Washington today announced that they have finished hiring the final four members of Kalen DeBoer’s coaching staff. All four of the most recent additions were with DeBoer at Fresno State last season and are coming in to very similar roles. William Inge and Eric Morrell are listed as co-defensive coordinators while also coaching the linebackers and safeties respectively. Lee Marks will come over as the running backs coach while Eric Schmidt will coach the defensive ends and be the special teams coordinator. They also announced the hire of Ron McKeefery from Fresno State as the strength & conditioning coach.
William Inge as Co-Defensive Coordinator, Linebackers Coach
It’s not a great surprise that Inge ultimately joined DeBoer at Washington since DeBoer was responsible for his tenure at Fresno State as the DC/LB coach as well. Over the course of 7 years at Indiana, Inge served in some capacity as linebackers coach, co-defensive coordinator, and special teams coordinator. DeBoer served one season as the offensive coordinator at Indiana and when he became head coach at Fresno State he brought Inge along with him.
Prior to the long tenure at Indiana, Inge had spent a year in the NFL with the Bills and stopped along the way in college at Buffalo, Cincinnati, San Diego State, Colorado, Northern Iowa, and Iowa. His tenure at Buffalo included coaching eventual NFL star Khalil Mack. He played in college as a linebacker at Iowa from 1993-1996.
We will have to wait to see exactly how Washington plans to divide the responsibilities between Inge and Morrell. It seems likely still that we can use Fresno’s defense from this season as a likely template for Washington moving forward. At Fresno State Inge ran a 4-2-5 defense however it had a lot of differences from the nickel defense the Huskies have run in recent years. The extra nickel back in Inge’s system is more of a linebacker/safety hybrid and it seems like a role that potentially could be tailor made for Asa Turner or Dom Hampton.
This past season Fresno State finished the regular season 21st in the country in scoring defense and 27th in yards per play. Predictably the Bulldogs struggled against some of the more talented teams on their schedule. They gave up 31 points to Oregon, 37 to UCLA, 32 to Nevada, and 40 to Boise State. They also dominated the lower tier teams on their schedule with 5 games surrendering 10 or fewer points.
As a linebacker coach Inge will have his work cut out for him as perhaps no position on the roster was left in a worse place. Due to attrition at the position the Huskies have just 5 inside linebackers on the roster at a spot where they traditionally have wanted 8-9. Washington will almost certainly add at least one linebacker in the 2022 class over the next week and will also potentially seek out 2 more via the transfer portal.
Chuck Morrell Hired as Co-Defensive Coordinator, Safeties Coach
Before joining Washington, Morrell was on staff as the safeties coach at Fresno State under Kalen DeBoer. The two go way back since Morrell was the defensive coordinator at Sioux Falls when DeBoer won 3 NAIA national championships as the head coach.
In between the two stints under DeBoer, Morrell continued on in the NAIA realm and was the head coach at Montana Tech for 9 seasons. At his time there the Orediggers had a 52-44 record with a pair of double digit win years sandwiched in the middle of the tenure.
As mentioned under Inge’s section, we don’t know yet exactly how the staff will divide up that co-defensive coordinator title. Both Inge and Morrell have experience as the defensive coordinator under DeBoer so conceivably we could see one primarily be in charge of the gameplan while the other calls the plays during the game.
It’s tough to assess the ability of a position coach who only was there for 2 seasons when one of them was a half year because of COVID. But Fresno State safety Evan Williams was the 2nd highest graded defensive player on the team in 2021 per Pro Football Focus after middling results in 6 games last year. Safety play was absolutely one of the weaknesses for the Huskies the past 2 years as it was largely a rotating door at the position. Hopefully Morrell is able to help stabilize that spot.
In past seasons the Huskies have had a pair of defensive backs coaches but it has been unclear about the division of labor between the corners and the safeties. Under DeBoer there will be a more concrete division as Juice Brown has been hired for the corners and Morrell specifically for the safeties.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Huskies end up with some attrition at the safety spot. A combination of injuries and ineffectiveness meant that 7 different players started at least one game at safety. Alex Cook and Asa Turner ended up playing the most snaps but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see either end up getting passed over given the potential for new skill sets under a new set of defensive coaches.
Lee Marks Hired as Running Backs Coach
Prior to joining UW he was (stop me if you’ve heard this one) in the same role at Fresno State under Kalen DeBoer. Marks additionally held the assistant head coach and run game coordinator titles for the Bulldogs. He served as the interim coach for Fresno State following DeBoer’s departure and coached them through their bowl game this weekend.
Marks has history with DeBoer dating back to his time as a graduate assistant at Sioux Falls when DeBoer was the head coach there over a decade ago. From there Marks went to South Dakota State, Arkansas State, and finally Boise State under Bryan Harsin. Marks has served as both running backs coach as well as strength and conditioning coach at times throughout his career. While as the running backs coach at Boise State he helped turn Alexander Mattison and Jeremy McNichols into NFL draft picks.
Since Marks arrived at Fresno State he has had the dynamic duo of Jordan Mims and Ronnie Rivers. Each ran for better than 5 yards per carry both of the last 2 seasons and combined for 1,985 rushing yards, 974 receiving yards, and 25 touchdowns over 18 games playing in a pass first offense.
Fresno State fans regard Marks as a good recruiter and we’ll see how he is able to do in that regard. Former RB coach Keith Bhonapha was able to reel in the local pair of Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed who anchored the Husky running game for 5 seasons. In the 2023 and 2024 classes there are 4-stars Jayden Limar and Jason Brown who both look like elite national prospects. If Marks is able to secure one or both then it should help secure the Husky running game for the next half decade.
In the meantime Washington has a lot of talented unproven depth at the running backs position. With the departures of Sean McGrew and Kamari Pleasant to graduation there will likely be an open competition. Cameron Davis will enter next season as the favorite to start and he showed signs of progress throughout this year after a disastrous fumble that potentially cost UW the game against Oregon State. Richard Newton is the other back with experience but he suffered a torn ACL this year and it’s unclear whether he will be 100% or close to it by the start of next season.
Beyond them is a trio of Texas backs (Jay’veon Sunday, Caleb Berry and Emeka Megwa) as well as local former 4-star Sam Adams. We’ll see which is able to breakout next year under Marks’ tutelage.
Eric Schmidt as the Defensive Ends Coach, Special Teams Coordinator
Under DeBoer at Fresno State, Schmidt served as the defensive line coach and the special teams coordinator. With Inoka Breckterfield already hired on the defensive line it means that Schmidt will shift over and coach the outside linebackers at Washington.
Unlike every other coach added today, Schmidt hadn’t directly coached with DeBoer prior to the past 2 seasons in Fresno. However he has plenty of experience in DeBoer’s neck of the woods and I’m sure those mutual contacts are what put DeBoer’s radar in the first place.
In his playing days Schmidt was a star defensive end for FCS North Dakota and began his college coaching career there as well overseeing the linebackers. He moved from there to Southern Illinois where he moved around the front 7 coaching outside and inside linebackers in addition to defensive line and special teams at various points.
Then in 2014 he moved back to his alma mater as the defensive coordinator at North Dakota, a position he held for 6 seasons. Once again though Schmidt was versatile with the position coaching duties he took on in addition to serving as the defensive coordinator. During that time he again coached all 3 of the positions along the front 7.
Schmidt’s first job will be to help convince Zion Tupuola-Fetui to remain at Washington rather than transfer. If he does return then hopefully a fully healthy ZTF will be able to anchor one side of the DE/OLB rotation. The transfer of Cooper McDonald to San Diego State opens up playing time opposite. Bralen Trice started to come on towards the end of the year and will be the favorite to start but Sav’ell Smalls and Jeremiah Martin also are likely to figure heavily into the rotation.
Washington’s coaching staff is official:— Christian Caple (@ChristianCaple) December 18, 2021
HC Kalen DeBoer
OC/QB Ryan Grubb
RB Lee Marks
WR Junior Adams
OL Scott Huff
TE Nick Sheridan
Co-DC/LB William Inge
DL Inoke Breckterfield
DE/ST Eric Schmidt
CB Julius Brown
Co-DC/S Chuck Morrell
STR/CON Ron McKeefery