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Washington Football: 15 Coaching Candidates to Replace Jimmy Lake

Jimmy Lake, Washington Huskies Football

Washington fired coach Jimmy Lake on Sunday, becoming the third Pac-12 job to open this season. The news of Lake's dismissal was reported by The Athletic and Yahoo Sports. Lake was suspended following a sideline incident with a player against Oregon on Nov. 6, and the program made the decision to end his run as head coach on Sunday. Lake was promoted to head coach after Chris Petersen retired following the 2019 season and was regarded as a top hire following his successful run as the program's defensive coordinator. After a 3-1 finish in the abbreviated '20 campaign, the Huskies are just 4-5 in '21, bringing Lake's overall record at 7-6. Bob Gregory worked as the interim coach in Saturday's game against Arizona State and is expected to retain that role for the rest of the year.

Who could replace Lake at Washington? Here are 15 names to watch in the coaching search:

15 Coaching Candidates to Replace Jimmy Lake at Washington

Brent Brennan, Head Coach, San Jose State
Brennan has some ties to the Pac-12, as he worked as a graduate assistant at Washington in 1999 and also had a stint as an assistant at Oregon State (2011-16). The California native was hired as San Jose State’s head coach in 2017, and after a 3-22 start, has compiled a 17-14 mark over the last three years. The Spartans claimed the Mountain West title last season and finished No. 24 in the final Associated Press poll.

Troy Calhoun, Head Coach, Air Force
Calhoun is a former Air Force quarterback and has directed the program since 2007, so there's no guarantee he would leave the Academy for Washington. Since taking over at Air Force, Calhoun has guided the team to a 108-75 mark, including an 11-win season in '19. The Falcons have just four losing seasons under Calhoun's direction.

Jamey Chadwell, Head Coach, Coastal Carolina
Chadwell doesn't have any Pac-12 experience, but the Tennessee native has to be on the radar for major openings after his success at Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers are 27-19 under Chadwell's watch, including an 19-3 mark over the last two seasons. Prior to Coastal Carolina, Chadwell went 35-14 as the coach at Charleston Southern (2013-16) and also had stints at Delta State ('12) and North Greenville (2009-11).

Kalen DeBoer, Head Coach, Fresno State
DeBoer is a coach on the rise, sporting a 11-6 mark in two years at Fresno State. The South Dakota native also previously went 67-3 and won three NAIA Championships at Sioux Falls from 2005-09 and has stops as an assistant at Indiana, Fresno State and Eastern Michigan at the FBS level.

Tony Elliott, Offensive Coordinator, Clemson
Clemson’s offense has struggled this year, but Elliott is still one of the top coordinators in college football. The California native worked as an assistant at Furman (2008-10) before landing at his alma mater (Clemson) in ’11. After working from 2011-14 coaching the team’s running backs, Elliott assumed the play-calling duties on a full-time role at the end of the ‘14 season and has maintained that spot for each of the last seven years. Elliott has never been a FBS head coach.

Jeff Grimes, Offensive Coordinator, Baylor
Grimes deserves a look for head-coaching opportunities after his performance with the Bears this year and in previous stints as an assistant. The Texas native has never been a head coach, but he’s has assembled a strong resume as an assistant over a handful of stops and has made a significant impact as a play-caller in his last two stints as BYU and Baylor. The Bears averaged 23.3 points a game last season but have jumped to 35.4 after Week 11 with Grimes at the controls. Prior to his stints at BYU and Baylor, Grimes worked as an assistant at Arizona State, Colorado, Virginia Tech and LSU. This would be a big-time job for a first-time coach, but Grimes' background on offense and overall experience is appealing.

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Joe Moorhead, Offensive Coordinator, Oregon
Could Washington look to a rival for its next head coach? Whether it's at Washington or somewhere else, Moorhead should be a head coach at the FBS level again soon. Moorhead is one of the top offensive coordinators in college football and compiled a 38-13 mark as the head coach at Fordham from 2012-15 and a 14-12 record at Mississippi State (2018-19).

Billy Napier, Head Coach, Louisiana
Napier’s name is likely to pop up in every major coaching search this offseason. Although most of his coaching experience took place in the South, Napier spent a year at Arizona State (2017) as the program’s offensive coordinator. He also has stints on his resume as an assistant at Alabama (2013-16), Colorado State (2012) and Clemson (2006-10). Napier is 37-12 as the head coach at Louisiana and has guided the program to four consecutive Sun Belt West Division titles. The Ragin’ Cajuns won 21 games from 2019-20 and finished No. 15 in the final Associated Press poll in ’20.

Jay Norvell, Head Coach, Nevada
Norvell’s name has popped up in the rumor mill for openings at TCU and Washington State, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Wisconsin native mentioned for the job in Seattle. After a lengthy career as an assistant, which included stops at Wisconsin, Iowa State, Nebraska, UCLA, Oklahoma, Texas and Arizona State, Norvell took over at Nevada in 2017. After a 3-9 mark in his first year, Norvell has compiled a 29-16 record since ’18. Overall, Norvell is 32-25 with the Wolf Pack.

Kalani Sitake, Head Coach, BYU
This is a longshot, as it would take a lot for Sitake to leave BYU. Not only is Sitake coaching at his alma mater, but the program is set to move to the Big 12 in 2023. The Cougars went 9-4 in Sitake’s debut in ’16 but followed that season with a disappointing 4-9 mark in ’17. However, Sitake quickly got the program back on track by winning at least seven games in each of the last four years, including an 11-1 mark last season. BYU is 46-28 overall under Sitake’s watch.

Jonathan Smith, Head Coach, Oregon State
Smith currently coaches at his alma mater, but he worked at Washington from 2014-17 as the program’s offensive coordinator under Chris Petersen. The California native is 15-26 with the Beavers but has guided the program to at least five victories in each of the last two full seasons. Oregon State is one of the toughest jobs in the Pac-12. Could Smith be tempted to make the move to a bigger job?

Justin Wilcox, Head Coach, California
California is a tough job in the Pac-12, so a move within the conference to Washington wouldn’t be a total surprise. Wilcox is a native of Oregon and played his college ball in Eugene, then later spent time as an assistant in the Pac-12 at California, Washington and USC. Wilcox also has stints as an assistant at Tennessee and Boise State. He’s 24-27 since 2017 as the head coach with the Golden Bears. 

Longshots

Alex Grinch, Defensive Coordinator, Oklahoma
Grinch has experience in the Pac-12 from a previous stint as Washington State’s defensive coordinator from 2015-17, but he’s never been a FBS head coach. The Ohio native departed Pullman for Ohio State in ’18 and has spent the last three years as the Oklahoma defensive signal-caller. The Sooners have made progress on defense under Grinch’s direction, and it’s only a matter of time before he gets a chance to be a FBS head coach.

Jeff Choate, Assistant Coach, Texas
Could Washington look to another Chris Petersen assistant to lead the program? Choate worked at Washington from 2014-15 as an assistant and had other stops at Boise State, Washington State and Florida becoming the Montana State head coach in '16. Under Choate's watch, the Bobcats went 28-22 from 2016-19, including a 19-9 mark in his last two years. Choate left Montana State to be an assistant at Texas prior to the '21 season.

Sean Lewis, Head Coach, Kent State
Lewis is one of the youngest FBS head coaches (35 years old) and should get a chance to run a Power 5 program in the near future. He quickly moved through the coaching ranks after his playing career at Wisconsin ended, spending time at Eastern Illinois (2012-13), Bowling Green (2014-15) and Syracuse (2016-17) before landing the top spot at Kent State. This is one of the toughest jobs in the MAC, but Lewis is 17-22 and guided the program to a 7-6 mark and bowl victory in ’19. Lewis is one of the top offensive-minded coaches at the Group of 5 level.