SEATTLE — Between the regular season and bowl season is what’s often referred to as the “silly” season. There’s no official statistics or standings but what happens in December can often shape a college football program for months and years to come.
Take Washington. On the surface, the No. 11 Huskies (10-2) are playing No. 9 Penn State (10-2) in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 30 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. Go a bit deeper. UW coach Chris Petersen is adjusting to life without former offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith, who is now the head coach at Oregon State, preparing his team for the Fiesta Bowl, ensuring players are ready for finals and building what might be his best recruiting class.
Saturday alone was a culmination of everything. UW held an early practice so players could focus on exams and the Huskies received two verbal commitments over the span of 24 hours.
“I think we’re fine. We’ve kind of have always done it like this,” Petersen said. “During the week we’re out recruiting and we come back on the weekends and practice. In the meantime, we’re finding spots to game plan. We’ve planned it out. We’ve looked at the calendar and it looks good. We’ll have ample time to get the right plays in for our guys and ample time to recruit.”
Starting with recruiting, the Huskies coaching staff hosted several potential players this weekend in the days leading up to the new early signing period.
The new early window runs from Dec. 20-22 and it allows high school seniors to sign their national letter of intent during that time. It works in conjunction with the traditional period which starts the first Wednesday in February, also known as National Signing Day.
On Friday, the Huskies received a commitment from three-star linebacker MJ Tafisi for their 2018 class. A day later, they got another pledge from three-star linebacker Zion Tupuola-Fetui.
UW has added four commits since Nov. 23 and now have a total of 18 pledges for its 2018 signing class. 247 Sports rates the group as the No. 13 class in the nation while Rivals evaluates it at 18th.
Meeting recruits and their families is a group activity, which means current players are enlisted to host potential teammates.
NCAA rules prohibit current coaches and players from discussing specific recruits. They can, however, discuss the nature of recruiting.
“I think its a great time. Coaches are going to be around and they have a little bit more time so they can interact with you more,” Huskies offensive lineman Kaleb McGary said of mid-December recruiting. “You can interact with the players more, which, I think is the biggest deal. It’s just a good time. It’s a good time of year.”
Petersen was asked if the staff’s schedule and work flow has amplified with a lot happening at once.
“You mean the firings and hirings and the chaos that’s created?” Petersen replied. “That’s really the bad thing … it’s discouraging. That’s not what its all about.”
More than 20 Football Bowl Subdivision programs have sought new coaches since the regular season ended.
Whether it be directly or indirectly, nearly every college football team in America is affected by the changes in the landscape.
The Huskies are no different. Smith, who was with the program for four seasons, left UW in late November.
UW filled the opening by hiring former assistant Bush Hamdan, who is currently the quarterbacks coach for the Atlanta Falcons. Hamdan will join the team after the end of the NFL season.
As for what the Huskies will do in the Fiesta Bowl, Petersen said it will be a “collaborative effort” when it comes to offensive playcalling.
It’s likely co-offensive coordinator Matt Lubick and Petersen will call plays.
“We’re kinda working through all that,” Petersen said. “The one thing, we’re obviously really happy for Jonathan to go down there. Now its a whole different rhythm.
“It’s a different rhythm of game-planning, calling the game … we’re kinda figuring it out as we go.”