What we learned from Huskies spring practice
By Brent Stecker
The first milestone of the Chris Petersen era at the University of Washington has come and gone.
Washington wrapped up its spring session inside a rainy Husky Stadium on Saturday, and though the usual spring game was replaced by a combination practice and scrimmage, fans that braved the weather caught a glimpse of what the former Boise State mentor is bringing to Montlake in 2014.
Here’s a look at where the Huskies sit four months after hiring Petersen.
Three things we learned:
Chris Petersen’s system is up and running.
Yes, Petersen’s staff is putting its offense and defense in place, but the system he’s concentrated the most on installing is the one of the bigger picture.
“I think we kind of got the structure,” Petersen said after Saturday’s session. “Our system’s been introduced in everything, in terms of how we lift weights, and some of the things we believe in in terms of our philosophy of how we’re gonna practice and all those types of things.”
And if there’s one important part of Petersen’s system, it’s the details. Just ask him.
“We’ve gotta tighten up the details of everything we do,” he said. “We’re not detailed enough, and that’s where we gotta go going forward.”
Explosiveness can be expected.
The Huskies may have no idea who their quarterback will be – Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams were neck and neck throughout the spring – but whoever it is will have weapons like John Ross and Jaydon Mickens at their disposal. Both wide receivers turned heads Saturday with touchdown receptions where they were able to show their speed and elusiveness, and it didn’t go unnoticed by the guy in charge.
“I think we have some talent. You can see some explosive players,” Petersen said.
All eyes will be on Shaq Thompson in 2014
The Huskies junior linebacker sported a yellow “no-contact” jersey Saturday, but it appears that he’ll be seeing all kinds of contact when the season rolls along. That’s because he’ll almost certainly see time on both sides of the ball – when he isn’t trying to contain opposing running backs, he’ll be getting chances to elude fellow linebackers as a ball carrier himself. Petersen made no bones after being hired about the possibility of Thompson playing running back, and he was true to his word, giving the 6-foot-2, 231-pounder time at the position in the vast majority of the team’s spring practices.
Three things we’re still trying to figure out:
Will Cyler Miles return in the fall to make the quarterback battle a three-man race?
Sophomore Cyler Miles was the assumed 2014 Huskies starting quarterback, considering he already had success filling in when Keith Price was injured late last season. That all changed on Feb. 2, when Miles and teammate Damore’ea Stringfellow were implicated in two separate reported assaults near the Washington campus. Both were suspended indefinitely, and though Miles wasn’t charged (Stringfellow took a plea deal last week), Petersen has maintained that a decision about Miles’ future with the Huskies won’t come until the team returns for camp in August.
Running back Deontae Cooper is in the mix to replace Bishop Sankey as Washington’s No. 1 ball carrier. (AP)
Who will be the new No. 1 running back?
The quarterback race has grabbed the most headlines, but there’s no bigger hole the Huskies need to replace than the one left by the school’s all-time leading rusher Bishop Sankey, who declared for the NFL Draft after a stellar junior season. Petersen knows it, even if he only saw Sankey as a coach on the other sideline.
“I can’t say enough really good things about Bishop Sankey. When you put on those tapes and you watch him, that guy’s a special player,” he said.
Jesse Callier, Dwayne Washington and Deontae Cooper all contributed in 2013, but redshirt freshman Lavon Coleman grabbed some of the attention in Saturday’s scrimmage and proved that he’ll be in the mix when August rolls around. And even though Callier, Washington and Ryan McDaniel all missed Saturday with injuries, they’ll still be part of an entertaining position battle in the fall.
“I really like these guys. I think we’ve got some pretty good depth (at running back),” Petersen said. “I think they’re all kind of unique in their own way. I’m excited to see these guys progress.”
Are the Huskies in for some growing pains?
Washington brought Petersen in because of his impressive track record, which includes a sparkling 92-12 career coaching record, two Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year awards and a pair of undefeated seasons. It seems Petersen himself is trying to keep expectations reasonable after the spring session, though.
“The execution’s not nearly consistent enough,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do in all phases of our program. The culture’s not gonna be changed in two months, three months. But I think they’re paying attention, and it’s always a work in progress. I think they know what they need to do.”