Huskies coach Chris Petersen met with reporters today for the final time before the UW football team takes a week off for the holidays. They depart for Phoenix on Dec. 28, and will practice there before playing against Oklahoma State in the Cactus Bowl on Jan. 2.
Here's what Petersen had to say about taking some time off, recruiting and more.
(Final thoughts before this break?) “We had some good work. I think the kids worked hard. It’ll be interesting to see what these six days do. You watch the bowls games up to this point and I think it’s hard on the offenses; they lose a lot of rhythm and timing. When we get down to Arizona we have to figure out some way to create that so we’re not too far in the hole.”
(On getting the run game going) “I think our run game has been pretty solid. I think our pass game needs to take the next step. We’ll see about that. I think if we take the next step with our pass game and continue to run the ball…I think Oklahoma State has a pretty formidable front seven, I think they do a good job moving around a lot. It’ll be a big challenge.”
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(What can you do to create offensive rhythm like that?) “I don’t know. It’s hard. I think you try to get as close to live stuff; we’ve done a few things there. We’ve got this break off and then we come back and get ready for the game. I know one thing we have to do is practice really, really fast to give us a chance. If it’s three-quarters and our mind isn’t right, we’ll struggle.”
(What’s the plan for the coaching staff as the players leave for their break?) “I think everybody’s the same; I think we take these days to get rested up. That game is certainly in the back of our mind, not in the middle of our mind. But I think it’s important to catch our breath and then when we come down to Arizona to really be ready to roll.”
(Different for you to be able to step back for a few days?) “Yeah. It’s been a little bit different. We’ve never had one where we’ve given this much time off. But it is what it is. It’s just the way the schedule falls. These guys need time off and need to get rested and ready to go.”
(Any special plans for you?) “No. Just some time off to get a little Christmas shopping done. It’ll be the first time in a long time I get to do some real Christmas shopping, so it’ll be good.”
(How’s the health of the team? Know you’re trying to get Jermaine Kelly back, if possible) “I think our health is good. I think Jermaine has made strides; not ready to rock and roll full speed, but he’s a lot closer than he was certainly two weeks ago. Everybody else at this point is good that has been going and hasn’t been out for the season. But sometimes we get sprained ankles crossing the street. So we’ll see what happens these next six days.”
(What about Ben Riva?) “Ben’s been practicing. He’s out there. He does have a role. At this point it is what it is. I think he’s as healthy as he’s been.”
(You guys signed Ezekiel Turner – what kind of player is he?) “Very aggressive player. He’s a young player too. He’s a really good student. He’s a guy that has more than just your two to three years, so we’re really excited about him. We really think he fits our model, our profile, in terms of the type of guy we’re looking for. Like I said, he’s a good student. Really like his vibe. And the thing that attracted us to him in the first place was his tape. Runs around, flies around, aggressive football player.”
(Not a lot of JC guys are able to go D1 after one year. When did you get on to him and what stood out about him?) “Not exactly sure when. It was probably over a month, month and a half, two … we started looking at guys, and trying to put the puzzle together, what we need. I think first and foremost was the tape itself. Then when we found out that he had more than just two years, that was attractive, (and) that he was a really good student. You do all your homework, you kind of put this together. There’s a lot of good players out there who aren’t going to necessarily fit what we’re all about here. But we feel great about him fitting the whole puzzle.”
(And he’ll enroll in January?) “He will, yep.”
(What made you want to pursue JUCO player at that position?) “Again, he’s not necessarily a junior-college guy, although we were just looking to create some more competition back there. He’s a bigger-frame guy. All those things. And then we just think he’s a good player that fit all the things that we’re all about. So we’re really excited to see him come in here and compete.”
(Could he play elsewhere, besides defensive back?) “No, I think he’s going to be a secondary guy. He’s definitely a secondary guy. That’s where his home will be.”
(Size a priority at that position?) “I think size and speed is always a bonus. We’re first and foremost all about football players. I think we’ve always been a crew that will take maybe an undersized guy if he’s a football player. And then if they have a little size to go with it, again, that’s icing on the cake.”
(Did you pay attention Friday night to Folsom High and QB Jake Browning in the Calif. state championship game?) “They’ve got a heck of a squad. … That’s the thing that jumps out. We’ve been following Jake forever, so we know what he’s all about. But I think the thing that’s really impressive about that team, man, how good they are. They’re just really well coached and they’ve got a lot of good players and the combination has just been impressive.”
(Is there a plan in place for Browning when he arrives in a couple weeks to get him acclimated going into spring ball?) “I just think the guys coming in early have a tremendous opportunity to compete from the get-go. Whether it’s an O-linemen, whether it’s a DB, whether it’s the quarterback — that’s what we want to do and play our best guys. And so to get him here in the winter time and all through spring ball and they’ll be there for summer. And it really gives those guys a true advantage to compete for something for real in the fall. Not that we won’t play a guy that comes in in the summertime with us — we’ve got six or seven guys doing that now. But it really helps those kids, certainly at certain positions, to have a legitimate chance to compete.”
(With his video-game numbers, do you feel you have to temper fans’ expectations a little bit?) “I think so. Those are unbelievable numbers. I mean, they’ve never been done. And so — different game (in college). Speed of the game, young guy — I think you can set people up for big-time failure if you put the cart before the horse. We know he’s going to be a good player and all those type of things, but we need to keep this thing in perspective and take one day at a time. We really do.”
(Any emphasis with this recruiting class over final six weeks?) “I don’t think our approach really changes. We’re just really looking for really, really good players who we think are really good kids who are into get a world-class education. We’re just really excited about these guys because we think they fit our profile to a T and we’re excited to coach ‘em. But we’re first excited to sign ‘em. We’ve still got a lot of work to do.”
(On not having recruits “flip” to other programs once they’ve committed to UW) “I think the one thing that we’ve always really tried to do is not put pressure on these kids. We don’t want them to commit to us until they feel that this is really home and this is where they want to be and it’s in their heart and in their blood. That’s how we’ve always been. I don’t think we’ve had a bunch of flip-flopping because of that. I don’t want to be a high-pressure recruiter. We feel real strongly in this place about what we’re doing, but I think these kids and their families need to make a real educated decision and take time to digest everything. And I think when they do that, I think that helps us. I think we have something special here, and I think those guys feel that.”