It appeared for a while that the Washington State Cougars might, for once under Mike Leach, emerge from the coaching carousel unscathed — but that now is over: Linebackers coach Ken Wilson is joining Mario Cristobal’s staff with the Oregon Ducks.
If you’re keeping track, this is the fourth consecutive year in which the Ducks have lost during the season to Washington State and then hired away one of WSU’s assistants in the offseason: Wilson will join a line that now includes wide receivers coach Dave Yost (2016), defensive line coach Joe Salave’a (2017) and running backs coach Jim Mastro (2018).
In each case, the hiring came with either added coaching responsibility or a raise or both, and it can be assumed the same holds true for Wilson.
Wilson was the longest tenured member of Leach’s staff, having joined the Cougs from the Nevada Wolfpack in 2013 after Leach’s first season. He’s been responsible for coaching the inside linebackers and is known to be the Cougars’ most effective defensive recruiter.
He had some nice words to say to WSU fans, which isn’t always something you hear from coaches on their way out of town.
Thanks for a great six years! It was a fantastic ride. pic.twitter.com/iNMQm6rJtS— CoachKen Wilson UO! (@CoachKWils) January 22, 2019
On the surface, this seems like a big blow to the staff, but we’ve been down this road before — lots of times, actually. Mike Leach has a way of somehow seeming to upgrade whenever a guy leaves, and while I’d rather not see Wilson go, the reality is that Leach is the secret sauce to our success, and Leach isn’t going anywhere at the moment.
My guess is that you’ll see this hire come from somewhere in defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys’ tree, and in the end, that might end up being a net positive: Claeys was Wilson’s third defensive coordinator, and it might actually be really helpful for him to put another voice on that field who is intimately familiar with his vision.
That’s not to say Wilson won’t be missed. He will. The players raved about him, and the evidence of his work is on the field. But this is the price of doing business when you’re successful, and as long as Leach sticks around, something tells me the Cougs will be just fine.
Also, I would like it on the record that I was going to make this joke, but Wilner beat me to it.
Ducks raiding WSU staff yet again. One of these days they might actually beat the Cougars, too https://t.co/xvkrALqJAx— Jon Wilner (@wilnerhotline) January 22, 2019