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January 7, 2014 at 1:56 PM

UW assistant coach Keith Bhonapha on recruiting, running backs

Keith Bhonapha was the first assistant coach Chris Petersen brought with him to Seattle, after Bhonapha spent the past eight seasons working with Petersen at Boise State. Bhonapha takes over as Washington’s recruiting coordinator and running backs coach. Here are some of his comments from today:

(Have you had a chance to get to know the UW running backs coming back next season?) The big thing I’ve talked to them about is, ‘I don’t know you guys from Adam. I want to get to know you guys away from football, I want to get to know you guys as individuals.’ The question that always comes up is, ‘How does it work with the depth chart,’ and I said, ‘There is no depth chart. We’re going to start from scratch. We’re going to go out for spring ball and get you guys better and we’re doing to go from there.’ I think the thing they’re going to appreciate — I hope they appreciate — about me is I’m always going to be 100 percent honest. I’m going to be straight forward. They can come to my office and know exactly where they stand and know that everybody gets a chance.

(You were the first coach Chris Petersen brought here. What’s this transition been like the last month and what have the priorities been?) It’s been a little bit of a scramble. I call it scrambled eggs because you never feel settled. You try your best to get settled. … The priority starting out was recruiting and figuring out, ‘OK, where are the numbers? What do we need? What positions are in dire need of guys to bring in?’ And then from there kind of deciding, are there guys are out there we can get to switch now that we have a new staff and we have, for a lack of a better term, the ‘Petersen brand’ coming here to the University of Washington.

(Has the message changed at all or has the perception changed of that brand when you’re recruiting?) It’s been good. The kids that we already were recruiting, now we have all this (points to surroundings). The recruiting world is small; all these kids know we each other. And I think they know that when it comes to the Boise State staff, we were really in it for these guys — we’re here to coach them and get them better, and we’re trying to teach these kids more than just football. … We have built this program at Boise State where parents can feel comfortable sending their son off for the next 4-5 years and knowing that we’re going to add value to them as individuals, and know that they’re going to leave with a degree and that their son is going to get treated fairly. He might not like every moment of it, because this is a process and college football is hard, but he’s going to be treated fairly and he’s going to be taken care of.

(Is recruiting been more of an uphill climb because of this coaching transition?) Yeah, you really are behind. And the problem with being behind is we knew the numbers that we needed before (at Boise), and now you come in here … and we have to go back and circle the wagons on all these guys we didn’t think we needed before. That’s probably been the big thing.

(What’s your approach with the running backs?) The big thing I try to instill with the guys is being tough, physical, elusive and a never-say-die attitude — just that effort attitude and toughness is what I always talk about with those guys. And understanding that you have to have that mindset that you want the ball, I’ll put the team on my back and I’m able to make it happen.

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