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Who will be WSU's next defensive line coach? A cursory look at some potential candidates to replace Joe Salave’a

MIKE LEACH has been known at Washington State for making unforeseen assistant coach hires, and our cursory look at potential defensive line coaches to replace Joe Salave’a consists of an intriguing mix. But the first name that jumps out at this early stage?

Note: Oregon has not yet announced Salave'a as its new d-line coach but multiple sources have told CF.C he has an agreement in principle with the Ducks, with final administrative details are all that's left to finish up.

A logical place to start when considering WSU’s hiring of a new defensive line coach: look for guys with ties to Cougar d-coordinator Alex Grinch.  There are myriad degrees of separation one can go down here, but the name that pops biggest from this chair is Craig Kuligowski.  Grinch spent three seasons coaching with Kuligowski on the defensive side of the ball at Missouri, with Grinch coaching the safeties.

Kuligowski spent this past season coaching the Miami defensive line but before that, he spent 24 years coaching with Gary Pinkel (Grinch’s uncle) at Missouri and Toledo. For 20 of those seasons, he coached the d-line. When Kuligowski joined Mark Richt at Georgia prior to the 2016 season, CBSSports called him a “DL wizard” and “known as one of the nation's top defensive line coaches.” 

He lived up to the billing in Miami this past season. With the Hurricans d-line considered a weak spot, Miami this season was No. 5 nationally in tackles for loss.  The year before Kuligowski arrived at Miami, the Hurricanes ranked 105 out of 127 teams in TFL. 

In “Coach Kool's” final three seasons under Pinkel, Mizzou finished sixth, ninth and fifth nationally in TFL.  His 2016 salary was unknown, Miami does not releasing salary data on assistant coaches. The twitter bio for Kuligowski @LetsMeetAtTheQB reads: "Blessed to have coached All Americans, Defensive Players of the year, and multiple 1st Round Draft Picks."  

ANOTHER CANDIDATE who would seem to make sense: Inoke Breckterfield, Wisconsin's d-line coach.

He’s familiar with the West Coast having coached at UCLA, and he was a graduate assistant at Oregon State. Before that, he starred for the Beavs as a defensive end.

I don’t believe Leach is going to make hiring a coach of Polynesian descent a key requirement in replacing Salave’a, but will instead simply go after the best combination of coach/recruiter out there. If that coach happens to be Polynesian, like Breckterfield, then perhaps it’s a bonus on top. Breckterfield’s 2016 salary was $254,800, per USA Today.

CF.C Luxury Suites correspondent Josh Davis also offered these potential d-line coach candidates:  ASU's Joe Seumalo and who also coached at Oregon State ($250,000);  Boise State's Steve Caldwell ($244,012); Western Michigan's Jimmy Williams ($100,000).

A few other potential candidates worthy of discussion on the CF.C forums, in no particular order:

Lewis Powell,  Utah d-line coach
Powell coached the d-line this season after coaching the tight ends in his first season as an assistant coach. The former Utah defensive lineman was Hawaii’s defensive line coach from 2012-14.  Utah was No. 12 nationally in tackles for loss this season, up from 21st a year ago. According to USA Today, Powell made $250,000 this past season.

Chris Ball, Memphis d-coordinator
I’ve been told when Leach came on at WSU, he was highly intrigued by the prospect of retaining Ball from Paul Wulff’s staff. I've also been told Ball used that interest back in December 2011 to help him land a job at ASU. The prospects of Ball returning to WSU for a fourth tour of duty, this time as DL coach, would seem diminished in that he’s primarily been a d-coordinator and safeties coach. Arguing for it would be Ball’s diverse DC experience and that he’s seen as an excellent recruiter. Ball would also have some top notch facilities to recruit to at WSU, something not yet in place ay Wazzu when he left for Tempe. Ball at Memphis made $355,000 in 2016.

Ruffin McNeil, Virginia LBs coach
McNeil served as assistant head coach under Leach from 2003-09, variously coaching special teams, d-tackles and serving as the DC. He mostly coached linebackers and special teams before becoming a d-coordinator, and later the Eastern Carolina head coach (2010-15). He spent this past season as assistant head coach in charge of the linebackers under first-year Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall. But his current salary, $465,000 last year according to USA Today, could make this a non-starter.

Robb Akey, Former Washington Redskins coach
Akey will naturally be mentioned because he’s looking for a job, and he coached at WSU from 1999-2006, first as the d-line coach and then as DC.  Akey was let go this month after two seasons with the Redskins, before that he spent a year with the Vikings.  He left WSU to become Idaho’s head coach (2007-12). Still, there wouldn’t appear to be a connection between Akey and Leach/Grinch and it was a decade ago that he coached in Pullman.

Fred Tate, former Cal DL coach under Sonny Dykes
He recruited both California and Texas during his two seasons at Cal. A former sergeant in the Army, Tate is a well-traveled coach, with 13 different stops under his belt. Bear Territory did this profile on him a little over a year ago.

Brian Odom, WSU defensive quality control and David Lose, defensive assistant
The guess here is Leach will go outside WSU but if Leach did choose to hire from within, Odom could be an intriguing candidate. He joined Leach in Pullman before the 2015 season and was temporarily elevated to assistant coach, so he could hit the road recruiting in December, when inside WRs coach JaMarcus Shephard left. Lose has been at WSU since before Leach, joining the WSU coaching staff in 2011 and has served as a defensive student assistant, defensive graduate assistant and defensive quality control. Lose is listed by WSU as a sixth-year defensive assistant working in the film room and on scouting reports.

RELATED: So long, Joe. Coug DL coach Salave'a leaving WSU, sources tell CF.C

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