A few of us were already seated at the round glass table, munching on paninis and Caesar salads, the legs of our steel chairs sticking annoyingly into the grass in one corner of the Paramount Studios lot, when Chris Petersen sat down for a 35-minute roundtable discussion Thursday afternoon. This was a little while after his main-stage press conference had wrapped up, and it would be the final sit-down media session he would have at his first Pac-12 media days (before then joining the rest of the conference coaches on a trip to Bristol, Conn., for their annual “Car Wash” run at ESPN today).
Later, as he got up to leave the lunch area, a woman approached the Washington coach and introduced herself.
“Oh … my … god,” she gushed. “I just wanted to say, I’m a big fan. … The Fiesta Bowl was the greatest game I’ve ever seen. It was so much fun. The Statue of Liberty — phenomenal!”
“Thanks,” Petersen said. “I’m glad you enjoyed it.”
Certainly, that wasn’t the first time Petersen had had that conversation. Surely, it won’t be the last.
In the future, perhaps that conversation might involve a play or a game or a moment that he’s helped to orchestrate not for Boise State, made so famous by that 2007 Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma, but with his new team, the Huskies.
And while we’ve written plenty already about the new coach’s strict attention to detail, his hard-line discipline and his desire to hold players more accountable, Petersen insisted he’s not “all business” all the time. A bit sheepishly, he admitted that the April Fool’s Day joke — featuring puke-colored uniforms — was his idea.
“Hey, I like to have fun with these guys,” he said at the table. “Sometimes I think I get a misperception. I mean, I want to have fun. I want to have fun with our staff. We’re serious and this is serious stuff and all that, but I like to joke around. I like to have fun and I like to do all that stuff. We do that
stuff but usually shy away from making it public.”
Yes, Petersen said, the signature Boise State trick plays are coming with him to UW. We may not see them every week, but we’re sure to see some trick plays from the UW offense (or special teams) this season.
“It really wasn’t that much (at Boise). We might not do any for a couple games and run two or something,” he said. “But they’re fun. The kids like them. They’re going to be some sort of play that has a chance of gaining a bunch of yards, and if it doesn’t, oh well. It’s better than running the ball up the middle for 3 or re-load and go.”
Sounds fun, right?
A few other tidbits Petersen:
He was asked more about Cyler Miles and if that situation “wear on him worse” than other similar situations.
“I wouldn’t say worse,” Petersen said. “But … those things hit hard. That is painful, so painful for everybody involved. And like I said, that’s the toughest part of the job. I would say that’s the toughest part and one of the most important parts of the job — to do the right thing for everybody.”
The follow-up to that was whether Petersen thought Miles understood the “whole Seahawks angle” with the post-Super Bowl altercations?
“I think he wasn’t even kind of thinking about it. … I didn’t even get into that whole thing. It was just so stupid to me that it was like, ‘OK, I’m not even going to go down that alley.’”
Sophomore wide receiver and kick returner (and defensive back??) John Ross ran a hand-timed 4.29-second 40-yard dash this spring. Petersen admitted he tends to “roll his yes” at some of those hand-timed numbers.
“I will say this: That guy’s one of the most explosive players I’ve ever been around. No doubt,” he said. “He is a different level of explosiveness.”
Petersen on Shaq Thompson as a running back:
“He did pretty good. (It was) spring ball and all that stuff, so it wasn’t like a game, but Shaq was a good running back in high school. … It looks like he has some vision and some of those things. We’ll keep experimenting with that. But a lot of it has to do also not only with Shaq’s development but our depth there, staying healthy. It’s amazing what Bishop Sankey did. Not only the play, but just how healthy he stayed. These guys take a pounding. You’ve got to have a lot of luck on your side to not go down. So hopefully we can keep those guys all relatively healthy and that will help the situation.”
He said he would be “OK” with a back-by-committee approach, but would also to find one guy who can get in “a rhythm.”
On Deontae Cooper, Petersen said “we’ll just keep our fingers crossed. We’ll see. He’s been through so much that we’ll take it week to week and hope for the best from him.”
On the role, or roles, Petersen expects freshman safety Budda Baker this season:
“It’s hard for me to say, just being so early, but I’m counting on him being in the mix. How much, where, all those things — ball’s in his court. But early indications of him being in the LEAP program, working out, he’s doing a really good job, in terms of just being a grinder.”
Petersen was asked how big it was to get Baker, the state’s top recruit, to sign with UW.
“I think it’s a big win,” he said, “because you’re getting a good player, good kid, all those things. I just think recruiting’s so different. I know people say things about the old staff, about they’ve got to keep the guys at home. Well, I know they were trying to. It’s hard. Everybody, the best of the best, is coming into Seattle trying to get those guys. The world has shrunk and everybody knows about them. So you can’t hide guys like you could way back when and all those things. It’s completely different. But you’d hope a guy like Budda, some other young guy a year or two out (are saying) ‘Budda Baker went there and he’s doing good things, shoot, I’m gonna go there.’ Hope so.”
He was also asked if Baker would be considered for special teams.
“Oh yeah. Special teams is for everybody. We need to play our guys. Not just young guys, but our (best) guys.”
Would Baker be in line to return punts?
“Yeah, I can’t wait to put him back there and see. We’ve got a couple guys I think are going to be pretty good back there, but I can’t wait to get him in the mix and see how he stacks up.”
There was a conversation with Petersen about the demands of his profession and the stress and long hours involved. He said implements a 10 p.m. curfew, if you will, for coaches to leave the office.
“I’m not going to ever allow any of our (coaches) to ever sleep in the office. I’ve been on staffs like that where you grind until late at night and you just get worn out and you’re just not as good. … I’ve lived it, and it’s just not good, so my job is to get those guys out of the office during the season. It’s like, ‘Hey, we’ve got to figure this out.’ We’re still in there ungodly hours from 7 a.m. till … we need to get out of there by 10 o’clock. There’s no reason (to be any later). We need to get out. And if not, it’s just going to catch up with us, we’re not going to coach the kids as good, you’re not going to be as sharp. Maybe you’ll survive that week, but two or three weeks, you keep that up, there’s a point of no return. And I firmly believe in that.”
Petersen described himself as “a sleeper” who would prefer to have about nine hours each night. During the season, he estimated he gets about six or six and a half hours per night.