Huskies new coaches finally settling in

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by Associated Press & KING 5 SPORTS

NWCN.com

Posted on February 8, 2012 at 5:57 PM

SEATTLE -- Justin Wilcox was first contacted about leaving Tennessee to become the new defensive coordinator at Washington on a Saturday evening, was in Seattle by Monday and on the road recruiting on behalf of the Huskies by Tuesday night.

It's been a whirlwind month for Wilcox and he's just now coming out of the fog of the last few weeks.

"It's been hectic for sure. Once signing day hit, that next two days was decompression mode," Wilcox said.

Wilcox and the rest of Washington's remodeled coaching staff was formally introduced on Wednesday, nearly a month after most were hired in the midst of the final recruiting pushes leading up to last week's national signing day. Wilcox joked that earlier this week was the first time his defensive staff could sit down and actually talk football and wasn't either evaluating recruits or on the road making pitches.

Wilcox was the centerpiece of Washington's coaching remodel following a 7-6 season that was capped by a 67-56 loss to Baylor in the Alamo Bowl that cemented the worst defensive season statistically in Washington history. Following the bowl loss, Washington coach Steve Sarkisian fired defensive coordinator Nick Holt, linebackers coach Mike Cox and safeties coach Jeff Mills.

That trio was replaced by Wilcox, Peter Sirmon, Keith Heyward and Tosh Lupoi. The Huskies also had to find a new offensive coordinator in Eric Kiesau after Doug Nussmeier took the same job at Alabama.

"Not only just a football coach standpoint, but a recruiting standpoint, a personality standpoint, a character standpoint and I think with all five of these guys they all fit that role really, really well," Sarkisian said.

The timing for Wilcox agreeing to come to Seattle was swift. Holt was fired on a Friday, two days after the Huskies were blitzed by Baylor, allowing then the most points ever in a bowl game -- a total that was later surpassed by Clemson, which gave up 70 to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl. Wilcox quickly reached an agreement with Sarkisian and Sirmon was almost immediately brought into the fold. Simon has northwest ties, having grown up in Walla Walla, Wash., played at Oregon and having spent one year working as a volunteer coach at Division II Central Washington.

In less than 72 hours, they were headed out on the recruiting trail as representatives for Washington. For Sirmon, coming to Washington has special meaning. He grew up a Washington fan, but wasn't on the Huskies recruiting radar coming out of high school. Sirmon played with Wilcox at Oregon before spending his NFL career in Tennessee.

"I'm glad I finally made it here. It took me a long time to be a Husky," Sirmon said.

Aside from hiring Wilcox, the luring of Lupoi from California to Washington was among the most talked about coaching moves on the West Coast. Regarded as one of the top recruiters, Lupoi shook his head when asked if he ever thought his name would be tossed around on message boards and among fans with so much attention.

Lupoi will receive $350,000 per year as part of a three-year deal. He'll also get a $100,000 one-time payment and another $100,000 if he remains on staff all three years. He was recruited by Sarkisian and Wilcox, whom Lupoi played for at California when Wilcox was getting his first coaching break, and finally succumbed to the consistent offers to join the Huskies staff.

There has been chatter on fan boards that Lupoi received a boat as part of his agreement, a detail Lupoi chuckled about when asked about it on Wednesday.

"Yeah, I haven't been on that boat. Maybe it's a canoe or something," Lupoi said.

Kiesau jumped at the chance to again be a coordinator even though he will not be calling plays, a game day task that will remain under Sarkisian's control. Kiesau worked as the offensive coordinator at Colorado under Dan Hawkins until the end of the 2010 season when Hawkins was let go. Kiesau returned to California last season as the Bears' passing game coordinator.

Kiesau said he was highly involved in game planning last year at Cal, but said his familiarity with many coaches on Washington's staff plus a chance to work with Sarkisian were a lure.

"Doing it at Colorado and then at Cal and then coming here, it was just kind of the natural progression. The big thing for me was the people that were here," Kiesau said.

Heyward will be responsible for the defensive backs and is coming to Washington after four seasons coaching at his alma mater, Oregon State. Sarkisian noted Heyward's strong recruiting ties to Southern California as well.

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