Behind the scenes of Washington Huskies' Head Coach Chris Peterson’s orchestrated effort to bring the Dawgs to Rose Bowls and national recognition is a staff of nine assistant coaches.
Instrumental in coaching individual position groups, directing offenses and defenses, and convincing recruits to join the Huskies, these assistant coaches play a significant role in the team’s success or lack thereof.
Heading into this season, who is the team’s most valuable assistant coach? Here is a glance at a few names to consider.
Pete Kwiatkowski, Defensive Coordinator, 3rd season (2014-Present)
Also known as "Coach K," Kwiatkowski can be credited as the mastermind behind one of the nation’s best defenses. We all heard the story from commentators and pundits over and over again when the Husky defense began to emerge last season: "This defense lost five starters to the NFL, but despite this loss, this young unit is stymying opposing offenses!"
If you forgot, Kwiatkowski’s unit led the Pac-12 in scoring defense (18.8 points per game) and total defense (351.8 yards per game). The 2014 unit was loaded and more talented than the 2015 unit, yet Kwiatkowski’s leadership took a young group of individuals and developed them into a cohesive and effective unit.
Dawgman.com Editor Chris Fetters remarks, "He took a defense ranked sixth in the Pac-12 with four top-45 draft picks and turned them into the best defense in the league."
Among the entire coaching staff, Coach K may be the most sought after. Several teams, including Oregon, showed interest in Coach K’s services this past offseason. If the Huskies are smelling roses in 2017, this man will most likely be one of the chief reasons for making that dream a reality.
Jimmy Lake, Co-Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs Coach, 4th season (2004, 2013-Present)
For some, "Most Valuable Assistant" easily belongs to Lake. Not only has Lake played a role in the development of two first-team All-Pac-12 selections (then-sophomores Budda Baker and Sidney Jones) Lake has helped recruit a plethora of talent, including three four-star incoming freshmen (Byron Murphy, Isaiah Gilchrist, and Kentrell Love).
The UW defense goes from good to great because of Lake’s efforts on the recruiting trail and in his ability to teach and develop the raw talent of the players he recruits. While his first stint at UW was not pleasant – the Huskies went 1-10 in 2004 under Keith Gilbertson – Lake may be partly responsible for what has become one of the program’s best defenses.
His track record in recruiting and developing talent is already impressive, so it will not be surprising if Lake moves on after this season if another attractive defensive coordinator position opens up.
Jonathan Smith, Offensive Coordinator, 3rd Season (2013-Present)
Before you grab your pitchforks, I think there can be a reasonable discussion surrounding the opinion of Smith being the most important assistant coach heading into the season. He is definitely not the most valuable assistant, but should be considered one of the most important assistants. Certainly, Smith has not had nearly as much success as Lake and Kwiatkowski, but his roles and duties as offensive coordinator make Smith the most important coach for this hyped Washington team.
For the Huskies to compete for a Pac-12 championship, the offensive unit needs to make huge strides in its ability to score. No matter how dominant the Husky defense may be, ranking tenth out of 12 teams in scoring offense will not yield an impressive win-loss record.
Can the Husky offense improve its ability to move the ball downfield with a more experienced quarterback and supporting cast? Remember, sophomore Jake Browning will probably be Smith’s most talented quarterback. Browning definitely represents more to work with than Cyler Miles did back in 2014.
This is easy, right? I’d have to say Lake is the team’s Most Valuable Assistant Coach. As a recruiter, he has brought in the most talent out of any other position group during the Peterson regime. At the same time, he is one of the best teachers on staff. Bottom line, players are improving under the tutelage of Lake.
In addition, it can be argued that Coach K’s success is dependent on Lake's unit. If the secondary were an average unit, the Husky defense would no longer be considered elite.
What are your thoughts? Is it someone other than Coach K or Lake? How would you qualify "Most Valuable Assistant?"