Impact Report - Eric Kiesau

For the California Golden Bears, the hits just keep on coming. Whether intended or not, Steve Sarkisian has taken a large chuck out of a division rival with another in-conference hire. Eric Kiesau will now jump from Berkeley to Seattle to take over the role of offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, a job that used to belong to Doug Nussmeier before his departure for Alabama this week.

On the outside, it sure looks like part two of a strong power play on Sarkisian's behalf to weaken the Bears while strengthening his own staff at the same time. Part one was the sledgehammer news of defensive line coach and recruiter extraordinaire Tosh Lupoi to Montlake, a move expected to cause more than just ripples throughout the Pac-12. The news of Lupoi's move away from his alma mater came as a shock to Cal fans and donors alike; Kiesau's exit apparently hasn't raised as many eyebrows in the Bay Area.

"A lot of people knew there was a real chance of this happening well before it did," Jim McGill, Staff Writer for, the top independent website for California athletics. "It wasn't out of the question at all that this was going to head in this direction. The move of approaching him and him making the move was definitely not out of the realm of possibility with a lot of people familiar with both situations. The money is making people scratch their heads a little bit."

It's reported that Kiesau (pronounced KEY-saw) could make as much as $700-800,000 per year on a three year contract. According to USA Today's College Football Coach Salary Database, Kiesau made $164,000 at Cal, with a possibility of up to $84,000 more in bonuses.

"We exhausted all our resources to try to retain Tosh and Eric within the confines and continuity of our coaching staff," California Head Coach Tedford was quoted as saying when the news of Kiesau's desire to pull up stakes and head to Seattle was made public. That quote, on the surface, can only really be taken one way; we were out-bid by another school.

This isn't the first time Kiesau has left Cal to earn a raise. After becoming one of Tedford's first hires to Cal in 2002 as their receivers coach and recruiting coordinator, Kiesau earned praise for helping to coach up receivers like Geoff MacArthur, Lavelle Hawkins, Robert Jordan and DeSean Jackson as targets for such quarterbacks as Aaron Rodgers before making a move to Colorado in 2006 as their passing game coordinator and receivers coach.

In 2008, Kiesau was promoted by then-Head Coach Dan Hawkins to offensive coordinator, assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach. During a 5-7 campaign, the offense averaged 318.5 yards per game. In 2009, the Buffs' offense struggled even more, averaging only 314.3 yards per game while trying to juggle a two-headed quarterback attack (Cody Hawkins and Tyler Hansen).

When Hawkins was blown out of Boulder, Kiesau was given his own pink slip at the end of the 2010 season. When he was given a chance to return to Berkeley to coach up the receivers and be their passing game coordinator, he couldn't pass it up.

"People weren't particularly happy with his first stint (at Cal), but I usually disagreed with that because of his results during his first stint with Cal," said McGill. "The results he had at Colorado were mixed; he had one real good receiver (Scotty McKnight) but a lot of people there weren't enthusiastic about him. But when he came back I thought he did a good job with instilling more discipline and more of a competitive attitude with the receiving corps at Cal.

"The fact that he came back obviously speaks well of his relationship with Tedford. I don't know about his relationship with (former Cal LB coach and current UW defensive coordinator Justin) Wilcox - that probably plays a role because they were on staff together at Cal. It was probably more of a friendship than an older coach/mentor relationship."

With Lupoi also on board, this is Sarkisian's second hire - both from California - that has a significant Pac-10/12 recruiting background. There's no question Kiesau played a strong role in bringing talent like Hawkins, Jordan and Jackson to Berkeley. At the time, those were considered recruits typically out of Cal's zip code.

"I thought he was one of Cal's better recruiters the first time around," McGill said of Kiesau. "He seemed to be pretty energetic and engaging; he seemed to like the recruiting game. But in talking to the recruits this year it seemed like he didn't play as big a role. That may be because of his extra responsibilities this time around. He was sharing some of the coordinator responsibilities, so that probably kept him busier.

"He didn't seem to get super involved with recruiting this time around. I seem to remember that he was more involved in his first stint than in this stint."

Two things have become clear; even though Kiesau doesn't come to Montlake with the national recruiting rep Lupoi does, he certainly has a convincing resume of attracting top talent to wherever he's coached. He may not be the lead recruiting dawg on players like Cedric Dozier and Jordan Payton - receivers who are both currently committed to California - but when news of his move to UW broke the response from said players was palpable. You can tell that he knows how to develop relationships.

"I like him," McGill said of Kiesau. "He's a good guy. He's energetic. He's motivated. It seems like he relates well with his receivers."

"Man, with all the changes, I'm still committed to Cal, but I think I'm going to end up taking more of my (official) visits," Dozier told Tuesday afternoon. By changes, he means the two main coaches recruiting him - Lupoi and Kiesau - aren't there anymore.

"A big part of it was that I was so comfortable with Coach Lupoi and Coach Kiesau and the whole staff," Payton said when he made his verbal commitment public at the U.S. Army All-American Game in San Antonio less than two weeks ago. "I was in a great position to play there and then, I'm just hearing some other things that have to deal with that, too."

The second thing that has become clear is that Kiesau - in a sense - is starting from scratch at Washington. It's true that he's already been a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at a Big-12/Pac-12 school, so in that way this move will not take him by surprise. But from a recruiting standpoint, Lupoi was the one who worked the northwest for Cal the last couple of years. It's completely possible he did recruit for Cal in the northwest during his first stint there, but that would have been seven years ago - so geographically-speaking he's rusty at best. Being from southern California will no doubt help, but with recruiting hit men like Lupoi, Wilcox, Peter Sirmon and Johnny Nansen already in the fold, Kiesau's recruiting role will no doubt be as a faithful deputy, picking up the slack when needed and closing the big-time offensive players during in-homes with Sarkisian - especially quarterbacks. He already has a strong background with Lupoi, and it's expected he'll pick things up with Wilcox like they were never apart.

And Kiesau - like Sarkisian - played quarterback at the junior college and Division-1 levels, so he understands the role well and can relate to those he recruits and coaches. Getting a former quarterback to coach quarterbacks seems like a no-brainer, but it's clear Sarkisian liked that dynamic with Nussmeier and there's no reason that won't continue under Kiesau.

This move of Kiesau from Cal to Washington ticks off a number of boxes and satisfies some immediate needs for the Huskies going forward. It fills the role of who will be Sarkisian's offensive lieutenant, the person responsible for helping organize the game plans and play calls, the coach who helps determine the scripts and all the other minutiae; it also allows Sarkisian to easily slide Kiesau into Nussmeier's role without any additional jostling of positions, so the transition can be as seamless as possible. There's already been a ton of movement with the Huskies' staff in the off-season, so being able to get a like-for-like hire in Kiesau should really help smooth out any rough edges created by Nussmeier's move to Tuscaloosa.

Kiesau brings Pac-12 credibility to households in recruiting and to the UW players in the meeting rooms and in practices. At 39, Kiesau is another young coach brought in for his energy, enthusiasm, recruiting acumen and smarts.

And, as Washington's staff continues to bolster their ranks with coaches well-versed in what the Pac-12 is all about, they've delivered another body blow to a Cal program seemingly on the ropes when it comes to being able to compete to keep their top assistants home.

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