PULLMAN – The Washington State assistant coaching exodus isn’t finished just yet.
Cougars outside receivers coach Derek Sage has accepted a position at UCLA, sources confirmed to The Spokesman-Review, becoming the fifth assistant coach to leave Mike Leach’s staff since WSU lost to Michigan State in the Holiday Bowl. The news was first reported by FootballScoop.com.
It isn’t clear what capacity he’ll serve at UCLA, but Sage becomes the second WSU assistant poached by first-year Bruins coach Chip Kelly, who hired Cougars outside linebackers coach Roy Manning as his special teams coordinator last month.
The Cougars have also lost defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, who left to take a co-defensive coordinator job at Ohio State, running backs coach Jim Mastro, who accepted the same position at Oregon, and offensive line coach Clay McGuire, who last week returned to his alma mater Texas Tech. Head WSU Strength and Conditioning coach Jason Loscalzo took a job with the NFL’s Chicago Bears earlier this week.
Sage, who leaves WSU after one season, is plenty familiar with Kelly and his high-motor offenses. When Sage was just getting his start in the coaching industry, the University of New Hampshire was one of his first stops, and Kelly, at the time, was working as the Wildcats’ offensive coordinator. Sage was an offensive and defensive graduate assistant when he joined the UNH staff in 2005 and spoke highly of Kelly’s football intellect.
“After the first meeting I called my dad and said, ‘This is the smartest football mind I’ve ever been around,’ after one meeting,” Sage told The Spokesman-Review last fall. “Then right on par with anything else my dad would say, he said, ‘Well, you better start taking a notebook because you’re going to use some of that stuff.’ ”
Grinch also worked alongside Kelly and Sage at New Hampshire.
In his short time at WSU, Sage was responsible for a few key recruiting gets. He brought Tay Martin to Pullman after recruiting the freshman wideout while working on the staff at Toledo, then groomed Martin into one of the Cougars’ top receivers in 2017.
Martin, who finished his rookie year with 31 catches, 366 yards and six touchdowns, projects to be WSU’s top receiver this fall. Sage also recruited recent WSU signee Calvin Jackson Jr., a junior college product who was committed to Toledo out of high school before attending Independence Community College in Kansas.