Coach Speak: Justin Wilcox and Eric Kiesau

It's rare that a sitting coach has to replace both of his coordinators, but that was exactly the position Husky head coach Steve Sarkisian found himself following the 2011 football season. While that might have seemed like a daunting taks, Washington's fourth-year head coach was able to pull in two well-respected, up-and-coming assistants in Eric Kiesau and Justin Wilcox...

On the atmosphere around the offices: "It's unbelievable. You think like the first couple days you get here, oh it's all new, it's great, it's exciting, but it's like that every day. From the players to the coaches, these guys like to have fun, but they want to get their work done and that's important. With the time and the hours we put together with the coaches and the players, you have got to have fun and these guys have that balance -- ' hey we're going to get our work done, but we're going to have fun doing it'."

On focusing on recruiting: "We've already gone on to next year's players. We're trying to do recruiting in the morning and football in the afternoon and recruiting is a year-round cycle, it never stops and for the most part you're always one year ahead. You're always working in advance, so even though that Signing Day is done and it's great, we're excited about that class, but as a staff we have to look forward and start finding the 2013s."

On play-calling duties: "That whole dynamic is something we've talked about and I'm still kind of learning as I'm going, but we've got some of the base principles done when I took the job. It's his offense, it's his system, it's his terminology and my big goal is to jump into it because all of the other guys -- coach (Dan) Cozzetto, coach (Jimmy) Dougherty and Joel Thomas -- they know the terminology, they know the system and I'm the new guy jumping in so it's important for me to go through the film. We're just going through the plays and getting the terminology. What I've known, I've been in the same offense for about 10 years, and take those words and translate them into how Sark calls them. That's the biggest thing. The next thing will be the game planning and how we approach work and how we do things. Obviously, Sark is going to be the play-caller, he's made that clear and that's great. I've always said, I have no ego, I want to win football games, so if that's the one negative about the job I can suck up my ego to win games and I mean that. Would I like to call plays? Absolutely, but I'm not going to let it hold me back from being part of something special."

On what led up to him taking the job: "It was a quick transition. I got a phone call, first off no one knew that Nuss was leaving, so I got a phone call asking if I was interested in the job. Coach (Jeff) Tedford and coach Sark spoke, Sark and I got on the phone and we hit it off instantly. Instant chemistry. Same personality, same philosophy and we've run the same system for the last 10 years or so, very similar, so it was a very easy conversation to have with him and it fit so well, it was easy to make the decision to come up here."

On the steps to getting the job: "My whole transaction took about 18 hours. It was literally, and I'm talking about sleeping time, which I didn't sleep at all that night. It was a very, very quick transition. I got the call Sunday night, I got the call around midnight, I was back east doing a home visit with coach Tedford, Sark was all fired up and he said 'I'm going to offer you a job right now, you want it?' and I was like "Sark I haven't even talked to my wife yet'."

On moving his family: "That's the whole deal. Everybody talks about the football part of me taking the job. The football part was great. It was the personal side that made this a bigger decision for me because we did not want to move our kids in high school. My daughter is in her last year of middle school, so if this job had come up two years from now it would have been a tougher decision, but since it was the critical point where she's getting ready to go into high school, it was the right time, on a personal level, for me to do this. So from that standpoint, I was in Maryland, I was supposed to fly to Texas to go recruit, but I changed my flight to get into Oakland because I wanted to look my daughter in the face and my wife in the face because over the phone they would all be excited about it and say 'do it', but I wanted to look them in the eye before I made the decision."

On what he brings that is new: "What I need to do right now, and what I'm doing, we started talking ball yesterday. I'm trying to learn their terminology, learn their words, learn how they communicate and how they do things offensively. If I come in and say this is what I want to do, that's not going to work. I need to listen and learn his system and then how can I tweak that and how can I help? I need to be patient in the beginning, hear and understand how they do things here before I start trying to make changes to things."

On knowing some of the key players on the offense and that playing a part: "Absolutely. Especially when you watch a quarterback like Keith Price and how well he throws the ball and a guy like Austin Seferian-Jenkins, you've got your receivers outside, yeah. When you start talking about changing jobs you start going down the roster and looking at guys, because as an offensive guy you're mainly watching defensive players so when you switch, to take an offensive job (somewhere else), you've got to start looking at the offensive players. You look at four of the five offensive linemen coming back, there were a lot of positive things about this offense and then you look at how Sark calls the game and how he likes to take chances. He'll let it rip and I like that because you have to have a little edge to him."

Justin Wilcox

On being a mentor for Lupoi: "I've known Tosh as a player - he was a defensive end there…he was the kind of guy that was a hard-core, hard-charging bulldog. He lost at least two seasons there due to injury and I know it crushed him. He was a senior like four times, I swear. I've always had a lot of respect for him because of his toughness, his work ethic, how bright he was. There have been other things that have come up, and this one made the most sense. We're fortunate to have him here. I know he's excited to be here. I know he's got a reputation as a great recruiter, but the guy can coach football. You can recruit great kids and all that - which is extremely important, it's the lifeblood of our program - but when you get 'em here you've got to teach 'em how play, and you have to teach 'em the right way and they have to want to play for him.

"And for a guy like Tosh, the kids that play for him live and die for him. The guys that graduate and move on and play in the NFL or have families call him and talk to him. Not because he was easy on them, but because he did right by them. And that's what's important. And I think that all of our staff is that way, and it's extremely important."

On the first staff meeting: "It was so awesome. I've been on great staffs before, but everybody was on the same vibe in terms of their positive energy, competitive, go-getter-type personalities. One staff meeting, and you could tell..."

On the energy of the coaching staff: "It all starts with Sark. When we were talking to Tosh and trying to get him out of the nest, I brought that up a lot. That's important. It's not a knock on others, but the guys here are all kind of very similar. And it's exciting to go to work with that every day."

On his defensive and recruiting philosophy: "You have a foundation of what you believe in that everybody has, and then you look at your team and what they've got. Who are the guys who you think are going to be the best players, who do you want to put the pressure on, how do you build your defense to best fit you and give you the best chance to win.

"It was different at Boise, we played a certain way - and at Tennessee we adjusted a certain way because of the strengths and weaknesses of the team."

On hitting the recruiting trail: "We got here on Monday, and we were gone on the road Tuesday night. We were going to see guys they were already involved with, we were going to see some guys that they were middle of the road on. Obviously some of that changed with the staff and all that. We had a plan, and Johnny Nansen did a great job when we got here. It was like - here's where we are with everybody. We sat and watched tape of every player on the defensive board, what we thought of them. And then we went from there."

On it being a whirlwind: "It's been hectic, to be sure. Once signing day hit, the next two days were decompression mode. It was like, 'Wow, how about that! Look at just what happened'. But it's been awesome. It was so natural I think once we got here, again with who we were working with like Joel (Thomas), Jimmie D, coach Cozzetto - those guys were awesome. We just stepped in and hit the ground running. I think that was awesome. It was very seamless, as much as it could be, I think. Once it ended on Signing Day, we got a chance to catch our breaths."

On Tosh and recruiting: "He's a bulldog. He's an absolute bulldog in recruiting. Works extremely hard, organized, has great communication skills. The kids are really drawn to him. And he's not the only one. Tosh has a reputation as being a great recruiter, and it's well-deserved, but the guy can coach football. We have a lot of confidence that he'll do a great job of that."

On leaving Tennessee: "I came from a great place, and I was not looking to leave. Tennessee is a phenomenal place, and they are going to have a great football team. I have a ton of respect for all those coaches. It just made a lot of sense. That was late Saturday night, and I was in the office at 11 am Monday morning."

On what he and Sark discussed in their initial phone conversation: "We just spoke about a lot of things. We talked a lot the next day and I talked to a handful of people that a value their opinion and they all said the same things about the University, Sark and the administration. And I know what the support is like here. I've played in this stadium and I know what it's like here. That's why it was exciting to come back because I've always had a lot of respect for this place."

The reaction of Oregon friends: "They've been great. I'm proud to be from there and had a great experience there. I've always had a great deal of respect for the University of Washington growing up and playing 'em, so it hasn't been negative at all." Top Stories