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Mike Leach hires Buffalo’s Roc Bellantoni as linebackers coach

Bellantoni replaces Ken Wilson to fill the remaining opening on the staff.

NCAA Football: Washington at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The one remaining vacancy on the Washington State Cougars football coaching staff is now reportedly filled. Mike Leach’s chief of staff, Dave Emrick, revealed on “Cougs in 60” that Mike Leach has hired Buffalo Bulls defensive ends coach Roc Bellantoni as the new linebackers coach. Bellantoni would replace Ken Wilson, who had long served as inside linebackers coach prior to his recent departure for Eugene.

Bellantoni had spent another year at Buffalo as the director of player personnel prior to his promotion before the 2018 season. The Bulls nearly doubled their sack total from the previous season under Bellantoni and also had their first ever All-MAC defensive lineman.

“Roc is an outstanding coach that brings a great deal of experience and expertise to our staff,” Leach said via news release. “He is a high energy coach that has a reputation of being an outstanding recruiter and staff guy. We are excited to welcome, Roc and his wife Jenny, along with their four sons to WSU.”

So what’s the connection to Washington State for Bellantoni? It appears to be athletic director Pat Chun; Bellantoni spent three years with the Florida Atlantic Owls, where Chun was previously an AD, as the linebackers coach and defensive coordinator. Prior to that, he spent the majority of his coaching career at Eastern Illinois.

This hire comes from an unexpected place but I’m very inclined to trust Leach here. He has hit absolute home runs with his assistant hires the past four years, something he’s going to need to continue to do as WSU coaches likely continue to get poached, especially by teams that have trouble beating them when their reputation with their donors and regionally depends on them not getting down 27-0 in the first half.