The Huskies began their second training camp under Chris Petersen on Saturday in high spirits, unburdened by high expectations.

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The Huskies began their second training camp under Chris Petersen on Saturday in high spirits, unburdened by high expectations.

They checked off all the boxes you want to see on the first day — energy, pace, organization. But unless Petersen works some magic that only the most hardcore Washington fan is envisioning, this is shaping up as a transition year in his regime.

That’s a nice way of saying that the Huskies aren’t built to win in 2015. Or, at least, to win enough to experience what the program has been longing for, for a very long time — parity with Oregon, contention for the conference title, a high-level bowl game. Stuff like that.

That doesn’t mean it’s not coming under Petersen, who is doing a lot of impressive program-building, in the realm of recruiting and internal standard-setting that may bring all of that at some point.

Just not at this point. Not with the losses on defense of three NFL draft picks among the first 44 chosen last year — not to mention cornerback Marcus Peters, booted off the team at midseason, who was taken No. 18 in the first round. And not with uncertainty on the offensive line in front of a quarterback who may just be keeping the job warm for hotshot freshman Jake Browning.

That expression of skepticism, by the way, is my Happy New Year gift to the Huskies, who are already staking out their underdog turf. They seem to believe the doubts of outsiders is one of their greatest internal weapons. That sentiment was eloquently expressed Saturday by defensive tackle Elijah Qualls.

“Yeah, we love it,’’ he said. “We literally live just for people to doubt us and then prove them wrong.

“I’d rather have everybody against us than everybody on our side. You have everybody on your side, you’re gonna get nervous, you’re going to want to live up to all these expectations. If everybody’s against you, then you’ve got something to beat. That’s what we live for, that adversity. … I hope everybody’s against us, I really do. I really do.”

Qualls could emerge as the replacement for All-American nose tackle Danny Shelton. The development of linebackers Travis Feeney and Cory Littleton could ease the sting of the departures of Shaq Thompson and Hau’oli Kikaha. Any of the three quarterback candidates could wind up as an improvement over the lackluster Cyler Miles.

That’s one thing about preseason pessimism — you initially just see the holes and the departures, not the replacements and their potential improvement from a year ago, or the possibility of major steps forward from others.

Again, here’s Qualls with the insight, speaking of UW’s unheralded defense:

“I don’t feel like we’re going to drop off any. Honestly, if anything I think we’re going to have a little bit more hunger. A lot of the youth is going to give us that mentality that we’ve got something to prove. Which we do. We did lose a lot of good guys last year, and we’ve got to step into those shoes. I don’t doubt that we can do it, and we’re definitely not going to have to do it alone.”

With just 14 seniors, and a combined 71 freshmen and sophomores, the Huskies will need surprises and breakouts to surpass their expectations. The preseason media poll had them finishing fourth in the Pac-12 North, ahead of only Washington State and Oregon State.

The fact that, despite all that NFL talent, the Huskies managed just an 8-5 record last year, with an ugly loss in the Cactus Bowl, might be adding to the perceived gloom ahead.

But the Huskies are counting, heavily, on the benefits that will accrue from a year’s immersion into Petersen’s program.

“We’re excited, Year 2, a chance to move this culture forward,’’ Petersen said at his Friday news conference to usher in the upcoming season.

Culture is big with Petersen, and after the abrupt departure of Steve Sarkisian, last year’s was a crash course. But now everything is familiar to the returning players, from the practice plan to the understanding of what constitutes an OKG.

“There’s so much to be said for continuity,’’ Petersen said. “We’ve got our staff back, starting with that. Everybody’s back, and we feel great about that. We’re on the same page as a staff and I think our players are more on the same page as a team, and away we go.”

Where they’re going is still to be written, of course. But the beauty of the first day of practice is that all the possibilities are still there to dream about. Not that the Huskies were thinking about anything beyond the next play Saturday as they scurried around Husky Stadium.

“I’m going to tell you, it’s been a lot easier this second year,’’ Littleton said. “The program he’s trying to implement on us, it’s built in now. We’ve already adjusted to it, and it’s actually not bad. It’s actually something good.”