Things are about to get interesting.

After rolling over Kent State and Portland State in his first two games as UW’s head coach, Kalen DeBoer will lead Washington against No. 11 Michigan State inside Husky Stadium on Saturday. DeBoer met the media Monday to preview that game. Below is a full transcript of DeBoer’s address.

“Another week. We got that routine down as a team, that rhythm, with doing a little workout on Sunday and having our meetings, putting the game to bed. And then today there’s time off for the guys. It’s their day off, and now they kind of know what Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday looks like. With Kent State we had a few extra practices built in for that game plan. Last week was a normal week. So I think the guys know what is expected of them, and we’re looking forward to a great opponent coming into Husky Stadium this weekend. We love the challenge that’s in front of us and we’re excited about the opportunity, ready to attack the week. Questions?”

On approaching a big non-conference game:

“The next game is the most important one. It’s the most important one in the season. That’s the way it is every single week, and that’s the way you have to approach it. The word of the week  last week was ‘standard.’ There’s a standard that you have to have, whether it’s the process of your weekly preparation, how you rehab, how you hydrate yourself, your work ethic, who you are as a person, all of that. That standard, you set that. Now that we know what that standard is, we always have to make sure we’re above the standard. The guys will be excited, so there should be great energy. There’s no doubt about it. Yesterday was a great day for us. You could feel the energy, and it comes because you got another win under your belt, you’re playing well, the guys are enjoying the process and what we’re going through right now. But I also know we’ve got a great challenge and we have to keep improving for this weekend. So you really don’t want to make it too big going into the week, but obviously everybody understands we’ve got a top-15 team coming into our place on Saturday.”

On if he has any history with Michigan State coach Mel Tucker:

“No, I do not. No.”

On if UW benefits from players and coaches having played Michigan State at other schools:

“Yeah. I’m not sure how many times I’ve played against them. It’s been a few at a few different schools. It’s obviously a whole different staff, and how they’re operating I know is much different than how it was before. But you know this is a program we’re facing that has a lot of pride and has high expectations, just like we do. For us, it’s a game that is important to us. We represent the Pac-12 and we want to put our best foot forward and show what our conference is all about. It’s big in more ways than just us.”


On Michigan State football and their style:

“Physical. Tough. Always playing with great defense. You get used to playing in weather. I lived in Michigan for three years there, and at Eastern Michigan it was the same thing. You’re playing in weather, and in November it’s going to be cold. So you’ve got to build your program around that style that can endure those games and the weather that comes with it. That’s the style you see on film right now with them. It’s physical, trying to establish the run and protecting their quarterback, and a defense that’s flying around and doing the same thing up front. I know their defensive coordinator pretty well, faced him many times over the years, probably 7-8 times I’m guessing or close to it. They’ll be ready to play, and they’ll come and attack you. That physicality will show up on both sides of the ball in everything they do.”

On MSU QB Payton Thorne:

“He’s slinging it around, doing a great job, executing. You can see he’s responsible for making checks on the field for them with the run game, pass game. It seems like he’s got a really good feel and command of the offense for sure.”

On QB Michael Penix Jr.’s game against Michigan State in 2019:

“It’s a different coaching staff that we’ll be facing. But that’s one of those games where Mike was just on. I think it was 20 consecutive completions he had in that game, if I remember right. He made some big throws and it came down to the wire, and I think we scored and then they ended up kicking a field goal with five seconds to go, one of the last plays of the game. I think we tried our razzle dazzle play at the end and gave up a ball going the other way. But it said a lot about Mike. And man, we were very confident about what we could be with him at quarterback. That same thing is going to be the case here. He’s not going to be in awe. He’s played in many of these games. So you’re comforted, having one of your team leaders and your quarterback in particular being a guy that has played in big games and understands the color of jersey that’s across from him. It’s nothing new to him.”

On what their biggest strength is:

“Consistency. We’re consistent. It doesn’t mean we’re consistent at the level we want to be at yet, but I just know when we come out to practice every day what we’re going to get. I know there’s a lot of care and want-to, and that every day we’re going to keep getting better. When it comes to the play on the field, I think we’ve consistently (been efficient). Defensively, there’s been times where we’ve given up some yards and had our backs to the wall. But a sudden change at the end of the first half and we dig in. Against Kent State, there were some times when they were in our red zone and we were forcing some field goals. That happened again on Saturday. So I think there’s the mindset, and people are probably sick of me saying it, but I really feel our team is starting to believe in it. It’s that no matter what has happened and where we’re at, that moment is the most important moment. Just like this is going to be the most important game, until we get to the next one. They just really hone in and are able to focus and not get overwhelmed with any situations and be their best and trust the guy next to them to do their job. That’s a lot, but I think that’s the direction we’re headed, and I think some of the things that have happened have helped us believe in that philosophy and believe in that mindset.”

On UW not beating a ranked Power Five non-conference team at home since 2001:


“I didn’t even know that. I wasn’t aware of that. It would be huge, no question. With where we’re at in the process of coming back and building, I like where we’re at after two games. But this is a different animal. We’re talking about a top ranked team. So it would mean a lot to us, there’s no doubt about it.”

On using Grady Gross and others on special teams:

“I think with the kickoffs we just – we still didn’t see exactly what Grady can do. I’ve seen Grady in practice boot the ball seven, eight yards deep in the end zone. I think just that first game – maybe jitters and things like. Working through that, I just told him, I said ‘go out there and cut it loose’ after the first couple (kickoffs). I think he got better even as the game went on. Got those touchbacks that helped our return team. He actually has the ability to have great hangtime, and those give him a chance to do that. I think, even though the course of a long season. I’ve felt this way for many years, is that if you can take some of those kicks off of your place kicker that’s going to help him when he needs to have a little more juice when he has the longer field goals. We just wanted to mix things up. There’s some things that we have available to us with – you talk about Dylan being in there as a holder for a few. So, there’s just some things that we’re continuing to instill and incorporate into our special teams play, short term and long term. Just changing that up. You’ll continue to see a little bit of variation of both he and Jack holding in the future.”  

On the development at running back:

“We’ll it’s getting more competitive and more competitive every week, you know. We need those guys. I think they’ve all had their moments and they’ve all done a really nice job. I think there’s definitely some things they need to improve on. But, you know, their involvement in special teams I think is going to be critical as we go through the next few weeks. That’s what’s nice. We’re getting healthier at that position. Getting more guys back. That competition is going to lead to – in the week of practice being better and better and better at that spot. So, coach Grubb talked about who is preparing the hardest. Well, they’re all going to be preparing the hardest to get on the field this Saturday.” 

On any true freshman DeBoer expects to play more than the four-game redshirt minimum:

“I think as the season goes on – again there’s guys coming back to us right now. There’s some DB’s I think that – Jaivion (Green) played some snaps this last week. A guy like Tristan Dunn. We need those guys. I keep bringing up special teams. It’s because those snaps are so important. But, just taking those hits off some of our older guys. But then you got the changing and the evolution of the running backs coming back. So, week-to-week I think it’s a fluid thing. We’d love to save the redshirts, but if we need them to play to go out and get a win we’re going to do that. Those opportunities, like Denzel (Boston) going out there, it shows us how he can operate when the lights are on. He built some confidence and some consistency. There’s some things he did well. There’s some things that showed up that led to a little bit of our maybe not being quite in rhythm as an offense early in the game in the first couple plays.

 On if that’s a similar philosophy DeBoer will follow with Grady Gross:


“Definitely going into the first game that was the thought process. Now, again, we’ll just keep working through it. If he can have – show out really well here maybe you just pull the redshirt and have him be your kickoff guy. You need a number two kicker as well on the road. For all games I guess. We’ll just play that by ear. Kind of keep it fluid with him, too.” 

On if DeBoer wants Peyton Henry’s kickoffs short or through the end zone:

“I think the biggest thing with our kickoffs – we will change up where we want that ball kicked to. From sideline to sideline. And that’s the part that we’re probably not where we want to be. The distance, I mean, if you put it in the end zone and it’s a touch back we’re good with that. Kick it deep. Let it fly. Get some hangtime on it. So that way if it doesn’t get to the end zone whoever catches it, whatever it might be, or they bring it out, we want our kickoff team as far down the field before they catch the ball as we possibly can. I think just the directions – and we mix it up – we haven’t seen the execution of those kicks where we want them yet.”

On if that’s going to be a bigger point of emphasis with Michigan State’s returner coming to Husky Stadium:

“It’s been a big point of emphasis. After the first game and a big point of emphasis yesterday in meetings that we just gotta – I mean, it was better. Our coverage was better. It needs to be great. That field position on kickoff that we’re in control of. We know where that ball’s being kicked off pretty much every time. And we can dictate where that ball is going to be kicked to. We should know, and we should build those schemes. Our guys, as they get more and more reps, they should be pretty locked into what their responsibilities are.”

On Taj Davis not playing much against Portland State:

“It was more situational. I think Giles (Jackson) got the hot hand. The rotation we had and personnel groupings. There’s multiple ways. It can be just a sub that coach Shep maybe is subbing a guy in for at (a) certain time. Guy needs a blow, a little wind there. But some of its just coach Grubb calling in certain personnel groupings. Taj’s been doing a great job. We need him ready to go. He’ll be ready to go out there and make the big plays like he did week one.”


On any potential energy change from the players with a bigger opponent coming in this Saturday: 

“Well, I mean, yeah. I hope they have had energy. The week of practice is always going to lead into what that mindset looks like on Saturday. If you really prepare well you’re going to be confident. You talk about the energy and being over-excited. I don’t know too many times if I’ve seen that happen. I think it’s good to have these two games to kind of get those first game jitters out of pretty much most of the guys and get them behind us. But I think that’s our coaches’ job and my job all week long is to get them in the right mindset. I hope we’re fired up. I mean, every game there should be a tickle in your belly, right? You want to be a little nervous. That means it means something. It’s important. I know that’s going to be the case this weekend for some guys. But you just want to make sure we embrace the moment. Be excited about the great opportunity. Control what you can control. Give everything you got and live with the results. That’s the way we approach it every day.”

On if DeBoer wants to get to a point where’s UW is rotating a couple of backs:

“Yeah. I mean I think coach Marks has actually done a pretty good job and it’s only going to get more difficult, I think is what you’re alluding to. But he’s done a very good job of rotating so far. You don’t want to get into – and I don’t really think we are right now – a tendency situation where a certain guy comes in to do certain things. There’s enough versatility within the group to where I don’t think that’s going to happen. But coach Marks, you know, it becomes a tougher task to make sure you have the right guys on the field. You can over-analyze it and I don’t think that’s the case or that that’ll happen. I think it gets harder and harder as we get five, six guys that are ready to go. But that’s a good problem.”

On Germie Bernard and coming to UW and then leaving for Michigan State:

“He’s a great kid and it was a crazy time that he was going through. He was an early enrollee and I’m going to wish him nothing but the best. Except for this week, right (laughs). He’s a great kid, he’s a great football player and I really enjoyed getting to know him and he’s already made some plays for them. There was a lot going on, coaching staff changes, not just with myself but with position coach changes. He was trying to figure out where to go and it was a short amount of time and it was all happening really fast.”


On Giles Jackson and his versatility:

“He’s just got a great … we’ve really worked with him in the slot a lot to start out camp, but with Jalen playing a lot in the slot we didn’t want him to be just right there and only get a few snaps, so he’s really taken it on to be versatile and know the whole offense. He’s just a well-rounded receiver. Brings great energy to the unit, to our team. It was fun seeing him go out there and have a really big day.”

On lack of attendance through the first two games and his role fostering a connection with the fans:

“First and foremost, we’ve got to do our part as a team to make it exciting, to make it fun to come out on Saturdays and watch us play. We’re working hard to do that. The other thing is, just time to show more about who our guys are and realize that these are some special, not just players but people that you want to root for and are fun to watch and have a fun time playing and they are building into a team. There’s not a lot of me-first guys anymore on this football team. It would be hard to find ’em. The other part of this is, when this stadium is rockin’, again I’ve been on the wrong sideline and know what that’s like, just trying to get a snap off and how loud it can be and how much of a problem that is when you’re an opposing offense in this stadium trying to execute, everything is just so much harder when it’s loud. Quarterback trying to change a protection, trying to get the signals or the calls in from the sideline, everything is just a lot harder. We need Husky Nation out here in a big way on Saturday. We’ve been trying to prove that we’re going to be fun to watch and fun to be there at the stadium for and to support, and we appreciate everyone that’s been to our games. It’s been a fun environment, but I know there’s still a lot more that we can have. The motto ‘No Limits’ is our motto for this season for our team. I guess the limit would be the capacity, right? But I would just challenge the fanbase Husky Nation, let’s not have any limits to what this could be this season. Let’s not sit and wait around to see what could happen. Let’s put the pedal down and let’s go get this.”

On scheduling:

“It’s a balance, right? I think I mentioned one thing in a completely different direction…I think just for college football in general and having been on the different levels, for those programs to operate, it’s important for them to have games. As an advocate for college football, it’s not exactly expressing why I think it’s important for us to play or what our schedule should look like, but those teams need those games as well. Portland State, to make their program go and it’s healthy for college football. From a standpoint from our end, with being a first-year staff and trying to build our program, having some games that aren’t all boom, boom, boom, it helps us get into a rhythm, it helps us gain some confidence. But there are going to be seasons coming up where looking at the schedule it’s more difficult and more challenging. That’s something we’re all for. We want to compete at the highest level and our fans want to see great games. We want to find that fine line on being able to build our team each and every year while also making it entertaining for the fanbase.”

On weather impacting the offense:

“I know we talk about it quite a bit. Weekly we’ve got to keep stressing run game, defense. Those things, from where I’ve been my entire career, people always talking about being an offensive guy and it’s the offense this, the offense that. If you really look back, we won championships because of having a great defense, an offense that could control the football when it needs to, can score points, get leads, put the other team in tough positions to where they become one-dimensional. And been a part of three national champions and a conference championship, and there’s been special teams plays for touchdowns and blocked kicks and big field goals and those have been pretty much won the games in those championship moments. Offense is obviously what I’ve been labelled as as far as a coach, but man, we’re going to win ballgames because of those other areas standing out as well.”

On if he watched Oregon State-Fresno State:

“Yeah, I got a chance to watch it, yeah I did.”


On if he liked Oregon State going for a two-point conversion at the buzzer:

“I think every coach has his ways. You can go back and forth. If you get it, it looks great. If you don’t, you’re wonder what if. I think it’s all about every game being different and who you’re playing and whether you’re in that spot and what the game flow has been all about offensively, defensively.”

On what to do if you see Jack Colletto lined up there in that situation:

“I was paying attention. I know what might be coming down the road, for sure.”