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From Twitter to message board to Holiday Bowl, does this idea for Salave'a's replacement at WSU add up?

A COUGFAN.COM message board poster may have cracked the key to Washington State's search for a new defensive line coach following Joe Salave'a's move to Oregon. And get this: the coach in question had a hand in kicking the Air Raid offense back to the Stone Age in the Holiday Bowl.

It all makes for wild, delicious speculation.

The poster, ShockandAweWSU, noticed that Cougar defensive coordinator Alex Grinch recently began following outgoing Minnesota defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel on Twitter and wondered if something might be in the works. Grinch and Sawvel both played their college ball at Mt. Union (though not at the same time), so there's a natural tie  that could explain the Twitter connection. But Sawvel wouldn't seem to be a WSU d-line coach candidate from this chair.

For starters, his salary expectations may be on the high side -- he made $550,000 last year as the Gophers' DC. Plus, he also is reported to be weighing three job opportunities already -- one in the Big Ten and two in the ACC.

So let's step back and speculate more broadly. Maybe Grinch started following Sawvel on Twitter because they hit it off while Grinch was picking Sawvel's brain about outgoing Minnesota DL coach Jeff Phelps. Like Sawvel, Phelps was let go when Tracy Claeys was fired as head coach and not retained by new Gopher head man P.J. Fleck.

Phelps' Twitter bio even states "DL coach looking for work."

And then there's this: Minnesota's defensive line generally sent just three and four against WSU in the Holiday Bowl and won the battle -- by a wide margin -- against a Cougar offensive line rated one of the best nationally by ESPN, Pro Football Focus and others. In other words, the guy must be doing something right.

Minnesota ranked 12th nationally in tackles for loss this season, 21st in total defense, 22nd in sacks and 27th in pass efficiency defense. WSU ranked 78th, 93rd, 108th and 62nd in those categories in 2016, respectively.

Speculative? You bet.  Phelps wouldn't appear to have any major ties to Mike Leach or the Pac-12. He's spent the past decade-plus at Minnesota (six years) and Northern Illinois (five years) coaching the defensive line and he played his college ball, and got his coaching start, at Ball State in Indiana.

Grinch, though, didn't have any obvious ties to Leach or the West Coast recruiting scene either when he was hired out of Missouri three years ago as the Cougars' defensive coordinator. Neither have some other Leach hires at Wazzu.

Indeed, Leach has become known at Washington State for making unforeseen assistant coach hires.

If you're talking about an outside the box hire, Phelps, who made $264,000 last season, fits that bill nicely. And did I mention his d-line soundly beat the Cougar o-line just a couple weeks ago in a bowl game?


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