3 takeaways from Jedd Fisch’s 1st UW Huskies press conference

Jan 16, 2024, 3:42 PM | Updated: 4:05 pm

UW Huskies Jedd Fisch coach...

New UW Huskies head football coach Jedd Fisch talks during a press conferece on Jan. 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

(AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

Jedd Fisch, welcome to Montlake.

UW Huskies athletic director Troy Dannen introduced Fisch as the school’s new football coach at a press conference on campus Tuesday, making him the school’s fourth head coach since 2019.

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The move comes after coach Kalen DeBoer accepted the same job at Alabama last week just days after the Huskies played in the national title game, shocking a program still reeling from a 34-13 loss to Michigan.

DeBoer’s departure has hurt UW significantly. So far, 17 UW players have entered the transfer portal and it has lost a handful of high school commitments, including four-star prospect Zaydrius Rainey-Sale. Combined with the expected NFL departures, UW’s roster of two-deeps has been almost entirely depleted.

Fortunately for UW, Fisch has experience with rebuilding. He spent the past three seasons at Arizona, going 1-11 in year one, 5-7 in year two, then 10-3 this past season to finish with a No. 11 Associated Press ranking.

Fisch acknowledged the significant challenges ahead Tuesday, saying he planned to “reconstruct” a roster that will look vastly different next season when UW transitions to the Big Ten.

Here are three takeaways from his press conference.

Fisch is a maniacal recruiter.

When Arizona hired Fisch in 2021, he inherited a roster bereft of FBS talent. Arizona was coming off a disastrous season under former coach Kevin Sumlin, and Fisch didn’t have the same fertile in-state high school football scene to pick players from like schools in California.

But Fisch quickly made in-roads in the transfer portal and high school ranks. In 2022, he pulled in the 22nd-ranked recruiting class in the country (third in the Pac-12), according to recruiting site 247 Sports. He also poached quarterback Jayden de Laura from Washington State, helping the Wildcats immediately become competitive in year two.

Asked how he will approach building a roster at UW, Fisch said it begins with focusing on high school talent.

“What we really pride ourselves in is finding high school players and developing them,” Fisch said. “One of the issues that’s happening in college football is that high school kids are being looked over, because everybody’s in this constant quest and has the pressure of having to win this exact second.

“We would love to be a team that can sign 20 high school kids every year, 25 potentially, and then use what I call free agency or the transfer portal to fill in the gaps.”

Fisch could be a flight risk, but that’s just how college football works now.

Fisch is a true coaching nomad. The three seasons he spent in Tucson were his longest at any stop. The Livingston, N.J., native attended school and learned under Steve Spurrier at Florida, a job that could open next season if current Gators coach Billy Napier doesn’t drastically improve upon his 11-14 mark.

Fisch also has plenty of NFL experience, having worked as an assistant for seven NFL teams, including a year as Pete Carroll’s quarterbacks coach for the Seahawks in 2010.

Asked what he would tell fans who want to get behind a program that’s seen an unusual amount of coaching turnover, Fisch was candid.

“I would say that I understand that there’s always concern currently in the environment we’re in about how much we can get behind one person, one coach, one situation, but they’re getting behind a university,” Fisch said. “They’re getting behind the team, they’re getting behind the players, they’re getting behind the history.“

So is UW a destination job?

“The Big Ten, the SEC, right now is who’s leading the football pathways. The college football landscape is about getting to the College Football Playoff, there’s 12 teams that are going to compete every year, starting next year in the College Football Playoffs,” Fisch said. “If you look at what teams traditionally compete, it’s about the same 12 or 14 teams. University of Washington is one of those 12 or 14 teams.”

“The idea of being here is to win championships,” he added. “All I can promise is that we’re going to be here every single day doing everything we can to win a championship, knowing that Washington has the opportunity to do that every year.”

Dannen knew this day could be coming.

Dannen has been the athletic director at UW for only a few months, filling a role left open when Jen Cohen took the same position at USC in August. But it didn’t take him long to realize he could be in search of a new football coach when DeBoer didn’t sign a contract extension UW presented him around Thanksgiving.

Like most athletic directors, Dannen has a list of potential coaches that he would hire locked away in the event a coach leaves. He said the search ramped up and he went into lockdown mode last Thursday when Alabama formally reached out to DeBoer.

“In some ways, you’re in search mode every day. You never know, and so obviously that list was percolating. When I got a notification on Thursday that Alabama wanted to talk to Deboer formally we kind of went into full-bore lockdown search mode.

“I said this when we had an unsigned contract and we couldn’t get it signed. It gave me pause,” he added. “And so I wanted to make sure that I was prepared if we got to this eventuality.”

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3 takeaways from Jedd Fisch’s 1st UW Huskies press conference