Game film convinced Leach to hire Wilson

THE INTEREST FROM Washington State in linebackers coach Ken Wilson began in December. Jim Mastro, who coached with Wilson at Nevada, was the first to call. Lengthy conversations followed with WSU defensive coordinator Mike Breske, d-line coach Joe Salave'a and WSU chief of staff Dave Emerick. But he didn't talk to Mike Leach until mid-January. And Leach wanted to see one thing in particular.

Tape.

"Coach Leach is very thorough," said Wilson. "And a big thing he wanted to see was 3-4 game tapes to watch, where we played against Pac-12 teams."

Mastro was already in his corner and soon Breske, Salave'a and WSU chief of staff Dave Emerick were too. And Leach liked what he saw on tape. He scheduled Wilson to come out the weekend before Signing Day and shortly after Wilson returned home, Leach called and offered Wilson the linebackers coach job at Wazzu.

Cougfan.com talked with Wilson this week headed into his first spring session at Washington State.

CF.C: With a 3-4 defense, linebacker depth is obviously critical. How comfortable are you this spring with where the Cougs are in 'backer depth?

Wilson:
Inside-wise, I feel very comfortable. We have good competition with 6-7 guys there. But you're never comfortable until you really get to work with them. The Midnight Maneuvers sessions were good -- they were active, conscientious, wanting to learn and improve.

What I've told them is that this is a clean slate. I haven't even asked for input from other coaches on the players. They have to compete and earn my trust every day, and I have to earn their trust every day.

CF.C: Given the spread of the Pistol in college football, and your deep background at Nevada, do you think your experience defending it in Wolfpack practices made you especially coveted by Mike Leach?

Wilson:
That was probably one of the factors involved, we defended against that on a daily basis obviously... (Other factors) I think were my background, they would be bringing a good staff guy on, a veteran coach who has worked with a lot of different people, being able to adapt. Loyalty was a factor, with how long I had been with Coach Ault, and then some of the success we had at Navada linebacker-wise.

CF.C: Beyond getting to really know your guys and having the chance to coach them out on the field, do you have some specific goals for spring ball?

Wilson:
My goal is to come out with some depth. It doesn't matter who are the starters, what's important is to come out with a group that will play hard and that I can trust to put out there on the field. The best guys will play, the best guys are going to be the guys who can play and win Pac-12 games is what we'll do... I want to find those guys who will help in all situations.

There's going to be a lot of moving in and out, in the 3-4 guys work together and separately... you're going to se e a lot of guys moving around.

CF.C: You'll know more after you get them all out on the field, but who are some of the players you're especially excited to see and why?

Wilson:
I've been happy with all of them, they want to be coached, they won't hide from you, they all work and learn. It's great here in how many of these players come through the office every day - that's a sign of a really healthy environment. When you're losing you don't see guys. These guys are here in their off time, they're watching film, they're asking questions.

CF.C: Jeremiah Allison is moving to MLB after bulking up this off season. How difficult will that transition be for him and what are your expectations for him?

Wilson:
I have high expectations for him. Because he's so young and smart, I don't see it being much of an issue. He's been on the field so he's had some experience, it's a move he's already started to pick up pretty well. I actually recruited him out of high school so I know him.... I think you'll see him get up to speed on the defense quickly this spring. I love how he plays.

CF.C: At Nevada, you sent a lot of linebacker talent to the pros and especially recently. What was the secret to that success?

Wilson:
I would say first it's about having good players, we recruited good players. And then we used our linebackers on a lot of special teams.

We created an environment of hard-nosed players and we're working on that here as well, guys that play hard and fast... They had a variety of skills and special teams skills, they play tough and hard. Linebackers have to do a lot of things in the NFL so we give them those skills, we did fairly well with that.

CF.C: How different is being at WSU after 23 years at same school?

Wilson:
It's different, it's exciting, it's nerve racking, I haven't been this excited to start practice in a long, long time. I'm not going to get a lot of sleep (Wednesday night.)

CF.C: Nerve racking?

Wilson:
Nerve racking in terms of learning a new defense and new players -- but there's a very bright future ahead here. Very bright.

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