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Analysts: Chris Petersen's success owed to focus

By Brent Stecker

New Washington football coach Chris Petersen's track record is well-known. He's the architect of two undefeated seasons at Boise State, a two-time Paul "Bear" Bryant Coach of the Year Award winner, and a five-time conference champion (four times in the WAC, and once in the Mountain West).

petersen
New Washington football coach Chris Petersen was known for leading hyper-organized practices during an eight-season tenure as Boise State's head coach. (AP)

But what's been behind all of the 49-year-old Petersen's success?

According to ESPN college football analyst Ed Cunningham and ESPN Boise's Rick Worthington, it's his ability to keep a strong attention to detail without being a taskmaster that's allowed him to make the most of his Broncos teams.

"He's very good about being on the task and making sure that his players are improving," said Cunningham, a former Washington college football player, on 710 ESPN Seattle's "Wyman, Mike and Moore" on Friday. "And they're innovative in doing things to have fun. That's the other part that I think that will be really nice, that they have fun there. … From being around that program the last several years, it's really impressive."

Worthington, who joined 710 ESPN Seattle's "The John Clayton Show" on Saturday, said Petersen runs as tight a practice as any coach he's seen.

"I think it's attention to detail," Worthington said of what has accounted to Petersen's success. "One of the things you'll hear pro scouts say when they come to Boise State and watch a practice, and I'm sure this will be the case at Washington as well, is they'll say, 'I just saw an A-plus-plus practice.' Very, very close to detail, watching the seven or eight drills that are all going on at once. Everybody's running from space to space. There's no wasted time ever in a coach Pete practice.

"I think that's unique, but it's also very important, especially from the college sense, where you have to take advantage of every moment of practice time because you don't just get as much practice as you want in the NCAA. … That team is always very well coached-up for any game situation they go in because of the way they practice."

That doesn't mean Petersen isn't an approachable character, though.

"When you talk to him, he's a regular guy. He's very focused, but he's not so laser-focused he can't have a good time and be relaxed," Cunningham said.

Though it's been reported UCLA coach Jim Mora was the first choice to replace Steve Sarkisian after he left for USC on Monday, the Petersen hire is a coup for the Huskies, according to Worthington.

"Chris Petersen is a fine coach. You're very lucky at Washington, and I don't think you understand right now how lucky you are at Washington," he said. "Here's a guy who has taken two and three-star recruits and put them in the NFL. What can he do with four and five-star recruits on a regular basis? What can he do with guys that are already pro-caliber football players? You're very lucky at Washington.

"A lot of people here in Boise are upset, but I think once they back away from the ledge and look at the program, they still understand that it's a great program, (and) coach Petersen left it in much better shape than when he came in."

Additionally, Petersen's experience with recruiting in the region and maintaining consistency even through an ever-changing coaching staff at Boise State make him a big-time hire for Washington, Cunningham said.

"Here's a guy who knows the northwest -- he knows northwest recruiting," Cunningham said. "I've covered Chris and the staffs that he's had and the different guys that he's had to hire. Remember, they've lost a lot of assistants over the years, so he's managed very smoothly hiring guys and keep their identity."

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