Assistants in limbo after Petersen hire

christian.caple@thenewstribune.comDecember 7, 2013 

Beneath the surface of Washington Huskies fans’ excitement about the hire of new football coach Chris Petersen is a unifying concern: What will become of defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi?

And, for that matter, the rest of UW’s assistant coaches who haven’t yet bolted for new USC coach Steve Sarkisian’s staff?

The answer might not be apparent until Petersen addresses media Monday for the first time as Huskies coach. Or later.

Sarkisian reportedly is trying to hire Wilcox, who led UW’s defensive revival the past two seasons, and Lupoi, who is considered one of the nation’s best recruiters. Sarkisian already has hired running backs coach Johnny Nansen, defensive backs coach Keith Heyward and linebackers coach Peter Sirmon. Those three hires were reported earlier in the week and officially announced by USC on Friday.

That leaves Wilcox and Lupoi in a state of flux for the time being. If Wilcox were to leave for USC, he would owe UW a $1 million buyout, a sum the Trojans reportedly are hesitant to pay. Lupoi’s buyout likely would cost upwards of $400,000, or the equivalent of what the school would owe him through the expiration of his contract Feb. 6, 2015.

Adding intrigue to the situation is that Wilcox was Petersen’s defensive coordinator from 2006-2009, during which time Boise State lost only four games, won the Fiesta Bowl twice, and twice went unbeaten.

It’s also possible Wilcox could be a candidate to replace Petersen at Boise State, which said in a statement Friday that it has begun a national search for its new coach.

Boise State’s defensive coordinator is Pete Kwiatkowski, who has worked for Petersen since 2006 and has spent 16 seasons at the school since graduating from there in 1990. Some have anticipated that he will accompany Petersen to Washington, and Chris Fetters of Dawgman.com reported as much Friday night. It’s not known whether that affects Wilcox’s status on the UW staff.

The future status of Washington’s offensive assistants — receivers coach Eric Kiesau, offensive line coach Dan Cozzetto, tight ends coach Jordan Paopao and interim head coach/quarterbacks coach Marques Tuiasosopo — is also unknown.

Washington did practice Friday, according to a source. It was the Huskies’ first practice — closed to the media and public — since Tuiasosopo was named interim coach Wednesday.

The Huskies won’t know their bowl destination until invitations are finalized Sunday, though they likely are headed to San Francisco for the Fight Hunger Bowl on Dec. 27.

christian.caple@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @ChristianCaple

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