He walks around the field inside Husky Stadium with a red air horn holstered on his right hip and a black whistle dangling from his neck, and yet one could watch a two-plus-hour Washington football practice and be forgiven for not noticing Chris Petersen.
The air horn has, in five spring practices, remained mostly muted, perhaps a symbolic reminder that Petersen isn’t the type to blow hot air.
And yet, in his first three months as the Huskies’ coach, Petersen has set a tone understood loud and clear.
“He’s not messing around,” UW junior receiver Jaydon Mickens said.
That was evident when Petersen told the team in a Feb. 5 meeting that he was suspending quarterback Cyler Miles and receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow indefinitely, an announcement that came less than 72 hours after both allegedly assaulted Seahawks fans in a post-Super Bowl incident.
Last week, Petersen announced a two-week suspension of a third projected starter for 2014, senior linebacker John Timu, whose misdemeanor infraction of vehicle prowling occurred while Petersen was still the coach at Boise State last fall.
“There’s definitely a lot more accountability,” senior offensive lineman Ben Riva said. “If you mess up you’re going to hear about it, you’re going to know about it and you’re going to pay for it. You’re definitely held to a much higher standard.”
Not once since he was introduced at UW on Dec. 9 has Petersen publicly talked about championships or Rose Bowls. No, that new buzzword around Montlake Boulevard – accountability – isn’t chic, but it’s a fundamental characteristic of the new coach’s philosophy.
Under former coach Steve Sarkisian, players who fell out of line on daily tasks – showing up late for a team meeting, for example – were subject to a “Hard Lessons” period after practice, which usually meant running punitive sprints or stairs. That’s common around college football.
Under the new regime, coaches themselves – not academic advisers or support staffers – are doing daily checkups in classrooms. And players who miss a class or study hall session are subject to “Commitment Time,” a four-hour academic study session with a coach beginning at 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
In some areas, “Everything has been turned upside down,” defensive secondary coach Jimmy Lake said.
The Huskies wrap up the first half of spring practices today.