SEATTLE — For Washington’s new coaching staff, the past few weeks have been “a whirlwind,” as new offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith put it Tuesday.
The next few weeks could be just as hectic as Chris Petersen and his assistants tackle their top priority — trying to save a recruiting class currently ranked last in the Pac-12 Conference. National signing day is Feb. 5.
Of Petersen’s nine assistants, eight worked with him previously at Boise State. The only holdover from Steve Sarkisian’s staff is tight-ends coach Jordan Paopao, who said Tuesday he is “unbelievably fired up” to stay at UW.
The coaches said they believe the staff continuity from Boise State will ease the transition and help salvage this recruiting class. Still, associate head coach/offensive-line coach Chris Strausser acknowledged it’s “a hard battle” during this transition period to convince recruits to commit to a new staff in a new environment.
“They want to see who you are and what you’re all about before they’re going to jump in,” said Strausser, who has spent the past 12 seasons working with Petersen at Boise State. “So for us right now, they may know what we did at Boise, and they don’t know anything about this place.”
Keith Bhonapha, UW’s new recruiting coordinator and running backs coach, was the first assistant Petersen brought with him to Seattle from Boise State last month, and Bhonapha is optimistic about the Huskies’ recruiting outlook. Recruiting to a Pac-12 school can also open doors to recruits that Petersen and his staff couldn’t access at Boise.
“Now,” Bhonapha said, looking around the UW surroundings, “we have all this.”
Indeed, the initial recruiting challenges didn’t diminish the coaches’ excitement during an informal news conference Tuesday morning at UW.
“I’m real excited to announce this staff,” Petersen said during a brief introduction. “That’s one of the areas as a head coach that I have always lost a lot of sleep making sure that these coaches are just right for us, for this university and, most importantly, for these kids. …
“What really makes me sleep well at night (is) I know what kind of people they are; I know how they’re going to treat these kids, and I think there’s just a lot more to it than just coaching X’s and O’s.”
Smith, the former Oregon State quarterback, takes over as a major-college coordinator for the first time. He’ll also coach UW’s quarterbacks, and he said the Huskies’ offense will be similar to the up-tempo attack installed in 2013 — with elements of the Boise State system, too.
New defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski — “The kids call me ‘Coach K,’ ” he said — said the defensive schemes likely won’t change dramatically, either.
Rounding out the UW staff are Jeff Choate (defensive line/special teams), Bob Gregory (linebackers), Jimmy Lake (defensive backs) and Brent Pease (wide receivers). Pease spent the past two seasons as the Florida offensive coordinator and the six seasons before that at Boise.
“We all know the ins and outs and the mannerisms and the expectations and what the standard is,” Pease said of working with Petersen. “So I think that’s all going to be easy in how to put together a winning formula. I’m really excited to be able to come back and work for him.”
Lake coached the UW defensive backs in 2004, then spent five seasons on NFL staffs before accepting an offer to join Petersen in Boise. Another call from Petersen last month convinced him to come to Seattle.
“I wanted to learn from the best head coach in college football, in my mind,” Lake said. “I’m learning more things from him every single day — not only football-wise but off-the-field stuff. So when he made that call and said, ‘Hey, I’m going to the University of Washington, I’d love for you to come up here and coach my defensive backs,’ I didn’t hesitate.”
Said Gregory: “It doesn’t get much better than this place.”
Huskies finish No. 25 in AP poll
Washington finished ranked No. 25 in the final Associated Press poll for 2013, the first time UW has been ranked to end a season since the 2001 team finished at No. 19.
The Huskies finished 9-4 during the 2013 season, capped by a 31-16 victory over BYU in the Fight Hunger Bowl. Their nine wins is the program’s most since that 2001 season.
The Huskies were not ranked in the final coaches poll released Tuesday.