Analysis: Seven possible candidates to exchange Pete Kwiatkowski as UW’s defensive coordinator
Pete Kwiatkowski is that the new defensive coordinator at Texas.
The news has yet to be officially announced, but Kwiatkowski — who has served as either the defensive coordinator or co-defensive coordinator in Seattle for the last seven seasons — updated his Twitter profile picture to the longhorn logo late on Tuesday night. And, in 2021, that’s about as official because it gets.
So … where does Washington go from here?
For the second consecutive offseason, Jimmy Lake is close to start a coordinator search. and thus the Huskies’ head coach could conceivably go one of two ways. Lake could seek a longtime coordinator to essentially hand the reins to, which could allow UW’s second-year head coach to more capably oversee the entire program. Or, Lake — who, of course, made his career on the defensive side — could choose a younger, less experienced (and, let’s be honest, cheaper) option, while personally assuming a pseudo-coordinator role.
To put it plainly, a big-name coordinator is unlikely to easily accept this position without assurances he’ll have the power to sculpt Washington’s defense within the ways he sees fit. Would Lake let that happen?
Gerald Alexander — Miami Dolphins defensive backs coach
The 36-year-old Alexander is taken under consideration a rising star within the profession, and he has ties to Lake and UW. the previous Boise State and NFL defensive back served as a graduate student under Lake in Seattle in 2014, before earning acclaim as Cal’s defensive backs coach from 2017 to 2019. The l. a. native is additionally a dynamic personality and recruiter, very almost like Lake.
The issue here is that Alexander has only ever coached defensive backs, and has not served as a defensive coordinator on any level. UW also features a pair of defensive backs coaches on staff, so hiring Alexander would likely force the program to part ways with either Will Harris or Terrence Brown.
From an experience standpoint, adding Alexander would amount to a high-risk, high-reward proposition. But that doesn’t mean he’s not the right man for the work .
Peter Sirmon — Cal defensive coordinator/inside linebackers coach/recruiting coordinator
Sirmon isn’t lacking experience as an influence Five coordinator, and has helped elevate Cal’s defense under Justin Wilcox over the last three seasons. He has previously served because the defensive coordinator at Louisville and Mississippi State, coached linebackers at USC for two seasons (2014-15) and — after operating because the linebackers coach at Washington in 2012 and 2013 — is plenty familiar with UW also .
The issue here: Would Sirmon really be willing to swap Pac-12 defensive coordinator roles, in what one could argue is really a lateral move? Don’t forget that Sirmon’s son, Jackson, could also be a starting linebacker at Washington, and thus the Huskies could likely give him a considerable raise. With the program’s history of success and its location in Seattle, Washington may additionally have a far better ceiling for long-term success.
But Sirmon is 2-0 against UW as Cal’s defensive coordinator, so he won’t see enough of a reason to maneuver back to Montlake.
Jeff Choate — Montana State head coach
This, here, could also be a longshot.
But there’s some precedent also .
Choate — who served with Lake as Washington’s defensive position coach in 2014 and 2015 — left to become Montana State’s head coach in 2016, and led the Bobcats to an 11-4 record and a spot within the FCS semifinals in 2019. But after being passed up for Boise State’s head coaching , Choate might be trying to seek out a route back to Power Five prominence.
Yes, it’s unlikely that an FCS head coach would get away to easily accept a university coordinator position. But that’s what former Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin did when he accepted the offensive coordinator job at Cal in 2017.
The defensive background is there. The link to Lake is there. The history with the Huskies is there.
Is that enough? Probably not, but don’t pretend it isn’t possible.
Donte Williams — USC associate head coach/cornerbacks coach/defensive pass game coordinator
Williams could also be a recruiting ace who has previously coached cornerbacks at Arizona, Nebraska, Oregon and USC. He served as a graduate student at UW in 2011 and 2012 also .
But, like Alexander, Williams — currently USC’s associate head coach and defensive pass game coordinator — has precious little experience as a defensive coordinator. Lake could conceivably add an elite recruiter while personally handling UW’s defensive play-calling and easing Williams slowly into that role.
Cort Dennison — Louisville co-defensive coordinator/outside linebackers coach
You know his name, because Dennison played linebacker at Washington from 2007 to 2011. He has also served two stints at Louisville, and operates because the Cardinals’ co-defensive coordinator and out of doors linebackers coach. He also brings experience recruiting within the Pacific Northwest , having coached the surface linebackers at rival Oregon in 2018.
So, you will see the appeal: here could also be a young, enthusiastic coach who has passion for the Huskies, has recruited Pac-12 territories and coaches the precise position Kwiatkowski is leaving vacant. Were Lake to call, you’d imagine Dennison would enthusiastically answer the phone.
Ikaika Malloe (UW co-defensive coordinator/defensive line coach) OR Bob Gregory (UW inside linebackers coach/special teams coordinator)
In some ways, Malloe or Gregory could be considered the betting favorites (although probably not the favored favorites). If Lake wants to require care of how of continuity in his defense, he could elevate either Malloe (a UW alum who has been on staff for the last five seasons) or Gregory (who was the defensive coordinator at Cal from 2002 to 2009) while simultaneously assuming a much bigger role thereon side of the ball. Promoting Malloe or Gregory would also allow Lake to rent another position coach who may arrive with more of a recruiting-centric mindset