He couldn’t stop imaging being there in place of the Crimson Tide.
””We could have been there. I visualized us there,”” Washington’s left tackle said. ””It was just weird.””
Coming off a Pac-12 Conference title and an appearance in the College Football Playoff, where they lost to Alabama, the Huskies opened spring practice Monday. They have significant holes to eventually fill, particularly in a secondary that is likely to have three starters from last season taken on the first two days of the NFL draft next month. But Washington has more answers than vacancies, meaning a follow-up to last year’s success would seem possible even if coach Chris Petersen wasn’t interested in entertaining those thoughts.
””This is back to square one and our record has no relevance to what we did last year,”” Petersen said. ””Doesn”t matter if we won all of our games, didn’t win enough games. We go back to square one with everything we do.””
A significant amount of attention was on quarterback Jake Browning and his recovery from minor shoulder surgery during the offseason. Browning threw for a school-record 43 touchdowns and 3,430 yards last season but was bothered late in the year by shoulder trouble that ultimately required the surgical procedure after the Peach Bowl.
Browning was in uniform and did some throwing during warmups Monday but was mostly a spectator as K.J. Carta-Samuels, Daniel Bridge-Gadd and others got the bulk of the snaps. That was all by design.
Petersen had expressed concern in the past about the number of throws Browning has made between practices and games since arriving at Washington. The Huskies training staff developed a recovery plan for Browning shortly after the end of the season and will stick to that through the spring.
”We”re not trying to win spring ball,”’ Petersen said. ”We”re trying to get guys ready to improve each day, so we’ve had this planned since right after the season, how we wanted to use him. So it’ll be a gradual buildup.”
Petersen also talked for the first time about two coaching additions with the hiring of Scott Huff as offensive line coach and Matt Lubick as wide receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator. Huff replaced Chris Strausser, who took a job with the Denver Broncos, while Lubick stepped in for Bush Hamdan after he was hired by the Atlanta Falcons.
Washington was Lubick’s fourth job in just a few months. Lubick spent the past four seasons at Oregon, serving as offensive coordinator last year before Ducks head coach Mark Helfrich was fired Nov. 29. Lubick then took a job as receivers coach at Ole Miss but was there only two weeks before going to Baylor in early January.
His departure from Baylor came just a week after new Bears coach Matt Rhule announced titles for his assistants. Lubick was to have the same role at Baylor as he does in Washington.
””He knows football inside and out. He’s coached the wide receivers for a long time. His group has always played really well,”” Petersen said. ””Everyone’s got their unique style and it’s different. That’s what I like about when you do change coaches. It’s something new. Change is good. Change is growth.””