Even though his Huskies are predicted to win the conference title, UW head coach Chris Petersen was his usual stoic, unrevealing self at Pac-12 media day: "We expect to be good and win games, and that's never changed."
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Here’s the transcript of Washington coach Chris Petersen from his 25 minutes on the main stage during the Pac-12 Football Media Day on Wednesday morning:
Q. Can you talk about the pressure of being number one rated in the conference?
CHRIS PETERSEN: Yeah, that doesn’t mean anything to us. So there’s — there’s no more expectations put on us from the day that we walked into that building. We expect to be good and win games, and that’s never changed. So because other people, you know, think that we might win some games, that doesn’t really change our mindset. I think the only thing about it for me is I just — I like to be on a different team than you guys are on. I’d rather prove you wrong than to prove you right. Now we’re working to prove you right rather than prove you wrong.
Q. So competition, recruiting is very competitive in the Pac-12. What advances do you sell for the Huskies in an area itself, and the Seattle area?
CHRIS PETERSEN: Yeah, I think we have a lot of unique things to sell. I really do. Our whole thing is just looking for the right kid that fits us, and I think there’s a lot of really good programs out there, and that’s what this whole recruiting process is about, figuring out where you fit the best. I tell the kids we recruit, if you fit somewhere else better than Washington, then you should go there. It’s not about selling a kid like this is a better place than wherever. It’s about finding the right fit. I think our coaches have been really good at that. I always say, when you find the right place, the right fit, that’s when the magic happens.
Q. What is a, quote/unquote, Husky player, the right fit that you’re looking for?
CHRIS PETERSEN: Yeah, I think a guy that is passionate about football. That understands the importance of school. Doesn’t have to love it, but understands he’s going to do it and grind it. Great teammate, like a good dude that people like to be around. Those are the guys that we’re trying to find.
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Q. Why has Utah been a tough match-up for you the last couple years?
CHRIS PETERSEN: Yeah, I don’t know. I think they’re a good team. I think that’s probably the — the main thing. They play tough, physical football, and they’re well-coached. I think Utah’s a tough match-up for everybody. I don’t think it’s anything unique to us, yeah.
Q. Any news on Hunter Bryant?
CHRIS PETERSEN: Yeah, so, Hunter — so Hunter did have surgery. We’ll just see how he progresses. He’s not going to be ready at the start of the season. May end up being his red-shirt year, especially with the four games that we can play. But he will not be ready at the start of the season. It will be a month or two before we can even kind of really see where he’s at. The surgery went really, really well. It’s a really unique injury. They rehabbed it. The rehab was really going well for him to do spring football. And then just in a workout, it just kind of swelled up and wasn’t acting right. So then they did decide to go in there, and felt really good about what they did. Our doctors usually don’t come out saying we feel really good about this, but they did. So I think his long-term prognosis is really good, it’s just going to take some time to get him back.
Q. What does Byron Murphy need to do to take that next step?
CHRIS PETERSEN: I think play more. Byron’s played six games for us. I’m excited to see what he’s going to do. He’s played very little football for us in the big picture. Hopefully we’ll be able to keep him out there longer than we had him last year.
Q. You saw him behind the scenes as a freshman, winning scout team Player of the Year. And you saw that small glimpse, just what does he bring to that secondary?
CHRIS PETERSEN: Yeah, I just think that he’s a really instinctual player. He’s got really good ball skills. He’s one of those guys that you see him in high school and he was a really spectacular receiver. A lot of times those DBs are on the other side of the ball because they can’t catch. But he can catch. He’s got a knack for getting his hands on the ball. That’s what I think about when I think about Byron, is he’s just got good instincts for the game. Like I said, I’m as excited as anyone to really see him go through a full season, compete day-in and day-out.
Q. Do you think that the new redshirt rule will impact the quarterback position more so than other positions?
CHRIS PETERSEN: I haven’t thought about it at all like that in any one position. I just think there are going to be freshmen we play from the very start. They’re going to go play. Other guys are going to say we’re going to red-shirt them and they might not get in the game at all. And there are going to be other guys that will say, hey, maybe down the road, and injuries are going to be a factor in all these type of things. So I don’t think about it in terms of any really one position. We’ll just see how it goes and how kids develops and how the injury thing, health goes for us.
Q. Wanted to follow up on Hunter. Obviously announced that on social media. Was that discussion with him in particular about his decision to put that out there —
CHRIS PETERSEN: Yeah, it was — it was not so much a discussion than really probably a look and a one word: Really? Other than that, he’s like, Oh, yeah.
Q. He had such a promising start last year as a true freshman year. How does that dynamic —
CHRIS PETERSEN: It’s football. You’re going to have that. We haven’t even gotten started, and we’re talking about that. That’s the game. We’ll get him back. Next guy up. Next personnel group up. It is what it is. So that’s what I think.
Q. Stay on the injury topics, a lot of guys coming back by the end of last year, but feeling good about where everyone’s at?
CHRIS PETERSEN: Yeah, everybody else is on progress, the progress is where we hoped they would be. So we’ll be smart with certain guys in camp, and it’s a long season, and we’ve got to build it. Not only have you got to build it, you’ve got to build up your whole team. I think that’s one of the things that we’ve learned: To go from zero to a hundred miles an hour Practice 1 is probably not the smartest thing to do because you haven’t played football. But certainly with guys that have been injured for a long time and we throw them into the mix. So we’ll have a plan for each one of those guys and be really smart with them. But everybody else is where the trainers and doctors thought they would be. So we’ll have a plan for each one of those guys and be really smart with them. But everybody else is where the trainers and doctors thought they would be.
Q. What has been your assessment of the assistant coach, Will Harris? What has been your assessment of the position overall?
CHRIS PETERSEN: Yeah, yeah, really good energy, guys really like him. He has good knowledge, and he’s learning our kind of system, and our way of doing things. We just look for fit in everything that we do, whether we’re recruiting players or coaches. He fits into what we’re doing really well. He’s made good progress in his time with us.
Q. Obviously you don’t have all the answers, but how are you trying to increase the offers each year?
CHRIS PETERSEN: You’re talking about recruiting?
Q. Yeah. How can you fix that? Is there away to fix that?
CHRIS PETERSEN: I can’t worry about what everybody else does. You know. I can’t worry about the style of defense somebody throws at us or how somebody recruits. We just have to recruit our way. That’s what we know. I can’t fix the recruiting landscape the way that I think it should be. We try to recruit the best way we know how. We try to be as honest and up front with the kids as we can and do it our style and our way. There are a lot of different styles, and there are a lot of different ways that work.
Q. You produced a lot of coaches and GAs at Washington. When you send guys out into the coaching world, is there kind of a trust element there where you hope that they don’t come back? It’s one of those calls that you’ve got to make?
CHRIS PETERSEN: I wish Jonathan (Smith) and Justin (Wilcox) weren’t in this conference. I’m happy for them, but I’m like, yeah, I wish there were a lot of other places they were, like 130 other different schools than maybe in this conference. But it is what it is, and I am I’m happy for them. That’s just how it goes.
Q. Sports betting seems like something colleges are going to have to reckon with here sooner rather than later. Do you have any concerns about that becoming a thing?
CHRIS PETERSEN: Not really. It’s just another thing that we’re going to have to deal with. I heard about that rule and didn’t think twice until I guess we started talking about it a few days ago. It always comes down to guys just doing the right thing. Us as coaches, educating our guys on what is right, what is wrong, and guys are going to have to do things with integrity and character. Whether it’s legal to bet on games or not, to me, it’s all the same. Maybe this is just a topic that we’re going to have to pay a little closer attention to. But I don’t see it being a big thing with our guys.
Q. There’s been some conversation about injury reports becoming required across college football. Is that something that you’re averse to?
CHRIS PETERSEN: I mean, what I would hope in college football is that whatever we’re talking about, everybody is kind of on the same page, whether we’re talking about transfers, who can get graduate transfers, whether we’re talking about injury reports. Whether you’re talking about how many league games a conference should play. I just wish we were all doing the same stuff and we go from there.
Q. Got a bunch of new coaches in the conference; you had to build at Washington. Challenge between — difference between building and maintaining. Now you’re in that.
CHRIS PETERSEN: Yeah, they’re both hard. Yeah, they’re both hard. It doesn’t feel like in the position that we’re in that things are easier by any stretch of the imagination. It might feel a little bit different, but it’s all equally hard because you’re fighting every day when you come into the office, whether you feel like — and I think everybody still feels like you’re building. I don’t feel like we’ve even kind of arrived. I think we feel like we’re maybe more on the same page nowadays throughout the program, from doctors and trainers and players and academic people, all of that, but then you have to fight for it every single day. That’s what you do. It’s all equally hard work.
Q. Pete Carroll was asked one time whether it was harder to get to the top or to stay there. He said to get there.
CHRIS PETERSEN: Yeah, and maybe — I don’t know. Ask Nick Saban, he might say to stay there. I think you can make a case either way. I think they’re both really, really hard. We’re trying to get there. We have not arrived. We’ve made some progress, but it’s all hard work. I think you can truly like — if you win a National Championship, two years ago win the conference, that’s how you’ve got to kind of think. You have to think about winning your first game, then your second game, and hopefully you can win a conference. That’s, as we know, hard to repeat. We couldn’t get it done this last year. So it’s all equally hard.
Q. The new redshirt rule obviously gives you more flexibility to play guys. How much more extra work is that going to create both preseason and during the season to figure out what your strategy is going to be for those guys?
CHRIS PETERSEN: I don’t know because we haven’t been through it. I’m not seeing it as extra work. I’m seeing it as we are probably going to make some decisions on some freshmen and go: You’re playing. And there are going to be other guys that we’ll say, in our mind: You’re going to redshirt. There will probably be some other guys that we’ll say: We’ll just kind of see how this goes. That’s kind of how we’ve done it every year anyways, but now we have more flexibility that we can get them on the field a little bit. So to me, it’s comforting. It really is. It’s like we can do what’s right for the kids. We’re not going to get ourselves into a situation where like your Game, whatever it is, 8, and we’re like, holy smokes, we need to play this guy. We just don’t have the bodies. So I think all coaches are happy with it.
Q. You’ve advocated for five years of eligibility. Do you see it — is this a step in that direction, do you think? Do you ever see there being enough consensus around that to go that way?
CHRIS PETERSEN: Probably not. It’s how things go. I think everybody’s really happy with this. You know, maybe they’ll look at it and adjust it and say in a couple years, hey, why don’t we just give them five years. If they’re ready to play three games, they play three games. We don’t have to have strategy behind this like we’re going to save him until the end or first whatever. It’s just play them if you need them. That’s always been my mindset. But I don’t know how it will go in the future.
Q. When did the Auburn match-up materialize, and is that the sort of big intersection where you and your AD are going to look to get into in future years?
CHRIS PETERSEN: I don’t know. I can’t even — the scheduling is so handful of years out that I don’t know when that came about. I think all coaches and ADs are paying attention to like what’s the right mix. Yeah, there’s not a — I don’t think there is one right way. I think the scheduling thing, as we all know, is really important. I think you know how your schedule falls during the season. You know you’re going to play these teams, but who has a bye in front of you. How many times are you on the road and you play that team that has a bye. That is hugely underrated. That happened to us last year. We played a couple emotional games. We went to Arizona State and they had a bye before us. I mean, all that stuff matters. It all adds up.
Q. Do your guys have an extra pep in their step going into the season —
CHRIS PETERSEN: Who?
Q. Your guys, just with the Auburn game. Obviously you’ve had high-profile games on the road to start last year, but this one is going to be a ranked team in SEC country. Do they have extra pep in their step coming in?
CHRIS PETERSEN: I think our guys are always excited to play. They know how good Auburn is. They’re not dumb. They’ve seen tape. But this whole thing about having extra, like are we going to coach harder now? That doesn’t make sense. You’re always preparing as hard as you can, you’re always superexcited. The players are superexcited to play that first game. So it doesn’t seem that different. Like do we know the type of opponent, and you’re going to not be able to make nearly as many mistakes? Yeah. But the preparation isn’t going to be like different.
Q. That game was hailed as a tone setter not just for you, but for the Pac-12. Is that a fair assessment?
CHRIS PETERSEN: It doesn’t matter if it’s fair or not. I don’t think it really, you know, I don’t think one game determines anything. We’re talking about one game. If we won that game and lost all the rest, that’s going to make us like we’re good, you know? It’s going to be the whole body of work. It’s going to be the league, how they do in the bowls. I mean, I know everybody wants to put it all about this one thing, the Pac-12 is either good or not on one game. That’s totally unrealistic. I don’t look at it like that.
Q. You’re in an early signing period now. Do you like it, dislike it?
CHRIS PETERSEN: We seem to have liked it. We had most of our guys sign in that early signing period, so it kind of worked pretty good for us. I think everybody’s kind of figuring out the spring visit thing. I mean, the problem with that is it just seems like it’s pushing everything early. Like we’re pushing the NCAA and we as coaches are pushing things earlier in recruiting. I think every coach would say earlier is not better. So what are we doing? We’re working against ourselves. But it is what it is. You adapt and adjust.
Q. Jake going into his fourth year, and going into his senior year, great leader, seems to know the playbook inside and out. If he’s going to take the next step, what does he need to do to take that next step?
CHRIS PETERSEN: I think for all these guys that have played a lot, for any player that’s going to be that elite, it’s always about consistency. Jake plays really good football, and he’s going to play good football. But to be that elite player, I think when you think about an elite person, it’s just one of the things that would jump out is they’re so consistent in their behavior and what they do. It’s no different for an elite player. You’re not going to bait him into making bad decisions and bad plays. So I say those words, but those are very difficult words to get done at that position. The most difficult position in all of sports, in my opinion, where the game is continually changing, and they’re throwing different wrinkles at you. You’re dependent on so many guys around you to not — somebody else — cover for somebody else that might do something wrong like that, you just made a great decision that might not look like a great decision to the people in the stands. So it comes back to consistency of decision-making.
Q. Are you happy with your offensive line right now?
CHRIS PETERSEN: Love them. We haven’t played one snap of football. They look great.
Q. Who are some guys that didn’t play last year or who weren’t on the team last year that you expect to make an impact this year?
CHRIS PETERSEN: Yeah, I need my list in front of me. We had a small crew red shirt last year. There were nine guys in the class that red-shirted. The rest played. There were five or seven guys that played. So it’s kind of a unique class that red-shirted. But I think some of those guys that did red-shirt were anxious to get a couple of those receivers going. There are a couple of linebackers in there. The linemen, the O-line that we red-shirted, the O-line as well. So I think all those kids all have a chance to do something for us. Then, you know, that’s the beauty of college football. You always have these guys that are in kind of smaller roles, that their roles are going to increase. Now that Vea is gone, some of those D- linemen, we’ll see who emerges. There’s been a lot of talk about our receiver crew that I’m actually excited about. Those kids have worked really hard. That group has had a good off-season of grinding and getting better and on a mission. Don’t know exactly what the combination will look like, but I think that’s a group that I’m excited to see go play.
Q. How different is the program going into this opener at Atlanta, versus where it was two years ago, going into that playoff game?
CHRIS PETERSEN: Yeah, that’s a good question. I mean, I think that’s to be determined. I thought you were going to say, five years ago, your first game opening, which feels a lot different. Just guys on the same page. But that’s different, because that was at the end of season. That was with a team had gone through a lot of things and played a lot of good football. This team has played no good football, no football. So to come out and play that caliber right away that the margin for error is miniscule will be a different challenge than we’ve had.
Q. How about the program in terms of off-the-field support, how have you seen a progression, I guess?
CHRIS PETERSEN: Yeah, I think once you get through the first couple of years, and you get everybody going the same direction, that certainly feels different. I think the last couple years it’s felt like we’re kind of all on the same page. That certainly doesn’t mean like it’s easy. You’re still working your tail off day-in and day-out. But you have a lot of other people around you and people in the locker room that are already on the same page to get the others kind of going the same direction.
Q. You brought up five years ago. This is the third straight school that you’ve spent at least five years at. What sort of advantages has that stability afforded you as a coach in a notoriously tumultuous industry?
CHRIS PETERSEN: Yeah, I think that’s one of the negatives of the world of the business that we’re in, it is so unpredictable, very unstable. One of the things that I’ve been fortunate to be around is stable programs for the most part. I think that’s one of the things that kids appreciate for the most part. Even in the recruiting game they can look to us and look at their track record, and feel like there is going to be some stability around there. I think that’s what everybody wants.