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College Football: University of Washington Coaching Replacement Possibilities

After the Washington Huskies let their Head Coach go, who are some possible options to take over? Read more for all the potential replacements.

It's still a bit hard to believe just how poorly the season has gone for both Jimmy Lake and the Washington Huskies. A questionable hire in offensive coordinator John Donovan, some clueless comments to the press, seven losses and a major drop-off in recruiting later, Lake is gone, and the Huskies will be missing a bowl for the first time since 2009. After coming off of an opportunity to play for the PAC-12 championship, with a loaded roster ranked as high as top ten in some pre-season polls, the future looked extremely bright for the Lake-led Huskies.

That said, the future is still bright in Seattle. This is still a hotbed for talent that has produced four five-star recruits in the last two cycles alone, a city that provides opportunities beyond football, a storied program that is the last PAC-12 team to go to the college football playoff, has a five-star true freshman QB on the roster, and have Chris Petersen headlining a major NIL deal. But Jen Cohen and her coalition of football advisors truly need to nail this hire.

I've done some digging and found a list of 25 names that are being heavily linked by insiders and feel the need to be considered. There are names that I chose to exclude due to being told the school won't consider or won't consider the school. At the end of the article, I will rank the 25 candidates in excitement level should they be hired.

  1. Brent Venables-Clemson-HC-4/10
  2. Marcus Freeman-Notre Dame-DC-5/10
  3. Dan Lanning-Georgia-DC-3/10
  4. Matt Campbell-Iowa St-HC-8/10
  5. Jeff Hafley-Boston College-HC-7/10
  6. Kalen Deboer-Fresno S-HC-9/10
  7. Kellen Moore-Dallas Cowboys-OC-4/10
  8. Bryan Harsin-Auburn-HC-6/10
  9. Billy Napier-Louisiana-HC-3/10
  10. Tom Herman-Chicago Bears-OA-5/10
  11. Dave Aranda-Baylor-HC- 5/10
  12. Tony Elliott-Clemson-OC-5/10
  13. Kalani Sitake-BYU-HC-7/10
  14. Jeff Grimes-Baylor-OC-5/10
  15. Johnathan Smith-Oregon State-HC-7/10
  16. Sherrone Moore-Michigan-CO-OC-4/10
  17. Kasey Dunn-Oklahoma St-OC-5/10
  18. Brian Johnson-Philadelphia Eagles-QB-3/10
  19. Alex Grinch-Oklahoma-DC-5/10
  20. Dennis Simmons-Oklahoma-AHC/WR-3/10
  21. Justin Wilcox-Cal-HC-8/10
  22. Jim Leonard-Wisconsin-DC-2/10
  23. Jay Norvell-Nevada-HC-6/10
  24. Holmon Wiggins-Alabama-AHC/WR-2/10
  25. Renaldo Hill-Los Angeles Chargers-DC-2/10

The "Big Names"

Kellen Moore-OC-Dallas Cowboys

Background:

Born in Prosser, Washington, Moore was a record-setting quarterback at Prosser High before moving on to a record-setting career at Boise State. Moore had a six-year career for the Lions and Cowboys as an undrafted free agent. Moore then transitioned to the Cowboys' quarterbacks coach in 2018 before being promoted to the Cowboys' offensive coordinator in 2019 has remained leading one of the NFL's most dynamic offensive attacks. He was rumored to be in the mix for the UW's offensive coordinator position that ultimately went to John Donovan. He's 33 years old.

Best Known For:

  • His brilliant offensive football mind and ability to communicate.

Why He Will Be Considered:

  • Moore is one of the hottest names in football at all levels and is already an experienced NFL coordinator at just 33 years old. Moore is leading one of the NFL's most dynamic offenses and has proven he can adapt to game script, opponent and situation.
  • Moore is a great communicator who can effectively distill complex information into easily digestible packages.
  • His Washington ties and apparent interest in the Washington offensive coordinator position will add to interest from the decision-makers on the hire.
  • He could potentially lean on both a Washington, Idaho and Texas pipeline for recruiting.
  • Moore is a Chris Petersen success story who will certainly get the blessing for the job from Petersen.

Why It May Not Work:

  • Is Moore interested in the job? Moore is arguably THE hottest name in the NFL head coaching market right now. Would he leave for any college job?
  • Can he recruit? It's easy to envision young players wanting to play for a name like Moore, but he doesn't have any experience recruiting. With just four years of coaching experience, all at the NFL level, all with one team, can he build a strong staff with good recruiting skills?
  • Can UW afford to hire him? Moore can safely demand top-tier money as a coach.

Bottom Line:

Without even the slightest bit of doubt, Moore would be the sexiest name on this list to hire. He's young, capable and he certainly has the football chops. The only questions are his translation to the college game and if that's something that interests him.

Dave Aranda-HC-Baylor

Background:

Aranda is a 45-year-old California native with parents from Guadalajara, Mexico. Aranda has a long career on the defensive side of the ball, serving as the defensive coordinator for Hawaii, Utah State, Wisconsin and LSU before accepting the head coaching job at Baylor in 2020. Aranda was the highest-paid coordinator in college football during his time at LSU. As a head coach at Baylor, he had a rough 2-7 record in his first year but has rebounded to go 8-2 in 2021. Aranda has overseen some of the college's top defenses, including coordinating the defense of arguably the best college football team of all time in his final year at LSU.

Known For:

  • Extremely versatile, high-end defensive scheming.

Why He Will Be Considered:

  • Nicknamed the "mad scientist" for his array of unusual defensive alignments, Aranda has, without a doubt, been among the best and most innovative defensive minds in college football. Something UW has valued highly with Kwiatkowski and Jimmy Lake in recent years.
  • Aranda has a west coast background, with a Texas pipeline that Chris Petersen emphasized developing.
  • Aranda may be willing to leave Baylor and the Big 12, given the impending departure of Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC.
  • Aranda knocked off quality opponents this year in Iowa State and Oklahoma. He can compete with the big dogs of the college football world.

Why It May Not Work:

  • Aranda may not be interested -- he's already put in the work to build a solid Baylor team and gets to recruit from a massive Texas pool.
  • If he is willing to leave, LSU and USC will come calling. Can UW be more appealing than those schools and locations? Aranda is an LSU legend.
  • The cost will be over $6 million per year.
  • Baylor was 10-3 under Matt Rhule in 2019 with a solid roster. Why did that roster go 2-7 last year under Aranda?
  • How good of a recruiter is he? His classes haven't been top 25 despite his success and the massive Texas recruiting pool. Can he recruit at UW without having any experience in the Pacific Northwest?

Update: Aranda is likely to sign an extension with Baylor.

Bottom Line:

Aranda is likely to be a name on every college coaching searchers list this year. He has proven success as a defensive coach who can both scheme and develop players. The questions are how good of a fit is he, can he recruit here, and what would it cost the school to sign him?

Billy Napier-HC-Louisiana

Background:

Napier, 42, is a Tennessee native who was the star quarterback for Furman in his college days. Post Furman, Napier has spent most of his time with Clemson and Alabama, serving as offensive coordinator for Dabo Swinney from 2009-2010. Napier also spent time at Colorado State and has coached many offensive positions, including tight ends, wide receivers and quarterbacks. Napier was the offensive coordinator for Arizona State in 2017 before accepting the Louisiana head coaching job in 2018. Napier went 7-7 in 2018 and has since gone 30-5.

Known For:

  • Run the ball, stop the run.

Why He Will Be Considered:

  • Napier has been the closest thing college football has seen to the Chris Petersen-era Boise State in college football over the last four years.
  • Napier has worked closely and gained full faith and confidence from two of the best coaches in the game (Dabo Swinney and Nick Saban)
  • Having worked in college football since 2003 in some of college's top programs, Napier should be able to put together an amazing staff.
  • Napier has fairly recent west coast experience at Colorado State (2012) and Arizona State (2017)
  • Napier can recruit with the best of them.
  • Napier has had a top ten passing attack at Arizona State and then immediately followed with four years of elite running offense. He is a versatile offensive mind.

Why It May Not Work:

  • Cost. Napier can command an extremely high salary and already makes around what Lake did at Louisiana.
  • Interest from blue-bloods. LSU and USC are very publicly interested in Napier. Would he favor UW?
  • Napier has heavy roots in the south. Is he willing to move to the northwest, and if so, can he recruit here without his pipelines in place?

Bottom Line:

Napier is an elite coach who excels at coaching players up on and off the field. He wins without gimmicky play and wins on both sides of the ball with a well-defined philosophy and plan. If he wants to come here, we would be crazy not to strongly consider him. But there would be some risks in translation to the PNW.

Brent Venables-DC-Clemson

Background:

Venables, 50 years old, is from Kansas and played linebacker at Kansas State under Bill Snyder, who he then coached under from 1993-1998. Venables was the defensive coordinator for Oklahoma from 1999-2011 under Bob Stoops (reportedly part of the UW hiring council for this hire), adding linebackers and associate head coach to his duties. Post Oklahoma, Venables has been defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Clemson under Dabo Swinney from 2012 until now, adding an associate head coach to his duties in 2018. Venables has two sons who play on the current Clemson team. Venables is reported to be the highest-paid assistant in college football and has turned down multiple high-profile coaching gigs in the past.

Known For:

  • Coordinating elite defenses for over 20 years with a variety of schemes.

Why He Will Be Considered:

  • Venables has likely been the best defensive coordinator in college football over the last 20 years and leads a squad currently ranked third overall in scoring against his team.
  • Venables is one of, if not the premier recruiters in college football.
  • Venables is regarded as having an incredibly high character on and off of the field.
  • Venables has worked under three of the best coaches in the last 30 years of college football and has done nothing but win at an exceptional level.
  • Venables should be able to assemble an absolute all-star cast of coaches, given his experience and respect.

Why It May Not Work:

  • Venables has never been a head coach or been on a team without a hall of fame level coach. Can he fill that role?
  • Cost. Venables should demand a monster contract.
  • Will he leave Clemson? He's turned down high-profile jobs before and has two sons currently on the team.
  • Can he recruit on the west coast with no pipeline?

Bottom Line:

Venables has been one of the hottest names in coaching searches since the early 2000s and hasn't bitten yet. But I have heard there is possible mutual interest here. Venables would be a home run hire, but it's hard to see him leaving Clemson until his son's graduation, if ever.

Matt Campbell-HC-Iowa St

Background:

Campbell got his beginnings as part of the insane group of coaching talent to come out of Mount Union under Larry Kehres. Campbell was a defensive lineman at the school, winning three championships from 1999-2002 and by 2005 was their offensive coordinator, staying through 2006 and winning the championship both years as offensive coordinator/offensive line coach. In 2010, Campbell got his first division one coordinator job at Toledo, and by 2012, he was the youngest division one head coach at just 32 years old. Campbell went 35-15 at Toledo from 2012-2015, before being named head coach at Iowa State in 2016, where he has gone 41-33 and turned around a struggling program.

Known For:

  • Chris Petersen likes culture-building ability.

Why He Will Be Considered:

  • He's a Chris Petersen-like figure whom Chris Petersen likes
  • He turned Iowa State into a top ten ranked team.
  • He can certainly recruit at a high clip, even to Iowa State.
  • There has been some turmoil at Iowa State after a down year compared to expectations.
  • He might be interested in recruiting in Washington versus Iowa State, especially with Oklahoma and Texas leaving the Big 12.
  • Bruce Feldman called him the school's top target.

Why It May Not Work:

  • He knows how to win and build culture and isn't likely to be intrigued by "Blue blood" schools and reportedly turned down a massive NFL offer. Is UW truly different?
  • Can he recruit and win outside of the midwest?
  • Why did Iowa State underperform so much this year?
  • How much would he cost to bring over?

Bottom Line:

Campbell would be a flashy, big-name hire, and it's easy to see the similarities to Petersen. But is the same guy who turned down blue-bloods and the Lions interested in UW?

The "West Coast Coaches"

Kalen Deboer-HC-Fresno St

Background:

Deboer, a 47-year-old South Dakota native, played baseball and wide receiver for Sioux Falls from 1993-1996. By 2005, he had become the NAIA schools head coach, where he stayed until 2009. Over his five years coaching the school, Deboer went 67-3, winning three NAIA championships over that time. Deboer was then the offensive coordinator for Southern Illinois from 2010-2013 and Eastern Michigan from 2014-2016. In 2017, he became the offensive coordinator for Fresno State under Jeff Tedford, turning a team that went 1-11 in 2016 to a team that went 10-4 in 2017 and 12-2 in 2018. In 2019, Deboer became the offensive coordinator at Indiana, taking a team that had finished 88th in scoring to 43rd. Fresno State dropped to 4-8 without Deboer in 2019, and Tedford was fired. Deboer took over as Fresno State head coach, going 11-6 thus far.

Known For:

  • Building a culture of winning and running an efficient offense.
  • Why He Will Be Considered:
  • Deboer has won everywhere he's been and scored everywhere he's been.
  • Deboer took a UW backup quarterback in Haener and built a top-tier offense around him overnight. He would do wonders with Sam Huard and UW's weapons.
  • Player buy-in with Deboer is very, very real.
  • Deboer has west coast ties after his time in Fresno.

Why It May Not Work:

  • Can he recruit? Deboer staff hasn't quite met the recruiting levels UW hopes to see.
  • Deboer has built something in Fresno -- does he want to leave for another program?

Bottom Line:

Deboer is a winner who understands how to build a culture and put his players in a place to succeed. But is he the guy who can recruit at a level to compete with Oregon's SEC-style program?

Kalani Sitake-HC-BYU

Background:

Sitake, 46 years old, is the first Tongan national to become a head football coach at the collegiate level. A star running back at BYU, Sitake played one year for the Bengals before his coaching career. Sitake got his first defensive coordinator gig at Utah in 2009, where he stayed until 2014. In 2015, Sitake took over as Oregon State associate head coach and defensive coordinator, which was a disastrously bad season in which the defense ranked 114th out of 128 teams. Still, Sitake landed the BYU head coaching gig in 2016, where he has gone 46-28, including going 19-3 since 2020. Sitake is a Mormon who did go on his mission from 1995-1996.

Known For:

  • Pacific Islander recruiting pipeline.

Why He Will Be Considered:

  • Sitake has turned BYU into a consistently top 15 ranked team, even after losing Zach Wilson.
  • UW has relied heavily on recruiting pacific islanders, and Sitake is truly elite in this area.
  • Sitake has been primarily on the west coast and has experience living in the PNW.
  • Sitake has been frustrated with the lack of ability to pay his staff what they are worth -- UW could help in this area.

Why It May Not Work:

  • Can Sitake function the same without the strange ups and downs of recruiting at BYU?
  • Would Sitake, a devout Mormon, leave BYU for UW?
  • With BYU headed to the Big 12, Sitake doesn't have to leave BYU to get into a power-five program.
  • What happened at Oregon State in 2015?

Jay Norvell-HC-Nevada

Background:

Norvell, 58, was born in Wisconsin and played college football at Iowa before a one-year NFL stint on the Bears. Norvell immediately began coaching. His notable stops have begun as an offensive position coach for the Colts and Raiders from 1998-2003. He then took over as the offensive coordinator for Nebraska from 2004-2006. He then had a failed 2007 stint as the offensive coordinator at UCLA, worked his way from assistant offensive coordinator to co-offensive coordinator at Oklahoma from 2008-2014. Norvell then spent 2015 as the Texas wide receivers coach and 2016 as the passing game coordinator at Arizona State under offensive coordinator Billy Napier. In 2017, Norvell was hired as the Nevada head coach, where he has had a disappointing 3-9 start but has gone 32-16 since.

Known For:

  • Unconventional air-raid passing attack.

Why He Will Be Considered:

  • Norvell has a long track record as an offensive play-caller and has done a good job developing Carson Strong
  • Norvell has had a tremendous amount of west coast and southwest connections over the last 20 years of coaching.
  • Norvell can lean on his experience to build out a solid staff around him.
  • Norvell likely won't cost a tremendous amount to hire compared to other coaching options.

Why It May Not Work:

  • Norvell has had a bit of an up and down career and has never really put it all together for a year as a coach.
  • At 58 years old, Norvell may be older than what UW wants.
  • Norvell has been a solid middle-of-the-pack recruiter at Nevada, and without any northwest pipelines, may be among the bottom tier of Pac-12 recruiters.

Bottom Line:

Norvell has done a good enough job at Nevada to get a serious look from UW but ultimately would feel like a budget hire. It's fair to question if Norvell is the right coach to turn UW back into a top-tier program.

Jonathan Smith-HC-Oregon State

Background:

A star quarterback at Oregon State, the 42-year-old Smith, Smith began coaching immediately after graduating in 2001. In 2010, Smith got his first offensive coordinator job at Montana, where he stayed through 2011. In 2012, Smith took over as quarterbacks coach for Boise State under coach Chris Petersen. In 2014, Smith followed Petersen to Washington as his offensive coordinator. In his four years in Washington, Smith's offenses averaged over 30 points per game, finishing eighth and 17th overall in 2016-2017, respectively. In 2018, Smith was named head coach of his alma mater Oregon State, taking over a team that went 1-11 in 2017. The Beavers went 2-10 in 2018 but have gone 13-16 since. Oregon State now boasts a 6-4 record with an offense scoring 34.0 points per game. Smith was born in Pasadena, California.

Known For:

  • Exceptional development of quarterbacks and ability to teach them to make pre-snap reads/adjustments.
  • Why He Will Be Considered:
  • Smith is undeniably a true quarterback guru who should work wonders with five-star freshman Sam Huard.
  • He knows both the region and the program extremely well.
  • He turned around one of the toughest to win at universities very quickly.
  • He fits the character profiles UW values highly.
  • Smith has always run a high-powered and balanced offense at every stop.

Why It May Not Work:

  • Smith knows the area, but can he recruit at a high level? His class is slightly above UW's in 2022, but his 2021 class ranked 109th, and both classes lack any four-star talent.
  • Will he be willing to leave his alma mater?
  • If he is, USC appears to be interested as well. Would he prefer a return to UW over his childhood home?
  • Is there still any bad blood from fans calling for his job despite running a top 20 offense in 2017?

Bottom Line:

Smith is a good offensive mind who fits the players we have in-house. He would avoid disaster, but can he take the program back to the heights from when he left without Coach P? And would he want the job in the first place?

Justin Wilcox-HC-Cal

Background:

Wilcox, 45, is a pacific northwest native from Eugene, Oregon, with a strong list of west coast ties. Wilcox was a defensive back at Oregon who began working as a coach in 2001. Wilcox got his first coordinator job in 2006 under Chris Petersen at Boise State, staying at the position until 2009. Boise State went 49-4 over that time, never ranking worse than 25th in scoring against his team. Wilcox accepted a defensive coordinator job at Tennessee in 2010, where he stayed for the 2011 season. In 2012, Wilcox chose to leave the Vols for the same position at Washington, immediately taking a defense that ranked 108th in scoring against in 2011 to 39h in 2012. The Huskies' defense took another jump in 2013, but Wilcox left for USC with head coach Steve Sarkisian. Wilcox stayed at USC through 2015, but the defense never took off, and he was let go after the PAC-12 championship game. Wilcox became the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin in 2016, leading a top-five unit. In 2017, Wilcox accepted the head coaching position at Cal, where he has gone 25-27, never finishing worse than 5-7 or better than 8-5. His teams have been led by a stout defense but have never seen notable offensive success.

Known For:

  • Physical, adaptive defense.

Why He Will Be Considered:

  • A long history of west coast coaching and ties to both UW and Chris Petersen.
  • Defensive chops
  • The thought that restrictions at Cal held him back.

Why It May Not Work:

  • Wilcox has a losing record at Cal and has struggled mightily to put together an offense to compliment his good defenses. Sound familiar?
  • You can blame the restrictions at Cal, but Wilcox has the number nine recruiting class in the Pac-12 this year and has never had them top tier in the division. Can he take UW to the next level?
  • Do UW boosters want an Oregon grad leading the program and rivalry?

Bottom Line:

Wilcox is a good and respected coach, but it's challenging to envision him taking this UW squad to double-digit wins or fixing the recruiting woes.

Bryan Harsin-HC-Auburn

Background:

Harsin, 45, was born in Boise, Idaho, and was a quarterback at Boise State from 1995-1999. Harsin got his first offensive coordinator gig in 2006 at Boise State when Chris Petersen was hired as head coach. The team went 13-0 and finished second overall in scoring. Harsin would stay on in the role until 2010, including finishing first and second in scoring his last two years at the school. In 2011, Harsin was hired as the offensive coordinator at Texas, inheriting a Texas offense that had finished 88th in scoring in 2010. The Longhorns finished 55th in scoring in 2011 and 23rd in 2012. In 2013, he took his first head coaching job at Arkansas State, going 7-5 before leaving to take over for Petersen at Boise State. Harsin would go 69-19 at Boise State before taking over at Auburn, where he is currently 6-5.

Known For:

  • Downhill offense with trickery and recruiting chops.
  • Why He Will Be Considered:
  • Harsin is a true pacific northwest native with long and deep roots in the area.
  • Harsin's 82-29 record as a head coach and long track record as an offensive coordinator speaks for itself.
  • Harsin has earned the title of a quarterback guru and could potentially work wonders with Huard.
  • Harsin has Petersen's seal of approval as a head coach.
  • Harsin has proven he can recruit in the pacific northwest, finished first almost every year in the mountain west conference and at a level higher than Petersen achieved at Boise State.
  • Auburn is a notoriously stressful place for coaches to be with some of the most reactionary boosters in the nation.

Why It May Not Work:

  • Harsin just signed a six-year, 31.5 million dollar contract with Auburn last year.
  • Would Harsin leave the SEC for Washington?
  • Harsin had a ton of success at Boise, but he's just 13-10 as a coach outside of Boise.
  • For a touted recruiter, Harsin's classes of 19th (2021) and 32nd (2022) rank just seventh and 11th in the SEC.

Bottom Line:

Harsin would probably be the frontrunner for the job had he stayed at Boise for the 2021 season, but there is much red tape to navigate with Harsin just one year into his Auburn tenure.

The "Defensive Minds"

Dan Lanning-DC/OLB-Georgia

Background:

Lanning, 35, hails from Missouri and played linebacker at local William Jewell college. Lanning worked recruiting coordinator and general assistant jobs from 2011-2017 at Sam Houston State, Arizona State, Memphis, and Alabama before accepting the outside linebackers position coach job at Georgia in 2018. In 2019, Lanning was promoted to defensive coordinator leading the nation's number one ranked scoring defense in 2019 and again this year. Lanning has a bone cancer surviving wife and three children.

Known For:

  • Coaching the top defense in college football for two-thirds of his career and elite recruiting ability.

Why He Will Be Considered:

  • At just 35, he's already been the play-caller for THE best scoring defense in the nation twice while playing SEC competition.
  • He's an elite talent developer at outside linebacker, which is arguably the biggest strength of UW's roster.
  • The man can recruit like truly few others can and would immediately threaten Cristobal for the top recruiter in the division.
  • With his SEC experience, he could likely bring a star-studded supporting cast to Seattle.

Why It May Not Work:

  • Lanning has zero head coaching experience.
  • Lanning has done what he's done, coaching the absolute highest-end tier of athletes. Will it work with UW's roster?
  • Can he recruit in the PNW? Outside of a brief stop at Arizona State, Lanning has been a southern coach with a southern background.
  • Does he even want the job? Lanning should be in the mix for both USC and any SEC openings.

Marcus Freeman-DC/LB-Notre Dame

Background:

Freeman, 35, is an Ohio native and former star linebacker for Ohio State. Freeman began coaching by 2010 and, in 2016, was promoted to Co-defensive coordinator at Purdue, in addition to his linebackers coach duty. In 2017, Freeman was hired as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Cincinnati by new head coach Luke Fickell, becoming one of the colleges' top units by 2018. In 2021, Freeman left Cincinnati to take the same position at Notre Dame -- leading colleges 12th ranked defense. Freeman was a Broyles Award finalist in 2020.

Known For:

  • Fast, aggressive defense with a similar recruiting style.

Why He Will Be Considered:

  • He's been one of the top defensive coordinators in college football since 2018, and success hasn't faltered at all while changing schools.
  • Freeman is a charismatic leader whom players rally around, in contrast to Jimmy Lake.
  • Freeman's defensive philosophies should work well with UW's current roster, and he's had great success at player development.
  • Freeman is one of the most dynamic recruiters in the country, pulling in 11 recruits in the 2022 class alone, including two five-stars and four of the top 60 recruits. He's had success in all areas of the country and is currently ranked as the third-best recruiter in the nation by 247 Sports.
  • Freeman certainly understands the value of team culture, playing under Jim Tressell and coaching directly under Luke Fickell and Brian Kelly.

Why It May Not Work:

  • Freeman has no head coaching experience.

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  • Freeman is already generating interest from other major openings, created a bidding war between LSU and Notre Dame in 2020, and can afford to wait for whatever his dream job is to open.
  • Freeman is a midwest native who has only coached in the midwest and may be unwilling to leave the area.

Bottom Line:

If UW could land Freeman, it would be a homerun hire. There's risk and would likely be a significant cost associated with the move, but if it hits, this could be a move that turns UW into a CFP contender. Freeman appears to be what UW hoped Lake could be.

Alex Grinch-DC/S-Oklahoma

Background:

Grinch, 41, is yet another Mount Union product (along with Matt Campbell, Nick Siriani, Jay Sawvel, Dom Capers, etc.) to succeed at the college level. Grinch got his first defensive coordinator job at Washington State in 2015 under Mike leach, quickly turning around a defense ranked 117th in 2014. In 2018, Grinch left Washington State for Ohio State under Urban Meyer as Co-Defensive Coordinator and safeties coach. In 2019, Grinch took over as defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Oklahoma, quickly turning around a defense ranked 101st in 2018. Grinch is an Ohio native who is married with two kids and is the nephew of former coach Gary Pinkel.

Known For:

  • Downhill "speed" defense.

Why He Will Be Considered:

  • Proven ability to turn around bad defenses overnight with massive win/loss success
  • Grinch has experience in the state of Washington with his time at Washington State.
  • Grinch has proven to be a solid recruiter.
  • Grinch can put this secondary in a position to win while utilizing our outside linebacker depth.

Why It May Not Work:

  • Grinch is a former Cougars coach and Ohio native who may not be in love with the idea of living in Seattle or coaching the Huskies.
  • Grinch has no head coaching experience.
  • Grinch's defense is having a down year compared to expectations after the 2020 season.
  • Other schools, including Washington State, Virginia Tech and TCU, appear to be interested as well.

Bottom Line:

Grinch is certainly a good coach, and his scheme fits the players we have well, but it doesn't feel like a perfect fit or timing.

Jim Leonard-DC/S-Wisconsin

Background:

Leonard, 39, is a Wisconsin native and former walk-on turned star at the school as a safety. Similarly, Leonard went undrafted as a pro but managed to carve out a ten-year NFL career, retiring in 2015. In 2016, Leonard came on at Wisconsin as the school's defensive backs coach. By 2017, Leonard had been promoted to defensive coordinator. His units have ranked third, 34th, tenth, ninth, and fifth in the nation in scoring against his team.

Known For:

  • Defenses that do more with less.

Why He Will Be Considered:

  • Leonard has had truly elite defensive success despite lacking top-end NFL talent.
  • Leonard commands tremendous respect from staff and players he's coached.
  • Leonard combines the "leader of men" moniker with serious film room and X's and O's chops.
  • Despite the mediocre recruiting success, Leonard has done surprisingly well recruiting in California.

Why It May Not Work:

  • Leonard is a Wisconsin lifer who is seen as the head coach in waiting.
  • This offseason, Leonard turned down the Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator job due to his love for the Wisconsin program. Would the allure of becoming a head coach be enough to lure him away?

Bottom Line:

Leonard would make one hell of a coach, but it feels like the only way we will find out is if Paul Chryst retires.

The "Offensive Minds"

Kasey Dunn-OC/AHC/WR-Oklahoma State

Background:

Dunn, 52, was born in San Diego but raised in Washington and played college ball at Idaho. From 1993 to 2010, Dunn coached positions with stops at Idaho, Washington State, Arizona, Baylor, TCU, and the Seahawks, among others. In 2011, Dunn was hired as the wide receivers coach at Oklahoma State, coaching Justin Blackmon to his second consecutive Biletnikoff award. Dunn stayed at the position until 2018, coaching the likes of James Washington, Tyreke Hill, Chris Carson, Blake Jarwin, and Tylan Wallace, among others. In 2019, Dunn was promoted to associate head coach and, in 2020, earned the title of offensive coordinator. As of 2020, Dunn was the only minority coordinator in the big-12.

Known For:

  • Coaching up Biletnikoff winners.

Why He Will Be Considered:

  • Dunn has done a tremendous job coaching an offense that lost Tylan Wallace in week one of the 2020 season, lost Chubba Hubbard for most of the year, and has a limited quarterback in Spencer Sanders for the Cowboys. The Cowboys have gone 19-4 since his promotion after going 15-11 the previous two years.
  • Dunn is a Washington native with heavy west coast ties.
  • Dunn has a tremendous amount of experience and should be able to assemble a strong staff.
  • Dunn has had great success as a recruiter, bringing in names like Tyreek Hill, James Washington, and 2022 top 100 recruit Tayln Shettron. Dunn could help build the Texas recruiting pipeline.

Why It May Not Work:

  • Dunn comes from a Mike Gundy culture that is extremely different from that in Seattle.
  • Dunn has no head coaching experience, despite his associate duties.
  • TCU and Washington State are interested as well, and he could be more interested in those areas.

Bottom Line:

Dunn certainly has earned a shot as a power five coach and appears to have the scheme and recruiting chops to handle it. It just isn't clear if Seattle and Dunn are the right fit.

Tom Herman-OA-Chicago Bears

Background:

Herman, 46, was born in Ohio but grew up in California, graduating Magna Cum Laude at Cal Lutheran and earning his master's at Texas. Herman got his first offensive coordinator job at Texas State in 2005. In 2007, Herman was named offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Rice. In 2008, Rice finished eighth in scoring behind Chase Clement's 44 passing touchdown season. In 2009, he took the same position at Iowa State, staying through 2011. In 2012, Herman took the same position at Ohio State under new head coach Urban Meyer, with the team improving from 6-7 to 12-0 behind a strong offense. The offenses finished third and fifth in 2013 and 2014, respectively behind Braxton Miller and JT Barrett, winning the championship in 2014. In 2015, Herman was named head coach at Houston, going 13-1, following it with a 9-4 2016. In 2017, Herman was named head coach at Texas, going 32-18 before being fired with a 7-3 record in 2020. Herman spent 2021 as an offensive analyst for the Chicago Bears. Herman is married with three kids and is a member of the MENSA society for people with 98th percentile plus IQ.

Known For:

  • Being an elite recruiter, offensive genius, and actual genius.

Why He Will Be Considered:

  • Herman is a truly elite recruiter whose classes ranked third, third and eighth in his full seasons at Texas.
  • Herman has a 49-22 record as a head coach and is 5-0 in bowl games. He was fired from Texas when they were 7-3 with a roster that has gone 4-7 with a good head coach in Sarkisian.
  • Herman has a championship ring as an offensive play-caller.
  • Herman is the anti-Jimmy Lake from a personality and mindset standpoint.

Why It May Not Work:

  • Herman never truly put it together at Texas despite a ton of talent, and despite being well-liked, his teams were seen as soft.
  • Herman has west coast roots but has never been a northwest guy and doesn't know the area.
  • Does his name still hold the same weight as it did entering the 2020 season?
  • Herman has always utilized the dual-threat quarterback, which UW doesn't currently have much on the roster.

Bottom Line:

Herman would add excitement to a down UW team and has the experience and recruiting chops to raise the ceiling, but is he the leader of men type that Jen Cohen has stated she wants? If he does win, will he stay? His hire would be eerily similar to the Sarkisian era at UW on paper.

Tony Elliott-OC/AHC-Clemson

Background:

A walk-on turned team captain at Clemson as a wide receiver, Elliott, 41, coached around South Carolina until accepting a job as Clemson's running backs coach in 2011 under Dabo Swinney. In 2015, Elliott added co-offensive coordinator to his title, sharing the duties with Jeff Scott. In 2020 when Scott left to coach South Florida, Elliott was promoted to offensive coordinator. In 2021, Elliott added associate head coach to his title and changed from running backs to tight end duties. In 2017, Elliott was awarded the Broyles Award for being the top assistant coach. Elliott has a degree in Industrial Engineering and was an academic standout at Clemson. Elliott is a California native.

Known For:

  • Building championship-winning offenses and developing NFL talent.

Why He Will Be Considered:

  • From 2015-2020, Elliott's offenses scored over 33.3 points per game every year and finished top 15 overall in scoring five out of the six years.
  • Elliott has been directly linked to the success and development of Andre Ellington, Wayne Gallman, Travis Etienne, Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence.
  • Elliott draws rave reviews both on and off the field for his character and ability to connect with people and players.
  • Elliott has long been seen as one of the top recruiters in the college game and has landed an impressive resume of recruits, including directly recruiting five five-star recruits.
  • In recent years, Elliott has widely been considered for jobs, including the Seahawks offensive coordinator position last year. Ultimately, Elliott turned them all down but is reportedly more open this year.
  • Elliott is a west coast native who reportedly is interested in returning west.
  • Elliott has gained tremendous experience running a top program as Dabo's offensive right-hand man for a full decade.

Why It May Not Work:

  • Elliott may be a west coast native, but he's been in South Carolina since the turn of the century and has a wife who is a local.
  • Elliott is coming off of a notably down year for the offense.
  • Elliott has almost no track record outside of Clemson. Will he thrive without Dabo?
  • Can he recruit in Washington? All of his recruiting backgrounds are in the southeast.
  • Other schools are interested, including reportedly interviewing with TCU.

Bottom Line:

Last year, Elliott would have been priority number one for every major vacancy. How much of a difference does one year make? Elliott is seen as bright, motivated, and personable, but some questions need to be answered about how he functions outside of Clemson.

Jeff Grimes-OC-Baylor

Background:

Grimes, 53, is a native Texan who played under Andy Reid as an offensive tackle at UTEP. Grimes has been coaching at the college level since 1995, primarily on the offensive line. Grimes got his first major job in 2007 as the associate head coach (and offensive line and run game coordinator) at Colorado, coaching under Dan Hawkins and longtime co-worker Mark Helfrich. In 2009, Grimes left for Auburn as the offensive line coach under Gene Chizik. In 2013, Grimes became the offensive line coach at Virginia Tech, leaving the next year for LSU to become both offensive line coach and running game coordinator. He stayed through 2017, scheming up success for Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice. In 2018, Grimes was named the offensive coordinator at BYU, the offense improving each year before exploding into the third-ranked unit in 2020 with Zach Wilson at QB. In 2021, Grimes was named offensive coordinator and tight ends coach at Baylor, turning the 101st ranked offense in 2020 into a top 25 unit.

Known For:

  • Building elite blocking, wide zone schemes, and recently opening up the deep passing game.

Why He Will Be Considered:

  • Grimes has a ton of west coast coaching experience with stops at Boise State, Arizona State, BYU, and Colorado.
  • Grimes Texan background could lead to major in-roads recruiting in the state.
  • Grimes has arguably been the top offensive play-caller across college football since 2020 and did it across multiple schools without highly ranked recruiting pools.
  • Grimes has a clear and defined offensive philosophy.
  • Grimes is reportedly a top target for Washington State. Sniping an instate rival may be a tie-breaking factor for UW.
  • Grimes has a long history across multiple conferences and ties to some of the best coaches to do it. He could certainly build a strong staff.

Why It May Not Work:

  • Grimes is 53 and has never been a head coach before.
  • Grimes has had limited recruiting success outside of his Auburn, LSU days.
  • Is Grimes a northwest kind of guy?
  • If Aranda does leave Baylor, Grimes is seen as the favorite to replace him. If not, TCU has shown interest along with other schools. Is UW his top choice?

Bottom Line:

Grimes has a ton of experience, could build a strong staff, and has proven himself a value add-on offense. But can he handle head coaching duties, and is Washington a fit he's interested?

The "NFL Names To Know"

Luke Getsy-PGC/QB-Green Bay Packers

Background:

Getsy, 37, is a Pennsylvania native who starred as a quarterback at Akron, playing one year as an undrafted free agent for the 49ers in 2007. Getsy worked as a small school offensive coordinator before being hired as Western Michigan's wide receivers coach in 2013 under P.J Fleck, coaching up freshman star Corey Davis. In 2014, Getsy became the Packers quality control coach, working his way up to wide receivers coach by 2016, prompting a Davante Adams breakout season. In 2018, Getsy was named offensive coordinator at Mississippi State under Joe Moorhead, with mediocre results. In 2019, Getsy returned to Green Bay as the quarterbacks' coach, adding the title of passing game coordinator in 2020, leading the nation's top offense and prompting an Aaron Rodgers MVP season.

Known For:

  • Offensive success across multiple schemes and types of quarterback and player development abilities.

Why He Will Be Considered:

  • Getsy is seen as one of the future coaches in the NFL and has been lauded for his work in Green Bay.
  • Getsy has plenty of experience at the college level to go with his NFL success.
  • Getsy's ability to coach up quarterbacks and wide receivers would be much needed for UW, given our current roster construction.

Why It May Not Work:

  • Getsy's success has come at the NFL level, and his college results have been mediocre.
  • Getsy has shown himself to be a dynamic recruiter in his college time.
  • Getsy has a legitimate shot at NFL jobs in the near future and may prefer to remain at that level.
  • Getsy's ties do not connect him to the northwest or the west coast at all.

Bottom Line:

Getsy is a brilliant young offensive mind who projects to be a strong head coach in the not-so-distant future, but this doesn't seem like the time or place for Getsy to land his first job.

Brian Johnson-QB-Philadelphia Eagles

Background:

Johnson, 34, is a Texas native who is the winningest quarterback in Utah history, going 26-7 as the starter for the Utes from 2005-2008 and was the cover athlete in NCAA ten. By 2010, Johnson was the Utes quarterbacks coach and was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2012 at 24 years old, but struggled to handle the duties. In 2014, where he coached up Dak Prescott under former coach Dan Mullen. In 2017, Johnson was named offensive coordinator at Houston, with mixed results before turning to freshman D'Eriq King. in 2018, Johnson was reunited with Mullen as Florida's quarterbacks' coach, coaching up Felipe Franks and Kyle Trask. In 2020, Johnson was named offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, leading Florida's best offense since 2008. In 2021, Johnson was named the Eagles quarterbacks coach under Nick Siriani, with Jalen Hurts making major strides across the board as the Florida offense cratered.

Known For:

  • High-level success coaching up quarterbacks and prodigal rise through the coaching ranks.

Why He Will Be Considered:

  • Johnson was a hot name in the 2020 carousel, interviewing for South Carolina and Boise State jobs. His stock has only gone up in 2021.
  • Johnson has shown recruiting chops, bringing in multiple top 100 players personally as a recruiter.
  • Johnson is a QB guru who has proven he can develop young arms and proved he can call a dynamic offense with his 2020 performance.
  • Johnson has a tremendous amount of experience for a 34-year-old.

Why It May Not Work:

  • Johnson's track record calling plays outside of Florida has been iffy at best.
  • Johnson's recruiting success has come mainly in Florida and Texas, not historically recruiting hotbeds for UW.
  • Johnson will likely have NFL offensive coordinator interest if he's interested in staying at the level.
  • Johnson lacks any head coaching experience whatsoever.
  • Is UW interested in someone who was beaten out for the Boise State job?

Bottom Line:

Johnson is undeniably a bright mind with a bright future and could have a shot at the job if interested, but ultimately, it feels like there are too many links that need to be connected for this hire to make sense.

Renaldo Hill-DC-Chargers

Background:

Hill, 43, is a Michigan native who carved out a ten-year NFL career as a seventh-round pick from Michigan State, playing under Nick Saban. Post-retirement in 2010, Hill coached defensive backs at Wyoming and Pittsburgh from 2013-2017. In 2018, Hill took the same role for the Miami Dolphins before spending the 2019 and 2020 seasons as the defensive backs coach under Vic Fangio. In 2021, Hill took the defensive coordinator position under Brandon Staley.

Known For:

  • Quarters heavy defense and ability to coach up young secondary players.

Why He Will Be Considered:

  • Hill is a big name who has been highly sought after by some of the game's top defensive minds.
  • Hill has shown an elite ability to develop young secondary talent and incorporates many of the same defensive philosophies and abilities as Jimmy Lake, without the lack of awareness.
  • Hill proved to be a dynamic recruiter at Pitt, bringing in highly ranked secondary recruits for the school.
  • Hill can lean on experience as an NFL veteran, college assistant, and NFL coordinator to earn players' respect and trust.
  • Hill is familiar with the west coast, having played at Arizona, Oakland, and Denver and coaching at Wyoming, Denver, and Los Angeles.

Why It May Not Work:

  • Hill has no head coaching experience and does not call plays in Los Angeles.
  • Hill's defense has succeeded in stopping the pass but ranks dead last in run DVOA and 27th in scoring against his team.
  • Hill has a bright NFL future and may not be interested in a college gig.
  • If hired, would Hill see this job as a final destination? Or a stepping stone?

Bottom Line:

Hill could see some interest as an experienced recruiter who is well-liked and fits the roster well. However, it's unlikely UW would be Hill's top-choice and visa versa, making this an unlikely hire.

The "Recruiters"

Dennis Simmons-AGC/PGC-Oklahoma

Background:

Simmons, 41, was a star outside linebacker at BYU and was born in Tennessee. Simmons worked as a wide receivers coach with coach Lincoln Riley from 2008-2009 at Texas Tech under Mike Leach and at East Carolina under Ruff Mcneil from 2010-2011. In 2012, Simmons reunited with Leach at Washington State as a wide receivers coach before leaving for the same position at Oklahoma in 2015. In 2019, Simmons added the title of associate head coach and, in 2021, was promoted to the passing game coordinator as well. Simmons has directly coached Biletnikoff winners Michael Crabtree and Dede Westbrook, along with all among Americans Ceedee Lamb and Marquis Brown, among many others.

Known For:

  • Developing and recruiting the best receivers in the game.

Why He Will Be Considered:

  • He's been Lincoln Riley's right-hand man since day one.
  • He has experience as an associate head coach.
  • Simmons is a truly elite recruiter who brought in four-five stars in the last three years, not to mention names like Ceedee Lamb and Marquis Brown.
  • Simmons has experience coaching and recruiting in Washington.

Why It May Not Work:

  • Simmons has no head coaching experience, nor does he have any playcalling experience.
  • Simmons is a desert area coach who may not want to live in Seattle.

Bottom Line:

Simmons is a hell of a position coach and has added enough duties to garner interest, but it would be a big leap of faith to give him the head coaching job. He feels more likely to be a major target as an offensive coordinator for a major program before getting a head coaching job at a bigger school.

Holmon Wiggins-AHC/WR-Alabama

Background:

Wiggins, 41, is a Los Angeles native who was the starting running back for New Mexico from 1999-2001. Wiggins got his start as a running backs coach at Illinois State under offensive coordinator Justin Fuente. Wiggins eventually followed Fuente to Memphis as the school's wide receivers coach from 2012-2015. Wiggins followed Fuente again to Virginia Tech, coaching receivers from 2016-2018, turning Cam Phillips into Tech's all-time receiving leader. Wiggins accepted the Alabama receivers coach position in 2019 under Nick Saban, coaching Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, Jaylen Waddle and Heisman trophy winner DeVonta Smith, with Jameson Williams and possibly John Metchie expected to join them this year. In 2021, Wiggins added the title of assistant head coach. Wiggins has six children.

Known For:

  • Turning wide receivers into first-round picks.

Why He Will Be Considered:

  • Wiggins has turned Alabama into wide receiver U. Talent was there, but Wiggins has gotten every ounce of it from his players.
  • Wiggins is an exceptional recruiter both at Alabama and at Virginia Tech. He is currently ranked as the 28th best recruiter in college by 247 Sports.
  • Wiggins was Fuente's right-hand man, and when he left, Virginia Tech ticked down. Experience with Fuente and Saban bodes well for his coaching abilities and chances of rounding out a strong staff.
  • Wiggins is a west coast native who won't experience culture shock making the move.
  • Wiggins is highly respected by the Alabama coaching staff and was given the assistant coach title to get him to turn down the offer to be the offensive coordinator at Texas under Steve Sarkisian.

Why It May Not Work:

  • Wiggins has never been a head coach, nor has he called plays.
  • Wiggins has built his recruiting experience in the south and doesn't have the same connections in the northwest.
  • Does Wiggins, who has six kids, want to leave a stable job at a perennial title contender in Alabama?

Bottom Line:

Wiggins would be a dream come true as an offensive coordinator but ultimately seems like a reach to get his first gig at UW.

Sherrone Moore-OL/Co-OC-Michigan

Background:

Moore, 35, played guard at Oklahoma before beginning his coaching career at Louisville, coaching tight ends Louisville from 2012-2013, when the team went 23-3. Moore then coached tight ends at Central Michigan from 2014-2016 before being promoted to associate head coach and adding the title of recruiting coordinator. In 2018, Moore was hired to coach tight ends at Michigan. In 2021, Moore was promoted to CO-offensive coordinator and made the switch to offensive line coach. Michigan's offense has jumped from 66th in scoring in 2020 to 15th in 2021. Moore is a Kansas native.

Known For:

  • Revamping Michigan's offensive line and being a truly dynamic recruiter.

Why He Will Be Considered:

  • Moore has been highly respected by every coach and team he has worked for.
  • Moore has had an immediate impact on Michigan's offense and line, something UW saw first hand.
  • Moore is a dynamic recruiter and motivator.
  • For a younger coach, Moore has the experience to bring a solid staff.

Why It May Not Work:

  • Moore has never been a head coach nor called plays.
  • Moore has zero west coast experience as a coach or recruiter.

Bottom Line:

Moore is a major helium name in the industry but may be a few years away from a power five head coaching job.

All in all, I expect Cohen and co to reach out to names like Venables (who Petersen and Bob Stoops who is expected to act as an advisor for hire), Aranda, Kellen Moore and some of the other high profile names for interviews, but ultimately struggle to see them leaving their current jobs. Cohen has stated that recruiting chops, the ability to instill a winning culture on and off of the field and covid vaccination status will all be important factors for the hire, the latter of which could eliminate a few names from the list.

Ultimately, a few names rise towards the top of the list as meeting all of the requirements, and chief among them are Matt Campbell, Kalen Deboer, Jonathan Smith and Kalani Sitake. Given Campbell's midwest ties, Smith's upward trajectory at his alma mater and Sitake's religious background, Kalen Deboer strikes me as the most likely candidate for the job, and I think he would be a tremendous hire.

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