on my shoulder, little bit of that prove-it mentality. Just that whole thing. that’ll be interesting to watch. But that’s what I think about our defense.”

On what he saw from UW’s pass rushers in spring - “That we don’t have the pass rushers that we had last year. That’s what I saw. Now, I think we have some guys that can do some good things up front, but we are not where we were coming off the edge, certainly, than when we ended the season. And those two guys (Feeney and Littleton) all along were really good, certainly, college football players, really good. I think any college in the country would take those guys in a heartbeat. So those guys are hard to replace. But that’s also the beauty of college football is trying develop guys and find answers, even if you don’t have those type of guys, how are we going to still kind of create some pressure to make it tough on the QB?”

Do you feel like the defense has the kind of guys who won’t take last season’s success for granted? - “Yeah. Like I said, I say all these things, but I feel really good about not only our defense, our whole team, in terms of where we are, mindset-wise, but I also understand that it’s a day to day process, and how easy it is to lose that mentality, certainly when things get hard, and guess what? They’re going to get hard. I think we all know that. And so that’s what we’re preparing for, is like, OK, so it’s all great in summer, and it’s all great in fall camp, and then you start playing, and you’re rowing out to the ocean and let’s see what comes. All the unexpected things are going to come our way. It’s like, how did this happen? And can we adjust? And do we have the mindset that we’re going to be tough enough and strong enough, and this is just part of it? And we embrace those challenges. That’s what I think.”

On whether it plays into UW’s hands that Rutgers is a total unknown with a first-year head coach - “I don’t even really think about it in terms of Rutgers. I always just go back to us, just this whole process. It doesn’t matter if it’s Rutgers the first game, or the second game, or game six in the league, it just always comes back to us, in terms of this process. It’s kind of all the same. I don’t know really what you mean by ‘plays into our hands.’ The opponent is who it is. When there’s going to be unexpected circumstances, whether it’s an opponent (who) we don’t really know what their schemes are, or we thought we knew what they were and they changed them, or you get an injury, or this guy’s not playing as good. It’s just all those things. We’ve just got to be able to adapt and adjust and not take a step back.”

On the offensive line - “A group that I’m really antsy to get out there with and watch ‘em go, because I think they’re going to be better. I think they will improve. It is a handful of guys that all have game experience now, so that’s a group that can really know what Coach (Chris) Strausser’s talking about in different situations, whether it’s mentality wise, or technique wise, or fundamentals. And I think for our offense to take the next step, it probably starts right there. Just like I’d say the same thing on defense, it probably starts in those lines. So I’m antsy and anxious to get those guys out there and watch them slowly take this thing to the next step.”

What do you mean by ‘next step?’ - “More efficient. Better play. it’s that simple.”

On areas of improvement for Jake Browning since last season - “It’s all very subtle things. We’ve talked about this a lot. I think just the familiarity with the system, with the speed of the game, with all these little nuances, we break it down into whatever the elements of quarterback play are, and talk about those, which we have. But it’s not anything specifically, but it’s just all this experience that I think they’ve been through and the growth they’ve done since the end of last season. So he’s got all that under his belt. And not only Jake, but the other quarterbacks have been in our program as well. I mean, those guys, that’s an interesting conversation right there. Where are those guys? Those guys don’t get as many reps as that backup o-lineman – we’re going to play different linemen, we know that – a lot of times, that second-string quarterback, whoever that is, that’s a hard position to be in, but that guy has to be ready to go and win games. If you don’t have a No. 2 guy that can win games, you’re in deep trouble.”

On where the backup QB position stands between K.J. Carta-Samuels and Tony Rodriguez - “All those guys. It’s wide open. We’ll get back to you in a few weeks on that.”

On Tony Rodriguez having a good spring and being in the mix for the No. 2 QB job - “He did some good things. He did. K.J.’s got some experience, he’s played in a game against a really good defense. He’s taken a lot of practice reps. Tony’s taken a decent amount of practice reps. So I’m anxious and excited to see where that thing goes. Nothing like playing in games, but I do think if you play at a high level in practice, there’s a pretty good correlation to playing well in games.”

On what Jeff Tedford’s role will be this season - “His role is being a consultant. He can’t coach guys, won’t coach guys. But he can coach coaches, meaning myself. What a great guy to have around for me. This guy’s got – it’s interesting because we’ll be talking about something and he’ll have a situation that came up in his career, and he’s like, ‘oh yeah, I’ve been through that.’ We’ve both been through enough things now that we can compare notes. So really, for me to have a guy – we’re not talking about Xs and Os – but just some things that have happened in your travels as a head coach, it’s great to have those conversations, and certainly he’s a really good X and O coach as well. And he’s really – he totally gets it. I mean, he gets his role, we talked long and hard about him coming here. I think the rest of the offensive coaches and Jonathan Smith feel really good and comfortable with him being there. And so we’re excited about that. Everything is about fit. It’s not just about bringing in hired guns and all that. There’s a lot of good players, there’s a lot of good coaches and all that that just don’t fit, for whatever reason. The one thing I do know is he fits us, he fits what we have going on here. So I think it’s a really nice, fun addition for the season for us.”

On how involved Tedford will be with quarterback discussions - “Certainly he’s going to be involved in our offensive stuff, but I go back and say it again, the quarterback coach is Jonathan Smith. He’s a guy that will, and can, and does coach those guys. But again, to compare notes and say hey, how about this, have you done this. And again, we’re already on the same page, philosophically. You don’t bring somebody in that’s like, way out here, unless you’re changing everything. Certainly my history with him, I knew it would be a really good fit. And he’s just a really good guy. It always starts with that. He’s just a really humble and good person. So all that is exciting for us, I think.”

And he’s full-time, on campus? - “Yep.”

On Jonathan Smith going into Year 3 as offensive coordinator - “I think he’s in a good spot. We’ve just been through a lot of different things and issues and had to solve different things. So going into Year 3 with relatively the same things that we do, I think we feel good about where he is. You know, it always comes back to that guy and the quarterback — and there’s so much that surrounds him that influences how well that looks. We’re all part of this. I’m part of this. Coach Strausser and how his group does and how Bush Hamdan gets those receivers to play all affects what Jonathan Smith looks like as a play-caller. And so that’s why it’s all about all of us; it’s not just about one guy. We’re all about making a couple guys look really good around here on offense, and that’s the quarterback and maybe that play-caller. And if we can do that, there’s a lot of people who are surrounding doing some good things and doing their job at a high level.”

On identity of running backs - “I think that’s a work in progress. We lost two guys in Deontae Cooper and Dwayne Washington. The dynamics change in the room and the roles change and all that. But I think we have a couple guys in there who are real hungry for their opportunity to get more touches — and they will. Myles Gaskin, he can’t do it all. I think one of the reasons he did so well last year is because we had a good supporting cast around him. And I think he would be the first to tell you that. We need some other guys to be productive at that position. You’ve got to have a guy that can go and there is a pecking order and all those things, but the most physical position on the field … we still need about three guys in that rotation who can bring something when they get their opportunity. And they’re all a little bit unique, which is good. But that’s a really, really important crew. I just don’t think it’s about one guy — I don’t think it’s just about Jake Browning. I think it’s about K.J. (Carta-Samuels) and Tony (Rodriguez) and those guys. And I don’t think (the running backs are) just about Myles. It’s about a Lavon (Coleman), Jomon (Dotson) and we could go down the list. I was taught a long time ago, if you’re putting 22 guys out there — you’re kidding yourself. It needs to be a bout 50 guys you feel, hey, we’re pretty good with these 50. Because you know as you go there’s always 6-10 of them you don’t have them anymore.”

Too early to know what you have in Sean McGrew? - “It’s too early. But we tell all the freshmen, they know — you’re coming in here to compete right away and if you’re good enough and you can produce, then you’ll go. We’ll see in a few weeks who’s there.”

What does McGrew bring to the table? - “You saw what I saw in all the tape you watch — he’s fast, he’s elusive; he’s small but he’s tough. That’s the beauty and that’s the fun of tomorrow, is getting out there and starting to see them up close and personal and what they actually bring. And so we’ll know that in a couple weeks.”

Is your mindset with this freshman class a little different than two years ago, when you knew quite a few true freshmen would have to play immediately? - “It is a little bit of a different feel, and that’s what you would hope in Year 3. We’re counting on some of those guys playing for us and helping us (this year), but it’s not like ‘No matter what happens, he’s (playing).’ So that is a different feel. I don’t know if ‘luxury’ is the right word, but pleased we’re in that situation. But we also know some of them are going to have to go, so I think that’s a good thing for everybody.”

On Petersen’s time at Boise, many wondered if your teams could sustain the success playing every week in a Power Five conference. 1, is that a legitimate debate? And, 2, what challenges have the Pac-12 presented you? - “There’s complete legitimacy. When I was over there I had said that. When we’d be talked about as ‘Do they deserve …?’ Hey, I get the debate. It’s legit. I don’t know — at times I knew we had a really good team. But is it different than playing every week — yeah, it is. So it’s a legit debate. And so it is a completely different animal, and I knew that coming over here. There’s not one thing that has surprised me in terms of that discussion. I thought coming over here that the Pac-12 was as good as I’ve ever seen it top to bottom — and after being in it two years, sometimes I hate when I’m right.”

Does that change anything for you as a coach in terms of preparation? - “Well, I think you talk to the NFL guys, who have a longer season than us, but it’s really no different. You’ve got to have that sprinter’s urgency and mentality and focus, but you have to have that marathoner endurance and toughness. It’s that unique combination. Are we trying to go out and win fall camp in the first three days? We divide up our camp those first two practices so we can actually slow down and teach better. So our coaches have to be very disciplined in that process, because you want to get out there and everyone’s amped up and you get all these reps and you can be completely worn out in four days, and that doesn’t help us. To get to your question, absolutely — we pay attention to that every day for every guy who’s out there. The idea of pushing the envelope and getting better — we’ve got to be ready to play Sept. 3 with our energy right and as healthy as we can possibly be. That’s dilemma in football: You’ve got to be physical (in practice) on occasion to build skill. And so how do you do that without getting your guys hurt?”

How does your two-deep at UW compare to the two-deeps on your best Boise State teams? - “That’s a hard question to answer. Because I think we have go a little bit longer for me to really answer that, because you kind of get into the season. That’s what matters, when you kind of get into the groove a little bit. … Some of our better teams over there, we stayed really healthy. That was one thing that really helped us. … And then every week I think you’re a different team. So if you have a setback, do you come back with a chip on your shoulder? And when you have success, are you still hungry and humble enough? … To tell you the truth, it’s hard for me to (compare) because I do think it’s two sets of different animals, the situation over there and here. Do I feel better about it going into this year than the other two years? Yes. I can answer that. But I know over there we had some really good players, and I think we’ve got pretty good players that I hope turn into really good players week in and week out over here."

On the impact of the new VICIS helmets… “I’m real optimistic about it and like everything that we talk about, if we’re talking about player safety and concussions. It’s not going to be one thing that saves the day, changes the tide. It’s going to be a combination of things in terms of how we teach the game, how smart we are at practice, the technology and equipment we wear. And I do think where we are now – and I’m speaking for the staff but I see a lot of programs out there as well – I think we’re light years ahead than maybe we were five years ago in terms of how we pay attention to those things, doctors, the research that’s going on, everything. So we’re excited about these new helmets without question. We’re proud, excited that we’re one of the schools that gets to have them early. And we’re excited to see what it’s like to wear them and what it really means to us. That’s even hard to figure out when you’re trying to do research on this stuff.”

On new retweet/social media policy for coaches… “Let me just tell you I hate social media. But, we gotta do it. All we try to do is play by the rules and do the best we can with it and get guys fired up on Washington. But it’s a little bit scary because we can retweet this, but not that. We can do this and not that and every time we’re doing that I’m like ‘we good here? You sure?’.”

On why Petersen hates social media… “I just like, don’t want to talk about it, we just want to be about it. So I think that’s probably the best way to describe it. It’s like lets just let our actions and our play speak for itself, rather than all this other chaos that comes with it.”

On Petersen possibly asking players to stay off Twitter/social media…  “I will tell you this, I think the smart ones do it themselves. Because you can’t tell me if you’re completely into that, that doesn’t have an effect on your psyche. I don’t pay attention to that stuff yet I still see it in the job that I’m in and it gives you a reaction. So I know Jake Browning won’t be all over that, and not because I’m saying ‘Jake don’t do that anymore’, because he gets that it’s time to focus.”

On if Petersen actually tweets from his account… “I’ll tell you what, I got to do what I gotta do. So I do tweet, and a lot of times it’s like I try to do as much as I can in moderation. That’s one thing about the retweets that now all of a sudden here it comes. Less is more a lot of times and so here we come with all this stuff. So we got a crew that I work with – I certainly tweet.”

On if Petersen checks his @CoachPeteUW mentions… “What do you mean mentions? Um, oh no. No, not at all. What I do pay attention to is the communication that we have with recruits, and now that we can text those guys it’s all direct message. The only time I pay attention to some of the other stuff is when everybody tells me, ‘did you see all the likes you got lookin’ like Drake?’”

On Softy hoping for a follow… “Yeah, this job is hard enough. But I mean I think that is exactly how I feel. I tell our players that if I paid attention to all the arrows that are shot at me every day, if you’re really looking at that I don’t care how tough minded you are, it’s going to have an affect on you. I just know that by psychological studies and so that’s why I really want our players to keep that in moderation. Why would you let someone validate you that really doesn’t understand the process, but also tear you down? I just don’t think that’s a healthy situation.”

On John Ross getting a chance to return kicks again… “Oh I feel really good about throwing him back about there as a kick returner, yes sir!”

On dismay with social media and having no control… “Yeah I think it’s just all those things. Sometimes people just – it’s like when you’re a kid you go it would be really cool if you could be a mindreader. Now it’s like that, you’re seeing all these peoples’ opinion that you don’t know anything about it’s like you’re reading everyone’s mind and that’s really a bad thing. These random thoughts come out. So I think it’s all these different things. I think it’s a game changer in the world obviously in a lot of unique and cool ways, just like the internet itself has changed the world. For the most part in a good way, but in a lot of ways not. But it’s the world we live in so we got to figure out how to do it right. I don’t tell those kids no you can’t do it. But to be educated about it in the right way is important.”

On using that transparency to a benefit… “I probably haven’t gotten that far down the road with it. More so just with recruiting process and those sorts of things, but I think there is some real merit on what you’re talking about.”

On having recruits choose a school because of Twitter interaction… “Oh that’s probably happening right now. Like the fans that interact, the more fans that somebody has, you don’t think that has an effect on a 16-year-old kid? It absolutely does.”

On guys who made big jumps in the offseason… “I don’t know who’s made jumps because we haven’t played football since spring ball. I’m real anxious to see competition battles across the board, I mean that sincerely. I want to see what Jordan Miller is all about, I want to see what Byron Murphy is all about, I want to see what Budda Baker is all about. We got the spectrum right there. Along our offensive line we’ve got some guys who’ve played some games. I’m real excited to see Andrew Kirkland and where he fits in. We talked about our backup quarterbacks, our quarterbacks, our running backs. It’s the whole thing. I’m anxious. We have depth that we talked about with those position that should challenge and compete. A different situation than the last couple of years."

On sliding players into replace Littleton and Feeney… “No you can’t because we don’t have another Travis Feeney. I keep coming back to Cory Littleton, that was the guy I kept saying all along, I think this is one of the more underrated guys on our team the last two years, in terms of all the thing he did, special team wise. For whatever reason in the media’s eyes he wasn’t a flash player. But you put the tape on and you can tell this guy is a player. But also we’re going to have to do some things scheme wise, to make up for it. 3-man front, 4-man front, blitz less, all those are all the ways you can solve that problem generally in a sense.”

On Tevis Bartlett… “Tevis is a guy that’s interesting as well because he was a true freshman getting his feet wet, kind of figuring things out. It is pretty impressive for those guys to go these physical position like linebacker as a freshman coming out of high school. So there’s an adjustment so I’m really anxious to see him after he’s been through all this, like okay now it’s time to see him flip the switch and get to that next step.”

On new rosters and weight stuff… “I think heights and weights are always tricky. Because one school lists them a certain way, that are accurate. Some schools like them really accurate, and then some kids are really accurate and some kids aren’t depending on the position so take this with a grain of salt. I don’t know how we lift them, I don’t know where these come from. I don’t know if the kids told Jeff, ‘hey list me at 6’2, no give me a little more weight there’ so I don’t pay attention to it that much. I will say this about our team and our guys in general. We want guys who can move, and move fast. So there’s a conscious effort.” (confirmed heights and weights come from S&C Coach Tim Socha)

On Jake Heaps at UW pro day… “It was awesome to get him over here because they don’t let your current guys throw, they can’t participate in that at all. I don’t remember what the rule is but if you have a guy in the area that can throw that helps. He was a guy we reached out to that fit the mold that would benefit him as well. He threw some good balls to our wide outs so it was a win-win all around.”



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