Coach's Corner

That didn't take long. Less than one month after a complete wipeout of his defensive staff, Coach Steve Sarkisian has already hired their replacements. They all played in the Pac-12, all were really good players, in fact, and all have coaching backgrounds in the conference as well as in big-time college football.

They are also all excellent recruiters with experience in west coast recruiting and they are all relatively young. What's not to like here?

Coach Sarkisian's system is built around high energy: It goes at a fast tempo and these coaches appear fit enough to keep up. Heck, all of them have just recently stopped playing the game themselves. Two have Duck ties, one has Beaver ties, and two have Cal Bear ties and they will join Johnny Nansen who has Cougar ties. We only need one with Stanford ties and we would have the whole Northern Division of the Pac-12 covered. It's always great to have inside information on another system.

Justin Wilcox was the first to come aboard and obviously had a pre-existing relationship with Sark, but he is also from the northwest and like his father, Dave, Justin played for the Ducks. His resume is impressive, but the best part is that he has beaten the Ducks before when he was the DC for Boise State during a time when the Broncos went 49-4. Face it, the Washington Huskies will never really be "back" until they can regularly beat the Ducks again (and the Beavers for that matter). Since 2000, the Ducks have won 9 of 12 games against the Dawgs, including the last eight in a row. Oregon State has won 8 of 12 as well.

Come on, getting Wilcox is like the capturing one of the enemy's Commanders. He has an understanding of the Duck system and probably knows it better than anyone we've had working defense here in the past ten years.

I remember Justin as a hard-hitting safety who played against us in the late 90's and I'll always remember the new UW linebackers coach, Peter Sirmon, because we recruited him and actually brought him in on an official visit but were unable to offer him because we were under sanctions and restricted to 15 total scholarships. I believe his father went to Washington and I really liked him on film so we tried to dance with him in case a ride opened up. He took the bird in hand so essentially I screwed it up, otherwise I think he'd have been a Husky years ago. He was an excellent linebacker at both the college and professional levels and has built a great reputation already as a coach and recruiter. He and Wilcox are obviously best of friends and that should help both for the adjustment period that will take place.

Keith Heyward comes to the Huskies from Oregon State where he was both a player and coach - once starting 35-straight games for them in a secondary that also included the Seahawks' Brandon Browner. He hails out of Taft High School in Woodland Hills, Calif. and has been the LA recruiter for the Beavs. Heyward is a natural fit considering that he replaces one of UW's main LA recruiters - Demetrice Martin - and he has established a record of developing solid secondary players. He will coach the secondary and will no doubt help in beating both Oregon teams.

Tosh Lopoi will coach the defensive line and did so at Cal, where he both played and coached. Tosh was the youngest full-time assistant coach ever at California. He was named one of the best recruiters in the west (one service called him the top recruiting assistant in the country in 2010) in addition to coaching what I thought was the best defensive front in the conference last year. He sounds like a great fit from both angles.

When Doug Nussmeier left last week to join Alabama's staff, Sark wasted no time raiding California again, this time luring away Eric Kiesau to join up as offensive coordinator. He had been coaching with Jeff Tedford on his second stop in Berkeley and was serving as receivers coach and passing game coordinator. Excuse me, but Cal's receivers have been pretty good for years - including this past year with Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones - and now the Huskies have an inside book on both sides of California football. He is also a known recruiter. He's the old man of the new group, turning 40 this November.

So while some Husky fans reacted negatively to the raiding of Martin by Jim Mora and UCLA but also to the potential fallout in recruiting, Sarkisian plucked three of the best recruiters from two of our competitive division rivals. Sounds like a great trade off to me, and then to get two northwest guys out of Tennessee makes this whole group an exciting addition to Husky football.

Sarkisian has made the first changes in his staff since he became the head coach and he did it quickly and in keeping with his emphasis on recruiting and high energy personalities. His players and remaining staff are well entrenched in his off-season program, as well as recruiting. We won't have any idea of the differences in defensive philosophies, teachings, techniques, or schemes until spring, but it is my guess that we may be seeing more of an odd front as a base defense with a more man-to-man emphasis. Sarkisian still retained a core element of his staff who have been with him all three years including the support staff in the weight room and study table.

Sarkisian seems to always be one step ahead when it comes to personnel, and we're liable to see some interesting things happening in recruiting over the next two weeks. The General was decisive, prepared, and swift in dealing with the changes. Sometimes change can be the spark that ignites a championship run. Athletic Director Scott Woodward has been onboard with Sark throughout this period of transition. Without his support and backing, coach would never have been able to make such drastic and definitive moves.

I can promise you that this kind of AD/Head Coach relationship has not happened in Husky Football since Mike Lude/Don James worked so well together in the 80's and early 90's. Of course it also helps when you have a true commitment to football. Considering the stadium renovation project and these latest moves, it's apparent that Washington does. Top Stories