Huskies Insider Blog

More thoughts from Chris Petersen on players getting in trouble, recruiting, Jonathan Smith, Budda Baker and sleep schedules

As is usually the case at Pac-12 media day, a few of us reporters had the chance to sit down during lunch with Washington coach Chris Petersen and discuss a wide array of topics, ranging from football to golf to the importance of a good night's sleep. Here's a transcript of nearly everything he had to say.

(On preparing for Pac-12 grind) “The guys who have to be ready for the week-in, week-out dogfight and grind is the players. Our coaches are always the same as coaches. But those are going to be hard-fought games every week.”

(On talent level at UW) “I think so. Like I’ve said, I think there are some really good players. We’ve got a few holes that we’ve got to fill. I think there are some places we don’t have quite the depth that we need. Overall I’ve been impressed with players like Ben (Riva), go down the list, Hau’oli (Kikaha). There are some good players.”

(On talking about transition with Bryan Harsin at Boise State) “Not really. I think that transition for them is a lot easier. It’s still a transition, but I think it’s a lot different than ours because he was in that system. All those coaches either played for us or coached for us.”

(On Riva coming to media day) “I think he’s done a really good job as a player, just really how he’s handled his business. That’s what I always gravitate to – guys that are all in, take care of business, give it all they’ve got, focused, and then obviously a good player.”

(Getting to know them better?) “It’s been good. Good guys. I wish I could be around all of our guys more especially because it goes so fast and we’re always so busy when we’re back in Seattle. Half the time, those guys are in the weight room the whole time. I try to go down there but they’re so focused on lifting, they’re not interested in what I have to say. I don’t want to distract them. Getting stronger.”

(Having depth on offensive/defensive lines) “I don’t see the same depth on the defensive line as I do on the offensive line. These guys have all played a lot. Ben knows better than me. Five, plus three or four other guys that can really do some stuff in there. That’s pretty good depth, especially when you’re talking about five guys, and then you’ve got a few other guys you feel pretty good about. The d-line, I think Danny (Shelton)’s played a lot of ball and Hau’oli and all those things, and then the rest of the guys, there’s been guys who played but we’ve got to get some guys going there as well.”

(Offseason activities for you?) “It’s been hectic just trying to get situated and organized in Seattle, but we did go back to McCall, Idaho. We just spent some time there. My boys friends, they’d always go there, so they were itching to go back.

(Whose idea was the April Fool’s uniform prank?) “I think it was mine. I like to have fun with these guys. Sometimes I get a misperception. I want to have fun. I have fun with our staff. We’re serious and this is serious stuff and all that, but I like to joke around. I like to have fun. I like all that stuff. We’ve done stuff like that. I usually shy away from making it public. We do that stuff and I don’t make it public.”

(On perception that he’s a trick-play coach) “It doesn’t bother me in the slightest, because anybody that knows us, we would maybe run one a game, and it really wasn’t that much. We might not do any for a couple games and run two or something. But they’re fun. The kids like them. They’re going to be some sort of play that has a chance of gaining a bunch of yards, and if it doesn’t, oh well. It’s better than running the ball up the middle for three or re-load and go. So if people want to have that perception, go ahead. That doesn’t bother me in the slightest.”

(Will that carry over?) “I hope so. A lot of it comes with the coordinator. It’s stuff I did a lot when I was a coordinator and then Bryan Harsin, we had such a good log of stuff that we’ve done, recycled through. Now we have Jonathan Smith going on some of that stuff. We’ll see.”

(How has Smith been?) “He’s been great. He was a coordinator at Montana so he’s done it before. He’s got good guys around him. We’ve got really good coaches surrounding him, and just like it’s not just me, I direct things and that kind of stuff, but it all comes down to the people you’re surrounded with. The head coach and the coordinator as well. So I feel good about it."

(Were you familiar with Smith as a player?) “The one game that I do remember watching on TV – and I can’t remember hardly anything – I remember that game where he came into Husky Stadium as a freshman and I think lost on a two-point play and threw for all those yards. I remember that about him. And then he kind of always stayed in touch with me over the years. I think he was a GA when we played Oregon State a couple times, and he’d always kind of ride me and we’d stay in touch. And he ended up getting a job at Idaho and we’d always play those guys. Of course I wouldn’t even speak to him when he was at Idaho, then he went to Montana and I talked to him again.”

(Do you look at how guys were as players when hiring assistants?) “As a person and as a coach. Not even kind of as a player. Not even kind of. That means nothing to me. I’d hire a guy who didn’t even play if he was good enough, and into it, and all those things.”

(On coaching in Power 5 conference instead of feeling pressure to go unbeaten every year) “This league is going to be harder. Like I keep saying, my job got harder coming here, no question. It’s just a tough, tough league. It’s as good as it’s ever been. I think it’s as good as anything in the country. I really do, top to bottom. So in a lot of ways, harder.”

(Watch much film of Pac-12 teams in offseason?) “We’ve watched a decent amount, just to familiarize ourselves, just to see what’s out there, just to pay attention. Sometimes our offense will watch other offenses in the league and get ideas, certainly study other defenses as well. So we’ve done some decent preliminary work. But it’s not gameplan stuff. There’s a little bit more specifics on those first couple games, those first three games. We’ve looked at those guys a little bit more in-depth. But still, you get away from it. So you kind of get an idea of like, ‘hey, are we missing anything on our installs that we need to put in?’ Because what you don’t want to do for your first few games is all of a sudden now you’re putting new stuff in that the whole month you haven’t touched on, and that needs to be there early. .. Then after game four, game five, you start bringing out some new stuff to the kids that you haven’t done quite as much.”

(On avoiding being a workaholic) “I fight it, but I know this: that for vacation and stuff, it’s like we always need to go somewhere. In Seattle, I’m coming into the office. But I’m also not going to ever be that guy, and I’m not going to ever allow any of our guys to ever sleep in the office. I’ve been on staffs like that where you grind until late at night and you just get worn out, and you’re just not as good. The research all says on sleep and all those things, but not only that, you feel. I’ve lived it, and it’s just not good, so my job is to get those guys out of the office during the season. It’s like, ‘hey, we’ve got to figure this out.’ We’re still in there ungodly hours from 7 a.m. til … we need to get out of there by 10 o’clock. There’s no reason. We need to get out. And if not, it’s just going to catch up with us, we’re not going to coach the kids as good, you’re not going to be as sharp. Maybe you’ll survive that week, but two or three weeks, you keep that up, there’s a point of no return. And I firmly believe in that.”

(Do you try to hit a certain sleep target each night?) “I’m a sleeper, and so that’s what’s hard about the season, because I don’t get the sleep I need. Because it’s hard. Even if you come home from the office late, it’s hard to just jump in bed and get your sleep. You’ve got to kind of decompress. The season’s hard, because I’m one of those guys that I actually think sleep’s important, and I feel way better when I get sleep.”

(How much do you get in-season?) “Probably six hours, six-and-a-half hours or so. But probably in my groove I’m more of a nine-hour guy.”

“I think in 10 years or 20 years, they’re going to come back with studies like when they really figure out sleep on health, and water, hydration, just simple things like that, how important is – I’m just guessing – to your longevity, all those type of things. You can power through it but I know it’s got to take a toll on you, and it doesn’t feel right like that. It just wears on you.”

(Does your job cause you to lose stress?) “Sometimes, and when it does, those are bad days, because again, the sleep thing I think is so important and I feel it so hard. I can usually go to sleep, but if I start waking up real early, that’s when it’s a problem. I think we all have those times. Then I’m frustrated, really frustrated, because I’ve got such a long day ahead of me and now I’ve got three hours of sleep or whatever and it’s hard.”

(On dealing mentally with players who get in trouble) “It’s hard. You invest so much. You recruit them, you’re with them all the time, they’re important to you and the program and doing the right things, and then things come public, and you’re trying to be honest and up-front, and yet you’re trying to kind of protect the guys a little bit. It’s a really weird, hard dynamic. Probably the hardest, worst part of the job.”

(Because you see the 99 percent of the time when the kid doesn’t mess up) “Exactly. And it’s always like, I always equate this, just think of your own family when guys mess up, somebody in your family, or you think about other families. We’ve got 105 of them. Just think of the drama that’s going on with their families and their lives. Well, that usually comes back to us as coaches and stuff, and it can be overwhelming at times.”

(Did Cyler Miles’ situation weigh on you worse in that regard?) “I wouldn’t say worse. But it’s like one of those things … those things hit hard. That is painful, so painful for everybody involved. And like I said, that’s the toughest part of the job. I would say it’s the toughest part and one of the most important parts of the job – do the right thing for everybody.”

(Did Cyler understand the Seahawks angle in that incident?) “I think he wasn’t even kind of thinking about it. I didn’t even get into that – it (the incident) was just so stupid to me that it was like, ‘OK, I’m not even going to go down that (road).’”

(On splitting QB reps) “It’s going to be interesting. I don’t know. Because they all need to get reps. We’ve got to figure out who can do this, and who’s going to get better. So we’ve got to kind of treat them all similar, and Cyler just won’t play the first game, but if we’re thinking he can do something … but we’ve got to get whoever it’s going to be ready to play in that first game.”

(So it’s kind of like choosing two starters – Miles, and whoever starts the first game) “It could be like three starting quarterbacks, because worst-case scenario, we don’t really know and we want to play them both in the first game. I don’t know. I really don’t know. We’ll just see how this thing goes.”

(Deadline for picking QB?) “I always say this with the quarterback – when we know, we’ll say it. If you’ve got a starting quarterback coming back, that’s great. It makes it easy. But when you don’t, it’s like, we’re not just going to put an arbitrary deadline. We’ll just kind of play it by ear and figure out what we think’s best for us.”

(Running back and Shaq Thompson) “He did pretty good. Spring ball and all that stuff, so it wasn’t like a game, but Shaq was a good running back in high school. He’s athletic and all those things, and when he did get the ball in spring, he was productive. It looks like he has some vision and some of those things. We’ll keep experimenting with that. But a lot of it has to do also not only wish Shaq’s development but our depth there, saying healthy. It’s amazing what Bishop Sankey did. Not only the play, but just how healthy he stayed. These guys take a pounding. You’ve got to have a lot of luck on your side to not go down. So hopefully we can keep those guys all relatively healthy and that will help the situation.”

(One RB or by committee?) “We’d be OK. We’ve done it all those ways. I think it’s nice when a guy … he’s got to be able to get into a rhythm. You like to get him enough so he can start to feel the game a little bit. But I don’t think a back should have all the carries and no one else is getting in there and getting a little something done.”

(On Deontae Cooper being a 100-plus carry back) “We’ll just keep our fingers crossed. We’ll see. He’s been through so much that we’ll take it week to week and hope for the best from him.”

(Does he look like he’s had three knee surgeries?) “I thought he did a good job in the spring. I don’t know what he looked like before so it’s hard for me to kind of equate that. He’s such a great kid. We just really want it to happen for him.”

(Any leaders emerged?) “We haven’t been with them coaching. We’ve been in the weight room and all those things. I do feel like the word coming out, the kids are working hard, I think they’re focused, I think they’re starting to get some of the things we’re all about. Fall camp will be a big, important time for us.”

(On injuries) “Those two things – kids getting in trouble and injuries are just so painful for coaches. Just so painful. Two things you try to have as much control as you can on stuff, you practice smart, you play a certain way, you teach them certain fundamentals, and then doing the right thing, talking to the kids all the time about different situations and scenarios and stuff. Both those things are still going to happen. It’s just the nature of the age group and college and all that stuff.”

(On attention to detail) “I don’t think it’s ever any one thing. I think it’s everything. It’s how we keep our locker room. You walk in our locker room and go ‘oh, this is good.’ How you lift weights, how you show up, your mindset, how you practice. We all know you can go through the motions on anything. Just all those things. We talk about really being a master and a student of the game in the same breath. You might be one of our best players that understands it the best, but you also are the biggest and best student that we have, spends the most time studying, those have always been our best guys. And they can really simplify things and give me a detail about it in a real easy, simple way, just those type of things. I just think it all matters. It all adds up. Does that truly matter there, by itself? No, but when you compound it with these things, that’s the difference. We all do the same stuff, so it’s got to come down to something. I guess it’s details. And speed.”

(Did you learn a lot your last season at Boise State?) “I think what it comes down to, a lot of it is you’ve got to have horses. You’ve got to have the guys. And we had some good players and stuff, but we probably didn’t have quite the firepower that we had in the past, and it’s a player’s game. … Coaching does make a difference in all this, but for the most part, if you’ve got better players then we’re going to get you. Hopefully some of those details show up. But it’s the players.”

(Did last season wear on you more?) “Not so much. Every season’s hard. I worry about every season and it’s like, all we focus on is that process. Are we doing everything right with these guys, getting their mind right? Are we practicing correctly, practicing hard, not too much, all those things. Saturday’s the player’s day. They’ve got to go play. You know, we lost our starting quarterback halfway through the year. And that’s the thing I kind of chuckle at, because everybody makes a big deal about injuries early on … and when it’s all said and done, no one even kind of cares about that. They don’t even bring it up. No one brought it up ever  -- ‘oh, you didn’t play with your starting quarterback.’ Not even an issue. No one’s ever asked me that one time here, or about last season. So I get that. They don’t care. They make it seem like they care – ‘oh, how are you guys going to do it, you don’t got all your guys.’ OK. Great. We don’t. but no one’s going to care about that when it’s all said and done.”

(Role for Budda Baker) “It’s hard for me to say, just being so early, but I’m counting on him being in the mix. How much, where, all those things – ball’s in his court. But early indications of him being in the L.E.A.P program, working out, he’s doing a really good job, in terms of just being a grinder.”

(Does that feel like a big signing?) “I think it’s a big win because you’re getting a good player, good kid, all those things. I just think recruiting’s so different. I know people say things about the old staff, about they’ve got to keep the guys at home. Well, I know they were trying to. It’s hard! Everybody, the best of the best, is coming into Seattle trying to get those guys. The world has shrunk and everybody knows about them. So you can’t hide guys like you could way back when and all those things. It’s completely different. But you’d hope a guy like Budda, some other young guy a year or two out – ‘Budda Baker went there and he’s doing good things, shoot, I’m gonna go there.’ Hope so.”

(Special teams an option for Baker?) “Oh yeah. Special teams is for everybody. We need to play our guys. Not just young guys, but our guys.”

(Punt return for Baker?) “Yeah, I can’t wait to put him back there and see. We’ve got a couple guys I think are going to be pretty good back there but I can’t wait to get him in the mix and see how he stacks up.”

(On hand-timed 40-yard dash times, and John Ross’ 4.29) “You always hear these times, and I hear these at other places and I kind of roll my eyes. So you can take that for what it’s worth. But I will say this: that guy’s one of the most explosive players I’ve ever been around. No doubt. He is a different level of explosiveness.”

(Recruiting footprint) “I think the footprint’s the same. We’re west-coast, a little bit of Texas, and then whenever there’s a connection and somebody might have interest that we like, we’ll do the same thing. We like to be all over everywhere, but it’s hard. You get spread thin, don’t have the same connections, same information and you kind of hurt yourself a little bit.”

(On Danny Shelton) “I think he’s going to have a really good year. I think he’s going to be a great player. The one thing that I think is interesting about this, we’re talking about all these senior guys. Well, for us to have a really good team, there’s no question some of this youth needs to come help us out. But these guys that we’re talking about, they need to play the best football they’ve ever played. That’s much easier said than done, because Danny’s played a lot of football. So for him to take the next step in his game this much is so much stinkin’ detailed, hard work. And so for a senior to really go ‘wow, that’s the best that guy’s played,’ that’s hard. That’s what we need to have happen with these guys, a guy like Danny to have his best year. Now, he might have his best year and be like ‘wow,’ and from the stands it might not look like it because of the position he plays. He’s going to be eating up blocks, taking on double teams and those linebackers are making the plays. He slips in there, makes a play now and again, gets off a block. But really, that position, he’s going to be doing a lot of work for his boys behind him.”

(On gameplanning against Shelton last season) “He’s a good player. I think what we’d hope for Danny is that he can play more snaps. Big ol’ guy. It’s hard with the game, no-huddle, all those things, so (the hope is) that we can leave him out there more and get more snaps for us.”

(On being ranked No. 2 coach in nation by article) “I can’t stand that stuff, I’ve got to be honest. If I see it, I don’t ever read it. It’s kind of like this stuff. All the preseason, it’s all talk, it’s all hype. None of this matters. It’s just like, what are you going to produce. Like, preseason polls, it means nothing. The end of the season means everything.”

(So you or your assistants wouldn’t use that ranking in recruiting?) “Some of those guys might, but I wouldn’t know about it.”

(You play golf?) “Very poorly. This is probably the least I’ve played this year than ever. Sometimes in the summertime when we go on vacation, I’ll play, you know, a couple times a week, and by the end I can get … decent so I’m not totally frustrated. But usually I’m frustrated all the time. I only play a handful of times per year.”

(What’s your best score?) “I don’t even know, but I’m probably in the mid-80s.”