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The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

September 8, 2014 at 3:35 PM

UW’s Chris Petersen on young secondary, Marcus Peters, Vernon Adams Jr., Illinois and more

UW coach Chris Petersen at the start of Monday's practice. (Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times)

UW coach Chris Petersen at the start of Monday’s practice. (Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times)

Notes and quotes from UW coach Chris Petersen at his weekly Monday press conference:

(Opening) “I’ll start by saying not a whole lot different after watching the tape, studying it. I thought Eastern Washington did a good job, like I said after the game, their quarterback played great. Beau Baldwin’s staff did a really good job. I think we’ve got to obviously play tighter pass coverage. We’ve got to tackle better, be more disciplined on defense. We had 10 penalties and nine of them were on defense, so playing pretty good offense, all that stuff’s going to show up. Thought our offense, special teams played hard. Made some plays. Did what we needed to do in those phases. And so obviously defense is a big concern. Go to work. Make progress.”

(On report of one-game suspension for Marcus Peters) “I told you after the game we’ve got to conduct ourselves the right way. we have discipline things, we keep those in-house and go from there.”

(On 10 penalties against Eastern) “We had three hands to the face, I believe, guys trying hard. So we need to change our technique there. … We had some offsides. We had a pass interference or two. And so it’s kind of across the board. Most of those penalties, guys are playing hard, we just need to clean up technique, and that’s the bottom line. We’ve always got to be careful around the quarterback. He slid down there, Keishawn (Bierria) came in there. They’re always going to be very weary around the quarterback in terms of penalties and those type of things. It all adds up to matter.”

(Will Peters’ discipline be because of penalty or behavior on sideline?) “I’m not addressing any of that right now. We’ll talk about that down the road.”

(What led to big day for EWU? Youth, inexperience, etc?) “A little bit of all that. I’m going to tell you, you put a couple of those touchdown throws on, they were pin-point accurate. One of the things we talked about in terms of competing, is really being able to execute under pressure. They did a better job competing than we did. Our guys were there on a couple of them. He just put it where they needed, his receivers made tremendous catches. Some of that’s us being new. Some of that’s us being young. We’ve just got to get better at defending the ball when we’re there. We’ve just got to get a little bit more aggressive, a little bit better in our technique. All those throws and those plays they made, we’ve got to recreate those for them in practice and get a chance to defend them so they’re not seeing it for the first time on Saturday.”

(Scheme/technique changes after EWU game?) “We’re always analyzing kind of that. What can we do as coaches to put our guys in the best position to make plays, without question. We feel like we can’t do any one thing, but we certainly can’t do a bunch of things and be a jack of all trades, master of none. I think if you just get better … again, my hat’s really off to those guys. They executed well. It wasn’t like we had guys running wide open, blown coverages. Guys were there, we just need to play tighter on a little bit better technique. … It goes to the question that was asked earlier. Is it a combination of being new, seeing some new schemes, new balls being thrown by different quarterbacks? Yeah, it’s all those little things. All those little things add up to a big thing.”

(On Vernon Adams not being recruited by many schools) “He looked real good. You see that all the time. He’s a heck of a player and he could probably play for anybody in the country, without question.”

(On Eastern Washington’s success) “Well, I think they’ve got a good scheme. It gives them a chance … they’re not going to be that smash-mouth teams and pack the box and all those type of things. They’re very multiple, they spread you out, create mismatches, and I think they’ve done a great job of building a program over time, where I think their guys, they make sure most of them keep in the system for a couple years, get them on the field. There’s always going to be a couple of key positions that are going to determine whether you’re going to have a really good team, one being quarterback. You look back at the last few years, they’ve always had a good quarterback.”

(On Shaq Thompson at RB) “It’s still kind of playing it by ear. It really is. We’ve got four pretty good running backs there. Shaq makes it five. He did a great job. He popped it. Like I said, every time we put him in, something good happens, so we’ll continue to analyze that situation. We need him to play really good on defense, first and foremost, and we’ve got him on some special-teams things. We’re going to keep monitoring that as the season goes on. He’s productive as all get-out, for sure.”

(On running backs and evolving toward a leader) “I think yes, kind of. It’s a little bit of a feel thing as well. We’ve got to get guys in rhythm. There’s no question about that, there’s a rhythm at that position, and let them feel things and read things. You’d kind of like to have a couple – maybe a 1-2 punch – but we have what we have and so we don’t want to have those other guys that deserve a little playing time just sit on the bench. We’re looking at it closely and I think over time things will work itself out. There’s always injuries and those guys that get a little bit better. We’ll just kind of go from there.” 

(Is there something Shaq gives you at RB you don’t get from the others?) “That’s a good question. All I can say about that at this point, because we did a little bit of live stuff with him in the spring and then he had three live reps this fall. … When he does he seems to have pretty good vision and finds the crease pretty well. We’ll continue to look at that. If he’s clearly way better than anybody else we’ll have to figure some things out.”

(on Cory Littleton and Travis Feeney not seeing a lot of playing time and getting them going) “So now you don’t want us to play any of the running backs and now you want us to play all the linebackers — is that what I’m hearing? That’s the dilemma that we have. We’re trying to get a lot of guys in and Shaq and Timu are pretty good in there and Keishawn Bierria has been doing a really good job. There’s no question those other two are good players as well. So that’s a little bit of the dilemma; we’re trying to get ‘em in there but there’s only so many linebackers you use at one time. Again, I go back to it; it’s a long season. Certain guys will get reps and earn more reps. Different things happen throughout the season and we’re going to need all hands on deck. It is what it is right now and we play the guys we think deserve the most reps and we look at it on tape, we study it – hey, does this guy deserve a few more reps, does this guy deserve a few less reps? That’s kind of how it goes each game.”

(on Danny Shelton’s performance) “He’s been really, really good, there’s no question about it. He’s had two games back-to-back that have been special for a nose guard. Usually that guy’s eating blocks up, letting everyone else make plays. That’s kind of his role. But not only has he done that, he’s made plays on his own. It’s great to watch. I really appreciate it. I said this before; I really appreciate it when a senior like that really takes his game to that next level, because it’s really, really hard to do. Our young guys that are playing, they are going to get better. It’s going to be two steps forward, one step back, but they are going to continue to progress and get better. Not all seniors can take that next step. A lot of them are pretty detailed and dialed in, so to really show up at that next level – that’s something special. I think people take that for granted. I don’t. Our hat’s off to Danny for how he’s played the first two weeks.”

(What has gone into that, from his part?) “I think a lot of it has to do with maturity. Not just Danny, but across the board; you have to be really, really mature…how much you have to study, your attention to detail in practice, how hard you work in the weight room. Everything really matters. When you do that over time, you start to maybe take that little step, and that’s what we’re talking about. Because he was a pretty good player last year. But first two games he’s made another step, and if he can keep that consistency up it’ll help us.”

(Schematically what does his high level play allow you to do defensively?) “You hope they have to put a couple of guys on him. You think first and foremost about the run game. If he can eat up some blocks and free up those linebackers, that’s the first thing you think about. But he’s been pretty darn good in the pass game as well. That hasn’t been his strength and really shouldn’t be a nose guard’s strength…push the pocket, collapse it a little bit and make that quarterback feel some things, which he’s done. But he’s also gotten in there and sacked the quarterback. His game has been real impressive the first two weeks.”

(Thoughts on Illinois?) “We’re still in the process of really studying them, but the first thing that jumps out at all of us is they throw the heck out of the ball and they are pretty good at it. From where we are right now, you’ve got to believe they’re probably feeling pretty good about themselves and can’t wait to get out here and get after it. Those first two games, they played well in the fourth quarter, they finish games, throw the heck out of the ball, very stout on defense – strong guys, strong in the middle, strong in the d-line. It’ll be a different challenge. I think that’s the unique thing about college football. We’ve got another hurry-up, multiple formations and those type of things. Every week is something new, some new problem. That’s where we are.”

(Any one thing defensively that takes precedence when fixing problems?) “We’ve just got to make plays on the ball. We were around the ball a lot. Vernon Adams threw some pin-point strikes and those kids are reaching out and making those catches. So we just have to go out and play tighter coverage. That’s the thing that jumps out to me. I think our tackling can be better, but it wasn’t atrocious. Our d-line has to sack him when we get a chance; he got out of some things there. It was just a combination…if there was any one thing you can usually go fix it pretty quick, but it’s not any one thing, you know? I want to give them credit; they made really good plays, and it wasn’t like the guys were running wide open. We’ve got to do a better job of tightening up coverage so we can make plays.”

(When you say tighter coverage, does that mean more press, jam at the line, more man coverage?) “No. I think if you do that you’re going to be picked apart. I think the coaching’s too good, the quarterbacks are too good. They are going to get into plays to beat man coverage. You can’t do any one thing. It’s a little bit of a cat and mouse game; you’ve got to keep people off-balance by dropping guys, blitzing guys – we just have to. But those things that we do, we have to know what we’re doing and we have to be able to execute. They are going to get yards. You’re certainly hoping that it’s not going to be seven touchdowns a game and those types of things. That’s going to be major issues for all of us.”

(How much of a confidence battle is it right now with the young guys?) “Confidence is such a huge part of this game, and it doesn’t matter if it’s just freshmen. You think about them as much as anyone, and we’ve got a lot of freshmen. But anybody back there that’s not playing well, at any position – it’s such a game of confidence. Life is a game of confidence. When we’re feeling good about life and able to take chances and enjoy it, take risks and if it doesn’t pan out we reload and go again…when we’re not confident it just changes everything. There’s no question about that. We’ve got to find a way to help make them confident, but we can’t give it to them; they’ve got to go earn it. They will. They’ve just got to stay strong and be persistent.”

(on teaching moments after EWU game … and how far along are you with The Process and implementing the system you really want?) “I think we’ve installed a lot, certainly not all of our schemes that we would like to, without question. There’s certain things you see on tape and you’re like, ‘Boy, this should be good,’ but we’re just not there yet with our young and with some different stuff already. So I think, even how we travel, how we go to the hotel and come back, how the pregame is — it’s still new to them. And it just takes time going through this whole process, that’s all I can say.”

(You may have been on autopilot at Boise State. Now coming here … how challenging is this?) “It couldn’t be more different; it couldn’t be more night and day. I just shake my head at certain things going, ‘Are you kidding me?’ But that’s why I came here, for a new challenge, a new opportunity. It’s amazing how much you do take for granted after doing things the wrong way. Just the things we’ve talked about: how we travel … even our protocol in the locker is confused a little bit. It’s just like, ‘How do we not get this?’ And all those little things add up in getting these guys in a groove — let alone playing football.”

(Regarding discipline, are you surprised players aren’t ‘getting’ it?) “No. Hey, that’s why we do this — this is a hard thing to get. They care and they’re playing hard, that we know. And so to be able to execute full speed and get the schemes and get the call and all the things that goes on. And then you’ve got some guys that have never played at this level, and then you have guys who have played very little — it does take time. Like I said, when you go back, and you do this every year … you look at experience that you lose off that team, it’s so easy to say, ‘Hey, we’re just going to reload and go again,’ and it’s just not like that. (Losing) three out of four in the secondary — that’s a lot. That is a lot of guys. So it makes a difference, and you can see.”

(What did you learn about Cyler Miles on Saturday?) “I don’t know if I learned a whole lot. He kind of did what I thought he would do. I thought he would compete hard, I thought he would make some good plays. I didn’t think he would be total perfect or totally clean; that’s a hard position to have that happen, but he did what I thought he would do. He likes the ball in his hands; he’s going to take some chances. Probably one of the best things I thought about him was after the game, I don’t think he felt like h played great, which I thought was kind of accurate. I thought he played well, but I don’t think he played great. So I think that’s good when he’s seeing things in a realistic viewpoint, kind of how we see it as well. I think he’s going to continue to improve and get better, but I thought he played hard.”

(on punt returns in general) “It’s slow. It’s all slow. We’ve got to find some guys who feel comfortable fielding punts. We’re still not there. We got Dante (Pettis) back there, he got one; still wasn’t totally natural. It’s just a lot of anxiety. We’ve just got to keep doing it, keep coaching ‘em, and they’ll eventually get it. I think the kickoff return team can be pretty explosive; we’re getting some pretty good field position there.”

(on quarterback competition. Is it Cyler Miles’ job to lose now?) “It’s always competition, it is. I think those other guys can do some things. I don’t think it like that. He did a nice job the first game and we’ll just keep building on that.”

(on young secondary) “I thought they worked hard. I thought they were very focused. They’re figuring out. … The detail it needs to be successful at this level is obviously not there yet, but if they will stay focused and work through this. … They have some talent, they have good talent. Now we’ve got to get them some experience and hopefully all those things that have happened to them, they’re smart enough to learn and move forward, that we don’t have to have these mistakes happen over and over and over.”

(Is cornerback as difficult a position for any young player to learn?) “It’s one of the hardest positions on the field, without question. I think it can be equivalent to almost being the quarterback out there. Lot of grass (to cover). I don’t care if you play zone or whatever, you still have to cover guys in your zones. So its’ really hard.”

(on Joshua Perkins) He’s week to week. He’s making progress. He could go this week; we’ll just kind of have to see.”

(on Illinois passing game) “Well he (Wes Lunt) can throw it like Vernon Adams. He was one of the top recruits in the country couple years back with Oklahoma State I believe it was – from Illinois. Didn’t work out there – I think he might have even been starting one time but then ended up transferring back home. He’s a big, strong, tall, pro-style type passer. Sit back on his back foot and he can throw it down field. If you give him time he’s going to complete it – he’s already completing a lot of balls as it is but he’ll hang in there and is accurate and very, very strong in arm.”
 
(on doing things the right way — is it hitting home?) “I think everything just takes time and I do think it is. I think we got a lot of good guys that are really working their tail off. You know we got one hundred guys and I think – I know a majority or more are by far are trying to do everything in their power to play good football and do things correctly and all those things. But to really get to thinking changed and ingrained and all that really takes time. It’s like putting a play on the chock board and then saying ‘okay good we got that, okay. It has to be reinforced over and over in terms of everything we do not just physical skill but mental skill in terms of how we operate.”
 
(Even if that hurts the team short-term?) “I think it helps the team. You might take a step back and think it really helps to do things the right way.”
 
(on if Petersen has learned anything new about this team) “I think they’re really trying to do it the way we want it done. It’s not easy as we’ve all seen and I’m pleased with that – them trying so hard. We just have to execute better in so many different phases in our program. But if we keep trying and keep focused and stay persistent and don’t get discouraged, we’ll improve.”
 
(on Budda Baker playing a role as a returner) “Well, yeah. We have him as a backup kick returner right now and I think he can do punt return we just need to get him more reps there. He started on our punt return team and so if he’s not – I don’t want to make him the No.2 punt returner and have him on the sideline when he can help upfront. But I do see him being a factor down the road. When down the road is I don’t know.”
 
(on Jaydon Mickens going back to punt returns or Dante Pettis?) “Both those guys are going to be factors. I want to make sure we are playing these true freshman and we get them on the field in important roles. I think Dante (Pettis) is going to be good back there and I want to keep developing him there and make sure he’s doing something important. I think he can be a really good receiver and we have to get him some more reps at that position too during the game.”
 
(on impressions of Budda Baker at safety) “I think he’s progressing. I think he’s learning something new every game. He plays hard – I have really good confidence he’s going to stay focused because he’s a very focused individual. He’s going to stay after it and continue to get better and by the middle of the season he’s going to play at a high level as a true freshman.”
 
(on indicators of success Petersen points to early on) “I thought turnovers are huge. I think if we don’t get those two turnovers we probably don’t win the game. We had two turnovers they got none and we got 14 points off it. For us running the ball is going to be important. Obviously third down is important. Red zone efficiency is important. We can do down the list but that’s a handful right there.”
 
(on the role of Ben Riva and Coleman Shelton playing) “Don’t real into that. I thought Ben did a good job, played well. I think Coleman is a good player. Again it’s the question everyone is asking – linebackers, how are you going to get more of those guys in. The other position how are you going to get the best running backs in? It’s always that – we’ve got to develop guys, develop depth  and I think offensive line is a position coaches can be stingy at putting guys in because you want those five guys working in harmony. Played Siosefa in there a little bit and get some more guys going.”
 
(on the heat during the game) “Yeah we should be use to a little bit of heat – it was hotter in Hawaii. I think it’s suppose to be hot again this week. I’d like to blame it on the weather.”
 
(on possibility of switching to south sideline at Husky Stadium, to avoid to the sun) “I have thought about switching sidelines for sure, but that’s another thing we (would be) changing on them. We could, I mean Hawaii does that. Hawaii did that to us. They used the other sideline and I think if it’s going to be a really big factor – we just need to figure out how to line up and play hard and have good technique not worry about the sideline.”
 
(on not running in front of the players coming out of the tunnel) “I’m never in front. I think this is a players game and I think sometimes the coaches get – I mean coaching is important without question. But it comes down to players making plays and that day is their day not my day. They don’t need me hooping out there. It’s their time to shine, their time run through that smoke, their time to run in to that crowd which the love so much – they don’t need me out there in front for that.”

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