Here’s what Washington coach Chris Petersen had to say Wednesday morning in his final media availability before Friday’s game at Stanford:
(On the unique challenge of facing Stanford’s Harrison Phillips) “He’s a good player, definitely one of the better D-linemen in our conference. I have a lot of respect for him. I like how he plays. He’s just a tough guy and he controls the middle and you can tell he likes to play in there. That’s kind of Stanford Football. They like to play that tough run game and that’s his game.”
(How do you feel your O-line improves by going up against Vita Vea and Greg Gaines every day?) “Those are two of the better players around as well and it’s a challenge every time our offense lines up against those guys. We definitely like that and it’s tough sledding sometimes. Sometimes it’s two steps forward, one step back, but they are seeing the better players they will see in the conference this week.”
(What’s the most underrated aspect of Stanford’s defense?) “I just think they play good team defense. They always have. They are kind of the same they’ve always been. Like any good defense they’ve got good players out there and they play as a team and they are going to make you earn things.”
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(With so much attention to their run game, are you concerned about overlooking their passing threat?) “No. It’s a different style run, but their whole style is they are going to pound it but they are going to spread you out and they throw it. It’s very much a pro style offense pass-wise what you see in the NFL. I think their run game is a little bit different, can be different than what you see in the NFL with all those extra linemen.”
(What do you like about Azeem closer to the line specifically with this game in mind?) “What Azeem can bring to the table is juice off the edge. He’s a physical player, get him closer to the ball and he’s one of those guys that has the type of movement we’re always trying to find.”
(How essential is it to ‘dirty’ the pocket against Stanford?) “That never changes, no matter who it is. Doesn’t matter what the style is, if you can’t get to the passer it’s going to be a problem all day long.”
(Why the move for Azeem now?) “We’ve been working it all year long. That’s not new. It’s not like last week. We’re trying to get him more reps. Every position, like I said just the other day, we can be talking about the littlest move on special teams, it’s amazing the complication that goes with that. It takes time to build the skill and really the knowledge to react and play fast.”
(What’s the difference between the type of player you’re looking for there compared to other positions?) “A guy that can bring something off the edge and get to the quarterback.”
(It sounds simple, but it’s not.) “It’s not. There’s nothing simple about it. The real good teams and good defenses make it look simple, but there’s nothing simple or easy about playing that game out there.”
(How would you characterize your relationship with Coach Kwiatkowski? You’ve been together a long time.) “I would say that any of these guys that have been around me a long time is pretty good. That’s one of the reasons you enjoy this job. You enjoy the people around you. The one thing about Pete is, he’s a really good coach – obviously. But he’s one of those few guys that I’ve been around that all he wants to do is do the right thing for the team and the defense. He doesn’t care whose idea it is, whether we’re talking about recruiting, scheme – he thinks it out. He’s smart, and he just has no ego in this whole thing. And I think those guys are really hard and rare to find, especially a guy that has been really successful.”
(When was the last time you offered a hard critique of something PK was doing?) “Probably yesterday. That’s the awesome thing about it. I mean, really good organizations and teams are going to speak their mind. That doesn’t mean it’s always right or wrong or (that) we’re always going to agree, and that’s the beauty of him. He’ll say stuff to me and I’m like, ‘What are you talking about?’ And then I started to think about it and it’s, ‘Oh, you’re probably right.’ And that’s what I really like. And I know he says it in an egoless way. And how many of us can say that? I find myself all the time wanting to be right just because I’m the head coach and I want to be right, and those are really bad reasons to be right. So I really appreciate and enjoy him because he’s going to say what he believes for the good of this program.”
(Players have said Kwiatkowski is good at making something complex seem simple. But if you’re an opponent going against him, he can make the simple look complex. How rare is that to find in a defensive coordinator?) “That’s all we talk about, is teaching around here. To make it simple for our players. That’s what we work our whole lives trying to do, to simplify this thing that isn’t really simple. And that really good ones do that.”
(On PK being a mad scientist) “When he puts something up or is talking about something, I don’t have a clue what he’s talking about. And then he’ll come back and speak about it again and I’ll think about it and he’s right on the money. He thinks about every single detail out there. He’s always drawing things up. He probably thinks about 25 things before he settles on one thing, and that’s just what’s going to happen. I think you guys are seeing it and saying it: It kind of looks simple out there, but it’s not. Every detail out there is thought through in a really detailed, interesting way. You go into his office and there’s things (written) all over the board and it’s really thought out and there’s things people don’t really think about.”
(The price of success is losing assistant coaches to other jobs — does Kwiatkowski strike you as kind of guy who desires to be a head coach?) “You’d have to ask him. … I think a lot of guys figure certain things out. The role of the coordinator and the role of an assistant (versus) the role of the head coach is apples and oranges. Sometimes that works and sometimes that doesn’t. It’s really what a guy wants to do. The thing I appreciate about Pete is he just wants to coach football. He’s just a football coach. … He doesn’t care about all this other stuff, and that’s Pete.”
(on Bryce Love and big plays) “Those guys are hard to stop. Those really great players, you can slow ‘em down hopefully if you play well, but can you completely take that away? That’s tough to do. Our guys know. They watch tape. There’s no surprises. There’s no motivation talk on all this stuff. It’s like, watch the tape and when you watch him, enough said.”
(on what your defense has done with injuries at cornerback) “I don’t get hung up in the stats. I know we’re playing good defense. I know people aren’t scoring a bunch of points. We have a lot of football left to play. Another huge challenge here. We’ll pay attention to that when it’s all said and done. All that stuff doesn’t mean even kind of matter up to now. It’s matters in terms of our confidence, but it doesn’t matter. We were playing really good up until Arizona State and we go and don’t do what we needed to do on one side of the ball. So we live week to week and we’ll see at the end of the whole thing what it looks like.”
(Does being No. 1 defense matter in recruiting?) “No. I don’t think so. I think winning and those types of things matter. The stats, whatever.”