Chris Petersen: Washington Huskies are right fit at right time


It was the question that had to be asked of new Washington head coach Chris Petersen at his introductory press conference, the one that will likely define whether his tenure is ultimately a successful one.

"Coach, are you going to beat Oregon?"

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Quipped Petersen, "We going to start with that already?"

As the highest-paid coach in the Pac-12 -- at least among the 10 public schools that must disclose such information -- with a five-year, $18 million contract, Petersen is supposed to elevate the Huskies back to the top of the conference. And that means beating the Ducks, something Petersen did twice at Boise State.

Yet, for all of his success in eight seasons with the Broncos, Petersen felt ready to accept a new challenge.

"People keep asking me, 'Why now? You've been at Boise for so long,'" he said. "And two things keep coming to mind: timing and fit. It was just time. I think every place has its shelf life. Sometimes it's very short, sometimes it's very long, sometimes it's in between."

Petersen saw first-hand what UW had to offer in a 38-6 trouncing of Boise State in September to open the season. It was a talented roster energized by playing in the newly renovated Husky Stadium.

But Petersen said he would not go out of his way to sway the two most talented players on that roster, junior running back Bishop Sankey or tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, into returning to school next season.

"I'm certainly going to talk to them, but I'm not here to try to talk them out of coming back or going," he said. "I would like to help them the best I can. You certainly hope to have your best players stick around for another year, but everybody is going to do what is best for them and their family."

If Sankey (1,775 rushing yards, 18 touchdowns this season) and Seferian-Jenkins (413 receiving yards, seven touchdowns) return, it would certainly give UW a far better chance of breaking the decade of dominance Oregon has established in the bitter Pacific Northwest rivalry. While redshirt sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota is returning, the Ducks looked vulnerable down the stretch and could still lose cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and running back De'Anthony Thomas to the draft.

Petersen clearly felt the time was right to leave Boise State. Athletic director Scott Woodward clearly felt the time was right for UW to land a home-run hire capable of winning championships. Fans clearly feel the time to beat Oregon is right now.

If Petersen really is the right fit, he will have to do just that.

Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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