SEATTLE – The start of spring football at Washington on Wednesday brought a new offensive coordinator, a new play-caller on defense and even a new highly hyped transfer quarterback still a year away from playing.
Even with all the change, it’s still Chris Petersen’s show with a team that includes a fourth-year starting quarterback, a fourth-year starting running back and plenty of high expectations.
“I say this every year and I mean it. How well this team does is going to have a lot to do with those guys that have been here a long time. … Those guys take their game to the next level, we’ve got something special,” Petersen said.
Coming off a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game, the Huskies began spring practice with major stability at key positions, including quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin, who returned for his senior season after considering leaving early for the NFL.
“I thought I was better than what people were projecting me as. I wanted to come back one more year and try and prove that,” Gaskin said.
Still, the offseason changes are notable.
Bush Hamdan is the new offensive coordinator, taking over for Jonathan Smith after he was named the head coach at Oregon State. Hamdan is returning to Washington after a stint with the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL and he has a long history with Petersen, beginning when he was a player at Boise State. Hamdan was the wide receiver coach at Washington before joining the Falcons.
“We’re not going to come in here and have a brand-new offense. We like our offense,” Petersen said. “We’re always into making it better and tweaking it and what do you do well and how do you play to your talents and strengths – those types of things. Bush is completely dialed into that.”
The changes on defense are more subtle. Jimmy Lake has taken on new duties with Washington’s defense and will be the primary play-caller beginning in 2018. Pete Kwiatkowski is still the co-defensive coordinator but is stepping away from play-calling, in part to help keep Lake on staff and from leaving for another school.
“They’ve been together for a long time, so there’s not a whole lot that’s changed,” Petersen said. “Jimmy has a little more of a voice in meetings and out at practice, which is awesome. And then when it comes time to call things (in games), it’s awesome. I just think it’s really great because Jimmy has been ready and itching to do that for a while.”
There’s the much-anticipated arrival of Georgia transfer quarterback Jacob Eason, even though he’s still more than a year away from taking a snap in a game. Eason joined the program on Monday when the spring quarter began at Washington. Petersen said he thinks it’s a major benefit that Eason gets a year to learn the system.
“I think it’s awesome for him to just be here and digest everything and not have to have the pressure of getting it right, right now, today,” Petersen said.
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