The Chris Petersen stamp on the University of Washington football team grows more vivid by the day. And yet Petersen realizes that, as the only new coaching regime in the Pac-12, he and his staff will, in essence, be playing catchup for the entire season as they institute their culture change.
“Because we came in late, we put our guys behind,’’ Petersen said Sunday.
That places even more urgency on each of the 29 practices leading up to their Aug. 30 opener at Hawaii, the first of which was undertaken Monday morning under brilliant Seattle skies.
It was crisp and spirited, though you’d hardly expect anything else on the first day, when the bodies are still unbruised and the minds are still able to dream of great accomplishments ahead.
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The test, as Petersen notes, will come around the eighth day when everyone is sore and tired and that new-season smell has begun to fade.
“Every day, every practice and every meeting, it’s just critical we’re all locked in,” Petersen said.
He is conceding nothing, mind you. Just because the learning process will be ongoing does not mean the Huskies can’t thrive. Indeed, that is his expectation, such is the confidence Petersen has in the tried-and-true methods he used at Boise State, with a significant portion of the staff that has followed him to Seattle.
“We’re such believers in the process,” he said. “That’s the secret sauce. Everybody has their way, but if you can stick to your way, your guns, your belief, your principles and not get derailed, I think you’re going to have success.”
There are subtle but definite signs the players are buying into this post-Sark reality. Certainly, they are learning the Petersen idiosyncrasies.
They know how meaningful it is when Petersen sounds his air horn, used to signify, and glorify, turnovers.
They know that to Petersen and his staff, it’s crucial to build camaraderie off the field, which they firmly believe will lead to a cohesive unit on it.
“The last couple of years, we always talked about how close we grew, but I feel it’s emphasized each and every day,” linebacker John Timu said. “I feel we’re much closer. We know about the guys that just came in (freshmen); we know their full names, we know about their families.
“There’s no cliques on this team anymore. There’s not guys relying on their own position group. Guys talk to each other now, which is a big difference we see. That’s good. It kind of goes on the field as far as trusting each other when we play next to each other.”
Timu is a testimony to another aspect of the Petersen regime — the insistence that players toe the line, with consequences for those who don’t.
Timu was suspended two weeks during spring ball, related to a misdemeanor charge of vehicle prowling that occurred while Petersen was still coach of Boise State. Quarterback Cyler Miles will miss the Hawaii game for his involvement in two post-Super Bowl incidents that resulted in wide receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow leaving the team. Sunday, Petersen announced that promising defensive lineman Marcus Farria had been dismissed from the team for “a violation of team standards.”
Such hard-line stances have been duly noted, and processed.
“The first reaction is, no one wants to be on the end of that stick,” wide receiver Jaydon Mickens said Sunday.
Mickens gave an interesting perspective on the overall transition process, which Petersen likened to “a door opening slowly” rather than just the snap of a finger.
“Coach Pete is a great guy,” Mickens said. “He had clashes with most of the older receivers, but that comes with new coaches. Now we’re on the same level. We see eye to eye. Coach Pete is doing a phenomenal job, talking about integrity; preaching it. Team discipline, and just focus.”
Assistant head coach Bob Gregory, one of those former Boise State coaches, says the hallmarks of a Petersen camp are attention to detail, effort, and energy, all of it dispensed in an atmosphere of positivity.
“He’s a great teacher, a great motivator,” Gregory said. “He’s a guy you want to play for, and you want to coach for.”
Monday, as he roamed around Husky Stadium, Petersen managed to appear both imperious and hands-on, stoic and animated. At one point, during a well-executed scramble drill, he yelled, “That’s what it looks like, John Ross!”
The Huskies might indeed be behind, but all the focus is on what lies ahead.
“There’s no looking back now,” Gregory said. “It’s all about attacking the future and going forward.”
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.