Petersen: "I think there’s so much garbage out there in terms of lying to kids. It’s wrong. I think it gives our business a bad name."
Washington coach Chris Petersen and the Huskies signed 18 recruits Wednesday in what is shaping up to be his best recruiting class as a head coach. Here’s what he had to say about the class, about the new early signing period, about the “garbage” recruiting from other coaches and more:
(Another drama-free signing day for you …) “We’re really, really excited about these guys. We’ve got a bunch of great kids that are big-time players and that’s usually our mission. We went to 10 different states, which is exactly our footprint. It’s out here in the west, it’s in Texas, usually have a wild card somewhere with a connection somehow, some way — Jackson Sirmon out there in Tennessee. He’s coming back home here. We got the position needs that we were hoping to get and really good players to go along with that. We’re excited. One of the things we pay close attention to, the average GPA — I’m talking about the core GPA, math, science, it’s the average for this crew – is over 3.0. All those things that we always talk about in recruiting, how we put this puzzle together really shows up with this crew. Six players that won state championships, two Gatorade state Players of the Year, four U.S. Army All-Americans, one Under Armour game participant, and five Polynesian Bowl participants. These are all really, really good players and really good kids that come from really good families and we’re really excited about them.”
(How do you balance need versus best available talent when looking at your current roster?) “It’s probably similar to the NFL. We’re definitely recruiting need but we’re not going to pass up a guy who we think can come in here and be a difference-maker. The balance of getting these good players we needed at these positions worked out really well. We feel like we’re right where we need to be. There’s still another signing date. I think we’re probably 90, 85 percent done. If nothing else happened we would still feel pretty good, but we’ll see where this thing goes.”
(Do you have to massage things when you have two four-star quarterbacks in the same class) “I just wish you would say we have two really good players at that position …”
(OK, let me start over. You have two really good players at the quarterback position. Is it odd to have that situation in one class? “That’s a little bit different at the quarterback position, but I think these guys love Washington. I think they love what the program is all about. I think they like our style of offense, and I think they are competitors. That’s what it’s always all about. Do you fit this place? Are you a competitor? Let’s go to work. That’s the mentality of those guys, and that’s how it should be.”
(Was it the plan to sign two quarterbacks?) “We’re always looking at this. I have to look at every room. I have to look at the running back room and you have to look ahead down the line. There are certain things you can see and predict happening. You don’t know what the future holds for any of this, but you’ve got to make sure you feel like – and a lot of this is kind of the future. That’s how we recruit. We’re recruiting for the here and now, but you’re also looking a year or two ahead, going – OK, how are we going to be sitting here? That’s why we wanted to get two in this class.”
Yogi Roth of the Pac-12 Network talks about UW’s touted recruiting class with Adam Jude
Pac-12 recruiting rankings
(On Ale (Brandon) Kaho and his recruitment) “He came out here and visited us this summer. His parents weren’t able to come. He came himself. You could tell right away, he just clicked with this place. He just really did. When he was getting ready to leave he was just like, I just need to get my parents out here, I need to have my parents see this and meet you guys and see what you’re all about. And that just never changed for him. Recruiting can be hectic and you have all sorts of parties coming in and kind of muddying the waters and all that, and it gets confusing for everybody. When we were able to get him and his parents back out here on an official visit, I think he was one of the guys from the start. He just knew in his heart this is where he wanted to come. His parents saw this and saw how he reacted to this place and that to me is what this recruiting is all about. People think early in the recruiting process if this place ever offered me this is where I’m going to go, but guys that really do the process correctly, a lot of times that isn’t the place. You think this emblem on the side of the helmet is what it’s all about, but then you’ve got to do your homework and figure out where do I fit the best. And Ale fits us.”
(How competitive was that recruitment?) “Every one of these guys, it’s not just one guy. Every one of these guys could go almost anywhere. So yeah. Our games are competitive, the recruiting is just as competitive.”
(Is the pitch for you different than it was a couple years ago?) “It’s not any different in terms of what we say to them. I think they can figure the football out. When I’m talking to them, I’m not really talking about football most of the time. I’m just talking about this place and what we’re all about. I think the rest speaks for itself.”
(What did you think about the timing of the early signing period? Do you like it?) “I kind of do. It’s very hectic when you’re preparing for this bowl game and then you’re out and you’re making sure – but it is nice to have this day a bit earlier. These kids have been committed for a long time. We’ll see how this next phase goes. It kind of seems to me like — and everyone’s predicting different things – this is the new February. There might be a handful of kids that don’t sign here but I think going forward guys figure it out and move on. I think a lot of the guys are so sick of it they are just like, please give me the paper so we can move on.”
(I know you’re not a rankings guy …) “Not even kind of.”
(When you were at Boise, you would get the 75th ranked class …) “Loved it. I hope this one’s 85th.”
(But it’s 10th right now, which would be your best ever. Does that mean anything to you? What does it say about your program?) “It doesn’t. What does mean a lot to me is the guys on here (paper) and I know as much about these kids as players and people as I can without coaching them and being around them and putting them through the grind. I feel so good about this. We all looked at this as coaches and that’s when I know it’s pretty good when you look and that’s a good player, that’s a good player, yes he’s a really good dude…I don’t know anything about these rankings. And I really don’t care, because what I care about is what we do on the field, what we do in the classroom. And I know these guys fit us. I know it’s important to other people but it doesn’t matter to me.”
(Do you think your recent success has sold kids on UW in a way that maybe it wouldn’t have before?) “I think you have to have a track record. I think you have to have a great product, and this university is why I came here. I think it’s second to none. So what else are we talking about? I think it’s the same for the coaches as it is the kids. You’re at an elite, academic institution. You’re going to play the best football in the country. You have a chance to compete on a national scale. And then we have a unique philosophy in terms of what we’re trying to do with these kids even outside of football. For the right guys, this is a rare and unique place. I think a lot of these guys saw that.”
(on Penn State) It seems like the same thing every year when you go to a really big bowl game. You get excited. You don’t know too much about the program. You know their name, and then you put the tape on and you’re like, ‘Oh, this is why we’re playing them.’ They’re just really good in all three phases. They score over 40 points a game. They don’t give up many points. And then on special teams they have elite kick returners; they really create things there. They’re solid in their coverage units. The defense is very multiple in terms of the pressures that they bring — they’re all over the place. They create a lot of havoc; they blow things up. Their defense plays extremely hard. They’re penetrators. So they make it hard on an offense. And their offense, Barkley — everyone talks about him, and he’s obviously a rare and special talent. But (Trace) McSorely, the quarterback, he is good. He makes that thing go. He is hard to tackle and he can go and he makes plays. He’s a competitor. I like that guy.
(on Penn State’s secondary) The first thing is they’re not going to sit back there and give you a chance to hold the ball. So that’s any secondary’s best friend, just how they get after the quarterback. They get three sacks a game and that’s a lot. And then they play tight coverage, and they mix their coverages. So they get after the quarterback, they change the picture and then they cover tight. This is why they’re one of the better defenses in the country. This defense to me just plays really well as a group.”
(on Budda Baker being named to NFL Pro Bowl on Tuesday) Not surprising. I think for you guys it’s not surprising either. That guy is a football player. He understands the importance of special teams. Same old thing. … He’s one of the best in the league (on special teams). He’s awesome.
(Looking back, how meaningful was Budda in your first UW recruiting class) I love Budda. I think about that with some of these guys. He’s just a football player. He just loves it. But he’s just an awesome person and you just like to be around him, like to coach him. It’s fun. That’s what makes coaching really, really fun. When you tell him to do something, he gets it. You’re never talking about, ‘What’s going on? You’ve got to play harder!’ Effort is something sometimes you do need to coach. It’s hard to play at this level of effort that we’re talking about, and never once would you say that about Budda.
(Softy wants to know about Petersen’s Tommy Bahama purple shirt because Softy wants to be Coach Pete when he grows up) I am not giving my sartorial secrets to you, Softy. Because if we start dressing alike, I’ve got big problems (laughs).
(This class complete?) There’s still another guy or two that we have our eye on that we feel pretty good about. We’ll just see how it goes and go from there.
(on player awards — Budda as Pro Bowler, Vita Vea as Pac-12 defensive player of the year. How much do you talk about that in recruiting?) I don’t really find myself talking about that — I probably should. I think our coaches would probably talk about it and I think the kids probably know. But I think it’s just more about — I think that’s all about hype and smoke and mirrors. Like, what does that have to do with you coming here? And what it has to do with is, we have really good players — as good as anybody in the country, and we can coach you up to this level if you have that God-given potential in you. So maybe that’s what that has to do (with recruiting). But to me, it’s not about the size of the stadium, it’s not about all these flashy uniforms — and we have all that. We have the best of the best. That’s the fun part of it. But once you get here, in about two weeks all that stuff wears off. And do you fit here? What is that locker room like? What is the heartbeat of the locker room? How are the coaches going to coach you and treat you? When this thing’s over, did you really get something more out of this than just football? And that’s what I end up talking about because that’s what really matters. … I saw this yesterday: I forgot the Vita was the defensive player of the year in our conference. I honestly did. I was like, ‘Did I even say anything about that to Vita? That’s pretty cool.’ I don’t know if I said anything to any recruits — I didn’t even say anything to Vita.”
(on offering recruits early — Jacob Sirmon has been committed since his sophomore year) I don’t mind offering kids early. I have two things with that. One, we’re not offering kids just to offer them. We’ll never do that. We’re not throwing a bunch of mud to the wall and see who sticks. That’s what everybody else does. We’re not doing that. Our lists are short and we’re going after the guys that fit us. So if we know a guy fits us and he’s been in our backyard for a long time — so we’re able to evaluate that. And then when we have a guy like that, I feel awkward and bad about it. Because I know when we get involved, then everyone’s going to get involved just because we’re involved, before they do any homework. And you can’t tell me that doesn’t have an effect on a young kid’s psyche for the next two years, when everyone’s recruiting him to do death and telling him how great (he is). I think that’s really hard. I wouldn’t want that for my son. I think that has a big effect in the world they live in. But it is what it is, and I think so many of these kids have good, grounded parents who keep them focused on important things. But I think that’s really hard. I think we take pride in being one of the teams that offers the least amount of scholarships — because we’re not just going to throw a bunch of scholarships out. We do our research and figure out who fits us and it’s going to mean something when it comes from Washington. But I don’t have a problem offering guys early … but I know it can be a negative thing if not everybody that’s surrounding that athlete really has this thing in check and do it the right way. It takes a lot of people to get this young guy through this process.”
(Does that make you appreciate a guy like Sirmon who’s been committed to you for a full two years …) “I do. I appreciate (that). And we try to slow it down. … And sometimes it’s a little bit awkward: ‘No, I don’t want you to commit. No. Go home.’ Because when you commit, we’re saying, like if it was legal, you’d sign this paper. Like, you’re done. Go look at some other places, go figure this out if this really is your place. And if it is, awesome. But now if you commit, you’re going to have all these crazy grown football coaches for the next two years just lying and saying whatever, and that is a hard thing not only for the kid but for the family. They don’t know what to believe. It’s a tough process. It really is. We try to help that whole thing, so when you commit it means you really are done. Even with that being said, it’s hard to withstand all this craziness that comes their way.
(Is there a recruiting story you can share about maybe the craziest thing another coach has done, with naming names?) I would love to. But I’m not going to. … Don’t get me started because I think there’s so much garbage out there in terms of lying to kids. It’s wrong. I think it gives our business a bad name.
(Have you ever called other coaches on that stuff?) I have. I have. It is what it is.