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Names to watch: Washington Huskies

Steve Sarkisian’s exit to USC has left Washington searching for a new head coach.

Vanderbilt's James Franklin could be a good fit for the Huskies. (Photo: Mark Humphrey, AP)

Vanderbilt’s James Franklin could be a good fit for the Huskies. (Photo: Mark Humphrey, AP)

Though Sarkisian was only 34-29 during his time in Seattle, he inherited a program that had gone 18-53 in the six seasons prior to his arrival.

In short, Sarkisian left the program in much better shape than it was prior to his arrival.

With upgrades to Husky Stadium and other facilities, a strong alumni and solid recruiting bases, and a talent-filled roster, the Washington job is a much stronger draw than it might appear on the surface.

That in mind, here are a few early names to watch:

James Franklin (Head coach, Vanderbilt)

Though Vanderbilt claims that Franklin was never contacted by USC, he looks like a better match for Washington anyway. Franklin loves Nashville and has done a nice job both selling it for recruiting and getting the city behind the program. There’s little doubt he could do some serious damage with the city of Seattle and the Husky program at his disposal. Franklin’s turnaround with the ‘Dores has been nothing short of remarkable, and Washington appears to be a more natural fit with much higher upside than his present situation.

Jim Mora, Jr. (Head coach, UCLA)

While Mora, Jr. might seem like a stretch, he was a walk-on defensive back for the Huskies and and served as a GA there in 1984. There’s also the draw of being coach at a “football school,” which Washington is — despite some recent success on the hardwood — and something that UCLA will never be. Add the lure of being the city/state’s main college team — which, again, UCLA simply won’t ever be — and it doesn’t seem so unlikely.

Doug Nussmeier (Offensive coordinator, Alabama)

Nussmeier is a West Coast native (from of the Portland suburb of Lake Oswego), and was the Huskies’ offensive coordinator from 2009-11. After winning a national title in his first season at Alabama, Nussmeier directed a Tide offense that scored 38.8 points per game in 2013. If Washington doesn’t hire Wilcox but decides to target an up-and-coming assistant, he’s likely to get a long look.

Chris Petersen (Head coach, Boise State)

Living in Los Angeles and the USC fishbowl would be a lot of for anyone, and was almost certainly too much for Petersen given his son’s health situation. But Seattle and the UDub seems like a much more natural transition. The chatter has long been that this would be the year Petersen finally makes a move from Boise, and there simply aren’t many jobs that make more sense for Petersen and his family — both in terms of football and family — than Washington.

Gary Pinkel (Head coach, Missouri)

Pinkel is a Don James disciple and two-time Huskies assistant (first in 1976 and then again from 1979-1990), so athletic director Scott Woodward won’t have to sell hard to convince him of Washington’s potential. Despite Pinkel’s success in Columbia, Washington is a better job than Missouri and the idea of competing year in and year out in the Pac-12 is undoubtedly less stressful than the SEC. Did his time on the hot seat last year leave Pinkel with enough bad feelings to make a move westward?

Justin Wilcox (Defensive coordinator, Washington)

Though it’s been reported that Wilcox is “likely” to join Sarkisian in Pasadena, that’s only if he doesn’t land the Washington head job. Wilcox is an Oregon alum that was defensive coordinator at Tennessee in 2011-12 before joining Sarkisian’s staff. If Wilcox doesn’t get the job and winds up at USC, expect assistants and ace recruiters Peter Sirmon and Tosh Lupoi to follow.

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Washington wide receiver out indefinitely after injuring foot vs. Cal

Washington got a much-needed win over Cal on Saturday, but the Huskies lost on of their top offensive producers in the process.

Washington wide receiver Kasen WilliamsWide receiver Kasen Williams landed awkwardly on his left foot trying to catch a Keith Price second quarter pass. He left the stadium with his foot in an air cast and was taken to nearby Harborview Medical Center.

Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian fears Williams’ season may be over.

“We know there’s a break and a dislocation in his foot,” Sarkisian said. “So he’s going to be out quite some time. Obviously our thoughts and prayers are with Kasen.

“He’s a great kid. He’s already home. I know the guys are all headed over there to see him.”

Williams, a Sammamish, Wash. native, is currently third on the team with 29 catches for 241 yards.

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The Rumor Mill :: College Football Coaching News and Rumors – Tuesday, Oct. 22

It’s not exactly a secret that Bo Pelini is in trouble at Nebraska.

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini (Photo: Doug McSchooler, AP)

Things look shaky for Nebraska coach Bo Pelini.

The situation isn’t wholly about wins and losses. He has won a lot of games, but has yet to win anything of real significance. His personality has also rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, and that combination is not a good one.

Even though it was a “no brainer” in the eyes of most fans, the general consensus among the coaching fraternity is that it was hard to justify Lane Kiffin’s firing. Kiffin won 8, 10, 7 and was fired after a 3-2 start — all while on NCAA probation.

The way they see it, Kiffin’s team had 55 scholarships vs. everyone else’s 85, and USC athletics director Pat Haden loved him in August.

Haden was appealing the NCAA sanctions and complaining about the hardships the scholarship reductions have caused the same week he fires Kiffin for not winning enough games. Amongst coaches, that generated a collective “Huh?” and will likely cause at least some potential replacements to think a little longer before taking the job.

Elsewhere in the Pac-12… We’re not sure how many games Washington has to win for Steve Sarkisian to keep his job, but one thing is clear: he’s in trouble. The Huskies are 4-3 and the opening win over Boise doesn’t look so impressive anymore.

Three consecutive losses — the last two by 21 and 29 — do not bode well. Upcoming games vs. Cal and Colorado look like wins, but UCLA, Oregon State and Washington State will tell the tale, and he needs a strong finish. Seven (or fewer) regular seasons wins could get him fired.

Dana Holgorsen is in jeopardy at West Virginia. It certainly looks like he’s going to win fewer games each consecutive season. After winning 10 in 2011, the Mountaineers won seven last season and are 3-3 with a tough schedule ahead this year. Add in off-the-field and personal issues that plagued his early time in Morgantown and things don’t look good.

You can also add Mississippi State to the watch list. Though one source said earlier this week that Dan Mullen was safe, multiple others see it differently. Apparently, Mullen has rubbed some folks the wrong way and made his share of enemies in Starkville.

If that wasn’t enough, the natives are plenty restless about his team’s performance on the field. At 3-3 with road games against South Carolina and Texas A&M plus home games vs. Alabama and arch-rival Ole Miss still on the docket, there will be plenty of sleepless nights ahead for Mullen.

What’s perhaps even worse for Mullen, State fans love Mark Hudspeth, who served as the Bulldogs wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator under Mullen in 2009-10 and is currently head coach at Louisiana-Lafayette.

Hudspeth’s Ragin’ Cajuns went 9-4 each of the past two seasons and currently sit at 4-2 with a slew of probable wins on the schedule. Chances are, he’ll look like an even more enticing candidate come December.

Also keep an eye on Minnesota. Jerry Kill has done a great job, but his health may force a change there.

Photo credit: Doug McSchooler, AP

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Don James passes away

Legendary former University of Washington head coach Don James has passed away.

Former Washington head coach Don James passed away Sunday.In a press release, the school announced that James, who spent 18 seasons as the Huskies head coach (1975-1992), died Sunday morning. James had been undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer.

He was 81 years old.

“My family and I are extremely saddened to hear of Coach James’ passing,” current UW head coach Steve Sarkisian said in a statement. “His accomplishments as a football coach stand alone, but what made him truly special is the quality of man he was away from the game.

“The guidance and leadership he instilled into this program and community are still felt today, and will continue to be felt here for a long, long time.”

Born in Massillon, Ohio, James played college ball at Miami (Fla.). He was head coach at Kent State from 1971-74, leading the Golden Flashes to their only MAC championship and bowl game in 1972.

At Washington, he guided the Huskies to six conference titles and the 1991 national championship. James, a 1997 College Football Hall of Fame inductee, finished with a record of 153-58-2 at UW.

James’ influence goes beyond the immense impact he made at Washington. His coaching tree includes the likes of Dom Capers, Jim Mora, Sr. and Jr., Nick Saban, and Gary Pinkel, among others.

Saban played defensive back at Kent State from 1972-74 and has often given James credit for James sparking his interest in becoming a coach.

Photo credit: Bruce Kellman, Tacoma News Tribune

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