Jimmy Lake announced on Monday that he would promote Linebackers coach Bob Gregory to the role of co-defensive coordinator. The job opened up when Pete Kwiatkowski took the DC job at Texas a little over a week ago. Gregory will join Ikaika Malloe as the co-DC. Malloe will shift his positional designation to OLB and quality control assistant Rip Rowan will take the interior DL coaching job.
Lake’s decision to promote from within is not entirely surprising. The Washington defense has been steadily successful dating back to the start of Chris Petersen’s run in 2014. While Kwiatkowski’s departure removes a crucial cog from the machinery, it’s easy to see why lake would want to remain faithful to that system. Moreover, the ongoing impact of Covid on athletic departments in general made it less likely for UW to make a lucrative pitch to steal an NFL assistant or a big money coach.
On the other hand, Gregory has not showered himself in glory over the last two season. After the departure of Ben Burr-Kirven, the Husky interior linebacking corps has been a constant source of frustration. Gregory was also responsible for special teams, which was another sore spot more often than not under his tutelage (Keith Bhonapha will take the reigns there). To his credit, Gregory has nine years under his belt as a DC between Boise State and Cal, and he developed a very reputation working on Petersen’s staffs 2010.
Rowan’s elevation makes him the most direct replacement for Kwiatkowski on the coaching staff. While he has big shoes to fill, Rowan has already started to earn plaudits in the industry. Before last year, 247 listed him as one of the “30 under 30” coaches to watch, shortly after UW swooped in to hire him before Illinois could offer him a job. He also immediately vaults himself into the competition for best football coach name in the country.
As with previous moves, Lake’s promotion of Gregory shows that he believes in his system and trusts his own judgment over popular opinion. He will likely continue to exert a measure of control over the defensive side of the ball, which is natural for a coach who started in that area. Like with the Jon Donovan OC hire, he did not pursue the biggest name, but chose someone whose philosophy aligns with his own. Whether the strategy pays off over the course of his career remains to be seen, but Lake has definitely put his own stamp on the UW program.