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Potential Washington WR Coach Candidates

Taking a look at the options available to fill Junior Adams’ spot on the staff

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 20 Penn State at Indiana Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The news is now official official that Junior Adams is leaving Washington for archrival Oregon as their co-OC and Wide Receivers coach. That means both that he is dead to UW fans and that the Huskies are in need of a new WR coach to close out their staff. Adams was one of the highest paid WR coaches in the country and had a buyout clause in his contract if leaving for an intra-conference job so money shouldn’t be an issue in making the replacement hire.

So far the only outside hire that DeBoer has made which didn’t come via a direct professional connection was DL coach Inoke Breckterfield. Given that much of the coaching churn has already started to settle it wouldn’t be a shock to see DeBoer go in that direction again. I want to start out by saying that none of this is insider information. These are a list of names that fit into one of three categories: WR coaches with ties to DeBoer/Washington, coaches I wouldn’t mind seeing us try to poach, coaches currently looking for work with resumes comparable to Adams. The ultimate choice could very well come from outside of this list of names but this seems like a good place to start.

Ties to Washington or Coach DeBoer

Grant Heard, Indiana Co-OC/Wide Receivers Coach- The connection between Heard and DeBoer is fairly obvious. They worked together at Indiana in 2019 when DeBoer was the offensive coordinator there. Heard also worked under new tight ends coach Nick Sheridan after he took over for DeBoer at Indiana. Heard has no ties to the west coast but the receiver spot has been a productive one during Heard’s time there with Nick Westbrook, Simmie Cobb, Ty Fryfogle, and Whop Philyor all either earning all-conference honors or landing on an NFL roster despite none being higher than a low 3-star recruit. He also was the WR coach at Ole Miss when Laquon Treadwell became a 1st round pick. We’ll see if DeBoer would be willing to give Heard the same co-OC title that he has at Indiana but Junior Adams made $100k more annually than Heard is making right now so UW could offer a raise if they wanted to do so.

Jermaine Kearse, Washington Program Assistant- Kearse was hired as an off-field assistant by Jimmy Lake back in November of 2020 and it has been unclear exactly what his responsibilities with the team have been since then. Regardless, Kearse was one of the better receivers in the last several decades of UW history and has extra cache in the region due to his successful NFL career with the hometown Seahawks. We don’t know if Kearse wants to end up pursuing a full-time coaching career but if he does then a job as the position coach for his alma mater seems like a natural fit. He obviously hasn’t had to recruit or coach before but with his background it seems likely that Kearse would excel in both areas. He’s made nearly $20 million as a player so I wouldn’t fault him in the least if he doesn’t want that grind. But Kearse would give instant name recognition to the position group and DeBoer with his history as a WR coach could be a great mentor giving him his first shot.

Kirby Moore, Fresno State Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers Coach- Before the decision was made to retain Junior Adams there were plenty of rumors abounding that Moore would come along with DeBoer from Fresno State. Moore has experience at Washington as a graduate assistant and played under Chris Petersen at Boise State. However the chance to land Moore was before he officially got the offensive coordinator job at Fresno. There’s no question that UW could offer him a raise from what Fresno is paying him if they wanted to do so. I don’t think Moore would take it though with the chance to call plays rather than being the 3rd banana on the offensive staff at UW behind DeBoer and Grubb. I have no doubt that DeBoer made his first phone call to Moore after the Adams news broke but if Moore’s priorities are anything other than cash then he’s not likely to make that leap.

Potentially Under the Radar Poach Options

Kevin Cummings, Arizona Wide Receivers Coach- The Huskies lost some recruiting chops with Junior Adams departing but Cummings would help in that regard. He managed to help Arizona secure a major upset by stealing high 4-star receiver Tetairoa McMillan from Oregon following their coaching change. He also just landed one of the top transfers in the country in UTEP WR Jacob Cowing. Before his time at Arizona he was at San Jose State and is an alumni of Oregon State so he certainly knows the region. Washington fans certainly feel they’re a tier above Arizona in the Pac-12 pecking order. Junior Adams at UW made double what Cummings did last year so it certainly seems like the Huskies could take a swing and offer him a big raise to move back to the PNW.

Jamarcus Shephard, Purdue co-OC, Wide Receivers Coach- This would be an ambitious pull in part because Shephard has the co-OC title and is already making about what Adams did at UW. He also doesn’t have any direct ties to DeBoer although there are some regional similarities. Shephard was the WR coach at Washington State for one season back in 2016 and played at a Midwest D-3 school similar to DeBoer (who was NAIA but still, small school guy). Also in what would be a weird twist of fate he was the WR coach at Western Kentucky before Junior Adams although their paths never crossed there. Rondale Moore and David Bell have each been named 1st team AP All-Americans in Shephard’s tenure so the development has been there. A guy who is likely happy where he is but worth a phone call to gauge interest.

Free Agents

Billy Gonzales, Former Florida Passing Game Coordinator, Wide Receivers Coach- I went through every OC/WR coach from staffs that underwent a coaching change and Gonzales is one of 2 still on the board who might be worthy of bringing to Seattle. He is from Colorado originally and went to Colorado State. Early on in his career he became Urban Meyer’s WR coach and followed him from Bowling Green to Utah to Florida. Following Meyer’s exit from Gainesville Gonzales went to LSU, Illinois, and Mississippi State before heading back to the Swamp with coach Mullen.

Gonzales is a free agent so Washington doesn’t have to worry about convincing him to leave his current employer. The lack of recruiting is partly what got Mullen fired but Gonzales had three 4-star receivers on board in 2022 who decommitted after he wasn’t retained. The Gators had Van Jefferson and Freddie Swain in the last few years at the WR position who have made an impact in the NFC West. This would be a major departure from DeBoer’s past experience but with one more chance to go “mercenary” for his assistant coaching staff, Gonzales looks to be the best of the uncommitted bunch.

Del Alexander, Former Notre Dame Wide Receivers Coach- It was announced yesterday that Alexander was not being retained under Marcus Freeman at Notre Dame. He has a long resume that includes plenty of work on the West coast after graduating from USC. He coached in the NFL with the Chargers as well as stops at UNLV, Oregon State, and Arizona State before spending the last 5 years with Notre Dame.

The 3 most recent WR draftees at Notre Dame (Chase Claypool, Miles Boykin, and Equinameous St. Brown) were all recruited before Alexander arrived but he helped with their development. The Irish’s leading receiver this year was Kevin Austin who was a high 4-star recruit brought in by Alexander. In the last 5 years Alexander brought in 5 top-125 nationally ranked receivers who all rank in the top-16 of Notre Dame WRs committed since the year 2000. Top California receiver CJ Williams decommitted after Brian Kelly left for LSU or it would’ve been 6. That wasn’t good enough though for Notre Dame fans who were upset at numbers issues at the position particularly after Alexander struck out with all his top targets in the class of 2019 and only brought in one 3-star player.

Class of 2022 state of Washington high 4-star receiver Tobias Merriweather said yesterday that Alexander was one of the main reasons he committed to the Irish in the first place and he probably would’ve gone elsewhere if Alexander wasn’t the coach (though he wasn’t looking to leave without Alexander there). It’s unclear how much of Alexander’s recruiting chops came from the Notre Dame brand but he seems like a reasonable option and is currently on the market.