It’s official. The oft rumored over the past week has become a done deal: Kalen DeBoer is the new head coach of the Husky football program. The 47-year old DeBoer spent the past 2 seasons as the head coach of the Fresno State Bulldogs and accumulated a 12-6 record, coming up 1 game short of a division title this season.
Following the disastrous OC stint of John Donovan, Husky fans wanted a bright offensive mind as a head coach and they got one in DeBoer. He played WR at NAIA Sioux Falls in college and immediately upon graduation became the position coach. After a few years of high school coaching he became the OC at Sioux Falls and after 5 seasons became the head coach. The program was among the best in NAIA with DeBoer at OC but he leveled it up once he took full control and won 3 national titles (plus a runner-up) in his 5 years in charge.
From there DeBoer headed to FCS Southern Illinois as the Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers coach and spent 4 seasons there with only so-so results. The Salukis averaged at least 28 points per game in his first and last year but struggled in the middle 2 seasons.
After that was a 3 year stint as the OC/QB coach at Eastern Michigan which was one of the worst FBS programs in the country when he arrived. They averaged 18.8 ppg the year before DeBoer’s arrival and 15.2 ppg in his first season but things quickly picked up. In the final 2 years under DeBoer the Eagles averaged 25.4 then 29.6 ppg. The advanced stats showed a similar turn around as they went from 128th in Offensive FEI in his first season to 75th in his final one before returning to 111th immediately upon DeBoer’s absence.
That improvement helped earn DeBoer the OC job at Fresno State. He took over at the same time Jeff Tedford began another stint as head coach coming off a 1-11 Bulldogs season. The offense improved from 17.7 ppg to 27.1 and then 34.6 ppg in DeBoer’s 2 seasons as the OC.
That performance got him the chance to move to a Power 5 job and DeBoer jumped back to the Midwest to take over the Indiana Hoosier offense. In DeBoer’s one season as the OC, Indiana improved from 86th to 55th in offensive FEI and then boomeranged back to 99th and 126th the past 2 years after he departed.
DeBoer headed back to Fresno after just one season at Indiana, this time as the head coach after Jeff Tedford retired (maybe temporarily) due to health issues. The Bulldogs had dipped to just 4-8 while DeBoer was gone after 2 double digit win seasons with him as OC. In the 18 games since DeBoer returned though the Bulldogs have gone 12-6. Former Husky QB Jake Haener excelled under DeBoer completing 67% of his passes at 8.5 yards per attempt with 46 TDs and 14 INTs. Fresno State played a pair of Pac-12 programs this year and defeated UCLA while narrowly losing to Oregon in the Ducks’ season opener.
There was a vacancy for DeBoer to fill when Washington fired head coach Jimmy Lake after just 13 games a few weeks ago. Lake came in without any head coaching experience but was viewed as one of the bright young coordinators in the sport and had learned from one of the best in Chris Petersen. We’ll never know how much the COVID-19 pandemic changed things but Lake never fully found his foothold after taking over. A potential conference championship game appearance in a shortened first season was taken away after a team COVID outbreak which allowed Oregon to advance to and win the Pac-12 title game. Recruiting saw a sharp decline without Petersen and a sophomore season with embarrassing losses, perplexing press conferences, and a sideline shoving incident doomed his short tenure.
DeBoer’s first task on the job will be to try to stabilize the roster and ensure that Washington doesn’t suffer heavy losses through the transfer portal. With immediate eligibility now a part of life in college football there is the potential for players to jump ship and immediately pick up where they left off somewhere else. Given a completely new coaching staff and the tremendous dissatisfaction of this past season there’s a chance we could see several key contributors look for better situations without being re-recruited by the next staff.
There isn’t all that much of a recruiting class to save but DeBoer will also be tasked with attempting to do his best at putting together a competent class in short order with the early signing period in just a few weeks. The top items on the list will be keeping 4-star WR Germie Bernard in the boat while convincing local elite 5-star OL Josh Conerly that the new coaching staff will be able to immediately put up wins if he decides to stay home.
An essential part of accomplishing both of those jobs will be putting together the right assistant coaching staff. We will see in the coming days who DeBoer is able to secure to fill those positions. The biggest question mark with DeBoer’s hiring is the lack of recruiting chops he’s had with only one season on a P5 coaching staff. It’s not a sure thing that DeBoer isn’t a good recruiter but it’s fair to say he hasn’t had the opportunity to show what he can do recruiting to any Power 5 program let along Washington.
The Huskies reportedly offered Matt Campbell ~$7 million annually which he did not accept. We’ll see what the final terms are on DeBoer’s deal but it seems clear that with no Power 5 head coaching experience he will be making closer to Jimmy Lake’s $3 million than what was offered to Campbell. If the AD is serious about Washington competing with Oregon and now USC with Lincoln Riley then they need to give take that extra money they “saved” from Campbell’s decision and put it back into the program allowing DeBoer to fill out the rest of his coaching staff with ace recruiters at every level.
Assistant coaching names will start to leak out soon but the most likely addition directly from Fresno’s staff appears to be OC/OL Coach Ryan Grubb who has been with DeBoer at 3 of his 5 stops dating back to Sioux Falls. Another candidate to come over is WR coach Kirby Moore who was previously a graduate assistant at Washington and is the brother of Dallas Cowboys OC Kellen Moore.
A press conference to introduce DeBoer to the local media will take place at 11:30a tomorrow, 11/30.
We will update this article with more information as it becomes available. We will also have all the breaking news that is sure to follow in the coming weeks as DeBoer’s staff is announced and players make their decisions about whether to stay or go.