Coach's Corner

When Dennis Erickson got the ASU job, I suspected that something might happen to the UW staff. One look at the ties between Eric Yarber and Erickson made this a no-brainer - Yarber would be pursued. A departure by Yarber from the UW would be disappointing but fully understandable.

While ASU has yet to release anything official and while the UW has yet to confirm or deny anything officially, it sure looks like Yarber is gone.

Loyalty is critical in the sport of football. It was certainly that way under Coach James as it was one of our key building blocks of the program. He went over it the first day of practice every year. You are loyal to each other, loyal to the team, loyal to your coaches, loyal to your unit, loyal to your family, and loyal to your school. It is an understood concept of being a part of a team. What's team stays team. You win together, you lose together, you don't point fingers, you don't criticize your team mates or coaches, and you stay together, fight together and win together as a team.

Yet I contend that Yarber leaving (if and when it is announced) to be with Dennis in Tempe is all about loyalty. Ironic you say?

Well, Eric Yarber played college football for Dennis Erickson after Dennis plucked him out of Crenshaw high School in LA as a scrawny little (but extremely quick) kick returner/receiver. Erickson gave him a chance when nobody else would and gave him a scholarship. He was very much a father figure to Yarber, who was passed over by many big programs. I have always joked with him that in those days I'd always given my recruiting list to the Vandals and let them know who we weren't really on.

Unfortunately, the Vandals never reciprocated by telling me about him. I didn't get their list.

He became the Vandals biggest play maker in 1984 and 85, and was named MVP of the Big Sky and an All-America. He was so spectacular that he ended up getting drafted by the NFL and even though only a 12th rounder, made the Washington Redskins.

He got there in large part because Dennis sold him to the bigs. He had already won a championship under Coach Erickson then went on to win a championship in the NFL. Eric Yarber is a winner as a player, as a person, and as a coach. Why wouldn't Dennis Erickson call in a marker and ask him to help in making ASU another instant-turn-around success?

And then move on to the next stop, of course.

When Eric's NFL playing days were over he started a coaching career with, you got it, Dennis Erickson. He steps up to UNLV for a year then enters the NFL ranks under, you got it, Dennis Erickson. He goes with Dennis from the Seahawks to Oregon State then on to the San Francisco 49'ers.

They have been together a long time and neither has any qualm about moving their families on to the next school, on to the next community, on to the next team. Their primary loyalty is to each other and whatever team they happen to be coaching. That is the way this profession is. It is so fluid with firings that you develop lifetime loyalties to people you work with and that is very healthy in such a difficult profession.

Dennis Erickson has been accused of being disloyal, but NEVER disloyal to his people. Dennis knows the game and he knows the people he trusts. He has been on the move most of his career but that is not entirely uncommon in football.

Dennis used his success at Idaho to get the job at Wyoming where he had immediate success and jumped directly to WSU where he again had immediate success and then jumped to Miami, won the National Championship, then jumped into the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks. Those are all natural processions.

When that didn't work, it was off to Oregon State, where he had success and immediately jumped back into the NFL with the 49'ers. When his second NFL stop again didn't work out, he goes full cycle and returns to Idaho.

Yes, he just stiffed Idaho again to jump to ASU because they know he is a damn good football coach and has this history of immediate success at every college he has been with. It is a no-brainer for Dennis to do this.

Because of their close history to each other, Yarber and Erickson will most likely forever be loyal to each other. That is the way it works. Eric knows Dennis is his mentor. When your mentor asks for something in return, you almost have a loyalty of obligation.

Attrition is a part of the sport of football. Coaching personnel is always moving on and most of the time moving up. You usually lose at least one coach a year but the programs that are successful usually have a nucleus that stays together. There are many reasons coaches move but most of the time it is because they are fired, but if you have success then many have opportunities to move up like becoming a head coach, a coordinator, or up the NFL where inevitably they continue to move.

I think it is a good sign that other programs want coaches off of Coach Willingham's staff. It shows he has hired the right kind of people. His staff and team are also built around loyalty and there is no doubt in my mind that if Coach Willingham personally has to take over Coach Yarber's recruits, there will be little damage to the recruiting.

Interesting that offensive coordinator, Tim Lappano, who was also very close to Dennis Erickson, did not leave. The last time he left Erickson was after they were fired at the 49'ers. Tyrone Willingham offered him a job then and took his family in. His loyalty is first to his family and his kids who are in school here now. Dennis is very much his mentor as well.

Lappano told me how happy he is to be living in this area and with the job he has. He has a great relationship with Coach Willingham and the other coaches and is really excited with the future of the offense. He wants to coach Jake Locker. Every coach must do what he thinks is best for his career, for his family and for himself. It's just the way it is.

However it all works out, I wish Eric Yarber nothing but the best. It would certainly be UW's loss, but I respect him as a person and a coach, and his loyalty to his mentor. Top Stories