Washington Huskies

Washington football team wary of preseason hype as season nears

Washington defensive back Kevin King speaks at the Pac-12 NCAA college football media day in Hollywood, Calif., on Friday, July 15, 2016.
Washington defensive back Kevin King speaks at the Pac-12 NCAA college football media day in Hollywood, Calif., on Friday, July 15, 2016. The Associated Press

Kevin King wasn’t born in 1991, so the Washington Huskies defensive back must rely only on stories told by those who were around to witness UW’s unbeaten season that year.

Such heights – a 12-0 record, a split national championship – have not been reached by the Huskies since. And while reasonable folks can’t possibly expect that to happen this season, either, expectations are higher at UW than any season King – or his teammates – can likely remember.

“Everybody wants to come and leave a legacy,” said King, a senior cornerback who served as one of UW’s two player representatives at this week’s Pac-12 media days at the Loews Hollywood Hotel. “We hear a lot about the ’91 team, and you hear a lot about how Seattle was around that time. It sounds like something I want to experience.

“Some of the guys don’t realize the type of opportunity that we have, and the type of opportunity that we’ve created for ourselves. Special teams don’t come around often. So we’ve got to take it and really seize the opportunity.”

That statement, mild as it may be, is the closest any member of the UW contingent came to embracing the lofty-ish expectations that have abounded throughout much of this offseason. The Huskies were picked by media covering the Pac-12 to finish second in the North division this season. They received eight first-place votes, and four voters even picked them to win the Pac-12 championship game. Most preseason top-25 polls include the Huskies. Some have them in the top 15.

And here’s coach Chris Petersen to tell you how tremendously silly that all is.

“We’re amused, and that’s probably the best word, that we continually get better every single week with doing nothing,” Petersen said. “We have as much hype as the new Pokémon game that no one knows anything about but thinks is really cool. That’s us.”

Petersen repeated throughout this annual cliché-fest that “last year the preseason hype was we wouldn’t win four games, and they were dead wrong,” which might be a bit of an exaggeration. Regardless, the Huskies finished 7-6, a mark that wouldn’t be anywhere near acceptable for this year’s squad.

There’s good reason for that: the Huskies return seven defensive starters from a group that finished 13th nationally last season in scoring defense, including King and All-Pac-12 defensive backs Sidney Jones and Budda Baker. They return starting quarterback Jake Browning and starting tailback Myles Gaskin, and have regained speedy receiver John Ross III after he sat out last season due to a knee injury.

Questions still persist. Washington’s offense was a mess at times last season, and the Huskies still need to sort out their offensive line and find some receivers who can contribute more consistently. In other words: if they live up to their preseason expectations, it will be because they did a lot of things well that they didn’t do well a year ago.

“We haven’t done anything,” senior tight end Darrell Daniels said. “We were 7-6 last year. We haven’t played a game this season yet. Within the locker room, we know where we want to be and where we want to get. But as far as the outside noise, we don’t pay attention to that stuff.”

PETERSEN TALKS TEDFORD

Petersen said new UW consultant Jeff Tedford, the former California head coach, is “truly in it for being around us and helping us” and not angling for an assistant coaching position in the future.

In confirming Tedford’s role at UW, Petersen detailed that “he can’t coach any of the players. He can be in all of our meetings. He can look at tape. We can talk to him. We can have as many conversations in terms of all that type of stuff.”

Tedford, who worked as Oregon’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 1998-2001 – Petersen was the Ducks’ receivers coach from 1995-2000 – was the head coach at Cal from 2002-2012, compiling an overall record of 82-57 before being fired after posting a 3-9 record in the 2012 season. He most recently served as head coach of the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League.

Tedford wanted to join Washington’s staff as a consultant, Petersen said, because “he wanted to get back into college football. And there wasn’t an opportunity out there for him this year, making him a head coach or some other position like that. And he knows a lot of guys on our staff. …. He’s obviously a really good coach with a lot of knowledge and has done a lot of things, and so we feel real fortunate to get a guy like that to be able to be with us.”

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