Huskies Insider Blog

Quoting Chris Petersen on progress, punt returns and financial-aid agreements

Here's everything Huskies coach Chris Petersen told reporters earlier today during his final media availability before Saturday's game against Georgia State. Some more thoughts on punt returns, plus Petersen's opinion on financial-aid agreements in recruiting and the idea of an early-signing period.

(On Marcus Peters) “We’re fine. Making progress. We’ll see.”

(What hope to see in terms of offensive improvement this week?) “Offense, defense, special teams, it’s kind of all the same. I’m always so anxious to go get the tape after the game and just see who’s showing up, who’s looking better. That’s why we do this. This is why we coach. This is what we like. We like to put that tape on and say, ‘There it is.’ And it is hard work during the week. Stuff that we’ve been working on for a long time, we’re still going back and going back and going over. So it’s exciting to see: Did we get it right or not? There’s just so many thousands of details you’re trying to shore up. It’s not any one thing. It’s not any one thing; it’s not the run game, it’s not the kicking game — it’s all of it. Is that guy making progress? That’s kind of how we look at it.”

(Self-scouting from first three games — anything surprise you?) “We’re always into self-scout to see what we look like and if we’re missing something: Are we too vanilla? Are we too complicated for ourselves? So that process never really stops. It always comes back to us. The opponent’s the opponent and they’re always going to give a different challenge every week, but it always comes back to us. Are we coaching them the correct way? Are we missing something like, ‘Hey, this mistake keeps showing up.’ Week 3 (or) Week 12, it’s kind of the same.”

(Anything you haven’t done in first three games that you expected to do better?) “Probably everything. We’re trying to get better at everything. But that’s not the question. The question is, ‘are we making progress? And I think we made progress last week, and I think we all know that we’re only as good as our last game, and so we reload and see where we are in two days.”

(Sounds like Josh Perkins is back this week from injury. What does he add to the offense?) “I think Josh is a good player, but he’s one of the guys I’m really anxious to see. Because, like we keep talking about, practice is one thing and games are a completely different thing. And I only got to see him for half a game. So we looked at tape last year, but I didn’t study that hard and say, ‘Hey, what is this guy all about?’ We did that on purpose … because everyone’s got a clean slate here. So what can you do for us now? So we only got a half of a game out of him, so I’m anxious to get him back and see where he is.”

(What are the challenges of trying to specifically get the ball to someone like John ross or Kasen Williams?) “Well, coverage. Defense. If they’re going to take that away, we’re not going to force the ball in there if somebody else … if the ball should go somewhere else because of coverage and schematics. Now, you can hand them the ball, you can get it to them on kick returns, those type of things. And so I think we’re doing what we can with John Ross, there’s no question. Do we want him to have the ball more? Yes. Do we want Kasen to get the ball more? Without question. But that’s part of the work in progress thing. What can we do as coaches to help that? What can Kasen help to do? What can the other receivers help to do to be productive to maybe single him up?”

(Still by-committee at running back?) “I think it’s a little bit by-committee. I think they’re all doing a pretty solid job. I think once we start to kind of lean to one guy, somebody else starts to show up and do something. So I don’t think we’ve really kind of separated anybody at this point.”

(Do you want one or two guys to emerge?) “Yeah, (do) we want somebody to really go ‘wow, yeah, that solved that for us?’ Yes. But I also think we’ve got some pretty good players there. It means they’re healthy, they’re being productive. So it’s a yes and no to that question, I guess.”

(Still day-to-day with Ben Riva?) “It really is … I don’t know. It’s not a surgery thing. He didn’t suit up … Friday we thought he was playing. Saturday comes up, and not going. So we’re kind of all scratching our heads. It really is kind of a week-to-week, day-by-day thing with him. I don’t know.”

(What does it take to break a punt return?) “What it really takes, it takes about 10 guys in front of you doing some really good work. I always say we have some good athletes back there that are pretty courageous that they’ll make some things happen. But if those 10 guys can give us a chance to get something started, we have good confidence that those returners will make something happen. I think everybody’s like ‘oh, wow, that returner.’ There is some of that, but it is so hard to return punts in college football these days with all the different styles we see. Even if the guy’s a traditional punter, you see all the shield. Well, that’s five to six gunners running down, where in the old days it’s two gunners. And so it’s hard. So I think anytime we can get our punt returner loose, everybody should stand up and clap loud for not necessarily the returner, but everybody else that’s doing a good job to get that thing started.”

(You seem to favor the rugby style…) “I hate the rugby style, because it takes the returner out of it. But if we don’t want the returner involved in it, we’re going to do some of that stuff. And so there’s multiple formations, multiple styles of rugby kicking, on the ground, rugby in the air, rugby cross-field. We could go on and on. Different styles of punts. There’s knuckle balls. All this stuff, just really kind of – you watch an NFL game, and there’s one style. Ball’s going up, it’s usually a spiral, turn it over, punt returner can read it. Can you lock down the gunners? If you can, you’ve got a chance for a good return. College football’s a little different.”

(What does that say about Dante Pettis as a true freshman returner?) “I always want that to be our coaching style; we’ll put a punt returner back there, which is a pretty daunting position. You’re back there and there’s no hiding there. But I don’t care if that’s an offensive guard, linebacker, corner – if you’re the guy, you’re the guy. And if we have confidence in you, we’ll develop you. It’s not a seniority pecking order ever around here.”

(What constitutes a good return, in your eyes?) “When we get the ball back to the offense, number one. And that might mean the ball hits the ground, the ball goes back to the offense – that’s our number-one goal. Number two, it’s always caught with some sort of technique, and three, we steal some hidden yardage as the game goes on.”

(So yardage is gravy?) “We’re trying to get some hidden yardage, but they may keep kicking those ones that we can’t field. We’ve got to be like a counterpuncher; we can’t go out there and take chances that are unnecessary. The number-one goal is, the ball goes back to the offense. With that being said, we have to be very patient. Fearless and patient; those two words for a punt returner. They don’t go together; they are oxymoronic words in some ways. But we work hard to…you have to be a great decision-maker back there, because those guys are really aggressive and they want to take chances, but we’ve got to get the ball back to the offense.”

(Why are financial aid agreements in vogue right now?) “I think it has to do with this early commitment, this version of an early signing period. That’s my best answer to that. That’s where a lot of people are wanting to head, the kids are wanting to head in that direction, and without a true, this is the date, signing period, you’re locked in, you’re committed - all those things -- this is the next closest thing.”

(Is there a benefit to the school, since it doesn’t bind the prospect to the school?) “It changes the communication that you can have with a commitment, prospect, whatever.”

(Can you speak about the player that has signed?) “I don’t know; let me check on that before I get myself in hot water.”

(Would you like to see more of that?) “I’d like to see an early signing period, without question. There are so many kids that are committed…but with that being said, the logistics aren’t quite that easy. There’s earlier visit times, do we visit kids in the spring? Do you slide the calendar? It’s not quite as cut and dried as it seems. But I’m hoping we try something, because there’s so many kids that are committed for so long and it turns into a babysitting process. What I mean by that is you start using a lot of time and money when kids have been committed a long time to make sure the guy’s still with you. If he’s still with you, let him sign.”

(Can you confirm that you’ve received a financial aid agreement?) “Let me get back to you guys on that just to make sure.”