Chris Petersen Facing Tough Challenges in Rebuilding Washington Program

Michael Felder@InTheBleachersNational CFB Lead WriterFebruary 10, 2014

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With spring ball merely weeks away from starting around the nation, the 31 new head coaches are going to get to kick the tires on their new rosters for the first time. There will be challenges across the board, and Washington's new head coach, Chris Petersen, has one of the tallest mountains to climb in the college football landscape.

At Texas, Charlie Strong has his work cut out for him to change the culture and find guys he can believe in. Steve Sarkisian will be working to get USC back to prominence, starting with an intriguing quarterback battle. Florida Atlantic University, Wyoming, UMass and UConn will be true tests for the new hires.

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The challenges for a new coach are monumental across the board. Everyone, from James Franklin at Penn State to Bryan Harsin at Boise State and Dave Clawson at Wake Forest, will battle installing new systems, implementing new rules and identifying players.

Petersen will walk this same road and do so as the Huskies operate with a roster that has several holes to fill. Sarkisian, the former Washington head coach, was set to have a trying spring session looking for playmakers. Now, the new head coach has to make it work.

Seattle has a little bit of all the coaching troubles rolled into one job as the longtime Boise State head coach takes over. Like Strong at Texas, Petersen will look to change the culture in Washington, bringing that Broncos hard-working mentality to the Pacific Northwest. Plus, he is taking a big step in moving from a smaller league to one of the major conferences (ACC, Pac-12, Big Ten, SEC and Big 12). 

All the while, he'll be pushing to replace the Huskies' leading passer, receiver, rusher, some key defensive pieces and a likely first-round draft pick at tight end.

The positive for Petersen and his staff is that with so much star power moving to the NFL, the Huskies are a team looking for go-to players, leaders and key contributors, allowing the new coach to mold the future.

The negative is clear: He needs to replace a lot of production. And with Cyler Miles suspended indefinitely and his future in limbo, according to The Seattle Times, finding offensive players just got more difficult.

About the suspension of Miles and Damore'ea Stringfellow, Petersen told Jim Rome (h/t to The Seattle Times):

We’ll just see how this goes. There’s just a certain way that we need to conduct ourselves. I know this: that playing college football and coaching college football is a privilege and with this privilege comes tremendous responsibility and we need to do things right — we need to do everything right. And when that doesn’t happen, then there’s always going to be a consequence. So we’ll just see how this thing plays out and we’ll just take it one week at a time, and we’re going to do the right thing at the end of the day.

With offense an issue, the big positive comes on the defensive side in the form Shaq Thompson. 

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As the offensive star power from 2013 transitions out of the program, Thompson gives Petersen a defensive stud to work with. Defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski has a bona fide star who he can build a defense around. There will be plenty of cause for concern surrounding a defensive line in search of consistent performers, but Thompson is a quality starting point.

Petersen has his work cut out for him. A team does not lose Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Bishop Sankey, Sean Parker and Keith Price without facing springtime struggles. This is especially true under a new regime. 

The former Boise State coach has long been one of the better football minds on the collegiate landscape. Now, in his new location, the nation will get to watch him navigate a spring session where the players are all brand new. Luckily, the field is still 100 yards long, it still takes 11 on offense and 11 on defense to work and, because football is still football, Washington should be in good hands with Petersen.