With the news earlier this week that running backs coach Joel Thomas would be leaving to take the same job at Arkansas, later joined by the announcement that wide receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty would be departing to San Jose State to become the offensive coordinator there, Washington has now lost two different offensive assistants. I passed this info along on twitter, but didn’t write any stories reporting the story itself, so this isn’t a report on the news itself.
I simply figured that it’s worth asking, and attempting to answer, what these losses will actually mean for husky football. First, I believe that the loss of Joel Thomas is certainly a negative. While it’s always difficult to figure out how much of the success of any given position group is due to the players themselves or those coaching, it seems that Thomas deserves at least some credit for managing to put out a 1,000 yard rusher in all four of his years coaching the backs. The first three years were Chris Polk, the most recent the surprising breakout year from Bishop Sankey. Both those players are very talented, so I don’t think that all of the credit for their success can go to Thomas, but he certainly didn’t hurt, and the fact that he was given the same job at Arkansas shows that at least one high-caliber program holds him in high esteem.
That being said, I believe that Washington shouldn’t have too much trouble hiring a guy that is capable of stepping into his place just fine. And even if the new guy doesn’t do a terrific job, we probably won’t notice right away anyway, because it isn’t as if he is going to take the ultra-productive Sankey and make him terrible. So, as always, the success of the next hire will be about as hard to quantify as the success of Thomas.
In the case of Jimmie Dougherty, I don’t think it’s a clear cut loss for Washington in any way. The only wide receiver that was really all that productive this year was Kasen Williams, and he is so very talented that I think it may be a case of “good for him, he didn’t mess it up.” Other than that, there wasn’t much going on. Jaydon Mickens showed flashes as a true freshman, and Cody Bruns had a few touchdown catches late in the year, but even if it’s tough to be sure if it’s fair to blame Dougherty for that lack of production, there’s also little reason to give him all that much credit, and I believe that there are almost certainly better young coaches to hire on that could get more out of the talent at wide receiver. Still, I wish Dougherty the best of luck as he takes a step forward in his career by taking on the offensive coordinator role at a smaller school. If he succeeds there, I’m sure he can end up taking on a similar job at a bigger program, or perhaps a head coaching job somewhere similarly small.
Aside from their success as actual position coaches, there is recruiting to consider. I believe that Thomas had a bigger recruiting role than Dougherty, but I’m not really worried. Washington has several ace recruiters, and there is no reason to believe that Sarkisian can’t just hire on a talented recruiter to take over for him. Given the crazy high salaries Washington is willing to pay assistants, it shouldn’t be that tough. While it’s impossible to be sure until next season begins and we see some actual play, in my view it is reasonable to view these losses as possible opportunities for improvement on the offensive side of the ball.