Huskies coach Chris Petersen met with reporters a little while ago for the final time before Washington's game Saturday at Arizona (12:30 p.m. PT, FOX).
A few quick injury updates: Petersen said offensive guard Dexter Charles will be "in the mix" after missing the last three games with a foot injury, and that right tackle Ben Riva practiced some this week, too (though his status is unclear). Hau'oli Kikaha also practiced this week "and all those things," Petersen said, adding that "we'll see" how he feels come Saturday.
Here's everything else he said.
(On road success) “To me, and to us, I kind of hope they are all the same in terms of our preparation. For whatever reason I think a lot of teams in the league have had success on the road. I don’t know what that’s attributed to, I really don’t.”
(How has the offense been with Shaq back at LB?) “We’ll see what we do with Shaq. We’ve always got him a package, always have him ready to roll. Working hard, we’ll see.”
(Things settled a little bit more on D with him back?) “I always say we’ve got to play the games to figure that out. Practice is one thing; Shaq’s a calming influence over there, no question.”
(John Ross progressing?) “It’s so new, there’s a lot of work to be done and a lot of progression to be made. All those guys are working real hard.”
(Treated this week for John like Shaq’s week for Colorado?) “Even last week was kind of the same. In some ways I think it’s exciting for guys to learn some new things. Coach (Jimmy) Lake had done some things with him really each week a little bit but we really hadn’t taken a step with him. I think he’s making progress.”
(On Hau’oli having a better senior year than junior and how hard that can be) “He’s just such a conscientious guy in his preparation. The one thing with him is, you know if it’s not just right he’s so focused that we’ve got to kind of back him off and calm him down. It’s okay, it’s not always going to be perfect. But I think that’s also his strength in terms of how he prepares and how much he cares about trying to get things just right. And when you do that over time, day after day, that’s when you’ll be able to take that next little step - which for him is really big. Danny’s done some of that as well.”
(Think he’s going to be good for Saturday?) “Yeah. He’s practiced all week and all those things. But we’ll see.”
(Can stingers sometimes look worse than they are because of the danger to the neck and everything?) “I think our trainers and doctors are all over this stuff - whether it’s a concussion, whether it’s whatever…we’re on top of that pretty good. Just injuries in general, you think hey, you watch a guy earlier in the week sometimes and it’s like, there’s no way – goes out and plays fine. Other guys practice full speed and they go out there and last a couple plays. But he’s been fine. He’s been working hard. We’ll just see how this game goes.”
(A-ha moment for Cyler Miles’ progression?) “The a-ha moment – I really don’t know if there’s that a-ha moment when you’re developing. I don’t think you just snap your fingers – ah, got it. I think it’s more like a door opening. It’s a process over time that you kind of look back and go, ‘wow, we’ve come a ways.’ But it could be. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, and all of a sudden it starts to feel a little bit different. I think he’s focused and he hasn’t wavered in terms of his preparation. Playing a really good defense, and so challenged in a big way. But I’m always anxious to see him go out and see if he can take that next step.”
(Would cutting down turnovers help?) “I think we’ve been pretty good with the turnovers. I think if we can maybe calm down in the pocket a little bit, and throw some things downfield a little bit. Like I say, it’s always really hard for those scrambling QBs. If things aren’t there, they want to go, because he makes a lot of yards with his legs. So that’s a fine line of, ‘OK, how long do I hang here? When do I go?’ And I think that progression is still going on.”
(Dexter Charles or Ben Riva have a chance to play this week?) “Yeah. I think Dex will definitely be in the mix, and Ben, I’m not really sure what Coach (Chris) Strausser has planned, but he has practiced.”
(How hard is it to rep pocket presence in practice?) “Really hard. But there are drills that we do do, and they help. And I know from way back when, when I was a young rush-watcher myself, how you can change things. That’s over time, with drills. And it can’t be just done with drills. It’s got to be with real football as well. But again I go back to that a-ha moment – I don’t think there’s one like ‘I got it. Oh, this is how it is.’ It’s just getting comfortable in there. and I really think that some guys can be very good at it, and other guys, that may always be an Achilles heel. I think you can be an effective QB, but I think the really -- Like when I watch the NFL guys, the really, really good ones, the elite guys, the one thing to me is how good they are in the pocket.”
(Any specific improvement from Cyler in the pocket?) “I think we’re making progress. We’ll see throws here and there when he has guys pushed in his face, he hangs in there and tries to throw a ball in there. Sometimes it might not even be complete — maybe there was a push in his face — but it’s the right thing to do, the right throw to make.”
(On Cyler’s high school success and maybe facing adversity for the first time) “I think state titles, no state titles, adversity for everybody is always challenging. I think that’s where we’re all challenged the most. I think that’s where we can all learn the most. If we can stay strong, we can grow as much as anything. I think I said this last week — it’s all good when it’s good. That means very little to me. Anybody can do that. Anybody can jump on. Anybody can have great days when it’s good. But when it’s tough and tough sledding, that’s when you really start to see what guys are all about and if there’s growth being made. All of us. I’m not just talking about Cyler. All of us.”
(What would a win at Arizona mean?) “I think it’d be great. We’re talking about a really good program. Those guys are doing a great job. So we’ll have to play really good, good football. That’s what it would mean, that we’re playing really good, good football.”
(Would it reinforce what you guys are teaching and the process?) “Any time you can get a win, you figure you’re making some progress, certainly against an elite opponent.”
(Was there some hesitation of your part when you first got here in giving Deontae Cooper too much?) “Boy, he has been through a lot. And those knees can be funny, funny animals. So early on in the spring, we were kind of holding our breath quite a bit. But he did a great job there, and he’s been such a rock out here the entire season. The one guy we’ve always been able to count on is Coop. So that’s been good to see on many levels. One for him personally; and one for our team. And it’s nice when good things happen to good guys.”
(Has he earned more chances?) “I think so. Going way back, we talked about how we need that depth at running back. It can’t be one guy. It really can’t. We need more than that. We need three or four guys. So Coop is always right there. Knows what to do. Always going to play hard. Gives his best. And that’s what’s really satisfying for the coaches.”
(Anything unique about this game, traveling to the desert, heat, early start?) “No. I think the early start is good. I think most people like that. Instead of practicing outside, we’ve been inside a little bit more (this week). But nothing more than that.”
Christian Caple can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ChristianCaple