Here’s everything Huskies coach Chris Petersen said at his Sunday press conference -- which served as his first “Monday” press conference of the season, with this week’s game at Boise State being played on a Friday instead of a Saturday.
Petersen talked about quarterbacks, returning to Boise State, team captains, expectations for the season and more.
(Opening statement) “Let me just look over this depth chart, because I haven’t seen it. We’re excited. Five days. And I think our guys are excited. They’ve been working hard and it’s getting close to time to play. That being said, should I answer the first question?
(Yes.) “So, we have a really good plan. We’re excited about it. Because we kind of figured it out in the last day or two, we just really don’t think it’s an advantage to us to tell you our strategy right now on that position (quarterback). And so we’ll pretty much announce that starting quarterback (at) game time. If we thought it helped us, or if it was three weeks ago, or a month ago – but because it’s been so late, we don’t really think that helps us a whole lot. So we’ll just show up to the game and go with our plan. But we do feel good about our plan and we’ll go from there.”
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(You’ve told the team, though, correct?) “Correct.”
(Does that mean you’re going with just one quarterback?) “Two quarterbacks – three could be used. Like I said we’ve been looking at this, obviously, since spring, and every day since then, and analyzed every rep, so we think we’ve got a good plan going into this. I think we all feel good about it. And we go, and we play, and see what happens and we make adjustments and go. I think all three guys have done a really nice job of battling and getting better, from top to bottom. Really, I’m proud of that group. But like our whole team, it’s a work in progress, and it’s going to continue to be a work in progress. We don’t expect anybody to be perfect out there, but we do expect guys to improve and give us a chance.”
(How did the quarterbacks who didn’t get the job handle being told that?) “Well, here’s what I think, is that it’s hard at any position, but I also think – we do that at every position. It’s no different than the quarterback position, which I think is maybe somewhat unique. We take time to make sure we talk to our guys and say, ‘here’s where we see you at, where are, Johnny, and this is what you need to do to improve your game.’ That’s at all positions. And so we try to make a big deal about, ‘this is where you are, and nothing is set in stone, and we like competition to continue, and just keep battling.’ It’s just interesting when you look over time, the kids just hang in there and keep fighting, how that can happen in a good way. It’s amazing how that usually turns out for guys who just keep fighting, keep competing, keep improving their game. Really a hard concept to get, though, because we’re so hung up on what coaches think, how the other guys that they’re competing against are doing. And so we really try to spend a lot of time talking to those guys about, if you can change your focus to just you and just keep doing your best, very often, really good things happen for you at the end of the process.”
(Why not name a starting QB when you know there’s going to be rumor, speculation about it?) “We would like rumor and speculation, as much as you can do for that, that’ll help us. We think that’s part of what helps us. Our guys know what’s going on, and that’s the important thing, and so five days before the game, that doesn’t really help us a whole lot, so come up with a bunch of different scenarios. That’d be good for us.”
(Is it safe to say that Jake Browning won’t redshirt this season?) “It is safe to say that we have a good plan, and on Friday, you will see it.”
(How much did the QB plan evolve throughout camp?) “Very much so. I think each day, what we did after a while was just try to back away from it and not talk about it every single day, because everybody kind of (had) a string that we’re thinking, ‘hey, maybe this will be the best plan,’ a string of a few days, then a few more days go by and we’re saying, ‘this could happen,’ so we’ve analyzed this thing ad nauseam, and I think at the end of the day, we just all felt like, ‘hey, this is our best plan going into this deal.’ And I think the coaches feel good about it. I think the quarterbacks were awesome about it, they really were. And away we go.”
(What’s the atmosphere going to be like at Boise State?) “I think when a game is billed as the biggest game in school history, I don’t think you have to do a lot of describing. I think using those words just take care of it. It’s a great place to play. Unbelievable home-field advantage. The size of the stadium has nothing to do with it. Those are very passionate fans and a really good place to play a college football game. Noise is a factor. Tough place to play.”
(On what factor ultimately decided the quarterback situation) “I think maybe just who might have performed the best over the last handful of days, because it was close. Like I said, we could make a case for all of them. That’s why I think we have our plan and we go forward. Certainly you don’t want guys looking over their shoulders. I’ve said this since spring, I’ve said this forever, it’s such a long season and things happen between injuries and performance and all those types of things. We’re kind of all in this together and it’s not on anybody’s one shoulder. We’re a team here and we’re a staff here and we’ve got to do what’s best to support that group. If that guy plays well, you know, it probably starts in the o-line giving him a chance to do some things, giving a chance to our run game to get started. That guy gets a lot of arrows pointed at him, and sometimes unfairly and sometimes rightly so, but it’s the most scrutinized position out there so we just kind of know how it goes.”
(On Jake Browning) “I don’t think Jake (Browning) is a true freshman, and I don’t think it really matters if he’s a true freshman or not. Maybe we haven’t had a guy who’s ready to go if it is. There’s a lot of true freshman that play. That’s one thing I think is different.”
(On the number of true freshman on his depth chart) “I think we kind of told you that was probably going to happen weeks ago. I think some of these guys are pretty talented and just by the nature of the youth of our team anyways we feel good about getting these guys into the mix. I think one thing that’s real apparent is the kids that we played last year as true freshman, those are kind of the wily veterans right now in how far along they are, even when some of those guys weren’t starters, but just that they were in all the meetings and all the reps that they got to take. It really accelerates the learning process. I don’t even kind of like the term ‘burning a redshirt year.’ I don’t think it’s that at all. I think these kids want to play, they’re excited to play, and that doesn’t mean you’ve got to be a starter to play as a freshman, because you’re going to gain valuable reps, whether it’s in the game, practice, I mean, you just can’t simulate those when you’re a red shirt. Your game accelerates tenfold through the season.”
(On how ready the team is for the season opener) “I think we need to go play. It’s one of those things. We’ve been practicing a long time. We need to go out there and these guys are tired of us telling them over and over about this, that, and the other thing, and they need to experience it and go through it for the real thing and maybe they’ll listen a little more intently and tighten up things. They’ve been doing a good job of that. I know they’re completely all in on those things, but practice is practice.”
(On if he believes this team can be better than last year even with how many players they lost) “I think we can be a good team, I really do. I know what we have in that room and I think, like I’ve said before, if our kids will keep playing for each other and keep getting better, and, we all get so hung up on winning and losing, and that’s the beauty of sports. At the end of that contest you’ve got the scoreboard right there, and most of the time it tells us we’re great people or a bunch of big losers. If we can stay away from that mentality and say ‘hey, we’re competing to what we’re truly capable of, and where do we need to go from here? What do we need to do to make this process bigger and better?’ We’ll get some things done.”
(On if Boise State’s system influenced his plan at quarterback and his choice not to make his decision public) “No, I think the only thing that weighed into it was that we just made the decision so late. So, at this point, it really doesn’t help us right now. We’ll just go to the game and play, and put the guy out there that we think is ready to go.”
(On the running backs and how Myles Gaskin has earned his spot in the rotation) “(Myles) has just had a great camp. Every time we put him in there some good things seem to happen, so he deserves to play. Those other two guys (Dwayne Washington and Lavon Coleman) had pretty solid years. Again, another thing we’ve said ad nauseam is how much depth we need at that position, and we have a little depth right now. But we also know how fast that can change. We need those guys on special teams, those linebacker-running back type guys. Going into the season we have a little bit of depth there.”
(On the reception he expects from the Boise State fans) “I don’t know what reception we’re talking about. Those are the guys who play. I think fans are fans. They’re all about the Broncos. They’re against Washington. That’s what I expect.”
(On playing Boise State) “The personnel is really good. That’s why they’re ranked where they’re ranked. It reminds me a little bit of us a few years ago. So many of kids played as young guys and now they’re juniors and seniors. We played a bunch of those guys, which was a little bit uncommon for us over there at that time. So those guys have played a lot of games and they’ve won a lot of games, and that gives you great confidence.”
(On Bryan Harsin) “I think he was over there when I first got there. Coach Hawkins hired him as a graduate assistant. He was just kind of one of those guys that did a great job in all of the roles that he had. He had a lot of value he added to the program. He was a graduate and then a tight end coach. He was tight end coach for a while but he was one of those guys that I could tell really got it and had a great football mind. We spent a lot of time together over those years that I was a coordinator. We spend that much time and you start thinking alike in certain things and you just get a feel for certain guys that have a good knack for this job we do.”
(On the strength of the team he has noticed during camp) “I will really be able to answer that better in about five and a half days. It’s so hard when you’re going against yourself all the time. Is that really our strength, or what we’re going against is that our weakness a little bit? I think at times our defense has looked really good. But again you play against your offense for a long time and if you get them on something one time kind of bad they get it fixed pretty quickly. But I’m anxious to see those guys play and see how we hold up against a pretty creative and explosive offense.”
(Is this a first for you, where your starting QB is a secret?) “I’m trying to think. Probably. I don’t know (about) the secret thing. We just think at this point that it’s the best for our program, just to move forward with these handful of days with less distractions — we think it will create less distractions. Then after that game, hey, we talk about it. I’m sure we’ll be talking about it all season long. But at this point, it just seems like the best thing to do.
(On improving defense against explosive plays) “That’s a hard question to answer. That’s what everybody’s all about: creating explosives and eliminating explosive plays. What that has to do with is just being assignment sound and technical in your reads and your decisions and not guessing and trusting your technique and those types of things. But I do think it was really looked at: What do we need to do to play better coverage, better run defense — everything. It’s a completely new defense in that way with all the guys we lost. So everything — offense, defense, special teams — every single unit, every phase of the game has been analyzed and tweaked and so sometimes that doesn’t look like that when you go to play and there’s different reasons for that, but that process never stops. And usually if you get good at something, you’ve got to try stay one step ahead because the opponent knows, ‘We need to eliminate this — these routes, these coverages or whatever.’ Whatever your weakness is this week is going to be part of their package next week. We all know that.”
(On whether Boise’s blue uniforms creates issues on the blue turf — or is that totally overblown?) “I think it’s overblown. I think it’s always the guys in the blue uniforms that created the problems. I think it looks a little bit different on TV. Iv’e said that before, when you see a replay of the game and you’re like, Ohh, that is pretty bright; that is different.’ I think when you’re there it’s not as big of a deal. I think it might be a little tougher sometimes to watch the tape. But when you’re playing the game, it’s not as big a deal.”
(Talk about your offensive line a little bit. Boise’s defensive line is good) “Yeah. They’re really good. And really there’s three players you didn’t even see last year that are either starting or in those two-deeps, all three seniors that didn’t play for one reason or another. I think I saw some of their two-deeps some kids that played a significant amount of time. They’ve just got a lot of depth there. And it’s a good group. It’s a good problem for those guys to have. They’ll be able to keep bodies fresh, great competition. Some of those guys were there a long time when we were there and they’re still there. Trying to figure out how they’re still there. It’s one of those things; they played for a long time as young guys and so that’ll be a strength for them.”
(Is your offensive line keeping you up at night?) “It is what it is. They’ve got a good d-line…it’s not like the other teams we’re going to see don’t have really good d-lines as well and I think everybody knows about our schedule. We do a lot of good-on-good in practice; that’s how our schedule lines up. Good on good right from the start, and away we go.”
(Budda Baker listed as the number-one kick returner. What do you like about him there?) “He is pretty explosive with the ball in his hands. He did some unbelievable things over there at Bellevue as an offensive player as well. And he likes the ball in his hands, so we’re anxious to get the ball in his hands. That’s one way to do it.”
(Offensively, could he be a guy that sees time there?) “I’m not sure exactly what they have planned for him out of this first game right now. We’re trying to get some other guys ready to go, some of these young guys - how we’re going to get those guys some touches and those type of things. I suspect as the season goes on we may do some things over there, but that’s Coach Smith’s call.”
(How happy are you that this game is five days away instead of three weeks and five days away?) “I think we’ve been working so hard and so long on this I think all coaches in American right now are going, ‘It’s time’. Are we totally prepared to go? I think most coaches would say, ‘Yeah, I’ll take another three weeks.’ But you just get to the point where you just have to go play. We’re very close to that.”
(But what about you personally? Getting this Boise State game out of the way?) “Again, I don’t want to wish this whole thing away. We only get so many games and the opening game is always an exciting game for everybody involved. I’m trying to look at it in a real positive way. Playing a really good team and going to a great environment in college football. Those are all good things, so let’s go enjoy this thing.”
(Jaydon Mickens making the number switch to 1) “Jaydon’s doing that in honor of John Ross. Those guys are very tight. That’s a hard thing for all of us, to not have John this year. And John Ross has been spectacular. I can’t tell you how positive that guy has been in this whole thing. And he’s making unbelievable recovery. It’s one of those things where it’s like, are we sure this guy’s not going to play? I think a lot of it has to do with his mentality and how positive he has been.”
(On captains) “We selected some captains. We didn’t as coaches; the team did. It was awesome to see because I think those guys picked guys we would really think should be team captains and have done a great job since winter conditioning. They selected six of them; we didn’t tell them to pick a number. We just said, ‘Who do you think?’, and it was very clear-cut that these six guys jumped out. It was Jeff Lindquist, Sifa Tufunga, Travis Feeney, Jaydon Mickens, Tani Tupou, and Deontae Cooper.”
(Besides Ross, anyone out for Boise?) “At this point, no. We’ve actually had a pretty good fall camp. We really have in terms of any long-term type stuff. We’ve had some out for a little bit, which is going to happen when these kids have practiced hard. But at this point…we still have a couple hard days of practice left. But we’ve got to practice. That’s the one dilemma going forward. We don’t want to take that attitude…even after you play your first game going out there and we don’t practice hard and we don’t practice physical…we have to, or we’re not going to improve. Even last night we were practicing in the rain out there. We go at a very hard, fast tempo. The guys have to take on blocks and get off blocks. But we’ve been fortunate through this whole fall camp. The one guy was Dexter (Charles), but that didn’t have necessarily anything to do with just what happened in fall camp. That was a cumulative thing.”
(So is there a chance Ross comes back this year?) “No. That’s not what they’re saying. It’s just that, with that injury, even though it looks so good with how he’s moving around they want to use all that time.”