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Former Washington State DC Tracy Claeys accepts position to coach Virginia Tech LBs

UPDATED: Fri., Dec. 13, 2019

Former Washington State defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys watched his players during spring practice on Thursday, April 5, 2018, at Martin Stadium in Pullman. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Former Washington State defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys watched his players during spring practice on Thursday, April 5, 2018, at Martin Stadium in Pullman. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Nearly two months after his abrupt resignation from Washington State, former Cougars defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys has found his next job, as a position coach in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Claeys accepted a position at Virginia Tech on Friday to coach the team’s linebackers, marking the first time since 1998 he won’t be in a defensive coordinator or head coaching role. Before he became Mike Leach’s DC at Washington State, Claeys was the head coach at Minnesota after serving as the Gophers’ DC. Prior to that, Claeys was a DC for 11 years at three schools.

The former WSU DC, whose tenure in Pullman lasted just 19 games, left on his own accord during the Cougars’ first bye week, blaming himself for the team’s struggles on the defensive side of the ball while assuring he didn’t resign for health or personal reasons.

WSU’s defense didn’t improve, and in some cases regressed, under the direction of interim DC Roc Bellantoni and co-interim DC Darcel McBath. The Cougars still made the program’s fifth consecutive bowl game despite giving up 36.6 points per game in Pac-12 play – the worst mark in the conference.

Claeys’ relationship with former Minnesota coach Jerry Kill helped him land the job at Virginia Tech, which is in its fourth year under Justin Fuente, who hired Kill as a special assistant after three games of the 2019 season.

“I’m excited to welcome Tracy to Blacksburg,” Fuente said in a school release. “Tracy is an outstanding football coach who will serve as another great resource for me, Justin Hamilton and our entire coaching staff. Coach Claeys’ track record as a defensive coach, a recruiter and his longtime association with Jerry Kill were among on the many reasons we wanted him to join us at Virginia Tech. We’re enthusiastic about adding Tracy’s expertise and leadership to our team.”

The Cougars improved in almost every defensive category in Claeys’ first season, capped off by a program-record 11th win in the Alamo Bowl, but WSU graduated Peyton Pelluer, Logan Tago, Hunter Dale and other valuable defensive assets. All-Pac-12 safety Jalen Thompson then forfeited his final season of eligibility when he tested positive for illegal substances.

In WSU’s Pac-12 opener, the Cougars conceded 67 points to UCLA as the Bruins stormed back from 32 points down in the third quarter. Claeys resigned just days after a 38-13 loss to eventual South Division champion Utah in Salt Lake City.

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