Since 2014, when Pete Kwiatkowski took over control of the defense, Washington football hasn’t finished lower than third in total team defense. That includes a run from 2015-2018 where his group finished as the top defense in the conference. It appears his time on Montlake is coming to a close, as multiple reports are surfacing that he’ll be leaving to take the same position under Steve Sarkisian at Texas.
Nothing has been officially announced by either Washington or Texas as of Tuesday evening, but that could simply be a matter of finalizing his contract. This is a blow from Sarkisian, Washington’s head coach from 2009-2013, that could hurt the team in a major way for a long time. While there are multiple outstanding outside candidates that could ease the blow of Kwiatkowski’s exit, the fact of the matter is the Huskies are losing a top-five defensive coordinator in college football.
In his place, Jimmy Lake needs someone that can recruit big-time talent, and develop underrecruited players, the latter of which was Kwiatkowski’s specialty. One intriguing name that the athletic department should seriously look into is a former Washington assistant, Tosh Lupoi. Lupoi is currently the defensive line coach for the Atlanta Falcons, so it would probably take full control of the defense and a hefty salary to pull him away from the NFL.
He has long been regarded as one of the best recruiters in college football, and would be a perfect hire for the program. While he might not want to leave the NFL, money talks, and the program should shell out $1 million per year to try to entice Lupoi, just like they did to keep Kwiatkowski, who was the top paid assistant coach in the conference.
Another candidate that has been floating around in the Twitterverse is the Miami Dolphins’ defensive backs coach Gerald Alexander. A young, energetic coach, Alexander has done great things with the Miami secondary this season, and would fit right into Lake’s philosophy.
The only potential problem with this hire is there would be four defensive backs coaches on the staff. While Washington is known for their elite DB’s, dedicating three assistant coach slots out of the allotted 10 to one position is too much.
The same case could be made for USC’s Donte Williams, who is another upstart defensive backs coach, but that also poses the same issue.
Other external options should include Arizona State’s linebackers coach Antonio Pierce, Cal’s defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon, and Coastal Carolina’s Chad Staggs. At this point, every name on this list is speculation, but this is going to be much more important than the offensive coordinator search in 2020. Kwiatkowski is leaving some huge shoes to fill, and Jimmy Lake needs to knock this hire out of the park.