Petersen Already Past The Honeymoon

Chris Strausser (Monika Samek/Dawgman.com)

Every new head coach has a system in place that they take great pride in, a belief that their way is the proven way to get the results they need to keep their jobs. Steve Sarkisian had the way he learned from Pete Carroll, and now Chris Petersen is bringing his way from Boise west to Seattle. But don't expect to see much of Sarkisian's imprint on how Petersen does things at UW this fall.

While Sarkisian had a much tougher job bouncing back from 0-12 and repairing a culture worn to the bone, Petersen’s task is nonetheless made difficult by the fact that they are the only newbies in an already loaded Pac-12 conference, especially in the north.

“I think Coach Sark and those guys did a really good job,” Petersen said. “I think we all know that, from where he came in to where it is. But I will say this; everyone does things so differently, and I think you could ask players, it just feels like something completely different and foreign, even though the styles on offense and defense are similar. And even if a quarter or half of the verbiage is the same. We tried to incorporate as much as we can so they didn’t have to learn as much. But there’s just so many things that are different from lifting weights to how our meetings go and everything. So, hey, they did a great job getting this program, building this thing up. But I think it’s different to the kids, it’s different to everybody. We’re behind. I’ve been saying that from the start. We’re the only new staff in the Pac-12, and because we came in late, we put our guys behind. So every day, every practice and every meeting, it’s just critical we’re all locked in.”

While there is always a transitioning phase that takes place in every regime change, Petersen made it clear Sunday before the break of fall camp that there were going to be some new wrinkles. For starters, the veterans and newcomers are to be split up into different practices Monday and Tuesday.

“We’ve done that quite often,” Petersen said. “I think most of our years we’ve opened up our fall practices kind of splitting our team in half. In the past we’ve done it for about four practices, four days. So the kids get singles, the coaches get double days. Coaches can’t stand it, except for me. I like it because they get so much work. But we’re able to slow things down a little bit, teach better. Not so many reps…they’re going to get reps, but it’s just cut in half. It’s worked pretty well for us, so this year we’re going to go our first two practices when they are in helmets, dividing them up and really getting into that teaching process again.

“We never want to get away from being those great teachers. We think when the team is split in half and we do that - usually by the end of when we did it in the past the kids were really tired and worn out because they got the reps. We’re trying to find that happy medium, that balance there.”

“I heard there is like an Olympic games in it too so that’ll be fun to come watch,” senior defensive lineman Danny Shelton said.

Olympic Games? Like I said, new sheriff in town. Ironically enough, that sounds like something Sarkisian would have come of with as a creative way to break up the otherwise monotonous aspect of fall camp.

Petersen also noted how Strength and Conditioning Coach Tim Socha has built a new foundation by which the players can work off of. “That’s been much different in there,” Petersen said of what they’ve tried to implement in the weight room. “So it takes a minute in there to figure out all the techniques, the drills, the mentality — all those things — and they have really embraced that in a positive way. That’s part of that. Sometimes, you get into the coaching phase, where it’s more about the details and techniques and those things. But you’re never just ‘there.’ Depending on what you’re talking about, you may have to dip back into the teaching phase. It’s always a slippery process.”

Sarkisian and his staff, in a certain manner of speaking, had to be cheerleaders as well as coaches. They had to continue to pump positivity in a program running on empty in the wake of Tyrone Willingham’s reign of error. Petersen talked continuously Sunday about never straying too far away from their obligation as teachers.

“It’s always about teaching,” Petersen said, matter of factly. “They gotta understand what they’re doing and they gotta get the fundamentals correct and then you gotta play the game in practice as well.”

Spring Football was all about teaching and implementing their offensive and defensive philosophies. Now comes the time when the new UW staff sees if the team has fully bought in. There have been a few casualties, like the announcement Sunday that sophomore defensive end Marcus Farria had been dismissed for a violation of team standards - but Petersen sees the other end of the spectrum.

“I think they’ve taken a good step in terms of buying in to some of the things we believe in,” he said. “They’ve turned up the dial in terms of their work ethic and those types of things from what we saw early when we got here. Like you said, early when you get here, it’s a hard, shocking time for those guys; it’s a little bit nerve-wracking for them, so they are starting to feel some things out. So we’re past that.

“Now, hey, it’s time to go and they’ve got that.”

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