Grandma should be proud of the well-mannered buzzwords that sprouted out of the Washington football program this spring. Among them:
Unity. Trust. Bond. Brotherhood.
Certainly, those are good for living-room recruiting pitches and booster luncheons, where Chris Petersen’s philosophies have played well so far in his short tenure as the Huskies’ new coach. But what about in the locker room? Are those words starting to resonate with the players who must define them?
“What I can say is, I know everyone is trying,” UW senior defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha said. “The guys who are having a harder time adjusting, they’re slowly picking it up and trying to fix problems every day. And it’s working.”
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Results of this emphasis on team chemistry won’t start to take shape until the fall. But Kikaha said the results of that emphasis at Boise State — a 92-12 record in Petersen’s eight seasons as the coach there — do resonate with UW players.
“I’m amazed by the things that they’ve done in the past with their previous teams,” he said. “They had fewer resources and they didn’t (recruit) as many whatever-star guys, but still that (chemistry) aspect of the game is so important that they’re able to dominate and win games and win championships with those guys. It’s something huge that we’ve never been able to witness (first hand).
“I don’t think we understand fully, but I’m excited to see when that happens for us.”
The new coaching staff began to lay its foundation from the ground up this spring — quite literally in the case of offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith. In UW’s first practice March 4, Smith crawled on the ground and, from his belly, showed his two young quarterbacks, Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams, how he wanted them covering up a fumbled ball.
It’s been a gradual buildup since then, with the Huskies using their 15 allotted spring practices to emphasize such mundane fundamentals. No detail was too small.
“Our system’s been introduced in everything we do,” Petersen said. “… I think that’s all been established. Now we’ve got to get better at that. We’ve got to tighten up the details on everything we do. That’s the difference (in) everything — the details. We’re not detailed enough, so that’s where we’ve got to go moving forward.”
Smith and defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski estimated they installed about half of their playbook schemes this spring. Coaches were careful not to throw too much at the players too soon.
“We’ve still got a ways to go, but we’re definitely on an upward trend,” Kwiatkowski said. “Guys are doing a good job of figuring out how to go about doing that. They’re awesome as far as coming out to practice with good energy and wanting to get better. It is a process, and it takes time, but I think we’re on track.”
Entering the summer, the program’s top story line will continue to center on the quarterbacks. Is Lindquist or Williams ready for a serious run at the starting job next fall? And what further discipline might suspended quarterback Cyler Miles — plus receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow — face going into the 2014 season?
The players won’t be able come together with the coaches until fall camp begins in early August. Junior cornerback Marcus Peters said he’s eager to introduce the new emphasis on chemistry to the 24 incoming freshmen scheduled to arrive this summer.
“We want to start building a bond to where we can trust each other a whole lot more,” Peters said, adding: “It’s going to be amazing once we get everyone here during camp, and we start playing our brand of football.”
Adam Jude: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @a_jude.