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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

January 18, 2012 at 5:07 PM

A few thoughts on the coaching staff, and a few notes and links

The official hiring of Eric Kiesau earlier today put a capper on Washington’s assistant coach moves for this season.

In all, UW will have five new assistants in 2012 after having had the same staff for each of Steve Sarkisian’s first three seasons.

Sarkisian had talked often of the value of stability the last few years as the staff stayed the same — and was encouraged to stay with raises and extensions along the way.

But the manner in which the 2011 season ended also indicated the need for change — and then also arrived the inevitable reality of the profession that sometimes coaches move on when other offers beckon.

CoachingSearch.com the other day noted how rare stability is, pointing out that only Oregon and Army have had the same staff since 2009 and only 26 (of 120 FBS schools) have gone without change this year.

I’ve been asked if UW has ever had so much turnover in a year when its head coach wasn’t fired. I’ve covered the Huskies since 1997 and the only other year that had close to this much turnover in coaches is one that was set in motion due to a head coaching change in 2004. After Keith Gilbertson’s first year replacing the fired Rick Neuheisel, UW had four changes in its assistant coaching staff. Then, the entire program was obviously tenuous, which helped cause a few guys to leave.

But the consensus opinion of those who follow college football is that UW has vastly upgraded its coaching staff, especially in terms of recruiting.

“I love the staff,” ESPN.com’s Greg Biggins said last night. “I think they hit home runs everywhere, across the board.”

UW’s staff, especially on defense, is on the younger side, and some might worry a little about the overall coaching experience. But as the old coach’s saying goes “it’s not about the X’s and the O’s but the Jimmy’s and the Joe’s.” UW is banking first — and spending lots of bank, as well — on improving the Jimmy’s and the Joe’s. (Though just how much we still don’t know as official salaries for all have yet to be released).

That isn’t to say people think the new defensive coaches are just recruiters, especially defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, whose work at Boise State and Tennessee already had him on the fast-track, rumored this year as a possible head coach candidate at Arizona State. And for all his rep as a recruiter, Tosh Lupoi also got high marks for helping develop a Cal defensive line that the last few years was regarded as among the best in the Pac-12.

“He had good guys and developed them,” Biggins said.

Biggins had similarly high praise for Kiesau, whose experience is largely working as an assistant for Jeff Tedford at Cal and Dan Hawkins at Colorado.

“He’s very, very smart, sharp,” Biggins said. “An intellectual guy. He’s young, a good recruiter. He relates well to the kids and he’s just a real good guy. As a coach, he’s smart, offensive-minded and he has some offensive coordinator experience (at Colorado in 2009 and 2010).

“His personality is very similar to Sarkisian’s — they are very similar. I think Sark is a little more loud, maybe, but they are both very cerebral. They each look like they could be Ivy League guys — they have that sense to them. But he’s a great hire. He’ll be a great complement for their gameplanning and all that.”

An obvious question is how the addition of Kiesau would change UW’s offense. As Sarkisian noted today in the official statement announcing the hire, Cal runs a pretty similar offense to that of UW —- also something he has said during the week every year the Huskies have played Cal, as well — so not much has to change, if anything.

So for now, the staff is set, a dizzying month of turnover — consider that it was just Dec. 14 when Demetrice Martin left for UCLA — having finally come to a halt.


— Alabama officially announced the hiring of Doug Nussmeier today.

— Biggins also reported today that safety Devian Shelton of Inglewood, Calif. — who had been a commit to Oregon State — will take a trip to UW this weekend. He has also been considering Tennessee, so sounds like he has lots of contacts with the new UW staff.

Joe Montana and his wife visited Blinn College on Tuesday, looking for a new home for Nick Montana.

— The Big Lead says all the coaching change could propel UW to the top of the Pac-12 — and that’s obviously what the Huskies are investing in.

— If you want to know the honest reaction at Cal to the loss of two assistants to UW, here you go.

Mel Kiper has Chris Polk listed as his No. 5 running back, just behind LaMichael James.

— Some interesting stuff from ESPN.com looking back at the Class of 2008.

— ESPN.com’s Ted Miller examines what SI.com’s Stewart Mandel had to say about new coaching hires in the Pac-12, including Lupoi.

— I missed this yesterday, but Jon Wilner has some good stuff on how the Pac-12 Networks are coming together.



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