It was midnight back east, but UW head football coach Steve Sarkisian and Eric Kiesau — the California offensive coordinator Sarkisian wanted to lure to the Pacific Northwest — continued to talk for upwards of two-and-a-half hours.
The only problem was that Kiesau was in Maryland on a recruiting trip for the Bears — coincidentally, with Cal head coach Jeff Tedford — and by the time 3 a.m. rolled around, it was kind of late for him to call his wife back in the Bay Area. That was a problem because Sarkisian offered Kiesau the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach job at the UW right away and wanted him to accept on the spot.
“I go, ‘Sark, I need to talk to my wife, she doesn’t even know what’s going on,’” Kiesau said, laughing, at yesterday’s press conference to introduce the new UW assistant coaches. “He was like, ‘Let’s get it done.’ So anyway, I talked to her, it was great, slept on it — didn’t sleep a minute — woke up in the morning and it was a done deal.”
That’s just part of the profession, Kiesau said. The hiring process happens fast, and it’s just something a coach gets used to. And it happened rather fast for all of the new UW assistant coaches. Along with Kiesau, Sarkisian bolstered his staff with defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, linebackers coach Peter Sirmon, defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi, and defensive backs coach Keith Heyward.
The biggest change comes on the defensive side, as Kiesau is the only new offensive coach, filling in for Doug Nussmeier, who took the same job at Alabama. Wilcox spearheads the shift as the new defensive coordinator.
So what does a Justin Wilcox defense look like? a reporter mused.
“This is a Washington defense,” he responded with a smile.
In all seriousness, Wilcox labeled physical and mental toughness and great effort as necessities to being successful. But there is one word that Wilcox stressed above all others: execute. That, of course, is a word all too familiar for UW fans, who went through a rough season in 2011 watching the Huskies break down on defense, game after game.
“I think it has to do with them knowing what to do, their ability level, their confidence — there’s a lot that goes into that,” Wilcox said. “I wish there was one answer that I could give you, but it’s just not that easy.”
Wilcox may not be able to tell you exactly what one of his defense players looks like, but Sirmon is able to. Sirmon and Wilcox go way back. They roomed together in college at the University of Oregon and coached together at Tennessee.
“You’re going to see kids that are well-prepared every Saturday, playing hard, going to be good with technique and fundamentals,” Sirmon said. “I think that’s the most important thing: We’re going to talk about tackling every day, talk about turnovers, and not just the exercise of them, but actually the teaching of the fundamental of the technique.”
Couple the quick turnaround in hiring the coaches with signing day quickly approaching, and the assistants haven’t really had time to meet their new players. That will change shortly, but it doesn’t leave the new coaches much time to get to know the personnel before spring practice begins April 2.
But the common theme among all the new UW assistants is that they aren’t worried about the players. They might not know too much about them, but they wouldn’t have become Huskies if they weren’t certain there was talent to work with.
The first chance the coaches and players will get to work together in a game atmosphere is April 28, for the annual Spring Game.
Reach Sports Editor Josh Liebeskind at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jlieb24.
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