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Analyzing Chris Petersen's Brock & Salk Interview

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We take a deeper look at the interview that Chris Petersen gave on the Brock & Salk radio program last Friday and include a full transcript of the segment.

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Washington head coach Chris Petersen isn't exactly media-shy, but it's not his favorite aspect of his job.  So it was a rare treat to hear him do an extended interview segment with Mike Salk & Brock Huard last Friday.  While we didn't get any specific nuggets such as who leads at the quarterback position and what's up with Cyler Miles, there was a lot of good stuff to digest.  Here are some of the more notable answers he provided:

What do you want this program to be?

Yeah, I think it's a program that everybody's just proud of.  Everybody in Seattle, everybody that went to the U-Dub, that's a Husky fan - at the end of the day they're proud of it.  In two ways:  one, how the kids conduct themselves, that they're there for more than just football, that they are there to get this elite education and use the connections that they obtain while they're there - I mean, that's a big push with me right now, it's like "Use this place for more than just football!" - [if not] we're just selling ourselves short.

So we get that component going, and that we play at a really high level, that we can compete and play with anybody in the Pac-12 - which in my opinion is truly the best conference in the country, right now, top to bottom.

This is the first of multiple times where Petersen brings up the emphasis he gives to the educational opportunity at the U-dub.  There can be no doubt at this point that he really believes in the quality of this University and the opportunity he can provide to kids to maximize not just they're football skills, but to also really set themselves up for life outside of football.

And while this emphasis may sound a bit too close for comfort to Ty Willingham for some scarred fans, from what I know about Petersen (and what things were like at Washington under Willingham), this isn't just lip-service, and I think we're seeing in recruiting that his approach is registering with a lot of kids and really taking root

When we first came on the air, the program was probably at the all-time low. Where do you think pride is in the program right now?

You could answer that better than I could, but I would say it's...I don't know, how do you say, "medium"?  I think everybody's out there just kind of looking and watching and waiting to see.  And rightly so.  You know I think there's been progress that has been made, I think Coach Sark and his staff made some good progress and, you know, our task is to take it to the next level.  That's why we're here, and it's so...it's exciting, it's so hard, it's so tough, you know, the margin for error is so small.  I mean, the recruiting is completely changed in the last five to eight years in terms of the competitiveness - you know, all those things, and so can't just walk in and snap your fingers and here we go.  I mean, I just think it has to grow and be developed.

I think this is about as direct as you're going to see Petersen saying "have some patience with us Husky fans, this thing is going to take a little bit of time to get to the next level".  Development was the other major theme of this interview, and he gets into this aspect in more detail later.

What's the best part of your recruiting pitch?

Well, I think the best part of our recruiting pitch is that it's not...I don't see it as like "a pitch".  I don't think about it as like - and it's a fine line here, really trying to sell something like we're salesmen - I feel really good about what we have to offer besides football.  I'm passionate about that, I mean, I think...that's one of the reasons I came here, what this place, what this University can do for these kids outside of football.  I already know, you know in how strong I feel about the Pac-12 Conference - and I think it's, OK, whatever, as good as anything in the West - and so, it's elite football, and so the kids are excited about that, but I think there's much more.  And also how our coaches are and how I am about...that it IS about more than just football.  I think we're just selling these kids short if we don't preach and grind in their head that you have to get something more than just football out of this thing.

Petersen is basically explaining his "Built for life" approach and re-emphasizing the importance he places on the educational opportunity he's presenting to recruits.  And his point about comparing himself and his staff to salesmen is on point - in multiple interviews I've seen with recruits, they point out how genuine Petersen and his staff come across.  They're not "selling" kids on something, they're pitching something they really believe in and believe to be true.

Let's talk about the QB position and the importance of it - you had a pretty one at Boise by the name of Kellen Moore that was a big part of your program's success.  Where is your QB position at, and Is there any update on Cyler Miles at all?

We don't...not at this time Brock.  We'll have - I think in the next couple of weeks - have this thing solved, but right now we don't.

But I couldn't agree with you more, and I've been speaking at some different places...and one key piece to any program, you've got to get your quarterback situation solved.  And that position needs to be playing at an elite level to win like we need to win.  And so, we're not there yet.  But I do feel like we have some pieces and we can get there.

This comment from Petersen got a lot of attention as folks tried to parse out what exactly this means regarding Miles.  From my perspective, I don't read it as clearly indicating one thing or another, but I would guess that what Petersen means is he's let Miles know that, whatever it is Miles decides to do with regard to the UW, he needs to make up his mind soon.

Petersen also confirms his belief that he needs to get better play out of the QB position, and that the guys in the program right now aren't yet there.

Looking at your success at Boise, and similar to Chip Kelly at Oregon where he didn't have SEC-style athletes but had a system where he used tempo to control things, it seemed like you had a lot of creativity at Boise to overcome some of the disadvantages you might have at a program like that.  How do you translate some of that to the UW?

Well, I think our whole success at Boise State was about development, and I just go back to that.  And so we had Kellen Moore who was a four-year starter that everybody knows, and was phenomenal.  But we also before, and then after, you know we had some - going back to the quarterback position - we had a one-year starter that was a 5th year senior that did some good things for us, threw for a lot of yards, but no one really knows that.  Then we had a two-year starter that won some pretty good games for us.  You know everybody wants that three and four year starter that they can hang their hat on and the program's name recognition is off that guy, but it's not always like that.

But that goes back to developing and having depth, and being able to plug the next guy in and still not take a huge step back.  And that's where - to me - it's so critical at Washington and in this conference, you have to have depth.  I mean, just how physical this game is.  I learned a long time ago when I first started coaching, it's not about having 22 good players.  You better at a minimum - minimum - have about 44, or you don't really have a chance.  And so, that's the thing where it comes to developing.

So when you talk about this and you have four players drafted in the top 44, 45 picks and people ask with all that top-end talent "what happened", it sounds like you've already given the answer there.

That's exactly what it was.  OK, so we had some really elite players, and then we have by the end of the season a wide receiver converted playing DB with two other true freshmen and a true sophomore.  And so it...that's not going to cut it here in this league.  So that's where you've got to develop that.

Some interesting stuff there.  Petersen continues to hammer on the theme of development and quality depth, and essentially says without explicitly saying it that the team last year had some top-end talent but not nearly enough of it and not enough depth.  He clearly believes that his success there wasn't really due to a schematic advantage, but to his staff's ability to develop kids and build a deep roster.

So a couple questions I've gotten in the off-season: Why no Vernon Adams?  Why no Braxton Miller?  Why no Everett Gholson?  Will there ever be situations where you take on a graduate senior from somewhere else?

OK, good question.  It's probably time to get some of this out there.  That's not going to happen at Washington, and here's the reason why - it could happen.  There's not going to be graduate transfer coming there just to play football - that's just not going to happen.  That's not me, it's the University, so for that to happen the kid needs to be a 3.0 student and needs to apply by December like all graduate students would, and get accepted on his own merits.  So, that's how it is at Washington.

And so these kids are going there - this place, that place, whatever, OK - you know when all these kids are transferring it's usually after spring ball.  OK, now you factor in grade point issue - they're not coming here as a graduate player just to play football for one little quarter and hit the road.  Not happening.

This was another answer that got a lot of attention, and Petersen made it quite clear that the University is not interested in hired guns for football taking up graduate assistant slots.  Given the way that 5th year graduate transfers operate, it's clear that - unless the school administration changes their stance on this - we shouldn't expect to see any such transfers to Washington.

What do you think of your freshmen class coming in here?  Do you have some impact players, do you HAVE to have some impact players this year?

Definitely.  Not the way we wanted.  So last year we played eight true freshmen, and again I think Coach James said it back in the day: "The best thing about a true freshmen is when they're a junior", you know, something like that.  And I couldn't agree more.  I don't like that at all, that we had to play these kids.  And again - not to keep beating this dead horse of going back to Boise - we might have played one to three true freshmen on any [year], and we're playing eight - we played eight last year.  That tells you a lot.

You may have to play more this year.

And we might have to, we're kind of planning on it.  Now, part of that is we've got some pretty good freshmen.  But the other part is you don't have that depth, you don't have that experience, you don't have where we need to be.  But the kids that are coming in?  Love ‘em.

Some interesting nuggets about his philosophy on freshmen.  He would prefer in an ideal world to redshirt guys, but he felt that there were areas last year - and will be areas this year - where he doesn't really have a choice and will have to play some guys.

What were you most encouraged about with the body of work this spring (by the quarterbacks)?

OK, so starting with Jeff Lindquist - he got better.  And, he's going to be a junior, and you know...the kids that are going to be juniors or seniors, you see that progress at a slower pace because they've been here for a while.  The freshmen, you know they're going to get better quickly, but you saw Jeff get better so that was really encouraging.

And then K.J. Carta-Samuels and Jake Browning - you just see flashes.  And, you know it's all about being consistent, so we do like the progress that's being made there.  You know, the coaches in some ways are not different than the fanbase, I mean - we're impatient and we want it right now as well.  But it's not like that, and it's going to take a minute to get where we need to be at that position.

This is probably the closest we'll get to Petersen admitting that Lindquist is atop the QB depth chart.  KJCS and Browning aren't playing with the consistency he wants to see at the position, and that's the area where they have to improve.

It's also fun to see him using the current hip slang use of "minute" to represent a much longer period of time.

What do you like about Russell [Wilson's] game specifically?

He's a great decision-maker, he's an accurate thrower, he's tremendous in the pocket.  He can create when it's not there.  What more is there?

In case you needed any more confirmation of what Petersen looks for in a QB, he lays it out right there.  And yes - Russ would have been an ideal Petersen QB...

There's a lot more great stuff in that interview.  I encourage you to listen to the podcast for yourself to get his inflections, but for those that want to read the whole thing I've put together a transcript (I've paraphrased most of the questions from Brock & Salk for brevity and clarity):

Full Transcript:

Where is your program at right now?

Growing.  I think it's interesting because...I think it feels a lot different being a year in.  Just from spring football how it felt a year ago to where we are in our strength & conditioning program right now.  You couple that with a lot of the good players that we did lose - pretty experienced guys.  If we can take the combination of getting some of those guys back with where we are right now, we'd have something really special going on.  But we're not there, it's called college football and you unfortunately have the NFL draft and graduation that always gets in the way.

It seems like they took some of your better players...

(laughs)...and so, you know, that's the one thing we've always kind of prided ourselves on though is developing guys.  And so, I think we have some pretty good young guys in the program - and they will be developed - exactly when that happens, whether it's in September or months after or the next year, they are there, and we will get there.

What do you want this program to be?

Yeah, I think it's a program that everybody's just proud of.  Everybody in Seattle, everybody that went to the U-Dub, that's a Husky fan - at the end of the day they're proud of it.  In two ways:  one, how the kids conduct themselves, that they're there for more than just football, that they are there to get this elite education and use the connections that they obtain while they're there - I mean, that's a big push with me right now, it's like "Use this place for more than just football!" - [if not] we're just selling ourselves short.

So we get that component going, and that we play at a really high level, that we can compete and play with anybody in the Pac-12 - which in my opinion is truly the best conference in the country, right now, top to bottom.  And I know there's all kinds of debate and SEC and all that.

But I just know, I've been in the west for...I'll will say this: this I do know, the Pac-12 is as good as it's ever been, top to bottom.  And so, it's just really good.

When we first came on the air, the program was probably at the all-time low. Where do you think pride is in the program right now?

You could answer that better than I could, but I would say it's...I don't know, how do you say, "medium"?  I think everybody's out there just kind of looking and watching and waiting to see.  And rightly so.  You know I think there's been progress that has been made, I think Coach Sark and his staff made some good progress and, you know, our task is to take it to the next level.  That's why we're here, and it's so...it's exciting, it's so hard, it's so tough, you know, the margin for error is so small.  I mean, the recruiting is completely changed in the last five to eight years in terms of the competitiveness - you know, all those things, and so can't just walk in and snap your fingers and here we go.  I mean, I just think it has to grow and be developed.

What's the best part of your recruiting pitch?

Well, I think the best part of our recruiting pitch is that it's not...I don't see it as like "a pitch".  I don't think about it as like - and it's a fine line here, really trying to sell something like we're salesmen - I feel really good about what we have to offer besides football.  I'm passionate about that, I mean, I think...that's one of the reasons I came here, what this place, what this University can do for these kids outside of football.  I already know, you know in how strong I feel about the Pac-12 Conference - and I think it's, OK, whatever, as good as anything in the West - and so, it's elite football, and so the kids are excited about that, but I think there's much more.  And also how our coaches are and how I am about...that it IS about more than just football.  I think we're just selling these kids short if we don't preach and grind in their head that you have to get something more than just football out of this thing.

What's your biggest challenge in recruiting in going up against these other programs?

Well, I think the one thing is we have to get better at football.  I think once we start getting better at football, I think this thing will start to get rolling because, I think parents and I think the kids - what our message and what we're all about culturally inside - is what a lot of people really want.  But, they want the whole package which, is football as well.  And so, [if] we take the next step football-wise and win more games, you know, I think we can start rolling.

Let's talk about the QB position and the importance of it - you had a pretty one at Boise by the name of Kellen Moore that was a big part of your program's success.  Where is your QB position at, and Is there any update on Cyler Miles at all?

We don't...not at this time Brock.  We'll have - I think in the next couple of weeks - have this thing solved, but right now we don't.

But I couldn't agree with you more, and I've been speaking at some different places...and one key piece to any program, you've got to get your quarterback situation solved.  And that position needs to be playing at an elite level to win like we need to win.  And so, we're not there yet.  But I do feel like we have some pieces and we can get there.

Looking at your success at Boise, and similar to Chip Kelly at Oregon where he didn't have SEC-style athletes but had a system where he used tempo to control things, it seemed like you had a lot of creativity at Boise to overcome some of the disadvantages you might have at a program like that.  How do you translate some of that to the UW?

Well, I think our whole success at Boise State was about development, and I just go back to that.  And so we had Kellen Moore who was a four-year starter that everybody knows, and was phenomenal.  But we also before, and then after, you know we had some - going back to the quarterback position - we had a one-year starter that was a 5th year senior that did some good things for us, threw for a lot of yards, but no one really knows that.  Then we had a two-year starter that won some pretty good games for us.  You know everybody wants that three and four year starter that they can hang their hat on and the program's name recognition is off that guy, but it's not always like that.

But that goes back to developing and having depth, and being able to plug the next guy in and still not take a huge step back.  And that's where - to me - it's so critical at Washington and in this conference, you have to have depth.  I mean, just how physical this game is.  I learned a long time ago when I first started coaching, it's not about having 22 good players.  You better at a minimum - minimum - have about 44, or you don't really have a chance.  And so, that's the thing where it comes to developing.

So when you talk about this and you have four players drafted in the top 44, 45 picks and people ask with all that top-end talent "what happened", it sounds like you've already given the answer there.

That's exactly what it was.  OK, so we had some really elite players, and then we have by the end of the season a wide receiver converted playing DB with two other true freshmen and a true sophomore.  And so it...that's not going to cut it here in this league.  So that's where you've got to develop that.

Give me a couple of your proudest development stories at Boise State, guys where you can point to and say "If he could do it with Ryan Clady there, why can't he do it with X, Y and Z here at Washington?"

I think in general Brock we had four first round picks over there, and those kids were all pretty lightly recruited.

Clady...?

So we had Clady, we had Doug Martin, we had Kyle Wilson and Shae McClellin.  And I want to say "lightly recruited" - WE thought they were going to be excellent players.  Now we also had - I think - two kids that were walk-ons that played in the NFL.  We had over twenty-some players at one time playing in the NFL.  So that's probably our...that's why I say there's a certain style of guy we're going to recruit, that will buy in to what we're all about, that can hang in there.  And it gets tougher and tougher every year because - and it did over there at Boise where, if we thought we were on to a guy and we offered a scholarship...we'd offer kids that nobody had offered them, we'd offer them and then in the next week he'd have ten offers.  You know they're kind of guessing, think we know something.

And so it got tougher for there...but that's probably the thing we're just about, it takes some time to get the depth and develop it, and if you get the kids to buy-in to what you're all about - I know our coaches can develop these guys.

So a couple questions I've gotten in the off-season: Why no Vernon Adams?  Why no Braxton Miller?  Why no Everett Gholson?  Will there ever be situations where you take on a graduate senior from somewhere else?

OK, good question.  It's probably time to get some of this out there.  That's not going to happen at Washington, and here's the reason why - it could happen.  There's not going to be graduate transfer coming there just to play football - that's just not going to happen.  That's not me, it's the University, so for that to happen the kid needs to be a 3.0 student and needs to apply by December like all graduate students would, and get accepted on his own merits.  So, that's how it is at Washington.

And so these kids are going there - this place, that place, whatever, OK - you know when all these kids are transferring it's usually after spring ball.  OK, now you factor in grade point issue - they're not coming here as a graduate player just to play football for one little quarter and hit the road.  Not happening.

When I hear to talk about the importance of education, you come across as incredibly genuine, that it's very important to you.  My perception is that it is so unimportant in college football and that so many coaches don't give a you-know-what.  Can you win, can you be successful long-term with a significant commitment to academics?

I wouldn't have come to Washington had I not believed that with all I'm worth.  I think that's the beauty - I think that's the difference - that we'll get those kids that can do it both ways.  And it doesn't mean that everybody has to come here as this academic scholar, but I think coming to a place like this can change lives when you open your eyes to more than just football.

I know that, I'm passionate about that, but I will say this too:  when you hear some of these kids say "Well, I was steered into these certain majors or classes", well, there's going to be certain kids that are at the University that are not going to be able to handle being a Business major - they shouldn't go that direction, there's too much math, there's too much all this other stuff.  So it's not about like...trying to keep them eligible and all that, it's also setting them up success.  There's no bigger proponent of this education issue than me with these kids, but it's also...when you hear "I was steered to this"...you know, reading history books and taking a sociology class and getting that degree, I mean yeah, that's part of it, that's the foundation.  But just this experience of being here and making these connections - that's life-changing to me.

What do you think of your freshmen class coming in here?  Do you have some impact players, do you HAVE to have some impact players this year?

Definitely.  Not the way we wanted.  So last year we played eight true freshmen, and again I think Coach James said it back in the day: "The best thing about a true freshmen is when they're a junior", you know, something like that.  And I couldn't agree more.  I don't like that at all, that we had to play these kids.  And again - not to keep beating this dead horse of going back to Boise - we might have played one to three true freshmen on any [year], and we're playing eight - we played eight last year.  That tells you a lot.

You may have to play more this year.

And we might have to, we're kind of planning on it.  Now, part of that is we've got some pretty good freshmen.  But the other part is you don't have that depth, you don't have that experience, you don't have where we need to be.  But the kids that are coming in?  Love ‘em.

What were you most encouraged about with the body of work this spring (by the quarterbacks)?

OK, so starting with Jeff Lindquist - he got better.  And, he's going to be a junior, and you know...the kids that are going to be juniors or seniors, you see that progress at a slower pace because they've been here for a while.  The freshmen, you know they're going to get better quickly, but you saw Jeff get better so that was really encouraging.

And then K.J. Carta-Samuels and Jake Browning - you just see flashes.  And, you know it's all about being consistent, so we do like the progress that's being made there.  You know, the coaches in some ways are not different than the fanbase, I mean - we're impatient and we want it right now as well.  But it's not like that, and it's going to take a minute to get where we need to be at that position.

We had Tom Cable on two weeks ago, and he said "The spread offense is killing us" from a pro perspective, that we have to re-teach all these offensive linemen how to play (paraphrasing what Tom said). What is the spread offense doing for college football and the long term benefits or problems with it?

I think one of the hardest jobs in all of football in this day and age is being a college defensive coordinator.  Because it's not all spread.  It's mostly spread, but there's principles of two-back offense, [going] tempo type of things, power football.  The linemen can go downfield on passes for the most part in college football, I mean it is almost impossible...that's why you're seeing the scoring continue to rise.  It is just so hard to defend college offenses.

But I agree with what Coach Cable is talking about.  I've thought this for years, that - because in the high school level so much shotgun quarterback play - that it was hard to get a quarterback, to teach what the drop...nobody had a drop from under center.  And so we've gravitated to more just all shotgun because of the kids we're getting - that's what they know, and they're skilled at it and playing at such a high level that it makes it easier on us.  That we don't have to go re-teach and we can hit the ground running and so...yeah, it's a complicated issue.

Where do you think it's going?

That's a great question, and I think things are cyclical.  Everything's tempo tempo, you know, go fast in college.  I think the ideal thing is, I think there's a blend of all.  Like, I don't think it's good to just go fast all the time because I think the defenses are starting to catch up and you can adjust at that.  So I think it's good to go fast at times and it's good to go slow at times, I think it's good to shift in motion at times, and it's good to just line up and check what you think's coming at you blitz-wise and check the play...now that gets very complicated.  And so our job is to try to keep it as simple as we can with the kids, but yet stay at a competitive advantage.

Do you think we'll see a rule change in the next five years?

Yeah that's...it's hard to know how this thing - it takes twists and turns.  Like sometimes the rules come down on us - that's one of the big gripes head coaches have, it's like "Where's this rule coming from?  They're proposing this?"  Who'd they ask?  I mean, we want more say, so, who knows how it goes?

But I don't really think so.  If I'm just guessing - because I think people want to see scoring.  You know, in general I don't think people want to come and see 10-7.  Maybe the football purists, but there's very few of those.  They want to see points and "Let's go!" and keep up and down the field...

I think this community loves defense.

Well, and I think you're not going to win championships unless you play big-time defense.  But, I will say this too: when you were growing up, the game was different.  I mean, it's changed and it's not going to go backwards.  And I don't mean ‘backwards' that way, I mean it's just going to stay wide open, I think.

You were over at the Seahawks practice recently - how much have you gotten to know Pete [Carroll]?

I'm getting more and more...I will say this: those guys are phenomenal.  In terms of...they really want to help people.  They want to help college coaches, they want to help coaches outside of the Seattle area, they want to help the high school...the game.  They want to help businesses to be better.  That's the thing that I've really come to understand, they really do.

There's a guru element to them.

It's awesome, and so I'm going to go back over there next week and spend a little bit more time from them and it's...professional development, it's awesome.

What do you learn from them from a leadership level, and/or a football X's and O's perspective?

Well, the one thing you learn from afar - and that's where I am right now, I'm going to get an opportunity next week to go back and spend a little bit more one-on-one time with Coach Carroll and get a little bit more of what we're talking about here.  He's got a really cool, unique philosophy that, I think, can be different than - and there's some secret sauce in there - and I think that everybody can learn a lot from those guys in terms of just being a healthy approach to being positive and operate from a position of an attack mode and aggressive and take chances and not in fear of failure, and if it doesn't work what's the world going to say.

I thought what happened in the Super Bowl was exactly...and I get where they were coming from and that strategy that they used makes a ton of sense to me.

You were calling for the Statue of Liberty play!

Yeah, it's all great you know, watching the Super Bowl going "Oh, why didn't they?  Why didn't this?"  But from a strategy standpoint, you get it.  I mean, looking back it would have been easy, you know, you got Marshawn running the ball, but - I get where they were coming from.

I don't.  I would have used Russell's athleticism, or Marshawn's - a fake to, whatever...

And it's so awesome for us to sit here and make all these "I would have done this" and then thirty seconds, twenty seconds you've got to make a play call, and I think it was like their logic is unbelievable because, you throw the ball and - again, you've got this world-class quarterback, and the last thing you think is going to happen is a turnover right there with...and it all collided.

What would it look like if you had Russell Wilson for a season?

Yeah, it would look really good [laughs] I can tell you that!

It wouldn't matter what style you run.  And really in a lot of ways it doesn't matter what style, but if you have an elite player at that position - you can do a lot of different things and it's not going to really matter.  You can make it work [with] whatever.

What do you like about Russell's game specifically?

He's a great decision-maker, he's an accurate thrower, he's tremendous in the pocket.  He can create when it's not there.  What more is there?

Being at Seahawks practices, there's something infectious about it, they love what they do.  That's much easier with success, and it must have been easy at Boise when you were winning double-digits every year.  How critical is that to get this thing going here for the pride of the program?

Yes, it's super critical.  So what I think the challenge that we have is, you've got to believe in your process and know that it takes some time and stay the course and not deviate.  Believe in your principles and then it WILL get there and then the wins start to come and then that's...that's the magic.  And then when that happens, "Oh, it does work!" and everybody believes, and then you operate from a position of confidence.  And that's game-changing, in whatever you do: sports, business - you know, when you operate from a position of confidence, that's what it's all about.