I’ve been in Seattle for two days to report a story for Sunday’s paper on the status of the Washington Huskies football team going into the summer and a story that will run later this year on Chris Petersen’s return to Boise for the season opener.
Washington wrapped its spring ball with a scrimmage Saturday at Husky Stadium. A few notes on that are below.
But first, here’s some of what Petersen had to say about his program. The Huskies return 12 starters from Petersen’s 8-6 debut season.
Q: How do you feel about the program 17 months into the job?
A: “You can really feel progress being made, even though we’re so much younger than we were last year. Practice feels easier. Just all the little subtle things. Guys just know where to go. We’re coaching more and more detail.”
Q: You lost half your starters. Is this going to be a young team or do you have veteran backups ready to step up?
A: “This is going to be young, really young. But I will say this – we really like the kids that we recruited last year. We like the guys that we’re bringing in this year that aren’t even here. They’re going to be good players. And we have some good players that are young (that were recruited) before we got here that maybe haven’t done a whole lot. We are a young team, but we’ll get there.”
Q: How has the quarterback battle gone? (Returning starter Cyler Miles has taken a leave from the program and his status is uncertain. He was suspended for spring ball and the opener last year.)
A: “It feels like business as usual around here. ... The three guys, they’re really fun to coach because they’re so into it and they’re making progress.”
Q: Will your QB race go deep into August?
A: “Yeah, no question. The kid that’s a junior (Jeff Lindquist), he’s gotten better. ... It will be interesting. Who knows when we know.”
Q: I’ve heard that you guys compare true freshman Jake Browning to Kellen Moore ...
A: “I’m just saying he’s a guy who’s so into football, who knows a lot of football before even getting here. I remember Kellen, how much he was into the meetings and how much time he spent, and really that kid’s approach was so different in the meetings. And so Jake has been a lot like that.”
Q: You started trying to revamp your offense after the 2012 season. Have you settled on a style?
A: “We’re multiple. We don’t huddle very much. But I would kind of go back to multiple. But it’s hard to be as multiple as you’d like to be when you’re new. You just don’t have that backlog with the guys. You’ve got to get that style down. ... We started to progress the last half of the season, we really did, as a team. The execution was better. ... Oklahoma State was probably hungrier than we were (in the Cactus Bowl) and I think it surprised the guys. That’s a little bit how our team went. If our offense didn’t do a whole lot early on, our team kind of started looking around a little bit. We’d get behind, we’d get hit in the mouth, then get embarrassed and then they’d come back and play hard. And that’s exactly what happened.
“But the last half of the season, they started practicing better. We started preparing better for games. You could feel it was different.”
Q: You’ve always been willing to discipline players. Have you had to do more of that taking over a program?
A: “Yeah. Absolutely. Especially when the culture is much different. ... Our styles are much different here. I don’t think I’m this strict – I get it, they’re kids, but there’s going to be certain times guys cross the line and that’s just too much. And everybody’s got to have standards. We just hold kids accountable to those standards. That’s really the bottom line. I think sometimes we get this reputation for being this hard-nosed (staff). ... You know the rules, they’re reasonable rules, I think everybody sitting down would say, ‘I get that. I’m good with that,’ and then when you don’t do that, there’s going to be consequences. And we’re not going to budge from those.”
Q: Patience is the last thing anyone in college football wants to have. How hard is it to be patient with this process?
A: “There’s no other way. It’s really hard on everybody. But you can’t make culture happen in months. You can’t make guys get better by the snap of your finger. It just takes time. It is what it is and nobody likes it and timelines get shorter and shorter. But all you can do is set your process, know it’s the right way, stick to it. It’s going to take a little bit of time but you know when the infrastructure is being set the right way. And if you don’t deviate from it, you know what can happen, in a good way.”
Q: You haven’t endured two seasons like your last two (16-11 combined) in a long time. How hard has that been on you?
A: “That’s real football. You go back and look at anyone – maybe (Ohio State coach Urban Meyer) is the one guy who didn’t have to. But that Florida season almost took him out of the game. So you can’t do this for this many years and not have a hard season. And even when you’re winning, it’s hard. It’s just part of the deal. It’s hard, but it’s part of the deal.”
Q: What are your expectations for this team?
A: “I don’t know. I know that this year around it feels a lot different and the way that we want to do it, just with being through it a year, spring ball feels different. The talent is different than what we had but everybody is practicing more like we need to practice – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s the process – all you can do is get the process right and worry about what we can fix right now and keep evaluating it and eventually the product will look like it’s supposed to.”
Q: Your offenses have struggled the last three years. What has the process been like trying to get that going again?
A: “One thing I know is you can do whatever offense – you can run the wishbone, you can huddle up, you can do whatever. You’ve got to have a couple key guys that are elite players, and if you get that, it doesn’t matter what you run. ... It comes down to getting these good players and developing them – I’m totally into that, still – but that takes some time. It’s not about every year you’re going to be undefeated or have one loss. Boise has a pretty special thing going on over there – I really did know that, that’s why I stayed so long. But it’s different there. This is a little bit more of how it goes.”
I’ll run his comments on playing Boise State later this summer.
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Lindquist stands out in scrimmage
Lindquist looked like the frontrunner for the starting job in Saturday’s scrimmage. He was 13-for-16 for 237 yards and two touchdowns, including a 71-yarder to wide receiver Dante Pettis.
Redshirt freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels was 11-for-12 for 123 yards with an interception. Browning was 11-for-18 for 59 yards with two interceptions.
“Jeff has taken a step forward, he really has,” Petersen said in his press conference. “He’s been making better decisions and I think he’s throwing it more accurately. ... You can see flashes in all of them. We obviously need a lot more than flashes.”
Pettis (four catches, 90 yards, TD), the cousin of former Boise State great Austin Pettis, and Jaydon Mickens (four catches, 93 yards, TD) give the Huskies a nice tandem at wide receiver. The Huskies also have some playmakers at tight end.
On defense, sophomore cornerback Darren Gardenhire grabbed his ninth interception of the spring and former Boise State commit Will Dissly recorded two sacks. Another former Boise State commit, defensive lineman Jaylen Johnson, led the team with five tackles.
Junior wide receiver John Ross, who also has played defensive back and kick returner, didn’t practice because of an injury. His status is uncertain. “I’ll get back to you when the doctors look at him again,” Petersen said.
Petersen didn’t shed any light on the status of Miles, who remains on the roster.
“We talk to Cyler now and again,” Petersen said. “You’ve got to go with who’s here and make your plans accordingly. We’ll figure that one out down the road. ... The conversations with Cyler are between us.”
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Boise State season-ticket sales on 2014 pace
Boise State has sold 16,500 season tickets for the 2015 football season, the school reports. That's roughly the same as this time last year, when the Broncos finished with 21,139 season tickets sold – the lowest total since 2007.
Season-ticket holders are the only fans who will be able to purchase tickets to the season opener against Washington. The Huskies get 2,200 tickets by contract.
Season tickets range from $155 in the north end zone to $390 in priority sections, which require a Bronco Athletic Association contribution.