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Washington Assistant Coaching Search: Who Will Chris Petersen Hire?

We take a look at the hiring decisions made by Chris Petersen in the past to try to get some insight into who he might target for his current openings on the Washington coaching staff.

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With his dismissal of WR Coach Brent Pease and the concurrent hiring away of Special Teams Coordinator/DL Coach Jeff Choate as the Head Coach at Montana State, Chris Petersen has two openings to fill in his staff.  This of course leads to the question of who he'll hire to fill those spots.  We won't pretend to have any special information into who he's targeting, but we can take a look at what he's done in the past to try to glean some patterns in his hiring practices as well as make some educated guesses about possible targets.

Let's take a look at the types of hires he's made in the past and create some categories:

Coaching buddy from the past:

It's no secret that coaches like to hire people they're familiar with, and one of the most common routes for getting hired is having worked alongside that coach in the past.  This has definitely been true in the case of Petersen:

  • Chris Strausser - They were together at Boise State under Dan Hawkins.  Strausser left for Colorado with Hawkins, but then decided better of it after a year and was hired back to Boise State by Petersen, though he at first was relegated to coaching the tight ends for three seasons before moving back to coaching the OL.
  • Bob Gregory - He and Petersen go back a long way, to when both were assistants at Oregon under Mike Bellotti.  They both moved to Boise State in 2001 as coordinators when Dan Hawkins was hired, but Gregory left after one season to take the DC job under Jeff Tedford (another colleague from Bellotti's staff) at Cal.  When Gregory decided he wanted out, he was hired by Petersen to return to Boise State.
  • Robert Prince - Hired by Hawkins in 2001 as WR Coach, he worked under OC Petersen for three seasons before getting a shot at coaching in the NFL for several years.  He was hired back to Boise State by Petersen in 2011 as WR Coach before getting promoted to OC, but was not retained when Petersen took the job at Washington.
  • Brent Pease - After leaving Boise State to take the OC job at Florida, Pease found himself unemployed after two unproductive years in charge of the Gators' offense and was hired back by Petersen to fill out his first staff at Washington.
  • Jeff Choate - Another Boise State coach under Petersen, he wanted to broaden his experience and left to be LB Coach at WSU under Mike Leach, then moved to Florida to be LB Coach/Special Teams Coordinator and was also brought back by Petersen to be part of his first staff with the Huskies.

Hire from within:

Another common route to getting hired is to work with that coach in an administrative or graduate assistant capacity first, or as a former player.  Looking back at Petersen's history, you can see quite a few folks that fit this category:

  • Keith Bhonapha - He had been a GA at his alma mater Hawaii before getting hired for an administrative position at Boise State as "Director of Football Operations" by Petersen.  He held this position for three seasons before getting promoted to RB Coach.
  • Scott Huff - A former OL at Boise State who played his last two seasons with Petersen as the OC for the Broncos, he was hired on by Petersen in 2006 after serving as a GA at Arizona State under his former HC Dirk Koetter.
  • Andy Avalos - A former LB at Boise State under Hawkins, he soon followed him to Colorado as a GA.  After two seasons at Nebraska-Kearney and one at Sacramento State, he was hired by Petersen to coach the DL.  Petersen opted not to bring Avalos with him to Washington, hiring Choate instead to coach the DL.
  • Justin Wilcox - He got his coaching start as a GA at Boise State in 2001 before getting hired to be LB Coach at Cal (working under DC Bob Gregory); when Petersen was promoted to HC in 2006, he tabbed Wilcox as his first DC.

Experienced coach:

Sometimes coaches will go outside their direct circle of folks they've worked with and opt for an experienced, "proven" coach.  Petersen hasn't shied away from this route:

  • Pete Kwiatkowski - An 18-year vet with stops at Boise State, Eastern Washington, and Montana State, he was tabbed by Petersen to rejoin the Broncos as part of his first staff in 2006.
  • Brent Pease - A 15-year vet with stops at Montana, Northern Arizona, Kentucky, and Baylor, Pease had extensive experience as a QB Coach and OC when he was first hired onto Petersen's first Boise State staff as a WR Coach.
  • Jeff Choate - A 13-year vet with stops at Montana Western, Utah State, and Eastern Illinois, Choate was hired by Petersen in 2006 as part of his first staff at Boise State.
  • Jimmy Lake - A 12-year vet with stops at Eastern Washington, Washington, Montana State, and various NFL jobs, he was a great catch for Petersen at Boise State in 2012 when he had to fill the spot left by Marcel Yates.  He no doubt was recommended by Kwiatkowski from their year together at Montana State.
  • Jonathan Smith - An 8-year vet with stops at Idaho and Montana, Smith was tabbed by Petersen to replace Brent Pease as QB Coach at Boise State in 2012.

These are the most common categories of coaches that Petersen has hired in his career.  There are outliers such as Jordan Paopao - a young coach with no prior connection to Petersen - but that was a bit of a unique situation, as Petersen was able to observe Paopao at work after being hired by Washington while the remaining prior staff was preparing the Huskies for their bowl game.

So what does the above tell us?  Nothing earth-shattering really - the best bets to fill the two open spots will be coaches that have some prior connection to Petersen, either coaching with him at Oregon or Boise State or under him at Boise State, or someone outside his direct circle that has a fair amount of experience.  That experience doesn't necessarily have to come at the FBS level - he's hired a number of Big Sky veterans - but with the greater prestige and pay that comes with coaching at Washington, he may be able to broaden his search.

There have been a few names thrown out here that I'd like to look at briefly to see how they line up with the information above:

Junior Adams, WR Coach with Boise State:  Adams is an interesting name.  He coached at Montana State (his alma mater) from 2004-06, then spent a year coaching at Prosser H.S. under Tom Moore (father of Kellen & Kirby) before joining Tennessee-Chattanooga for a year, then moving on to Eastern Washington for five seasons.  He was then hired by Bryan Harsin to be part of his first staff at Boise State in 2014.

Analysis: While he has no prior direct connection to Petersen, he otherwise fits the profile of experienced coaches that Petersen has hired in the past.  He almost certainly is aware of him from the Harsin and Moore connections, and his work with Cooper Kupp at EWU is a plus.

Tosh Lupoi, OLB Coach with Alabama: Everyone here is of course familiar with Lupoi.  A recruiting powerhouse at Cal and then Washington, his reputation was stained by accusations that were later dismissed by the NCAA.  He has no prior ties to Petersen, and was not retained when Petersen filled out his staff at Washington.  Lupoi spent a season as an "analyst" (and assisted with on-campus recruiting) for Nick Saban at Alabama before getting promoted to OLB Coach this past season.

Analysis: Now that Lupoi has had his name officially cleared by the NCAA, would Petersen give him another look?  Word among insiders here was that Lupoi loved it at Washington and wanted to stay, but it obviously didn't work out; would it be different now?  It might be difficult to pry him away from the SEC - he's currently making $425K, more than all but three of the coaches on Petersen's staff currently (Pete Kwiatkowski is tops at $485,004 and Jonathan Smith makes $425,004 for comparison), and word is Kirby Smart would like to bring Lupoi with him to Georgia, which would likely require a big raise.

Eric Kiesau, Football Analyst with Alabama: Kiesau, of course, was the other coach swiped away from Cal by Steve Sarkisian in 2012, and while his year as QB Coach was underwhelming, his work the next season as WR Coach was widely praised.  He was also reportedly the coach that pushed Sark to move full-time to the HUNH offense in 2013, an offense that was very successful.  Sark opted not to bring him to USC, and Petersen also declined to retain him.  Kiesau was a late hire to Kansas under Charlie Weis in 2014, and when Weis was fired, Kiesau was once again out of a job, so Saban hired him on in a consulting role that is common in the SEC.

Analysis: This is an intriguing one.  While Kiesau never worked directly with Petersen, he did coach at Cal under Jeff Tedford along with Bob Gregory, and then coached under Dan Hawkins at Colorado.  While Petersen opted not to retain him initially - deciding to go with Brent Pease instead - perhaps he would reconsider now.  The receivers looked very good under his watch in 2013, and perhaps Gregory and Jordan Paopao would got to bat for him.

Kirby Moore, Grad Assistant with Washington: Moore has a relatively long history with Petersen despite being a young coach.  Moore of course played his entire career under Petersen at Boise State as a WR, and is of course the younger brother of Kellen Moore.  Kirby got his start last season coaching WR at the College of Idaho, an NAIA school, before taking a GA coaching job with the Huskies this year working with the receivers.

Analysis:  Petersen has promoted young coaches before (Huff, Bhonapha), and Moore is a coach's son, so he's been around the profession for a long time.  While you'd expect Petersen to prioritize experienced, proven coaches for the WR job, Moore could be a guy he turns to if he doesn't find a vet he really likes.