Petersen Knows Pac-12 Play Feels Different

Washington Head Coach Chris Petersen grudgingly admitted Monday that, while he doesn't want any game to feel differently from another, there is definitely something different about the beginning of Pac-12 play.

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Opening - “Happy Monday! It is a Happy Monday. Excited to get into league play. I think it was a positive, productive non-league schedule. I think our guys, and I said this the other day, prepared really hard, practiced hard, gotten better. Now it’s time for the next step, the next challenge. One, going on the road right out of the gate and playing a good Arizona team. We’re excited to do that and I think our guys will be excited to get back to work and move forward.”

How much do you take from last year’s Arizona game? - “Their defense is completely different. And their defense is completely different, in my opinion, from what it was where the coordinator (former Boise State coach Marcel Yates) came from, who we’re very familiar with. That looks different to us. Their offense is obviously very similar. Coach Rod (Rich Rodriguez) does a great job with offensive football, so he’s always got new wrinkles but they run the spread and they run it fast and they go fast and they run inside zone and have all the compliments off it.”

What takeaways can you have knowing coach Yates well? - “The biggest takeaway is that it just looks different. It’s just different than certainly what it was when I was with him way back when. It was different than it was last year when he was at Boise. It’s only been three games but it’s different. So it’s still early and so you’re still watching tape and they’ll have some wrinkles for us and all those type of things for sure so it’s a little bit of…that’s probably the biggest surprise just watching tape.”

How is that compounded when they had newer skill players play so well last weekend? - “You’re always defending schemes. That’s what you have to do, and as a coach you’re trying to get the best players you can to plug into those, whether the quarterback’s different, whether the running backs are a little bit different skill set. But they recruit to their system. The quarterbacks are similar even though everybody is unique in their own style. They recruit a certain style of quarterback. The receivers are similar too. They have really fast, shifty guys. The running backs are kind of similar and then they’ve got the freshman J.J. Taylor in there, who we’re real familiar with. And he is lightning quick. It’s a good blend for them. It fits the spread perfectly.”

Does Marcel Yates have a specific style he coaches to? - “I think everybody has their certain style. So it’s a little bit different: some of the blitzes are different, some of the coverages are a little bit different in terms of whether they’re playing two-high safeties or single safety. It just looks a little bit different than it has in the past.”

Is Brayden Lenius back this week? - “Brayden is eligible to be back for sure. He’s been back but we’ll kind of see how that goes. He hasn’t been with the offense so it takes a while to get back and get going.”

Will he travel to Arizona? - “Still determining all that stuff.”

What area did you see the most improvement during the non-league schedule? - “It was a productive three weeks of playing football. All we can worry about is ourselves. That’s it. It doesn’t matter who is there. Are the guys practicing hard and building skill? We saw a lot of different schemes, a lot of different blitzes, a lot of different fronts, a lot of different offense at a faster pace than you see at practice. So I say all that stuff was really good. The guys answered the call and played extremely hard, extremely focused. Now it’s different. I think the league is just different. When you get into your league…I don’t want to say it means more, but it means more. When everybody plays in their league, that’s who you need to be gauged on. I think everybody plays pretty hard anyway, but everybody plays a little bit harder and all those type of things. And then you factor in that we’re going away, night game, away, first league game - I know what the energy will be like in that stadium. That will feel completely different to us.”

Do you get the sense that the team is eager for a tougher challenge? - “We’ll see if we’re ready. That’s easier said than done. It certainly feels better and different when in the fourth quarter you have a comfortable lead, as opposed to fighting and clawing all the way down. That does change things. That we haven’t experienced. And you experience that just about every week in our league. We haven’t encountered that one yet but we obviously talk about it every week because we anticipate that. It just hasn’t happened. I suspect it will.”

As much as you try and drill that, do you have a sense of what this team will do when faced with adversity? - “Yeah, I think they’re going to fight hard. I really do. But it’s more than just playing hard. You’ve got to execute under pressure and all those things. That’s why I’m saying it’s different. I know they’ll play hard and be all in and give everything they’ve got. But there’s no substitute for going through those situations.”

Did the run game take a step Saturday? - “Yeah, I thought they played a little more physical. I think each week it’s been a little bit better, for sure. So I do think it took a step. And now we’re on to a new defense, a new defense and we’ll see where we are from there. Everyone’s unique. Maybe this defense is better at stopping the run than the last one we saw, so maybe it doesn’t look as good but we progressed even though the numbers don’t bear out. But overall I know the numbers were better and each week they’ve been a little bit better there. But I thought they played a little bit more physical, a little more aggressive.”

And you played Budda a little more on offense - “Yeah. That was for you guys. You see how hard it is to just put a guy over there? It’s not that simple. It really wasn’t for you, but I hope you take that point. This guy is one of the better athletes you’ve ever been around and it is hard. There is a lot of detail and it is different. You can’t just throw a guy over there. We’re trying to build depth at that receiver position and anybody that can help us on either side of the ball we always pay attention to that. That’s the point: you can’t just in one week just throw somebody out there. The thousands of reps those other guys have taken compared to what Budda’s had at receiver, it’s night and day. It’s hard.”

On whether Budda just being on the field and shifting helped UW’s offense - “Yeah, I think that’s kind of part of the whole thing. But is it much different than when Chico does that? I don’t know, because we get Chico the ball on that stuff too. Again, it’s about creating a package that the defense has to see and worry about different personnel and be able to defend it all. Like I said, if Budda spent full time at receiver, he could be a really, really good receiver, I think we believe that. But it’s just a matter of time management in terms of, he still stays very sharp and playing at a high level at DB. But can he help us – he saw a deep ball, scramble drill, whatever, it was going pretty fast.”

On where they go from here with Budda on offense - “I think it’s hard to say. What I don’t want to have happen is we’re a month into it and we get thin and you try to throw a guy over there. It just doesn’t … it sounds great but just like al of our receivers, we’re still trying to develop those guys and get better. Well, here’s a guy that spends a handful of minutes each day. It’s not like just knowing what to do. Yeah, he can know what to do, but – and even then, he doesn’t really know what to do, because all of a sudden the look changes a little bit. The leverage is inside as opposed to outside – can I take that leverage, or do I have to force it? I mean, it’s just all kinds of things that are … and I think you saw it.”

On Tristan Vizcaino being able to kick touchbacks regularly - “Real good. It makes it a lot easier. If we knew he could do that, we would save a lot of practice time. A lot of guys running down on kickoff trying to fit this thing correctly. And I think we’d all be just fine with it. So it is nice, like we said, just to have to defend that less times, because eventually if you keep kicking to them, most guys are going to hit you eventually.”

Do you spend less time practicing it now? - “No. Uh-uh. Because again, sometimes the weather factors into that, and all of a sudden there’s no way he’s going to be able to kick it out, or he’s going to get a chance to return it. I thought we did a great job on that when we were kicking into the wind, that we had him put a lot of air on that kick, and those things are extremely hard to field, and right away we caught ‘em kind of off guard.”

On Jake Browning leading the country in passing efficiency - “Only stat I care about this time of the year is turnovers. So I have no comment on that other.”

On his assessment of Browning so far - “I think he’s playing at a good level, I do. I think he’s in a good groove. Like I say, we, he and us, we all pick that position apart to death, and there’s always a couple things here and there. But I think he’s in a good rhythm. I think he’s throwing the ball well. I think the receivers are playing at a pretty good level, making plays for him. So I think all that’s pretty good.”

On defending quarterbacks Anu Solomon and Brandon Dawkins this week - “Again, I think you just defend – they recruit to that style. They like a mobile quarterback, they’re going to run their quarterback. So they know the nuances obviously better than we do. We just see what’s on tape. The style doesn’t change dramatically. Dawkins might run a little bit more, but Solomon carries the ball as well. He does. I think both guys can scramble for yards but they’re also trained to keep their eyes down the field and try to find receivers when the pass stuff isn’t there. So I think you’re really defending the system.”

Does the 2014 Arizona loss stick in the back of your mind? - “Every time we don’t win a game it sticks in the back of my head, for sure. Every game you don’t win, it’s like what do we learn from it, all those type of things. But I think of a lot more games last year than I do two years ago.”

On this week having a different feel because it’s Pac-12 play - “That’s a good question. Our guys aren’t in the building today for the most part. They will be later. I think the coaches feel it. I think everybody knows, OK, this is what you’re trying to get ready to really compete for, is a conference championship. So all the stuff that was just played, no matter how it turned out, it’s like, OK, it is what it is. Win, lose, it is what it is. It’s like, OK, what did we learn? It’s setting the stage for this part of the season and away we go. It’s hard to know with the guys. Again, I think one of the things is just having that consistent team that just comes to work every day, that you don’t feel this really high and low. And I I think our guys have been really working pretty hard and pretty focused. I don’t think we’re going to go out there tomorrow and I’m going to feel a whole lot different, because I think they’ve been pretty good in terms of how they’ve practiced. It’s also not game da tomorrow. So just being realistic with all those type of things. But I do think they’ll be pretty focused because we’re starting league play.”

On the mechanics of practice changing this week at all - “A little noise, for sure. But the big thing is, not this week but it’s next week, that’s when everything changes because we’re on a short week and school starts. This week we’re still pretty much business as usual, except we are going on the road. But in terms of practice times and all those things.”

On Taylor Rapp making his first career start last week - “He’s a good football player. I always say this, you don’t really know until you get guys with you. But we thought that when we recruited him. We thought, this guy, he played multiple positions in high school and all those things, so he wasn’t really honed in on one position, but what we watched, we’re thinking, this guy’s a football player. Then when we got him here, he was so smart. I mean, it was amazing how fast he picked everything up. And then he’s a really good tackler, plays hard. It’s all these characteristics that when you boil it down, you want a smart player that’s physical, that’s a good tackler, that just has a really high football IQ, just football sense, and that was like the second he got here, by the end of spring ball. You know, he broke his hand like the second day of spring ball, didn’t miss one beat. Just played with a club. Just all these little things, he’s just continued to get better since he’s been here and he’s an impressive guy.”

On high-school players who played multiple positions being more appealing - “I don’t know if it’s ever come down to that, but I do think when a guy’s like the quarterback, and you’re recruiting him for another position, I don’t think that’s ever going to hurt you, and I think it’s probably going to help you, in terms of them understanding football, probably their preparation they’ve done through their high school years has been different than a lot of other guys. I don’t think there’s ever – when that has happened to us, I think it’s always been a really positive thing, and you feel good about it. Just being around the game more and understanding football and used to having the ball in his hands, and things kind of run through those guys. It’s funny because I saw Amandre (Williams) out there the other day and he was kind of getting warmed up and he was playing catch, and his hands are all taped up, and I said, ‘that throwing motion still looks pretty good.’ His eyes kind of lit up. ‘Don’t get any ideas. You’re still staying on that side of the ball.’ You think about that, and that’s what we really liked about Amandre, too, is he was a good quarterback. So I think that does mean something.”

On Jaylen Johnson - “He’s practicing. He is praciting. I don’t know if he suited up last game or not (note: he did not), but he’s practicing. So we just don’t want to put him at risk until he is full speed, ready to go. He’s very, very close.”

On Greg Gaines - “He’s a good player. It’s interesting to watch his progression as well. He’s been a big, strong, stout guy in there, but now he’s taking the next step of really attacking blocks. I think Coach Malloe is doing a great job with those guys, really coaching those guys (with) what he wants them to do. He’s got three really good inside guys that understand what their role is — first and foremost to eat up double teams and those types of things. And then if you can get off and make a play from there. So it’s been good to watch that whole progression, and Greg is playing really well.”

There were a couple instances this weekend where players dropped the ball right before reaching the end zone. Is that something you show to your team? - “I saw Cal, and I saw Coach Dykes’ reaction. And I kind of had the same reaction, but it’s so much nicer to watch someone else really have that problem. … But we do. We try to learn from everybody. We are always talking to our team and showing clips on situational awareness and game awareness — all the time. Like I said, it’s one thing to talk about them; it’s another in the heat of the battle, but you’ve got to start somewhere. So we’re constantly doing those types of things.”

Do you feel like you’ve settled on a six-man O-line with Nick Harris as the sixth guy coming in? - “I don’t think we’ve settled. I think we’re still trying to develop a couple other guys in there that can get into the mix. Not only because I don’t think we’re completely satisfied with where we are — I don’t think any coach should be at this time, but I know we’re not there. And the second thing is that’s a physical position, and we know how this goes. So I don’t think there’s settling with anything at any sort of rotation. I think it’s always an urgent, almost frantic (mindset of), ‘These guys have got to get going,’ because we’re going to need these guys sooner rather than later. We need them to push other guys.”

Did you talk to Jake Eldrenkamp about that illegal block in the legs - “Yeah. It’s kind of funny because what they see and feel out there — he really felt like it was really good and clean and all that. And then you put the tape on and you’re like, ‘Huh?’ So, you know, things happen fast out there and guys make decisions. But obviously when you put on the tape it’s like, ‘That was not a good decision.’ And he knows it.”

Is there anything different with Myles Gaskin’s style of running this season? - “No. I think he’s really similar. And I think we’ve got to get him into a (rhythm). And it all starts with the O-line, and they’ve got to fit properly with the running back, and he’s got to see the holes. One of the things I worry about with young players that have had success … now it’s like, ‘What’s next?’ (They think) ‘Oh, I gotta be better.’ No, you don’t. Just do what you’ve been doing and don’t press. And just be patient. He’s such a great patient runner, and sometimes you’ve got to give those guys the ball and you’ve got to the O-line in a rhythm. … It was the game last week (against Idaho), we didn’t run it very much … and then in the third quarter this last week we had the ball one series. And that’s not how a real run game works, in my opinion. There needs to be a flow, there needs to be a rhythm, and I still think we’re developing that.”

Do you feel like he is pressing a bit? - “No. I don’t know. I don’t think so. I think Myles practices very hard and he cares tremendously, and so when guys have that mentality and I know how it can go and guys can get itchy in terms of wanting to do more. And, hey, if you’re making the right reads and you’re fitting into the run game where you’re supposed to fit — now, the running back position is similar to the quarterback making reads. And there’s always a read or two where you look on tape, ‘Oh, yeah, I probably should have hit that here.’ So I think we’re still developing.”

Are there a lot of shoestring-type tackles where he’s a hair away from breaking one? - “Yeah, I think we’ve had a couple of those runs (where) he can pull through it, pick his feet up, some of those types of things. And not only Myles, I think a couple of the other guys have had a couple of those too, where it’s like, Oh, you should be able to run through that. But the defenders made a good play. I think we’re close, but it’s still a work in progress.”

Are you starting to see an effect with John Ross and defenses trying to take him away? - “Yeah, I think they’re going to. But some of that has to do with us being creative and making sure we find ways to get him the ball. Certainly, defenses are going to pay attention to what he’s done and what he can do, so there’s going to be a heightened sense of awareness there, but we know that. So we’ve got to pay attention to make sure we do some things to get him the ball.”

On progress of edge pass rush - “I think it’s still undecided. I think our pass rush has been good. I think we’ve got after the quarterback a little bit and sacked him, and I think we’re putting pressure. But again, as we move into league play, that’s where we really start to gauge everything. A lot of these things, we thought we were doing a good job here and we play in our league and it’s not so good and all of a sudden we’re talking about an area of concern. So that’s what I’m saying, I think these three weeks have been a good learning, building opportunity and the way I see it is, OK, we’re back to ground zero here and let’s see what we got.”

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