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February 12, 2012
Staff overhaul lifts Washington recruiting
For Steve Sarkisian, adversity on his coaching staff presented an opportunity.
Washington wrapped up a poor year on defense with one of the worst defensive performances in a bowl game, allowing 777 yards and 67 points to Baylor in the Alamo Bowl. The Huskies coach responded by firing three defensive assistants, including coordinator Nick Holt.
All the departures ended up allowing Sarkisian to drastically revamp his coaching staff, which could have major recruiting repercussions for the program. The Huskies added five new assistants, including both coordinators and the entire defensive staff.
"Tosh quite honestly has been a thorn in my side for the last five or six years on the recruiting front," Sarkisian told reporters this week. "If you can't beat them, get them to join you."
The new hires could expand Washington's recruiting footprint out of state, into parts of California, Arizona and nationwide.
Before leaving for UCLA, Martin helped Washington recruit the Los Angeles area with some success, but the Huskies struggled in Northern California. That's where Lupoi and offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau, another former Cal assistant, could help.
Lupoi helped Washington land Thompson and defensive end Pio Vatuvei in the final days of the recruiting cycle.
Though Lupoi is a strong recruiter in California, he's also been effective recruiting from coast to coast, landing recruits to Cal such as Keenan Allen from North Carolina and other prospects to Cal from Oregon and Maryland.
"I think they're going to be able to target Southern California kids a little better," Rivals.com West recruiting analyst Adam Gorney said. "They'll be involved with every Northern California kid, which has been a stronghold for Cal with Lupoi and all those relationships."
Lupoi may be the biggest addition on the recruiting front, but he's not the only one.
[ More Washington: UDubNation.com ]
New secondary coach Keith Heyward recruited the Los Angeles area for Oregon State with some success. Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox may not have been a star recruiter by SEC standards during his time at Tennessee, but he knew enough to recruit Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore out of Prosser, Wash.
From a recruiting standpoint, the best hire from Tennessee's staff may have been Peter Sirmon. Sarkisian told reporters he already nicknamed Sirmon "the miner" for his diligence in recruiting. A former Oregon linebacker and college teammate of Wilcox, Sirmon was promoted from graduate assistant to linebacker coach at Tennessee. He earned the reputation of a natural recruiter in a short time at Tennessee.
"He puts on his hard hat," Sarkisian said. "He's got a light on and goes into his office and works on recruiting."
USC has proven NCAA sanctions won't prevent the Trojans from landing elite talent. Backed by two BCS seasons, Stanford has become a national factor on the recruiting scene. Oregon continues to recruit California and Texas effectively. And first-year coach Jim Mora assembled a formidable recruiting staff in his first few months on the job at UCLA.
The third is Lupoi.
"What they've really done is strengthen the areas where they were pretty good already," Gorney said. "They've gone from a school that used Sarkisian as a key recruiter, and now they have three, four or five [assistants] who can do that."
Washington wasn't the only program to overhaul its coaching staff this season. Here's a look at five others and the potential ramifications on the field and in recruiting. Like Washington, these schools include programs that did not change head coaches. Other schools such as USC, Boise State, Iowa and West Virginia will need to make major changes to their coaching staffs, but the new assistants have not been hired yet.