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UW Fall Camp Preview - Coaching

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Today the Husky Coaching staff kicks off Fall Camp with Chris Petersen's press conference. Our last installment of the preview series focuses on this new staff and what they will be bringing to camp.

Chris Petersen launches UW Fall Camp with his presser today!
Chris Petersen launches UW Fall Camp with his presser today!

7/26:  Quarterbacks (Kirk DeGrasse)

7/27: Defensive Backs (Brad Johnson)

7/28:  Running Backs (Ryan Priest)

7/29:  Defensive Line (Jesse Kennemer)

7/30:  Linebackers (Ryan Priest)

7/31:  Receivers (Chris Landon)

8/1:  Offensive Line (Kirk DeGrasse)

8/2:  Special Teams (Brad Johnson)

8/3:  Coaches (Chris Landon)

Today, Chris Petersen will be hosting his Fall Camp kickoff press conference. A Sunday press conference is unusual and sure to perturb more than a few of the local press.  That may have been the point.

Catch the Aug 3rd Chris Petersen Presser: Video (GoHuskies.com) | Audio Only (TuneIn.com)

We've spent the better part of the last two weeks previewing the various position groups and the questions that exist around them as we go into camp. While you can't necessarily "preview" a coaching group, we thought it would be useful for our 'Pound faithful to get a run down on the new coaching staff.

Offensive Staff

Chris Strausser - Assistant Head Coach / OL Coach

Jonathan Smith - Offensive Coordinator / QB Coach

Keith Bhonapha - RB Coach / Recruiting Coordinator

Brent Pease - WR Coach

Jordan Paopao - TE Coach

Tim Socha - Strength and Conditioning

D'Andre Goodwin - Graduate Assistant

Josh Taufelele - Graduate Assistant

Chris Strausser has the title of Assistant Head Coach in addition to his role as Offensive Line coach. A stark contrast to previous OL Coach Dan Cozzetto, Strausser is a tactician and a strategist who exercises more subtle forms of persuasion and motivation with his charges. He has said that he values a more athletic, gym-rat style lineman which leads one to believe that he could be making some tweaks either in the lineup or to the rotations in the UW O-Line. With his more than two-decades worth of experience as a coach - twelve around Chris Petersen - he's a great mentor the Huskies young Offensive Coordinator and QB coach, Jonathan Smith.

Many of you know Jonathan Smith as the former "short guy" QB at Oregon State. He has been with Coach Pete for a few years at Boise and is getting his first FBS Offensive Coordinator job (though he has held the title at lower levels). Smith is expected to run a similar style offense to what we saw Boise run against UW last year. However, it is difficult to project what his playcalling habits will be with very little tape to go on. Concerns about Smith's inexperience are mitigated not only by Strausser but also by the presence of new WR Coach Brent Pease who, most recently, was the offensive coordinator at Florida in the SEC. Pease has coached for 23 years following a short career as a backup QB in the NFL which included a stint backing up Warren Moon. Expect to see Pease's influence to show up all over the offense this fall.

The other big names to note here are Recruiting Coordinator and RB Coach Ken Bhonapha and Strength and Conditioning Coach Tim Socha. Bhonapha was the first name that we heard about once Petersen was hired by UW. He's a young guy who has already established a stellar track record in coaching up young running backs. He has the enviable role of creating the competition that will determine the RB rotation between Jesse Callier, Deontae Cooper, Lavon Coleman and Dwayne Washington. I put Socha on the offensive side of this analysis given his importance to Offensive Linemen in particular. I love the addition of Socha to the staff. He's a "big bear" type of personality from the University of Minnesota who holds a Master's Degree in Exercise Physiology from Auburn. He's got a very contemporary view of fitness and nutrition, but balances it out against good old-fashioned midwestern work ethic. Other assistants include Husky holdover and enthusiastic young TE Coach, Jordan Paopao, former Husky and NFL WR D'Andre Goodwin (Grad Asst) and former New Mexico Offensive Lineman Josh Taufelele (Grad Asst).

Defensive Staff

Bob Gregory - Assistant Head Coach / Linebackers Coach

Pete Kwiatkowski - Defensive Coordinator

Jeff Choate - DL Coach / Special Teams Coordinator

Jimmy Lake - DB Coach

Ben Thienes - Graduate Assistant

Gerald Alexander - Graduate Assistant

Bob Gregory reprises his role as Linebackers Coach under Chris Petersen, with whom he has worked off and on for the past 15+ years. He will also serve as an Assistant Head Coach with Pete Kwiatkowski serving as the Defensive Coordinator. The other "Coach Pete" is also a highly experienced coordinator whose specialty is defensive line play. Reading his track record with his defenses and their statistical rankings over the years at Boise State may help Husky fans finally put to bed the nightmares of former DCs like Kent Baer, Ed Donatell and Nick Holt. The calling card of his style is very similar to that of Justin Wilcox (not surprising since they grew up on the same staff) and Husky fans can expect to see multiple looks and heavy utilization of hybrid-style players rotating to different spots on the field. His D is sure to feature guys like Hau'oli Kikaha, Cory Littleton, Marcus Peters and Shaq Thompson in a variety of mix-and-match roles.

The actual D-Line will be coached by Jeff Choate, who will also serve the role as Special Teams coordinator. Choate spent last season at Florida coaching Linebackers and Special Teams. This will be his first time coaching the D-Line, but it is somewhat irrelevant given Kwiatkowski's presence. Choate's real impact should be felt in Special Teams, where Huskies have, for the better part of the last decade, consistently underperformed to the expectations of Husky fans.

The most intriguing piece of the new Defensive staff may well be Defensive Backs Coach Jimmy Lake. Lake coached in the NFL in both Tampa Bay (with Tony Dungy) and in Detroit before joining Chris Petersen in Boise. While not necessarily "young", he is one of the most charismatic personalities on the staff and definitely brings a swagger to the defensive backfield that should jibe well with the youth that he is inheriting.

The rest of the staff is comprised graduate assistants Ben Theines and Gerald Alexander.

Chris Petersen, Head Coach

By now, even the casual fan knows what Chris Petersen is all about. He's contemporary, he's organized, he's detail-oriented and he's heavily invested in the people that comprise his program. He also happens to be the winningest coach among active coaches in major CFB conferences. NFL.com just ranked him the #2 head coach in all of College Football, sandwiched between a couple of clowns named Saban and Meyer.

Yeah, this guy is good.

While mostly applauded,  Coach Pete's ascendancy to a Pac 12 role has been greeted in some corners with questions: can he recruit elite talent? can he replicate his success at a higher level? will his idealistic approach work in a hyper-competitive conference? will he have to compromise some of his principles to win? All fair questions and all of which will be answered in due time.

As to what we can expect to see from Petersen on the field, there is little that I can add that hasn't already been covered extensively in this forum. Petersen approaches program management with a holistic approach that emphasizes the development of people over the development of players. He believes that mature, trustworthy men are just as valuable (if not more so) than young, talented kids when it comes time to strap them on. He believes that attention to detail is the way to develop the discipline that helps boys become men. Finally, he is a contemporary thinker who believes in dictating change as opposed to letting change dictate to you. You can expect Petersen and his staff to spend a chunk of this fall looking for new ways to challenge college football conventions as they prepare the Huskies for the long season.

Analysis - Coaching Staff

When you look at the way that Petersen has constructed his staff, there are some definite contrasts in organizational structure to what we saw in the previous two regimes. The first thing that jumps out at you is the vast experience of the staff on an absolute basis. From what I can tell, Jordan Paopao is the only member with less than 10 years experience coaching in the college and/or pro ranks. The second thing that pops is the amount of experience that each coach has with Petersen. In fact, several coaches - including Choate, Kwiatkowski, Pease and Strausser - have had multiple tenures working with Petersen. This kind of continuity ensures that the coaching staff will burn very little time on getting on the same page concerning roster decisions, practice prep, etc.

The other interesting aspect of the organization of the coaching staff is the matrix structure on each side of the ball. Typically, the offensive and defensive coordinators are the "bosses" of their units. However, on Petersen's staff, the coordinators serve a very specific role. Their authority is checked by the presence of position coaches working with them that have the title of "Assistant Head Coach". As I'm not in the room, it isn't possible for me to describe how those dynamics work. However, the implication is that Petersen is the boss and that he expects the staffs on each side of the ball to work in harmony on their delegated responsibilities for the good of the program.

Of course, there are always questions about what a staff will be focused on coming into camp. Here are some of mine:

  • How effective was the off-season weight and nutrition program in reshaping our athletes?
  • How much time will be required to rehash and relearn fundamentals that were covered in spring?
  • What ideas does the staff already have baked concerning the two-deeps?
  • How will the tempo of the practices run and what kinds of reps will be targeted?
  • Why is camp opening with a two-practice day on Monday?

Closing Thoughts

Like most Husky fans, I'm thrilled with the remarkable upgrade that Scott Woodward has made in his Head Coaching hire. Landing Chris Petersen is akin to harpooning Moby Dick - the one coach who was on every FBS team's short-list and who has instant credibility on the field and in the living room. This isn't to say that I have a completely settled feeling. It is very rare for a coaching change to occur at a major program when that program is on an upswing. UW is that kind of situation. Deep in the recesses of my purple brain, there is a gnawing feeling that new coaches might perturb some secret formula that had the Huskies surging to close last season. Then I pinch myself and repeat out loud, "WTF, man?!? Chris Petersen is our friggin' coach!!!"

WOOF