Huard: Who UW Huskies should target to replace Jimmy Lake as coach
The UW Huskies officially made the move many were expecting on Sunday, firing head coach Jimmy Lake just 14 games into his tenure as the successor to Chris Petersen.
Lake’s 2021 season had been bad from the start with the Huskies falling to FCS Montana to open the year despite being a preseason top-25 team. The Huskies then lost to Michigan the following week.
Things got worse for Lake in the buildup to the Huskies’ Nov. 6 meeting with Oregon when he said that the two schools weren’t recruiting rivals due to UW’s academic “prowess.” The Huskies then struggled throughout a loss to the Ducks, and Lake was suspended for one week after the Oregon game due to a sideline altercation where he got physical with a player. Shortly thereafter, a report by the Seattle Times came out where multiple unnamed sources alleged that Lake got physical with a player at halftime in 2019 when he was an assistant coach.
Lake was officially fired Sunday by Washington athletic director Jen Cohen, ending Lake’s tenure as UW Huskies head coach with a 7-7 overall record, including Saturday’s loss to Arizona State in which he was suspended.
Lake, who had been at Washington since 2014, started his Huskies career as defensive backs coach and was promoted to co-defensive coordinator in 2016. Then, after head coach Chris Petersen resigned after the 2019 season, Lake was immediately named his successor.
In a 2020 season shortened due to COVID-19, Lake led the Huskies to a 3-1 record and Pac-12 North title. But because of a COVID-19 outbreak, the Huskies couldn’t play in the Pac-12 Championship or a bowl game.
The Huskies are currently 4-6 with just two games left against Colorado and in-state rival Washington State.
With Lake officially out, UW will now turn its focus to finding his replacement.
Brock Huard, a college football analyst for FOX Sports who starred for the Huskies in the 1990s, shared some names Monday he would like to see the school target during his daily conversation on 710 ESPN Seattle’s The Mike Salk Show.
“There’s going to be lots and lots of names obviously floating around. I do think it is still a good job,” Huard said. ” I’m not going to argue it’s a top 10 job in college football right now, but I think it’s a top 25 job in college football. I think Chris Petersen will be very involved (in the hiring process). I know Jen Cohen will lean on him substantially. He is obviously so connected to so many coaches and has done it for decades, so she will have as good a sounding board as there is.”
For Huard, three Power-5 school coaches immediately came to mind.
The rising star
“I think Dave Aranda at Baylor is incredibly intriguing to me,” Huard said. “That’s just a kind of a personal choice.”
The 45-year-old Aranda, who is in his second year at Baylor, has led the Bears to an 8-2 record in 2021. He is a longtime defensive coordinator with stops at Hawaii, Utah State, Wisconsin and LSU, where he won a national championship in 2019.
Given his success at Baylor and as a defensive coordinator, he’s likely going to be one of the hottest names on the coaching market this offseason, especially after he just led an upset of Oklahoma on Saturday.
The former rival
Next up, Huard mentioned the man who helped Oregon reach new heights: Chip Kelly, the current head coach at UCLA.
“He’s in Year 4 and (UCLA has) got to make a decision. Do they extend him?” Huard said. “Is he kind of leveraging that as a smart businessman saying, ‘Hey, get me my deal. Get me my next five years or if other people come calling, I’m going to entertain it and listen.'”
Kelly, 57, was the Ducks head coach from 2009-12 after serving two seasons as Oregon’s offensive coordinator. With his fast-paced, hurry-up offense, the Ducks went 46-7 in his four years leading the charge in Eugene with three Pac-12 titles and four appearances in BCS bowls.
After his success at Oregon, Kelly moved on to coach the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, going 26-21 in three years, including a playoff appearance in his first season. He was fired with one game left in 2015, then was hired by the San Francisco 49ers, where he lasted just one year, going 2-14 in 2016.
After taking 2017 off, Kelly went to UCLA and has gone 16-25 since 2018. The Bruins are 6-4 this season.
An ex-UW coordinator returns home?
Huskies fans may be hesitant on a former Washington defensive coordinator being hired as head coach, but Huard thinks that someone who fits that description would make a lot of sense.
“Justin Wilcox is a name at Cal that I’m sure anytime you put that out there, people kind of go, ‘Justin Wilcox, what has he done?'” Huard said.
Wilcox led UW’s defense in 2012 and 2013 under Steve Sarkisian. Wilcox followed Sarkisian to USC, spending 2014 and 2015 with the Trojans. After serving as defensive coordinator at Wisconsin in 2016, Wilcox returned to the Pac-12 as Cal’s head coach, where he’s compiled a 24-27 record since 2017.
So why would Wilcox, who has led the Golden Bears to just two winning seasons in five years (they’re 3-6 this year and missed last week’s game with USC due to a COVID-19 outbreak), be a good fit for the UW Huskies?
“Well, he understands the dynamics on the West Coast and I think understands the dynamics in having to do it in the toughest environment with a campus and administration in an area that doesn’t really care about football (at Cal),” Huard said. “I think he would love the opportunity to have more support around him.”
Another thing working in Wilcox’s favor? He was Petersen’s defensive coordinator at Boise State from 2006-09, and Petersen will be assisting Cohen with this next hire.
If it were up to Huard, he’d hire Aranda from Baylor to come right the ship at Washington.
“I think Dave Aranda would be near the top of my list,” Huard said. “I love what he’s done at Baylor. It’s not just because he’s turned it around in Year 2.”
A big question with any coaching candidate who has a head coaching job is whether they’d leave their current position. Huard thinks that given the uncertainty of the Big-12’s future – Oklahoma and Texas are set to leave the conference for the SEC – staying at Baylor may be less attractive for Aranda than coming to Seattle and joining the Pac-12.
“He’s a guy that’s coached at Hawaii, he’s coached at Utah State, he’s kind of coached in a bunch of different spots and won a national title at LSU,” Huard said. ‘… Coming off the heels of Chris Peterson (succeeding at UW), the lesson learned is you’re hiring a person, right? Yeah, you need the X’s and O’s and all of that, but you need the quality person that will put great people around him. Even better people, right?”
Huard thinks Aranda has shown he surrounds himself with good coaches who are also good people.
“He hires a tremendous coordinator – Jeff Grimes from BYU – away from there because he’s like, ‘This guy’s a tremendous person and quality coach,'” Huard said. “And they’re taking off and having an incredible year. Yeah, he would be the name at the top of my list.”
Listen to the full conversation between Brock and Salk at this link or in the player below.