All remains quiet on the Mike Leach assistant coach watch, with little in the way of real news in the last week. Rumors are essentially non-existent, and most of the staff is in place already. But a key piece of Leach's staff at Washington State is still missing.
Seven assistant coaches are already at work, with two spots left to go. We know there are seven coaches under contract and at work due to a quick bit of sleuthing by Mark. All of them can be found in the WSU directory, including two football operations assistants -- Antonio Huffman and Dave Emerick.
Both remaining spots presumably will belong to defensive coaches: a defensive coordinator/secondary coach and a linebackers coach. Mike Smith, currently a coaching intern with the New York Jets was rumored to be the linebackers coach, but all has been quiet on that front for some time.
In fact, all has been relatively quiet on the remaining coaches front as a whole for quite some time. It's a bit of an eerie silence -- typically coaching hires leak from one side or the other well before an official announcement. In the case of Leach's defensive coordinator, though, we've heard one name -- Tommy Spangler -- and little else.
So what's going on and should we be worried about the lack of an announcement? In short, there's no need to panic. If Leach does have agreements in principle with the final coaches, that's great. If he doesn't yet, it's a little more worrisome, but also not a problem at the moment.
There's no rush to hire or even announce assistant coaches at the moment, so Leach can take his sweet time if he so desires. Last Monday was the first day of the recruiting dead period -- a period that lasts through the beginning of the new year. Coaches are limited to a single phone call to each recruit per week, with no in-person or on-campus visits. So Washington State isn't losing any kind of recruiting advantage here.
Two things may be happening here, thus causing the delay, and I've went back and forth about which scenario is occurring. Either Leach's defensive coordinator is still playing in a bowl game and he doesn't want to cause a distraction, or there is no defensive coordinator. I'm leaning towards the former, simply because of the way things have shaken out over the past few weeks.
After quickly assembling his offensive staff, there was a delay before rumored defensive hires began to surface. At the time, it led me to believe a defensive coordinator had been hired, and was giving some kind of input about the composition of the staff. Additionally, Leach and his staff secured commitments from a linebacker and safety over the past week or so. Why would two players -- one of which was flipped -- with no idea who their position coach and defensive coordinator will be commit?
On the other hand, it's interesting to note the makeup of Leach's rumored defensive staff thus far. Paul Volero comes from Key West, where the connection to Leach should be obvious. Rumored linebackers coach Mike Smith played for Leach at Texas Tech, though we don't know if Smith is in or out at the moment; he may have accepted an offer to stay with the Jets, which wouldn't surprise me in the least.
And then there's Joe Salave'a, the man who fits what Leach wanted as far as recruiting goes, but holds no ties to Leach. My own guess is that Chief of Staff Dave Emerick, who also came from Arizona, had a hand in this hire. All three coaches are inexperienced in one way or another, with Volero being out of college coaching for a few years and Salave'a a few years into his coaching career after retiring from the NFL.
That's the other side of the coin: some believe Leach may be struggling to fill his staff. It can't be easy to be a defensive coordinator under Leach, with the emphasis on a quick-strike offense and the perception that the defense is just kind of hanging on for dear life at times.
But there's a flip-side to this, as well: A defensive coordinator under Leach has a ton of latitude and is able to experiment, gamble and implement an aggressive scheme. It allows for plenty of freedom, and a chance for a younger defensive coordinator to make a name for himself. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere -- his last defensive coordinator, Ruffin McNeill, is now the head coach of East Carolina, it should be noted.
So this is where we stand: Seven members of the staff are in, one may or may not be in and the defensive coordinator is still an unknown. Leach may very well have his defensive coordinator picked out and ready to go -- it wouldn't surprise me in the least. We can also safely assume he has a significant amount of money -- maybe $300,000 or more -- to spend on a defensive coordinator. There is plenty of enticement here.
However, I wouldn't expect a well-known name to head up the defense. In my own opinion, this seems like a job for an aggressive defensive coordinator that may not be a household name -- then again, how many defensive coordinators can you name (put your hand down, Mark).
And so we wait. I'd expect an announcement early next week, for the recruiting reasons above, but it's all a guess at this point.