Save for a few faces in different places, Friday morning’s football practice at the University of Washington might not have looked so different to the untrained eye.
Assistant coaches sprinted and clapped, offering spirited encouragement to players during position drills. Players prodded each other with jokes during down time. Mostly dreadful rap music rattled from a speaker positioned on the sideline — a Steve Sarkisian staple — though a Notorious B.I.G. song helped elevate the quality.
But look closer, and the changes that have shaken UW’s program in the last week are apparent.
There’s no Keith Heyward, no Peter Sirmon, no Johnny Nansen — all former assistant coaches who accompanied Sarkisian to USC.
There’s Danny Razore, a first-year graduate assistant — one of a handful of GAs with more coaching responsibilities now that UW is down three position coaches — and a slender ball of energy as he demonstrates technique to his charges.
And there’s Marques Tuiasosopo with a much more authoritative whistle around his neck, filling the role of head coach on an interim basis until Chris Petersen takes over after UW’s Dec. 27 bowl game.
Tuiasosopo’s focus, he said, is on the players, who were allowed to speak with reporters Friday for the first time since Sarkisian’s departure and Petersen’s subsequent hire from Boise State.
“Football’s the fun part,” Tuiasosopo said. “That’s always the easy part. I think these young men have handled it great. They’re ready to move on, and they want to finish the season right.”
Thirteen days remain until Washington (8-4) faces Brigham Young (8-4) in the Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park in San Francisco. The Huskies will practice five more times in Seattle — Saturday, then Monday through Thursday — before departing Dec. 22.
There is much to resolve before and after that date, not the least of which is whether Petersen will keep any of UW’s current assistant coaches. Sirmon, Nansen and Heyward are officially gone, but the rest of the Huskies’ coaching staff was present at Friday’s practice. That includes defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi, both of whom are thought to have job offers from USC.
Because of that state of limbo, Tuiasosopo, who coached quarterbacks this season, is the only coach who will be made available to speak with reporters after bowl practices. His future is uncertain, too, though he said he’s not thinking about it.
“That will all take its course,” he said. “I really am focusing on the bowl game. Whatever happens is going to happen. Regardless, Washington football is in good hands. But I’m just excited about going to get nine wins.”
That goal seems to be the focus of UW’s players, too. Sophomore cornerback Marcus Peters circled back to it several times while discussing the events of the past week.
“You have to move on,” Peters said. “You can’t sit there sulking. We have a big goal ahead of us, and it’s nine wins. That hasn’t been done here since 2000, and it’ll be an excellent step for this program going into next year, with Coach Pete and everything.”
“Everybody took it their own way,” senior safety Sean Parker said of Sarkisian’s abrupt departure, “and we’re ready to play this ballgame.”
Peters said he’s over Sarkisian leaving. His initial reaction, he said, was: “Wow. But at the same time, he’s got to move on, and we’ve got Coach Pete, so that’s where my head’s at right now. We let it go, what it was and what it is. It’s going to be what it’s going to be. Coach left, and it’s nothing more than that.”
Nothing more than trying to win one more time, regardless of who’s wearing the headset.christian.caple@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @ChristianCaple