Here's what interim head coach Marques Tuiasosopo told reporters after practice this morning.
(On family’s reaction to being named interim coach) “They’re all extremely happy for this opportunity for me to help lead my school in a bowl game, help us stay on track and finish the season the way we started.”
(On getting back to practice after crazy week) “Football’s the fun part. That’s always the easy part. I think these young men have handled it great. They’re ready to move on and they want to finish the season right.”
(Who fills roles of departed assistants?) “We have a couple graduate assistants that have done a great job in assisting those coaches who have left. They’re going to fill in. I think Coach (Justin) Wilcox will take a little more command over the whole defense. He trusts those guys. I trust them. They’re hard workers. They know what Coach Wilcox wants at that position. We’ll be OK there.”
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(Your biggest priority now?) “My priority really has just been to focus on them and just get them back on track with their mindset. Obviously we just finished finals week and all right, let’s focus on that. Let’s finish that. We always talk about we don’t change, circumstances don’t change us. Even in this situation, hey, focus on what you can control. You’ve got to take care of your finals. I think we’ve done that. All the kids I’ve talked to said they did great. And now that we get into practice, let’s get our minds right to go down there and win the game, as well as enjoy the festivities of the whole bowl. It is a reward, but the bottom line is we want to go down to win.”
(How was practice?) “Good. They’re great. I always wonder, how are they going to be? You never know. It’s an inspiration really to come out here and they bring the intensity, they’re running around, they’re enthusiastic, they’re competing. So we’re in a good place right now.”
(Sounds like Chris Petersen was here watching for a bit?) “I’m sure. Shoot, I would if I wanted to get to know what my team was all about. It’s great. He’s been great. He’s stayed out of it. He’s got a lot to work on and we have a lot to work on ourselves.”
(Has your on-field role changed during practice?) “Not really, other than setting the ball down and pointing the direction we’re going in and blowing my whistle more than I probably have in a while. But I’m still taking control of the quarterbacks and making sure they’re prepped for practice. Other than some small things, not too much has changed.”
(Have you met with Petersen yet?) “We’ve talked briefly. He’s got a lot on his plate. I’ve got a lot on my plate, getting our team ready to go and working with these coaches that have stayed. A lot of great coaches have stayed on to help these young men with this bowl game. Our focus has been, let’s just focus on that because they deserve that. It’s not really about us. We’ll be fine. Everything will work out the way it’s going to, but right now we have the bowl game, we have a great season that we’re upon and if we can get this thing to nine games, I think Husky fans and our school will be very proud of the accomplishment of this team, this year, and as they move forward it will be a great platform for them to jump off to bigger and better things.”
(On distraction of coaching change) “I think initially it’s just natural. But I think the leadership of the locker room has taken over. We have a great group of seniors who have kind of taken hold of the younger guys. Our younger leaders, the guys that play a lot. They’re doing a great job in there and they’re really focused on them – ‘We’re going to decide if we’re going to win. And whoever’s going to be coaching us, we’re going to work hand in hand with them and they’re going to give a great plan and we’re going to bring everything we can bring. It’s really up to us.’ I haven’t seen any distraction. They’ve been great. I get excited to come out here because I feed off their energy.”
(Reaction when told you’d coach bowl game?) “I was thrilled. Huskies always help Huskies out. When the opportunity came up, I just went back to being a player and what it’s like to be a Husky, being a guy in that locker room, blood, sweat and tears on the field, who loves this place. I was thrilled to be able to help them out in this role and I’m excited about this opportunity. It’s a great experience for me. I just remember when guys would come back when I was a player, the (Steve) Emtmans, the Leon Neals, there’s so many others I’m not going to name, but when I was working out and they were coaching me, ‘this is what we do here. This is what Huskies do.’ That’s the first thought that went through my mind when this was a possibility, and I’m thrilled to do it.”
(Health of the team?) “I think it’s pretty straightforward. We’re healthy. Nothing new. Obviously guys are getting healthy with more time off. They rest their bodies, more treatments. So we should go in, I don’t think it’ll be any different than the Wazzu game. We’re going to be 100 percent.”
(Would your preference be to stay at UW?) “That will all take its course. I really am focusing on the bowl game. Whatever happens is going to happen. Regardless, Washington football is in good hands. But I’m just excited about going to get nine wins.”
(Eric Kiesau calling plays?) “He’s the offensive coordinator and obviously our last head coach called the plays. We all assist in the game plan. He’s called plays before, I’m sure he’s fired up about the opportunity, not being able to do it the last couple years. That doesn’t mean that I might – hey, Kiesau, what do you think about this play? – that’s kind of how we’ve operated all year anyway and giving input to Coach Sark and obviously he’d make the final decision. We’ll be OK. That’s fine. I might see something, I might like a play and say hey, let’s call this play, and we’ll go with it if we want.”
(Will we see your stamp on the program?) “I don’t know. We’re talking about like two or three weeks. We’ve done some good things. There’s some great groundwork that’s been laid. Hopefully, my enthusiasm, my passion for this game, I think the kids understand that, obviously the quarterbacks know that by the way I coach them. I am with them on a daily basis. We’ve done some good things and I don’t want to change anything too much. We’re going to fight, but we always fight. We’re going to find a way to win a game and we’re going to go down and compete our butts off. I don’t know if in a short period of time if you’re going to be like, ‘that’s the stamp of Tui.’ I don’t know about that. I know we’re just going to continue doing what we’ve been doing, and we’ll be OK.”