It’s still a few weeks away from the start of football practice for the University of Washington, but Kitsap fans quickly learned that the 2018 season is more than promising for continued success — especially on the defense.
Washington co-defensive coordinator/outside linebackers coach Pete Kwiatkowski spent the evening answering questions from Husky football fans at the Kitsap Athletic Roundtable’s dinner event Wednesday at the Kitsap Golf & Country Club.
— Annette Griffus (@AnnetteWSSports) July 12, 2018
Like most coaches, Kwiatkowski wasn’t interested in talking about himself but rather his players and what the program has built during the last five years under head coach Chris Petersen. Kwiatkowski, himself an All-American lineman at Boise State where he is also in the athletic Hall of Fame, worked for Petersen at Boise before joining the Husky staff five years ago.
Since his arrival, Kwiatkowski helped turn around the defense to making it the No. 1 defense in the Pac-12 Conference in total defense, scoring defense and lead the conference in rushing defense. The Huskies also led the nation last season in fewest yards allowed per completion (9.42).
Washington has retained its former glory on the defensive side of the ball that helped lead the program to bowl wins and a national championship in the early 1990s.
Kwiatkowski said during a question and answer period with the roughly 115 in attendance the biggest aspect the staff looks for in players is are they OKGs “our kind of guys.” Kwiatkowski said the first question is are they flat-out good football players. They also focus on the intangibles. Kwiatkowski said it’s easy to put a tape in and see guys run fast but they want players who are responsible for their actions, are coachable and do what’s right off the field and in the classroom.
Even with the loss of key players to the NFL — including Pac-12 defensive player of the year Vita Vea — the Huskies have retained depth at nearly every position and expect to compete from the start.
They’ll also benefit from the NCAA’s rule change last month that will allow freshman players to play up to four games without burning a redshirt. It gives coaches more flexibility and doesn’t force injured players to keep playing due to lack of depth, espeically on special teams.
“For some of our guys, that’s a big factor,” he said.
Washington will get a big test in its opener when it travels to Atlanta, Ga., to face Auburn on Sept. 1.
Former Olympic, Central Kitsap and Washington coach Dick Baird, who was MC for the question and answer session with Kwiatkowski, said the Huskies won’t head into the Auburn game ready to take a loss.
“Every team in America wants to go undefeated and win a national championship,” he said. “And you know what? We’re one of those teams that can do it.”