In Year 3, Chris Petersen and his Washington Huskies enter the season with heightened expectations.
With the dawn of Chris Petersen’s third season fast approaching, the Washington Huskies football program is starting to feel like the one he envisioned. As Petersen leads a team loaded up on what he calls “OKGs” – Our Kinda Guys – he enters the new year with soaring expectations for the first time during his tenure. At Boise State, Petersen preached a program and culture built on OKGs – high character, high quality players who represent a first-class program.
Through his first two seasons, some have been critical of Petersen for squandering talent. In Year 1, a Huskies team that featured three first-round NFL Draft picks finished 8-6 with a losing record in conference play. One of those guys – Marcus Peters – was kicked off the team by Petersen for reportedly clashing with coaches.
Aside from criticism of how he handles talent, there’s also the question of production. Washington has failed to beat a team that finished ranked in the final AP Top 25 in each of the past two years.
Now Petersen has a team full of OKGs and a mounting pile of preseason hype. And it’s easy to see where the accolades are coming from.
Sophomore Washington running back Myles Gaskin broke records as a true freshman. Top deep threat John Ross III is returning after missing last season due to a knee injury. Ross III was clocked at 4.25 speed this spring. The Huskies are returning eight starters to a defense that led the conference in scoring defense last year at 18.8 points per game. And quarterback Jake Browning appears to be settling in after showing steady growth throughout his freshman campaign.
Most importantly, these are Petersen’s guys. Whether it’s star safety Budda Baker, Gaskin or Browning, many of the team’s best players committed to play for Petersen and have gotten a few years under their belts in his system.
Petersen is keen on tempering expectations. At Pac-12 Media Day last month he said this of the hype: “What’s different is we won at Boise. We haven’t won like we need to win (at Washington). I get Stanford being ranked. They’ve won a lot. I get UCLA being up there. They’ve won a lot and all that…but we just have a lot to prove, and who knows how it’s going to go.”
In Boise, Petersen went 92-12 by building the Broncos program his way. His track record there and the promise he’s shown at Washington have earned Petersen the right to take a few years to implement his system at Washington.
Petersen was rewarded with a two-year extension last fall, despite not winning more than 8 games in either of his first two years. The school and its fans have given him all the resources and patience a coach can dream of in today’s coaching climate. This year, he will have a chance to give them something they haven’t had in nearly two decades: a return to prominence.