By Bill Swartz
What happens when you have a successful football program at the college or pro level? Other teams want to copy your blueprint, or steal your best minds. That could happen to the Washington Huskies; just not right now.
Oregon State this week surprisingly announced a mutual parting of the ways with head coach Gary Andersen. He did the honorable thing by leaving $12 million on the table OSU owes him for the remainder of his contract. The Beavers promoted 40-year-old cornerbacks coach Cory Hall as the interim head man for the rest of this season.
What if Hall’s job audition doesn’t go well and Oregon State continues to flounder at the bottom of the conference with no sign of improvement? No doubt OSU Athletic Director Scott Barnes is assembling a short list of candidates outside Corvallis. Preliminary feelers could be extended to a pair of top UW assistants.
Husky’s offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith checks all the obvious boxes when it comes to Oregon State’s next head coach. He played quarterback for the Beavers during some of their best seasons, including year 2000 when they lost only one game and trashed Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. The 38-year-old Smith was a graduate assistant at OSU before making his way up the coaching ranks.
He tried to sidestep the expected Beavers’ job question like a blitzing middle linebacker bearing down on him.
“It’s flattering obviously and what not, because I’ve got great memories there,” said Smith after Washington’s Wednesday morning practice. “My extreme focus is on us and the next couple of practices. The Sun Devils present a challenge, and we’ve got a lot of things going, so it’s a huge game Saturday.”
Before the 2015 season, Huskies head coach Chris Petersen gave secondary coach Jimmy Lake the title of co-defensive coordinator along with a nice pay bump. Lake is a fantastic recruiter and communicator, cranking out top NFL draft picks Budda Baker, Kevin King, Sidney Jones and Marcus Peters in the past two years. Washington still has one of the deepest, most talented secondaries in the Pac-12.
During his three-plus years at Washington, Petersen has lost defensive line coach Jeff Choate, who wanted to become head coach at Montana State. Chris Strausser left last season to take the assistant offensive line coaching gig for the Denver Broncos. Bush Hamdan jumped at the chance to be the Atlanta Falcon’s quarterbacks coach under offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian.
Petersen is on record saying he will support his assistants if a job offer comes along that makes sense. Eventually another university could dangle enough dollars in front of Jonathan Smith and Jimmy Lake to lure them away from Seattle. Right now neither man is going to give it much thought with an undefeated Husky team in the middle of what could be an extraordinary season.