By Gregg Bell
UW Athletics Director of Writing
SEATTLE -- The learning continues for the Huskies football team, with something new from Chris Petersen and his coaching staff almost every day.
The latest lessons have been on standards — and on how quickly the two-time national coach of the year with a 92-12 record over the last eight seasons at Boise State wants those marks met.
As in, yesterday already.
Tuesday morning’s return practice following the players’ two weeks off for winter finals and spring break was the seventh workout of UW’s 15 spring practices, drills that Petersen said at the outset would likely be ugly.
To him, he’s been proven correct.
Asked if he was pleased with where his team is now at about the midway point of spring ball, Petersen’s replied quickly and forcefully.
"No, absolutely not," he said. "I’m pleased with their attitude. We are all in this together. Are we pleased where we are? No, because we have a long way to go.
"But I like the guys. I like them a lot. I like coaching them. But we have a long way to go. .. Got a lot of work to do."
Asked if any player has jumped out at him for stellar performance through seven practices, Petersen said flatly, “Nope. Nope. Not a guy.
"I’ll tell you if I see a guy, anyone out there that I go, ‘Whoa! That’s pretty special!’
Then Petersen shook his head and said again, “Work in progress.”
The coach termed that progress “two steps forward, one step back.”
Then again, it’s only the first of April, almost five full months before the opener at Hawaii.
"Times’ ticking, you know? We only get so many days out here with these guys," he said.
"But we will get it, eventually. The eventually needs to be the sooner eventual than the later eventual."
When does he think the players should be past the phase of needing to still learn the new coaches and their system and in the need-to-execute phase?
"That will come later. That’s always whole-part-whole. It’s always inter-mixed," Petersen said. "We’ve got a long way to go, on both spectrums.
"We’ve got a lot to learn still. Shoot, we haven’t put in half of our stuff yet.
"And obviously," the coach added, dropping his voice and his chin, "the execution has much to be desired at this point."
This — the missed assignments, the wrong pass routes, the incorrect decisions on plays — is not all the players’ faults, of course. And the coach reminds them of that often.
"We’ve hurt our kids, as coaches, by being a new coaching staff. We’ve set them back. We tell them that every day," Petersen said. "We tell them ‘We are giving you new things. A lot of people are ahead of us.’
"We are trying to play catch-up as fast as we can."
He’s also trying to keep the practice mood competitive — and light.
Petersen had the Huskies roaring through the middle of the latest practice at Husky Stadium. He led the latest of strength and conditioning coach Tim Socha’s offense-versus-defense competition in the middle of the field.
This one had 287-pound guard Shane Brostek and 277-pound defensive lineman Taniela Tupuo attempting to dive, barrel roll, jump or find any other way completely over blocking pads stacked at midfield. The landing area consisted of large, gold pads.
"That was not very impressive," Brostek deadpanned when asked him about his, uh, "leaps" that unstacked the pads and splayed them across the turf.
After that comedy, Petersen called fleet wide receiver John Ross to oppose cornerback Jermaine Kelly. The pads got stacked far higher for those two, who combined weigh more than 200 pounds less than the linemen that preceded them over the pads.
Ross cleared the tall pile with a soaring, Fosbury-flop-like high jump.
Then Petersen called offensive line coach Chris Strausser and linebackers coach Bob Gregory to jump over a much smaller pile. Strausser won — much to the delighted roars of the offense over Petersen’s jubilant whistle. That meant extra sideline-to-sideline sprints for the defense.
Quarterback Cyler Miles and wide receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow remain suspended indefinitely for violating team rules. Asked about their status Petersen said, “No, I’ve got nothin’.”
Middle linebacker and two-time co-captain John Timu was back in the middle of the defense following a suspension for the first two weeks of spring practice.
Starters and standout students Hau’oli Kikaha and Danny Shelton were among those missing from practice. Petersen said that’s because their new spring-quarter schedules have them in class on Tuesday mornings.
Such conflicts are why Petersen has moved the three remaining Thursday spring practices from morning to night.
"There’s things called academics around here, and they come first," the coach said. "And so they’ve got class."
Jaimie Bryant, a 309-pound defensive lineman from Tumwater, Wash., was on the field for the first time as a Husky freshman. Bryant committed to UW last year with previous coach Steve Sarkisian but delayed his enrollment — “grayshirted” — until 2014. Petersen honored Sarkisian’s scholarship offer by offering him another one, which Bryant signed in February.
Petersen knows Bryant’s head is swimming in all that is new to him, which is what will make these next three weeks big for him heading into fall camp in August.
"He knows where the 40-yard line is," Petersen said. "But other than that, we started calling defenses at him and he doesn’t know anything.
"But it will be great. At the end of those three weeks he will know something, and it will put him a little bit further ahead for the fall."