Assuming everything goes to plan, this should be the last update on Mike Leach's search for assistant coaches. In the last week or so, not much has changed in a concrete manner, but it appears Leach is set to hire his defensive coordinator, round out his staff and announce the new assistants, perhaps within the next few days. At the latest, Leach said, he'll have an announcement by the end of the AFCA Convention (Jan. 12), which generally serves as a giant mixer for coaches.
On Wednesday, a small recruiting window opened, allowing coaches to hit the road for a little less than a week, visiting recruits in their homes. Leach and the rest of the coaching staff took advantage, flying all over the place while getting back to work after the holiday break and dead period. That recruiting period ends on Sunday night, and the coaches are expected back in town this weekend, if they aren't in Pullman already.
In the meantime, Leach has continued to search for his defensive coordinator, and a few names have popped up in the last couple days, leading one to believe a hire is close. In an interview with 950 KJR earlier this week, Nolan Washington told Ian Furness and Jason Puckett that the players will meet with the full coaching staff on Sunday, so whatever search there is may be wrapped up on Saturday.
After the jump, what we know and what we don't.
There are three names, and one seems to have emerged as the strongest candidate. Earlier in the week, former Houston defensive coordinator Brian Stewart's name popped up, but it may have been off-base. Stewart resigned at Houston for "other opportunities," and though Leach reportedly wants him, signs point toward the former Houston coordinator heading to West Virginia, should Jeff Casteel leave to join Rich Rodriguez's staff at Arizona.
Former Stanford and current Nevada assistant Andy Buh's name also surfaced on Friday as Cougfan reported he was in the running for the defensive coordinator position. Buh is reportedly on the short list, though his name kind of came out of nowhere.
Finally, the man who seems to be the front-runner at this point: Mike Breske. The Montana defensive coordinator reportedly impressed Leach during the interview process and may have the inside track at this point. But again, it's anyone's guess and Leach will stay quiet until the very end.
I'm told Kansas State's Chris Dawson has agreed in principle to become the Washington State strength coach. Dawson is a guy Leach has coveted and for good reason: he's one of the best in the business, drawing almost universal praise from players and coaches. He's been mulling over a substantial offer -- one that would put him in the top-tier of strength coaches in pay -- for weeks, and I was told he accepted a short time ago.
Things can change, and Dawson's situation is complicated, but I would expect him to officially join Leach's staff.
The last assistant coaching spot
New York Jets coaching intern Mike Smith was all set to take the linebackers coach job at Washington State, but will not be coming to Pullman. As the NFL season drew to a close for the Jets, the team made him an offer that will keep him in New York. Instead of coaching the linebackers in Pullman, he'll be coaching the outside linebackers for the Jets. Smith is a rising star and I'd wondered if the Jets would try to keep him around.
With Smith out, Washington State is still missing a linebackers coach, and there's been virtually no talk of who may take the vacant spot. I've got nothing here, so we're in a wait-and-see mode.
That's all for now. If Washington was correct, everything should be ironed out by Sunday, though an official announcement may not come until the end of the week -- after the AFCA Convention. Once the coaching search is all wrapped up, it's winter conditioning time for the athletes, and the home stretch in recruiting for the coaches. The next month or so is key, both for on-field performance gains and future returns in recruiting.