The key this offseason, UW coach Chris Petersen said, is maintaining the “edge” that sparked the program’s resurgence.
Just outside Chris Petersen’s office windows, above the west end zone at Husky Stadium, in bold gold letters on a purple backdrop, is “2016.”
It’s nestled at the end of a long row of dates commemorating Washington’s 16 conference championships in football, going all the way back to 1916, and the most recent addition serves as permanent reminder of the most significant accomplishment of Petersen’s tenure here.
But if Petersen has his way, his players would pay little attention to that sign during their summer sprints up and down the Husky Stadium bleachers.
Sept. 1, Washington @ Rutgers, TBA
“That,” he said, “has nothing to do with this team.”
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During a rainy afternoon at Husky Stadium on Saturday, the Huskies offered a brief glimpse at what they could be in 2017.
Star quarterback Jake Browning, three months removed from shoulder surgery, threw 10 passes during four scrimmage periods, completing six of them for 47 yards. Redshirt freshman Sean McGrew scored from 17 yards out for the lone touchdown of the day, helping Browning and the Purple team to victory over the White team.
And, as impressive as anything, the two defenses combined to force four turnovers and had six sacks on 76 scrimmage plays. Despite the loss of five defensive starters expected to be selected in the NFL draft next week, talent does not appear to be an issue for this defense, or this team in general.
The team’s mindset and offseason approach is an ongoing evolution, as Petersen views it.
During the offseason a year ago — before the Huskies won their first Pac-12 championship in 16 years and before they advanced to the College Football Playoff for the first time — Petersen lamented all of the attention, all the hype that was building around his team.
“We haven’t done anything yet,” he kept saying then.
Now, they’ve done something. They’ve done a lot, and they enough talent returning that they will almost certainly be ranked in the top 10 going into the next season.
The key this offseason, Petersen said, is maintaining the “edge” that sparked the program’s resurgence.
“I mean, if anybody has any sort of ‘we’ve arrived,’ they’ve got no chance,” he said.
“It’s not like we’re ignoring that (conference championship),” he added. “All these guys learned some great stuff, and all the competition — all that’s great. But that doesn’t have anything do with where we’re at now. We’re just back trying to get in shape and trying to take the next step.”
Entering his fourth season at UW, Petersen has established his way of doing things. You can hear it in the way some of the veteran players speak. They use many of the same catchphrases and clichés he does.
During Petersen’s tremendous run of success at Boise State, he had the program there competing for a conference championship every year.
“To me, it is much harder to stay up near the top than get there,” he said. “These guys don’t know that, but I do. So that’ll be the next step. …
“They know what our mindset needs to be now, but you’ve still got to work really hard on these things. They know how we (the coaches) think, they know how they’re supposed to think, they know what it will probably take, but then it’s still really hard to do these things.”
The first real measurement of what the Huskies will be is still months away. But because of their accomplishments in 2016, they’re certainly not starting from scratch.
“Every year, we’re trying to build our chemistry, build our culture, who we are,” senior linebacker Keishawn Bierria said. “We’ve got to work on that. That’s year-round. … But, definitely, I feel like we’re in the right place and we’re on the right track to be who we want to be.”