Kasen Williams doesn’t need to point fingers at anyone else.
You want to know about the maturation of this Washington football program? You want to know why the Huskies, at No. 17, have their highest ranking in 10 years, why they’re staring down their first 3-0 start since 2001? Why some believe they could challenge for the Pac-12 North title?
Look no further than Williams.
Two years ago, as a touted true-freshman receiver, Williams didn’t understand the value of bringing his best every day. He lived only for the thrill of a Saturday.
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But the monotony of a Monday? Meh.
“When I was a freshman, I hated practice. Hated it,” Williams said this week. “It was mainly because I knew in the games (was when) I could do my stuff. In practice, I just didn’t want to do it.”
He knows better now, as a junior searching for consistency in himself and his team. And he’s trying to make sure his younger teammates don’t fall into the same pitfalls that trapped him early in his career.
“What I tell the freshmen now is, ‘You don’t want to do what I did, because I limited myself,’ ” he said. “I limited myself by not studying as much as I should have and I didn’t take practice as seriously. That’s one of the things that’s really helped us mature, by taking that knowledge that us older guys have and putting it in the young guys.”
Washington coach Steve Sarkisian has talked a lot lately about “The Process” — the weekly repetition of preparing for every opponent in the same manner and with the same intensity each week, and not relying on “external factors” for motivation. Sure, it’s another way to state the old cliché of “taking it one day at a time,” but there’s a reason it’s a cliché: It tends to work.
“I’ve never been around a team where, man, we just all want to win,” junior tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins said. “It’s different.”
It all sounds good, certainly. More importantly, it sounds more and more like the Huskies are actually believing what they say.
There is some irony in “The Process” this week, though. Because what should be the Huskies’ easiest test of the season — UW opened as a 53-point favorite over Idaho State — could also be the biggest challenge to The Process. The Huskies could likely, in effect, take the week off, show up Saturday and, no doubt, still beat the Bengals, an FCS-level team that finished 1-10 in 2012.
But that hasn’t been the case this week, Sarkisian insisted.
“We had another upbeat, live practice today,” he said Thursday. “Guys flying around and locked in to what they’re responsibilities are — and having fun doing in. That’s one of the great things about these guys: They have a real sense of when to enjoy ‘The Process,’ but also when to be locked in and focused. I think we’re really improving in that area.”
For junior Hau’oli Kikaha, a defensive captain, ‘The Process’ means “not letting off the gas pedal” against anyone.
“I felt like we could’ve overlooked some things in the past, and maybe half of the team’s mentality was what we have now,” Kikaha said. “Now, today, it’s a different story. I feel like our entire team, our entire coaching staff, feel like we have such a great chance and (an) opportunity to get so much better.”
Earlier this week, Williams and senior quarterback Keith Price were talking about how someone like Kobe Bryant might approach the type of opponent the Huskies have this week.
“For all the greats, it doesn’t matter,” Williams said. “Kobe, regardless of whether he plays the Spurs or the Bobcats, he’s putting up 40 (points). It’s the same thing over here. We’re not going to come out and slack. Our job is to win by 45, so we’re going to win by 45.
“Anything below that is not acceptable.”
The Huskies, in other words, expect to dominate on Saturday in large part because they first expect to be dominant on Monday.
Adam Jude: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @a_jude