It’s not every day on The Spark File that we have an immediate, in-depth breakdown of a bit of sports news, but today fortune smiles on us. One of Mike and my friends, Andrew Stokes, is a really smart Boise State fan, who is always a font of smart football perspective. I sent Andrew an email this morning to ask for his take on the Huskies stealing Chris Petersen from Boise State, and he provided this fantastic breakdown of the man, his schemes and his potential impact on the Huskies.
You can read my much less in-depth, but much more hyperbolic take on Seattle sports momentum here.
Check out Andrew’s thoughts below.Ross Richendrfer
Yeah, this is a huge bummer. Not only because he’s an outstanding coach, but because of the impact it’ll have on the upcoming recruiting class. A good number of our recruits were there because of Pete, so the replacement will have his work cut out for him just keeping the existing class together. Plus, bigger programs love poaching our talent, so I’d expect a few losses. Nothing clear on replacements yet. Big names I’ve seen floating around are Justin Wilcox, Dirk Koetter (Falcons OC and former Boise HC), Bryan Harsin (Ark St. HC, former Boise OC), Pete Kiwatkowski (Boise DC), Chris Strausser (Boise OL Coach), Ed Orgeron (cuz why not?) and Kellen Moore (God incarnate).
Ok, here’s the breakdown on Pete (note: all of Boise called him Coach Pete forever, so now I guess Seattle has two Petes).
What To Expect When You’re Expecting Coach Pete
Simply, you just got one of the most successful coaches in college football. In his 8 years at Boise, Pete was 92-12, including 3 undefeated seasons. He won 5 bowl games, including winning the only 2 BCS bowl games he ever coached in, and numerous coach of the year awards. Some will say his record is inflated due to low-quality competition, but there are a lot of schools that play outside of power conferences, and nobody else has put up a record like Pete. Also, it’s not like he can’t coach against premier teams- in the last few years he’s got wins against Oklahoma, TCU, Virginia Tech, Georgia, Utah, Arizona State, Washington and (wait for it, Husky fans) Oregon twice. I’m not going to look up the other numbers, but I feel comfortable saying Pete is already one of the most accomplished coaches in the PAC-12.
In terms of what he’s bringing to UW, it’s tough to say exactly at this moment because I don’t know what the staff is going to look like. But he has a reputation for building a solid coaching staff – Wilcox, Harsin, Brent Pease and several others have all moved on to take bigger jobs after working for Pete in Boise. Similarly, I can’t quite tell what schemes he’s likely to implement. Boise had a unique style for a number of years, but they started to slightly move away from that this season, so I’m not sure which direction he’ll go. But, here are a few general priorities/thoughts about Pete’s schemes:
- On defense and special teams, I’m not totally sure what you’ll get. Pete always has solid special teams, and I wouldn’t expect that to change. In terms of the defense, we used the TCU 4-2-5 defense for a number of years while Wilcox was our DC, but switched to a more traditional 4-3 last year. That defense featured a ‘nickel back’ who was a hybrid linebacker/safety and got to make a lot of plays, and that position made stars out of pretty ordinary players. Shaq Thompson could destroy the world from that spot… But while the offense at Boise always got the hype, the defense was the under-rated story – I’ve got a list of drafted Boise players later, check out how many are on defense.
- While Kellen Moore got a lot of the publicity, Pete likes a downhill running game. This season Boise moved from a more pro-style offense to a more spread-out offense, but kept a lot of Pistol formations in order to maintain the downhill running game. Boise has had some great and productive running backs in the past, from Ian Johnson, to DJ Harper, to eventually Doug Martin. If Sankey sticks around, Petersen might just let him run wild and end up with a Heisman.
- He wants to make you defend every player and every inch of the field. The new offense does that by spreading everybody out Oregon-style. In the past they didn’t have the athletes to hang with bigger programs, so they used a lot of shifts and motions to get the best matchups. That offense was always derided as gimmicky, but from where I sit, it was a realistic response to the players he had available – he’s not going to beat Oklahoma and Adrian Peterson by playing straight up. I don’t know exactly what the new UW offense will look like, but it will almost certainly be creative and take advantage of the strengths of his players. When he had Kellen, who didn’t have the strongest of arms but could pick apart a defense, he used a lot of short patterns. When he got bigger-armed QBs the last couple years, he started calling a lot more deep routes. If you have one of those ‘was a QB in HS but is a freak athlete who converted to WR’ guys on your team, expect him to dial up a few double passes. Which leads me to…
- Big Balls Pete. He does not give a damn. About anything. From the trick plays in the famous Fiesta Bowl game, to calling a fake punt deep in our territory in a different Fiesta Bowl, to starting a redshirt freshman QB in his second game named Kellen Moore in Autzen, he’s fearless on the field. Hell, we even tried to run some sort of hook and ladder with an eligible tackle as the pitch man earlier this year. I’d even say his willingness to scrap the traditional Boise offense last year is a sign of that as well.
Now, aside from the Xs and Os, there’s still a lot to be said for Pete’s style.
- Excellent recruiter – as I mentioned before, an emerging trend in the last 3-4 years is once Boise offers somebody, they’ll immediately get offers from 2-3 PAC-12 schools. He finds talent where others don’t see it – our most productive WR this year is 5’4″ at most. He also seems to be a man of true integrity and grit, and a lot of recruits come to Boise exclusively because of Pete (or, more precisely, because their parents love Pete – when he was traveling to recruit Demarcus Lawrence, our stud DE, he had limited time and had to choose between visiting Lawrence and visiting Lawrence’s mom – he met with the mom, and she made her son go to Boise). He’s got some good geographic range to his recruiting – most of our big players come from California and Texas, and we’ve pulled some good recruits out of Washington (the Moores). But mainly, recruits and their parents love this dude. Boise always ranks really high in academic performance and getting players to graduate, and I’d expect him to continue that emphasis at UW.
- Develops talent – he gets players ready for the NFL. In the past 2-3 years, Shea McClellin and Doug Martin are recent 1st rounders, Jamar Taylor and Titus Young went in the 2nd, Austin Pettis and Tyrone Crawford in the 3rd. Other NFL players out of Boise recently are George Iloka, Jeron Johnson, Billy Winn, Kellen Moore, plus a few more. As an added bonus given recent UW history, he seems particularly adept at getting and developing offensive linemen, as our last 3 left tackles (Daryn Colledge, Ryan Clady, Nate Potter) are all in the league, (and Clady is a beast).
- His teams are well-coached - they don’t commit penalties, they play to the peak of their abilities, they don’t make dumb mental mistakes. And Pete is an innovative coach – when the NCAA instituted new targeting rules, Pete had his team work with rugby teams/coaches to learn tackling and hitting styles that didn’t require leading with the helmet. But…
- He likes physical football – from the downhill run game on offense, to big hits on defense. One Boise State tradition was to reward the player with the biggest hit on special teams by letting them carry a sledgehammer onto the field for every game. So while his offense may throw some trick plays at you, it’s far from a finesse football team.
- He runs his program his way. Now this is where I expect there to be a bit of potential friction between Pete and his new home. I think the reason he stayed at Boise for so long is that they let him run the program his way, and nobody up until UW was willing to give him the same level of control. So I’m kinda assuming that his program at UW will be similar to the one at Boise for this section. When I said Pete don’t give a damn before, I meant it. We lose a couple players each year for “unspecified violations of team rules” – and these aren’t bad players, they’re in some cases core guys at positions without depth (one of our cuts got picked up by Baylor earlier this year). Titus Young got suspended for almost an entire season. With the increased level of talent he’s going to be dealing with at UW, it seems to potentially raise the stakes for this approach – is Pete going to be able to retain the support of the fanbase if/when he cuts a really good player? Rumor has it he has little patience for dealing with boosters, so will he be able to keep their support if things get choppy? On the flip side, this is one of the reasons folks love him - he doesn’t let players get away with things or make excuses – they’re expected to be 110% committed to football and they move on if they’re not.
- He’s also pretty opaque from a media perspective. Players aren’t allowed to tweet. Freshmen aren’t allowed to meet with the media. Most practices are closed, and there are heavy restrictions on reporting from the parts of practice that are open. In his interviews, he’s usually pretty curt and close-to-the-vest. He’s nowhere near Harbaugh-levels of dickishness, but he has better things to do than answer your cliched questions about football thank you very much. (One of my favorite anecdotes, when Kellen was unexpectedly spotted with a knee brace a couple years ago, Pete just said “oh it’s just a doctor thing” and moved on.) Winning cures all, so I don’t expect these things to be issues, but I think the off-the-field changes will be more significant for Pete than the on-the-field changes.
Those things being said, in his years in Boise, Pete was totally loved by the community, media, players, etc. His kids went to local schools, he’s involved in local community and philanthropic activities. He’s a pretty low-key guy, he doesn’t like excessive media attention or the bells and whistles that come with coaching, he really just wants to coach his team and go home at the end of the day. His son battled cancer a few years back, and while it sounds like he’s mostly beyond it, I’m sure the Seattle-area hospitals didn’t hurt the recruiting pitch. In all, you just got one of the best coaches in college football, both on and off the field. Take it from a Bronco fan – the days ahead are bright for the Huskies.Everything UW Fans Need to Know About Chris Petersen by Ross Richendrfer