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Kalen DeBoer Named as Next Husky Football Coach

Fresno State leader brings high-scoring offensive background to Seattle.
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When hired as University of Washington football coach, Chris Petersen reminded people some of Don James with his straightforward coaching message and wry humor. 

From afar, Iowa State's Matt Campbell sounded a lot like Petersen with his almost folksy even sometimes stubborn demeanor while standing at a podium, which made him an obvious coach to target for the current vacancy.

Kalen DeBoer, however, comes across as Kalen DeBoer.

The newly hired Husky football coach doesn't bring the showmanship of a Rick Neuheisel, a Steve Sarkisian or even a Jimmy Lake to the job, rather he appears to be simply an even-keel guy who has a background of success, albeit at lower levels of football. 

Whether or not that's enough to initially appease the Husky fan base, DeBoer on Monday accepted the job to become the 30th UW coach with the full intent of winning everyone over.

“My family and I are so grateful for the opportunity to lead such a storied program and be part of this prestigious institution,” DeBoer said in a statement released by the UW. “The tough, hard-nosed tradition of Washington football speaks for itself, and it was obvious throughout this process that the UW is committed to competing at the highest level."

The immediate reaction among the Husky fan base was a little subdued. Former Husky quarterback Tim Cowan, while growing up with former Fresno State coach and DeBoer mentor Jeff Tedford in the Los Angeles area, admittedly said he would have to familiarize himself with the new coach.

"I hope he's the answer," Cowan said of DeBoer. "I honestly don't know anything about him."

The South Dakota native, 47, comes to Seattle after just two seasons of coaching FBS football at Fresno State, impressing everyone with a 9-3 season following a pandemic-interrupted 3-3 campaign. 

Prior to that, he was a head coach for Sioux Falls University, an NAIA school where he won three national championships and 67 of 70 games in 2005-09.

The attraction to DeBoer is his offensive acumen that made Fresno State the 14th-most prolific attack in the country, averaging 464.7 yards of total offense and 330 passing yards. He made sure to put the ball in the hands of Jake Haener, a former Husky quarterback who has thrown for 3,810 yards and 32 touchdowns this year. 

In contrast, the Huskies ranked 114th, totaling just 325.4 yards per game, which helped lead to Lake's downfall in his second season in charge.

Lake, who was suspended for shoving a player during a nationally televised game against Oregon, was fired 15 days ago for what athletic director Jen Cohen described as multiple factors.

Cohen spent Monday in Fresno meeting with DeBoer and finalizing the deal. She reportedly earlier had contact with Iowa State's Campbell, who has been resistant to all NFL and college opportunities, and others in seeking her new coach. 

“We set out to find the best fit for Husky football and we found an individual that exemplifies everything this program represents," Cohen said. "Kalen is a winner and champion, plain and simple. He has succeeded at every stop because he does it the right way and is committed to a culture of excellence for Husky football student-athletes. His strong value alignment with our department, university and community will make all of Husky Nation proud.”

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In this weekend video, DeBoer was shown sizing up the recently completed regular season for Fresno State and briefly touching on the coaching rumors flying around him. 

"It's part of our success," the coach said. "It's not going to be the first time or the last time when you have a team like ours."

As far as Fresno State, it proved to be the last time for rumors and coaching that team.

DeBoer studied his trade under Tedford, serving as his assistant coach in 2017 and 2018, before replacing him last year. Between Fresno State stints, he spent a season at Indiana as offensive coordinator, where the Hoosiers averaged 443.6 yards of total offense under his lead.

Tedford, of course, was most successful coaching at California for 11 seasons with players such as Aaron Rodgers and Marshawn Lynch, and he even served as a UW offensive consultant during its 2016 run to the College Football Playoff. 

After retiring for health reasons and having a heart procedure, Tedford, 60, appears to be interested in coaching again and could easily reclaim his job at Fresno State.

DeBoer becomes the latest Husky coach for the 21st century, following Neuheisel, hired from Colorado; Keith Gilbertson, elevated from offensive coordinator to replace Neuheisel; Tyrone Willingham, hired after getting fired by Notre Dame; Sarkisian, pulled from USC where he was offensive coordinator; Petersen, hired from Boise State, and Lake, promoted after serving as Petersen's defensive coordinator. 

Counting Petersen, DeBoer is the UW's second hire from the Mountain West Conference in its past three. 

Forty-six years ago, the UW pursued a big-name coach from among Green Bay Packers coach Dan Devine, California's Mike White and San Jose State's Darryl Rogers, losing out on each for various reasons (Devine went to Notre Dame instead) and finally settling on a virtual unknown from Kent State in Don James.

DeBoer, just like James, will need to introduce himself and his offense to everyone in Seattle and forge a long-term relationship.

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