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Cougars expect to hire soon

PULLMAN—Washington State coach Mike Leach is in the market for a new defensive coordinator and finding one may not require a lengthy search, according to athletic director Bill Moos. The Cougars have two openings on the defensive staff because defensive coordinator Mike Breske and outside linebackers coach Paul Volero were dismissed on Sunday. WSU finished the season with a 3-9 record and ranked No. 115 out of 125 teams in scoring defense, allowing 38.6 points per game. Speaking on his weekly Cougar Calls radio show with Bud Nameck on KXLY 920, Moos said that Leach has a short list of about six potential candidates and that he expects the Cougars to have a new defensive coordinator soon. Such swiftness in the hire could indicate that the top choices are not currently coaching in the college ranks, or at least not for a team that will be playing in one of the bowl games, which don’t start until Dec. 20. That doesn’t mean the Cougars won’t be able to land a big name coach. Pac-12 TV money and the prospect of total autonomy on the defensive side could entice a proven coordinator to WSU, according to Scott Roussel, whose website, FootballScoop.com, is frequently the first to report the hirings and firings of coaches due to Roussel’s relationships in the coaching community. “I don’t know how many coaches really give total defensive control to the coordinator,” Roussel said. “I’d say maybe 20 and Leach is one of them, so it’d be pretty exciting for a defensive coordinator, I would think.” Breske’s final salary of $376,500 was competitive with other Pac-12 coordinator salaries. With that in mind, here are some defensive coaching candidates that might be good fits with the Cougars: Andy Buh. Buh has extensive ties to Leach and his staff, and served as the defensive coordinator at California in 2013. He once served as an administrative assistant under Lyle Setencich, who was the first football coach Leach worked under at Cal Poly. Setencich also served as Leach’s defensive coordinator at Texas Tech from 2003-07, during which time Buh would visit and study under the coaching staff. He also worked with current WSU linebackers coach Ken Wilson and running backs coach Jim Mastro while serving as the defensive coordinator for two seasons at Nevada. Buh is not currently coaching and would presumably be available immediately. Ellis Johnson. A highly regarded defensive coordinator with a long track record of putting players in the NFL, Johnson was nonetheless dismissed by Auburn this weekend. Leach has long matched wits against Johnson, both as an assistant at Kentucky and in 2012 when WSU traveled to face Auburn. Roussel said it is unlikely that Johnson would make a move to Pullman after a career spent coaching in the Southeast. Clancy Pendergast. Pendergast is no stranger to the Pac-12, having served as a defensive coordinator at Cal from 2010-12, as well as spending the 2013 season as the defensive coordinator at USC. Pendergast would be a boon to the young WSU secondary, having spent extensive time coaching defensive backs in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs. He is not currently coaching. Kalani Sitake. It is widely believed that Utah’s defensive coordinator was unhappy this season that athletic director Chris Hill broke a pattern of extending core assistants heading into the final year of their contracts and that Sitake is amenable to heading to a program that offers more loyalty and job security. Roussel indicated that Sitake – a Ute assistant since 2005 — might balk at the idea of coaching for a conference rival, but this could still be one to keep an eye on. Sitake currently makes $500,000 a year so the Cougars would have to substantially increase their budget for assistant coaches to make a compelling offer.
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