Petersen’s first spring with Huskies all about expectations

March 4, 2014 

Three times during his pre-spring practice press conference Monday, new Washington football coach Chris Petersen used the phrase “work in progress” to describe certain aspects of the program.

Of course, Coach. You’ve only been on the job since December, and today is the first chance you get to even take the field with your Huskies.

For the benefit of the media, Petersen addressed some injury situations and his philosophical approach to spring practices, and some of the practical matters that accompany the changing of any coaching staff.

But it’s pretty clear he already has taken steps to establish at least an outline of his expectations, and given the players a firm indication of how he’s going to handle this program.

And that might be the most important progress of all.

The question of early “messages” arose in his response to the indefinite suspension of quarterback Cyler Miles and receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow resulting from an off-field rules violation in February.

The two remain on the Husky roster, but Petersen said he had no news on their status.

He could have left it at that but later expanded with a more emphatic response when asked if his dealing with Miles and Stringfellow – two key young players – sent a message to the rest of the team.

“A little,” he said. “This is a work in progress in terms of the type of culture we want, and how we want to do things. But there has been no talk about those guys. They haven’t been here; we’ve moved on and we’re going. It’s not about those guys, it’s about the guys who are in the room.”

He allowed that the situation will have to “play out.” But when he talked about it, the phrase that jumped out was “we’ve moved on.”

For everybody else, though, let the auditions start for starring roles in the first spring practice this morning.

Positions are so open that Petersen doesn’t even want to think about depth charts yet. The doors are open for those players who come out and prove they deserve the job.

“We don’t know anything, come show us,” he said. “Guys need to not worry about rank in the depth chart, they just need to get better each day.”

Which of the positions, then, does he expect to feature the most heated competition?

“I hope it’s all of them,” he said.

Especially for a new staff taking over, the 15 allotted spring practices have to be managed carefully. While it’s tempting to have them scrimmage and go full speed so the staff can best evaluate their talent, it’s impractical when numbers are down.

“I think you’ve got to be smart in spring,” Petersen said. “This thing is year-round for these kids now. We’re not trying to win spring ball. We’re trying to get these guys ready for the fall.”

Without the incoming freshmen and as many as eight returning players out or limited by injuries, full-blown scrimmages are tricky.

“A spring game, quote, is very scary because your depth is down,” he said. “So I will say we think very carefully about how much contact we should have and how much scrimmaging we should do. I think all that’s been kind of cut down over the years.”

His schemes, Petersen said, will not be vastly different from those of predecessor Steve Sarkisian. And he and his staff are adopting some of the language of the previous systems to make the transition easier for the returning players.

Change isn’t easy, he stressed, but it’s a part of life for everybody – players and coaches.

And practices this time of year are when the communication issues are ironed out – whether it’s the calling of plays or the messages coaches send about their expectations.

“Spring ball is usually pretty ugly,” he said.

That’s OK, Coach, it looks like progress already has been made.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 dave.boling@ thenewstribune.com @DaveBoling

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