February 12, 2012

Staff overhaul lifts Washington recruiting

For Steve Sarkisian, adversity on his coaching staff presented an opportunity.

Washington wrapped up a poor year on defense with one of the worst defensive performances in a bowl game, allowing 777 yards and 67 points to Baylor in the Alamo Bowl. The Huskies coach responded by firing three defensive assistants, including coordinator Nick Holt.

Weeks earlier, Washington had lost one of its best recruiters, cornerback coach Demetrice Martin, to UCLA.

All the departures ended up allowing Sarkisian to drastically revamp his coaching staff, which could have major recruiting repercussions for the program. The Huskies added five new assistants, including both coordinators and the entire defensive staff.

The headliner, of course, is defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi, whose departure crushed California's class and helped to add five-star safety Shaq Thompson to Washington's.

"Tosh quite honestly has been a thorn in my side for the last five or six years on the recruiting front," Sarkisian told reporters this week. "If you can't beat them, get them to join you."

The new hires could expand Washington's recruiting footprint out of state, into parts of California, Arizona and nationwide.

Before leaving for UCLA, Martin helped Washington recruit the Los Angeles area with some success, but the Huskies struggled in Northern California. That's where Lupoi and offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau, another former Cal assistant, could help.

Lupoi helped Washington land Thompson and defensive end Pio Vatuvei in the final days of the recruiting cycle.

Though Lupoi is a strong recruiter in California, he's also been effective recruiting from coast to coast, landing recruits to Cal such as Keenan Allen from North Carolina and other prospects to Cal from Oregon and Maryland.

"I think they're going to be able to target Southern California kids a little better," Rivals.com West recruiting analyst Adam Gorney said. "They'll be involved with every Northern California kid, which has been a stronghold for Cal with Lupoi and all those relationships."

Lupoi may be the biggest addition on the recruiting front, but he's not the only one.

[ More Washington: UDubNation.com ]

New secondary coach Keith Heyward recruited the Los Angeles area for Oregon State with some success. Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox may not have been a star recruiter by SEC standards during his time at Tennessee, but he knew enough to recruit Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore out of Prosser, Wash.

From a recruiting standpoint, the best hire from Tennessee's staff may have been Peter Sirmon. Sarkisian told reporters he already nicknamed Sirmon "the miner" for his diligence in recruiting. A former Oregon linebacker and college teammate of Wilcox, Sirmon was promoted from graduate assistant to linebacker coach at Tennessee. He earned the reputation of a natural recruiter in a short time at Tennessee.

"He puts on his hard hat," Sarkisian said. "He's got a light on and goes into his office and works on recruiting."

If Washington is going to compete for a Pac-12 title, the Huskies will have to win recruiting battles, especially in California.

USC has proven NCAA sanctions won't prevent the Trojans from landing elite talent. Backed by two BCS seasons, Stanford has become a national factor on the recruiting scene. Oregon continues to recruit California and Texas effectively. And first-year coach Jim Mora assembled a formidable recruiting staff in his first few months on the job at UCLA.

The addition of former LSU assistant Larry Porter to the staff at Arizona State gives the Pac-12 three former Rivals.com National Recruiters of the Year. One of the others is USC's Ed Orgeron.

The third is Lupoi.

"What they've really done is strengthen the areas where they were pretty good already," Gorney said. "They've gone from a school that used Sarkisian as a key recruiter, and now they have three, four or five [assistants] who can do that."

Washington wasn't the only program to overhaul its coaching staff this season. Here's a look at five others and the potential ramifications on the field and in recruiting. Like Washington, these schools include programs that did not change head coaches. Other schools such as USC, Boise State, Iowa and West Virginia will need to make major changes to their coaching staffs, but the new assistants have not been hired yet.

New assistants: Paul Haynes (defensive coordinator and secondary), Taver Johnson (linebackers), Kevin Peoples (defensive tackles), Paul Petrino (offensive coordinator and quarterbacks)
The buzz: Petrino is back after his stint as offensive coordinator at Illinois. He's expected to return to a similar role as his first stint at Arkansas where he'll recruit Florida. Bobby Petrino, however, will remain the playcaller. Haynes and Johnson came from Jim Tressell's staff at Ohio State. They bring instant defensive credibility. Peoples was in an administrative position but joined the staff full-time to coach defensive tackles, a position he coached from 2002-09 at Arkansas State. The new hires already helped on the recruiting trail, too. Johnson helped Arkansas land linebacker Otha Peters, the fourth-ranked player in Louisiana. Peoples helped land defensive tackle Darius Philon after his offer from Alabama fell through.

New assistants: Scott Booker (tight ends and special teams coordinator), Bob Elliott (safeties), Harry Hiestand (offensive line)
The buzz: The most unorthodox move in Notre Dame's staff is to move secondary coach Chuck Martin to offensive coordinator. Kelly will still call the plays, but Martin will be the quarterback coach. He has a defensive background but was a head coach for six seasons at Division II Grand Valley State when Kelly left for Central Michigan. Arriving from Tennessee, Hiestand is a veteran line coach who has coached the position every season since 1988. The Irish also handed Tony Alford, the team's top recruiter, the title of recruiting coordinator.

New assistants: Art Kaufman (defensive coordinator), John Lovett (secondary), Terry Price (defensive line), Chris Thomsen (offensive line)
The buzz: Texas Tech will be on its third defensive coordinator in three seasons, but Tommy Tuberville hopes to return to his roots after tinkering with TCU's 4-2-5 offense last season. Kaufman, the former North Carolina coordinator, will return to a 4-3 offense and work with Lovett and Price, who were both former Tuberville assistants at Ole Miss and Auburn. Thomsen, former head coach at Division II Abeline Christian, is an interesting addition as line coach. Thomsen knows West Texas and has been able to unearth talent. Since 2006, Abilene Christian produced four NFL draft picks, including safety Danieal Manning and wide receiver Johnny Knox.

New assistants: Derrick Ansley (cornerbacks), Charlie Coiner (tight ends), Jay Graham (running backs), John Palermo (defensive line), Sam Pittman (offensive line) Sal Sunseri (defensive coordinator)
The buzz: Tennessee's response to losing Hiestand to Notre Dame and Wilcox and Sirmon to Washington was to hire more assistants with experience in the Southeast. Derek Dooley plucked Alabama inside linebacker coach Sal Sunseri to be his defensive coordinator. Alabama responded by filling his vacancy with Lance Thompson, the Volunteers' defensive line coach and a noted recruiter. Tennessee added Graham, who spent the last three seasons at South Carolina. Graham, one of the top 10 rushers in Tennessee history, was one of the Gamecocks' top recruiters.

New assistants: Zach Azzanni (wide receivers), Andy Buh (linebackers), Matt Canada (offensive coordinator), Eddie Faulkner (tight ends), Mike Markuson (offensive line), Ben Strickland (safeties)
The buzz: Between losing defensive coordinator Dave Doeren to Northern Illinois in 2010 and offensive coordinator Paul Chryst to Pittsburgh after the 2011 season, Bielema has needed to overhaul nearly his entire staff. Only two assistants remain from 2010. Doeren and Chryst were on the fast track to head coaching jobs, but the big surprise was the number of position coaches who left as well. The departure of Joe Rudolph to Pittsburgh leaves a void for Wisconsin recruiting in Ohio. Wisconsin was able to replace line coach Bob Bostad, who was named Chryst's offensive coordinator, with veteran offensive line coach Mike Markuson, a longtime Houston Nutt assistant. New offensive coordinator Matt Canada has needed to do more with less for most of his career in stints as offensive coordinator at Indiana and Northern Illinois.

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.




 

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