Notes, quotes and video from UW coach Chris Petersen at his National Signing Day press conference:
(Opening) “Really fun day. Really anticlimactic. Nothing dramatic happened — and that’s how we like it. I think it goes back to how our coaches started this process a year ago. That’s what it is, a year process. We feel awesome about it, great about these kids. We’ve done so much homework on ‘em and to us it’s kind of like Christmas Eve around here — all these great presents we can’t wait to open. We really can’t see them or do anything with them until the summertime. Even then it’s not really football, it’s kind of weights and those type of things. So we’ll be really excited in early August to let these guys go.
“I think just the whole process, we like these guys as kids. On paper it’s exactly what you want it to look like. Now we’re excited to see how they progress and develop.”
(On being aware of the impact of social media) “I’m not in the loop as much as that as probably goes on out there. I think they pay attention to each other; I don’t know how much direct communication goes on. Sometimes guys commit to a place, they get excited and try to convince other guys. I think our kids that are on our team right now did an unbelievable job and I really think that’s how it needs to be. I think our top recruiters should be our players, if your program is run the way it’s supposed to be. We can get ‘em here, we can tell ‘em all this stuff, but I want it to come from our players in terms of what our expectations are and how it really is when you’re here. When the program is set up right and running right, those are the guys … because that’s what everybody wants. They want to be in that locker room and feel connected. They want to feel family. They want to play good ball and be around guys like them.
“That’s why this recruiting process certainly starts with talent, but that just gets us in the door. If they don’t have the other things — the competitive spirit, the passion for football, just being a good person and wanting to be a good teammate — all those things, it all matters. Like-minded people want to be around each other. That’s where we’re headed. I think our players did a really nice job of this as well.”
(on A.J. Carty) “No one wants to talk about the long snapper, but this guy can fire the rock. He really can. It’s amazing how he can snap the ball.”
(See yourself in Browning?) “I don’t see Jake Browning in myself (laughs). But I think the characteristics that we’re looking for as you go through the years and you look at what you think is important — Jake’s got all those things.
“First and foremost he’s such a student of the game. I don’t know if that’s first and foremost; he’s got talent. He’s been throwing the ball forever. I don’t know how many balls that guy has thrown in his life; it hit me when I went down to watch him — it wasn’t even a game, it was a practice before one of their final games — and all the balls he threw at practice that did not hit the ground, and the volume of balls and how he’s been coached. He’s got all the intangibles you like to see in a QB and we’re excited that he’s here now and getting dialed in to how we do things.”
(On keeping guys to stay home) “How tough was the battle? I will say that whole process was really, really enjoyable in terms of, I think the kids in this state get the power and the beauty of this university. And not just football-wise; they get the value of the degree that they’re going to get coming out here. I think they can see the connections they are going to make out of this place. I think they saw the whole picture. I’ve said since I’ve been here; everyone wants to talk about taking care of their backyard in-state and that’s much easier said than done. These guys were highly-recruited guys and have a lot of different choices. And everybody with the social media, there’s no hidden guys anymore. That’s hard to do. I think they matched us and the thing we’re all about. They are really excited about coming here and playing. You feel that. They bonded and connected to the coaches that are going to coach them.”
(In all the years you’ve done this, have you ever seen a recruiting battle come down to a coin flip?) “I’ve seen a lot of different things. As you do this more and more you see different things. I will tell you this; I don’t think about that stuff. I think about these guys that are here right now. This is an awesome day. The only thing that I wish is tomorrow — a little bit like the NFL Draft — we could bring ‘em in and start mini-camp. We’ll have to bide our time and let them graduate school and get ‘em here really soon.”
(On having an uncanny ability to maintain all your commits) “I don’t think it’s a secret; I think it’s how recruiting should be done. We don’t put pressure on these kids at all. This shouldn’t be a high pressure thing. It turns into that because these kids have choices. Are whole thing is not to sell to anybody. We believe strongly in what we’re doing. But we don’t want to have to sell anybody. This is who we are and these are the guys we’re looking for. If you’re about these things, which we really think you are, then that’s when the magic happens.
“Go home and think about these things. Don’t commit on emotion; that wears off quickly. We want this to be heart and soul that this is where you want to be and this is your top choice, no matter if anybody comes in.
“So we’ve always recruited like that. It doesn’t mean you don’t have some last—minute things now and again, but for the most part this is how it should be. It should just be kind of matter of fact. There’s so much drama in the old days just because nobody really knew everything, and now you guys know so much and things are decided so much earlier…as long as you can not have a bunch of drama at the end you feel pretty good about it.”
(On Browning comparisons to Kellen Moore) “I think when you have really good players at certain positions you’re looking for those characteristics. Certainly we do. I hate to put any expectations and say he’s going to be just like this and those type of things, but the first time we ever walked into Jake’s high school (Folsom), his coach (Troy Taylor) said that to me. He said, ‘I know you hear this all the time, but we’ve got Kellen Moore.’ There’s a lot of good characteristics there.”
(On players looking to play both ways more and that being a factor in recruiting) “I think you might hear a touch more about that but the thing that’s interesting is some of these guys could do that. You have to get them dialed in to one side — you saw it with Shaq (Thompson), you saw it with John Ross — and it’s too hard to say that guy’s going to be a full—time two—way player. The game is too fast, the game is too physical, the game is too everything to make that happen. But can you have packages and can you do things? You can. There’s a couple guys on this list where we’re trying to go, is he an offensive or a defensive player? Those are good problems to have.”
(On your recruitment of Austin Joyner) “That’s a great guy to talk about playing what side of the ball…to me it started with having all this tape as a running back. He did play on defense, but it wasn’t as a corner. So we never really got a chance to see him backpedal. I think that’s one of those positions where you really need to see a guy play at that position. Tape can only do so much for you. You can see a lot of things but there’s nothing like being around them in person.
“We heard that he wanted to play corner. So we wanted to see him move around a little bit. We got to do that. It was in the summertime when he was over here at camp and we got to see him move around and it took about 25 seconds to know he can play where he wants to play. We’re good with that.
“The number-one thing that Austin has going for him that really jumps out — a lot of people would say his versatility, his athleticism, but to me the thing that jumps out is his competitive spirit. I think he’s got the heart of a lion, and he’s not going to back down. That’s the thing that gets us excited about him. We need more of that around here. I can’t wait to get him here and see what he’s got.”
(on difference in recruiting from last year to this year, with a full cycle) “It was a lot different, just in terms of it just felt … more what we’re used to. It’s how this process is; you build these relationships, you feel really good about their families and them; that’s why I don’t think you see a lot of flip—flopping and those types of things. I will go back and say, last year I felt awesome about those guys last year with the short time that we had. Because I think there’s a lot of good players there; I think there’s some good players that redshirted. We had a real short window to work (with) and it was real chaotic and hectic and we had to work really, really quickly. And that’s not the ideal situation. But overall it felt much more correct this time through, which it should.”
(on Quinten Pounds coming in as an “athlete”) “I think we’ve thought that we’ll probably move him, start him on the offensive side of the ball. He’s one of those guys I think could play on the defensive side in two seconds. We’re kind of looking at, how can we get this guy on the field the quickest — that’s what we’re always doing, and/or, where’s your heart? And I think he could see himself playing both sides, but we’ll probably look at him on the receiver side to start with.”
(on offering Bryce Sterk late in the process) “I think that might be our plan down the road — we’re not going offer anybody until there’s about three weeks left so everybody else stays away. (Because) as soon as we offer a guy, all of a sudden he’s got 10 offers. That’s the thing that gets you so irritated about the whole recruiting thing. There’s so much copycat stuff out there and it’s even more so now, earlier. If a guy gets one offer, he’s going to get 10. I’m exaggerating, but there’s some kids that do do that. … There’s certain kids you just really look at a long time and we felt very strongly about (Sterk) for a long time. And I think at the end of the day we always felt we were going to try make him a Husky. Sometimes it just takes a little longer. I can’t tell you how much tape we looked at of him. Getting around him a little bit more, it was very quick to figure that out. He’s a really good person. Comes from a great family and all those things. There’s just some things that maybe slow the process down when you’re deciding — numbers and all those things. But I’m as excited about this guy as anyone. He’s 6—4 and 230 right now and he’s a track guy that can run, and that kind of shows up on tape. Really excited to see what his development can be all about.”
(on LB Ben Burr-Kirven as a hidden gem type) “Ben, he’s just a football player. He comes from a smaller school, but they won all their games and you go down there and watch how their coached and their coaches are on it. They know what they’re doing. You see those things and then you figure out what type of student he is and what his family is like, and all those things are really, really awesome. And then you put the tape on and you’re like, Wow. I love that — when you guys don’t know about them. Because there’s just so much hype out there and some of it legit and a lot of it is just so much, that’s all it is. I love the kids that I think are underrated. I can go down here and I just chuckle at some of the stuff I think how much these guys are underrated. … We’ve just got to see how they can handle this process.”
(on Tevis Bartlett and his wrestling background) Love wrestlers. One of toughest guys on our team right now, one of the most mild-mannered guys you would know, is Matt James from Coeur d’Alene High School. This guy is as tough as they come and he’s a wrestler. That’s been my experience over the years; when you get these wrestlers, that’s the one thing you’re not going to have to worry about, is the toughness factor. And Tevis is an elite wrestler. He could go to college to wrestle. I watched him wrestle — I was there at his practice for probably an hour and a half. And I was exhausted in 20 minutes, and that was their warmup. And I’m not kidding you. I was like, ‘That was their warmup?’ So he’s got that toughness. And then you walk into the school … and there’s certain things you’re looking to hear when you’re recruiting without really prompting it. And the coach will say, ‘This is a once-in-a-lifetime player for us.’ Those types of things of the type of athlete and what he can do as you’re checking your boxes. And coming out of Wyoming, we couldn’t be more thrilled about more him and can’t wait to see what he develops into. Unbelievable student. Off the charts on that. So you need all these things — in the recruiting world, everything is the greatest thing ever: The stadium’s the greatest ever … and … This is going to be so much fun. No, it’s not going to be so much fun. This is going to be a great process for you to help you grow as a young man, but it’s going to be hardest thing you’ve ever done. And so when these guys fit that mold, that’s what we’re looking for and that’s when we get excited and think this guy matches us.”
(on Kyler Manu) “He comes from a really good high school program and they just win and win and win, so he knows how to win. He’s been one of their better players for a long time. Really good student. Really good family. You put on the tape, he runs around. We’ve been around him enough to know he’s the athletic-type guy we’re looking for. You know, this whole thing is about guys that are going to be able to develop. If this is just how they are when they come here, it’s not going to be good enough. So that’s why you need these guys who have a chip on their shoulder who are willing to work and grind and be pushed, because the programs that are successful are the programs where — you take 23 guys and 20 of them turn out to be the heart and soul of your program in a couple years and they’re good players because they keep their head down and they just keep swinging. No matter if they play as true freshman or they’ve got to redshirt; they go through a two-year process and they’re just hungry and they’re grinding and just getting better. So to me and to us as coaches, that’s why this mentality of what we’re getting is more important than just the raw talent.
“And I think if you look at the articles that have been out about all the five-star guys that played in the Super Bowl — which were how many? Zero. There wasn’t one five-star player in the Super Bowl. And then you go to the four-stars. I think there were seven on one team and five on the other. And then you go to the three-stars … and that’s what it is. It’s even at the highest level. And why is it? In my opinion, it’s because they’re passionate and they’ve got that toughness and they keep working and they hit brick wall after brick wall and it doesn’t deter ’em.”