Huskies Insider Blog

Chris Petersen talks coaching changes, Heart of Dallas Bowl, Southern Mississippi and more

Huskies coach Chris Petersen met with reporters for a few minutes this afteroon to discuss UW’s invitation to the Heart of Dallas bowl against Southern Mississippi, as well as the recent firing of receivers coach Brent Pease and the departure of defensive line/special-teams coach Jeff Choate to Montana State.

One bit of news -- Choate will stay in Seattle and coach UW through its bowl game. Here’s everything Petersen said about the aforementioned.

(On going to the Heart of Dallas Bowl) “I’ve been to the Cotton Bowl one time, so I know that. Played Southern Miss a handful of times at Boise. I know the talent that program has, I know when Todd Monken was there, getting it started, played them and really impressed how he’s built that program. We’re looking forward to it. I know what type of coach he is and I know the talent level that program has. We’re excited to play another game.”

(Added challenge playing the game the day after Christmas?) “I think Christmas for us will basically be that day after. We’ll play the game and then we celebrate Christmas. I think as you go through the season we always adjust our weeks and our thinking, kind of a five-day window to play on whatever that Saturday is. I think we do play on a Saturday. Then everything fits around it and certainly we’ll take time on Christmas to honor that. But then the guys will get to go home after the bowl and be with their folks and celebrate with them then.”

(More ideal timeframe than what you had last year?) “This one seems to work better because we’ll keep them here, they’ll do finals and then we’ll just go into practice. We’ll practice a little bit and then go down to Texas and practice some more and play the game. Schedule-wise it probably does flow a little bit better.”

(Mindset to not just show up, but win the bowl?) “Yeah. It’ll be something we certainly talk about. I thought our preparation (last year) was pretty good, but we didn’t play the game itself like it needed to be played. I think we’ve built some momentum the last two games we’ve played. Problem is, we take this long break and we need to be able to get back into that rhythm quickly.”

(Any early idea how many practices you’ll be able to fit in?) “I do have a calendar, but I didn’t look at it right before I came to see you guys. But it’ll be somewhere around nine or 10 total practices. That’ll be good, that’ll be plenty. Enough to get some fundamental, basic work, get some young guys some work and enough to game-plan and go.”

(Treat the game like a regular road game because of the holiday?) “No. Our plan is to treat it like a normal week. When we get to Saturday we count back to try and get in that rhythm of a game week. It’s not quite that simple when you’re in a bowl game. There’s other festives and other things going on with it, which is great. That’s the beauty of a bowl game. They’ve got to be able to enjoy that, but when we go to practice, when we go to meetings - we’ve got to lock in and then show up ready to play.”

When does the bowl require the team to be in Dallas? “I haven’t got that. I just know who we’re playing and where we’re going. So I don’t

know when we’re leaving and all those things yet.”

(When do you start practicing again?) “We did, today. So we’ve already done that, and then they’ll have this week off, do some lifting and running, then we’ll get back here on the weekend and practice a couple times this weekend and give them some more time off for finals, practice again and go.”

(On Southern Mississippi being an unfamiliar opponent, etc.) “It is, because I haven’t seen ‘em. I think it might have been four years ago that we played ‘em, and I do remember – and the year before we were down there playing them with a different coaching staff. Coach Monken’s staff, it’s an athletic team. They’ve got good players. I do know this, that this is one of the hotter teams, upcoming teams. I think I saw that two weeks ago. Had no idea that we might be matched up with them. But I saw that and I thought, you know what, doesn’t surprise me. I knew they were going to be a good program, and they are. I just didn’t know we were going to be playing them.”

(On Southern Miss coach Todd Monken) “… I’ve known of him for a long time, and then when we played against him, got to know him a little bit. Have a lot of respect for what he’s done with that program.”

(On Jeff Choate leaving for Montana State) “So Coach Choate will be with us (through the bowl game). He’ll be doing double-duty, and he needs double-duty. He’s that guy who can probably do triple-duty. It’s hard to keep him pinned down in one spot anyway, so it’ll be good for him with all the other things that he’s thinking. Then at the receiver position, Bush Hamdan, we’ll elevate Bush for the bowl game. He’s been working quality control there. He’ll coach the receivers there.”

(Surprised to see Choate leave?) “I can’t tell you how happy we are for him. I don’t think there’s a better job, a more perfect fit than that job. As long as I’ve known him, he’s never wanted to be the head coach at the University of Washington. He’s wanted to be the head coach at Montana State or one of those schools. That’s where really he sees himself. That’s his vision for what he wants to do with his life. When that opportunity came up, we were so excited that he got this, because I think it’s a slam dunk for Montana State, and I think he’s going to be really good.”

(What do you lose with Choate leaving?) “A lot. One, he’s one of the better special teams guys in the country, but just as a person, and his energy, and how he connects to everybody in the program. He’s a special guy, and that’s why he got that job. But this is a special place, and we’ll get another special guy in here.”

(Did you make some calls on his behalf?) “I think a lot of us talked to some people over there. But we didn’t have to do a lot of heavy lifting for that. I think when he went and spoke to them, I think they got a feel for him loud and clear.”

(What was the reasoning for making the change with Brent Pease?) “I just really felt … again, (it was) hard. I think you guys know, I go way back with him, and he is a really good person, and he’s a good football coach. But just without getting into too much detail, just kind of a new vision for what I think it should look like out there, and a new energy. I think that would help us. And it really kind of came down to that.”

(Do you have a list or a timeframe for replacing those guys?) “Definitely have a list. So we’ll be working on that kind of throughout the next month and get this thing taken care of.”

(On Pease’s departure affecting recruiting) “It definitely has an affect, not only with him but Coach Choate. Little bit different circumstances, but guys get tied in to the coaches that are recruiting them. But we’re always going to be up front. When something has to happen, we’ll tell the kids we’re going to make a decision as soon as we can and not be a last-minute decision on that and … try to make it as clean as we possibly can with it. But there’s always an affect, but we also have to do what I feel is right at the end of the day, what’s better for everybody, including the recruits.”

(Probably not a lot of defensive line-slash-special teams coordinators. What are you looking for with a new hire there?) “I think you’re right. I don’t really anticipate getting a defensive line-special teams guru like Coach Choate. Coach Choate has coached a lot of positions. When I hired him at Boise, he was our running backs coach, and he’s coached our nickels and our outside ‘backers and now our D-line and he’s just that type of guy — he can do a lot of things. So I don’t know if there’s a bunch of combinations where it’s D-line-special teams; we’ll have to figure out the combination on our staff here, if someone internally does it or someone on the outside. There’s a lot of different factors of how we do this.”

(With your involvement with returners already, do you take a bigger role on special teams?) “We’ve got Coach Choate here, so that’s still his role (through the bowl game) … and I think we feel good where we’re at. We’re trying to keep this thing as normal for the guys as we can, and I think it really is. It’s different in the receiver room, but not that different. Bush knows exactly what we’re doing and those kids know him, so that’s going to be pretty smooth. And special-teams wise, there’s certain coaches that are helping Coach Choate on different units anyway, and so we’ll keep that as consistent as we can through this last game.”

(Did the decision to dismiss Pease come down to his players’ production?) “Well, absolutely. At the end of the day, every coach, including myself, is evaluated on the performance of the guys on the field. That’s not the only thing, but do we think we can take a step there? And is the performance what it needs to be? That’s no different for me and we think we all have more to us on this deal, and we think we’re heading in the right direction, but we’ve got to get to the right destination — not just head in that direction.”