Washington this morning announced half of the 8 holes remaining on the assistant coaching staff. WR coach Junior Adams and OL coach Scott Huff off the previous coaching staff. Nick Sheridan has been hired to fill the TE coach role and Inoke Breckterfield will be the DL coach. Derham Cato and Rip Rowan had previously held those 2 roles as each was promoted from graduate assistant/analyst roles to position coach under Jimmy Lake.
Huff and Adams Retained
The worst kept secret in town around the coaching staff moves was that Junior Adams would be coming back as the WR coach. 4-star recruit Germie Bernard said after Jimmy Lake was let go that he would still sign with Washington for sure if Adams remained the coach. Sure enough we didn’t hear a peep after DeBoer had some time to start working on his staff. Terrell Bynum and Jalen McMillan on the same night each publicly declared they’d be coming back and it seems logical to think that was in response to the news that Adams would be returning.
Adams filled in as the interim offensive coordinator following John Donovan’s dismissal and for 2 possessions it seemed like he would be a magic salve when UW scored a pair of TDs to start off the game against Arizona State. That quickly faltered and the offense didn’t dramatically improve during the rest of his short tenure in that role. Recruiting though has been a major strength for Adams as he has signed 4-stars Rome Odunze, Jalen McMillan, Jabez Tinae, and Germie Bernard in the 3 full classes since his hire and also helped close the deal on Puka Nacua shortly after his start date.
There are still questions about the technical abilities of UW’s receivers but it’s hard to separate how much of that was due to Donovan’s offense and how much was due to the abilities of Adams as a position coach. The hope is that in DeBoer’s offense with much better spacing and hopefully better QB play that the talented wide receiver room will take a step up. It should be noted that both Taj Davis and Ja’Lynn Polk largely exceeded expectations this year when on the field.
The other retention is offensive line coach Scott Huff which will come as somewhat of a mixed bag. Similar to Adams, Huff has been one of the best recruiters on the Husky coaching staff but there are question marks about his developmental abilities. Washington has brought in 4-stars on the OL like Nate Kalepo, Julius Buelow, Roger Rosengarten, Geirean Hatchett, Myles Murao, and Owen Prentice with Huff as the coach. All of them had 3 or fewer years in the program but only Buelow has gotten any meaningful time from that group and he was benched midseason.
The offensive line was supposed to be the strength of this Husky team with 5 returning starters but were instead a well below average unit. Once again there are questions about how much of that falls on Huff and how much on Donovan’s offense but improved OL play is a must if Washington’s offense is to boomerang next season. New offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb has numerous years of experience as an offensive line coach so perhaps some of the hope in retaining Huff is that he can keep up his recruiting acumen while Grubb helps him to improve in the technical aspects as a position coach.
Washington still has 2 major in-state targets remaining in the class of 2022 along the offensive line. OG Vega Ioane was a long-time member of the Husky class before he re-opened his recruitment last week. I’m sure coach DeBoer hopes that with Huff back and a little more time to learn about the offense that he recommits and joins the class. 5-star OT Josh Conerly is the big fish still in the pool and hopefully he feels comfortable enough with DeBoer that his relationships with Huff and Courtney Morgan will allow him to join the fold.
Nick Sheridan Hired as TE Coach
The hire of Sheridan marks a step up in experience at the tight ends position after Derham Cato was hired straight from being an offensive analyst. Sheridan is the son of former NFL DC Bill Sheridan and walked on as a QB at Michigan in college. He got his first P5 opportunity in 2017 when he took over as the QB coach for Indiana for two seasons.
When Kalen DeBoer was hired as the OC/QB coach in 2019 Sheridan was moved to TE coach to allow him to stay on staff. During that time Sheridan helped DeBoer as a de facto second QB coach. Indiana decided to promote Sheridan to OC to replace DeBoer after Kalen got the head job at Fresno State. The offense under Sheridan only saw a slight drop off in 2020 as Indiana almost won the Big 10. However this past season everything went wrong and they plummeted in every statistic which led to Indiana terminating Sheridan’s contract.
Deserved or not, the tight ends coach position is often viewed as the black sheep of the offensive coaching jobs. It usually has the fewest number of players outside of QB and doesn’t get the glory of other positions even though tight ends usually need to have a combination of WR and OL skills. Getting someone in that spot who has experience as a P5 OC (even if it didn’t end particularly well) who can also give some support in the QB room has to be viewed as a major win.
And it’s not as if there’s no indication that Sheridan can do okay coaching tight ends. Indiana TE Peyton Hendershot set program single-season records for a tight end with 52 receptions and 622 yards in 2019 with Sheridan coaching tight ends and DeBoer as the offensive coordinator. That helps demonstrate what DeBoer might be able to do this season with a receiving threat like Devin Culp after his tight ends at Fresno didn’t really put up big receiving numbers.
There had been previous talk that potentially either Fresno’s WR coach or OL coach might be moving with DeBoer as the TE coach in order to bring them over but make room at those more coveted positions for Adams/Huff to remain on staff. Going out and instead bringing on someone who has called plays in the Big 10 for 2 seasons and who is still just 33 years old with plenty of room to grow is a great alternative.
New DL Coach Hire Inoke Breckterfield
Washington today announced the hire of their new defensive line coach as they have brought in Inoke Breckterfield from the SEC. Breckterfield served this past season as the DT coach for Vanderbilt but he has spent the last decade working for power 5 programs with a lot of success.
Breckterfield is originally from Hawai’i and played his college ball at Oregon State where he won the Morris Trophy as the top DL in the Pac-10 so he has plenty of history on the West Coast. After a professional career in the CFL he became a graduate assistant at his alma mater Oregon State and then spent 2 years as the DL coach at FCS Weber State and Montana.
His first jump to a power conference team was in 2011 as the DL coach at UCLA where he spent just the one year before getting hired at Pittsburgh. The first 2 seasons as the DL coach at Pitt, Breckterfield had the good fortune of coaching Aaron Donald who has gone on to become one of the best defensive players of all-time in the NFL. After 3 seasons at Pitt he moved on to Wisconsin where he was the DL coach for 6 years. During that time Wisconsin was known for consistently putting out one of the best defenses in the Big 10 and Breckterfield was a key cog in that machine.
When Clark Lea got the head coaching job at Vanderbilt he was able to lure Breckterfield away from Wisconsin as the 2 had previously served together on staff a decade previous when they were at UCLA. However it appears DeBoer was able to lure him away with the opportunity to end up back on the West Coast.
Breckterfield’s parents were both born in Fiji and growing up in Hawai’i it would seem likely that he will be able to connect with players on the Islands as well as Polynesian players on the mainland. That role was sorely needed for recruiting purposes given that Breckterfield is replacing Ikaika Malloe who had a similar background. (side note: a huge thank you to coach Malloe for his time at UW, wishing you the best in your career moving forward).
Breckterfield has his work cut out for him as the Huskies currently have 0 defensive line commitments for the class of 2022. Additionally, starting defensive tackle Taki Taimani announced yesterday that he would be entering the transfer portal. There is still a solid core of talent to work with in Tuli Letuligasenoa, Faatui Tuitele, Jacob Bandes, and Voi Tunuufi but Breckterfield’s development abilities will be tested to get those players to live up to their potential and live up to the history of Shelton/Vea/Gaines.
Remaining Coaching Vacancies?
With today’s news that means the following positions have yet to be announced: Defensive coordinator, Linebackers coach, Outside linebackers coach(?), Special teams coach, Running backs coach, and Safeties coach. There are 4 spots left on the coaching staff to fill those 5 positions.
Similar to Adams’ retention, it’s a known “secret” that William Inge will be heading to Washington from Fresno State. That became clear last week when a recruit posted a tweet that he had received an offer from Inge to Washington and then later deleted the tweet and put it back up without tagging Inge. All indications are that Fresno State is aware this is happening and have given permission to have him recruit to UW while he finishes bowl prep work with Fresno State.
Inge is the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Fresno and also has a history as a special teams coach. It seems very possible that Inge is still in contention for the defensive coordinator position at Washington and if someone else has that role instead then he would come in as the linebackers/special teams coach. He fulfilled both of those jobs during his time at Indiana.
The running backs and safeties coaching jobs are also expected to come from Fresno State. FSU Running backs coach Lee Marks is the interim head coach at Fresno and it makes sense that he would have to wait until after the bowl game to be announced. Especially since UW already had their running back for the 2022 class enrolled in the fall. Safeties coach Chuck Morrell has a history with DeBoer going back over a decade and seemed a natural fit to transition over as well. If UW goes with an outside linebackers coach spot as well then the current Fresno coach Eric Schmidt could also be in line to fill that spot.
That leaves the mystery over the defensive coordinator position. There had been open speculation that CFL head coach Orlondo Steinauer would end up as the DC but that seems to be looking like less of a possibility with each passing day. At this point I would expect for the Fresno foursome to fill the remaining spots unless we hear otherwise over the next few days. Either way, the expectation should be that the rest of the staff will be announced next week after Fresno State has finished their bowl game and Inge, Marks, Schmidt, and Morrell are free to join Washington if that is in fact what happens.
Per sources, #Washington is also expected to add William Inge, Lee Marks, Eric Schmidt and Chuck Morrell to the staff after #FresnoState's bowl game Saturday against UTEP. Inge served as Kalen DeBoer's defensive coordinator at Fresno and was candidate for the HC job there. https://t.co/nojITw9mQ5— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) December 17, 2021