Washington coaching search: Joe Moorhead, Jay Norvell among top candidates to replace Jimmy Lake


That escalated quickly, didn’t it? Washington coach Jimmy Lake went from winning the Pac-12 North in 2020 (playing only four games) to being out of a job less than a year later.

Lake served a one-game suspension after laying hands on a player last week. Athletic director Jen Cohen then pulled the trigger Sunday.

Washington is among college football’s biggest of sleeping giants with budgetary resources and a base willing to spend to win again. Patriarch coach Don James won a split national championship in 1991.  

UW is a living example of Pac-12 frustration. It is the last Pac-12 team to appear in the College Football Playoff. Since that appearance in 2016, the Huskies are 35-19, having lost Chris Petersen and basically their way.

It’s doubtful the retired Petersen is interested in recreating what he built at Montlake in six seasons. As such, these are the top coaching candidates to fill the vacancy at Washington.

Joe Moorhead, Oregon offensive coordinator: This isn’t Alabama hiring Auburn’s offensive coordinator. The Oregon-Washington rivalry doesn’t run that deep. This is Washington trying to stabilize himself. Moorhead has put together a Broyles Award-level season guiding the Ducks offense through injuries and his own absence due to major surgery. Moorhead’s calling card is an ability to adjust to the personnel around him. Check out how he has managed quarterback Anthony Brown.

Jay Norvell, Nevada coach: There might be tug of war between Washington and Washington State for Nevada’s coach. I had him on the hot list at Wazzu after the Nick Rolovich firing. Norvell has strong offensive and plenty of experience in the NFL (six years) and Power Five (22 years). The development of QB Carson Strong is a selling point. Lord knows, Washington could use offense.

Jeff Grimes, Baylor offensive coordinator: Grimes has put together back-to-back spectacular years at BYU and Baylor. In his last year at BYU in 2020, he coached Zach Wilson, who threw for 3,700 yards and only three interceptions. The Cougars were third nationally in scoring and No. 1 in yards per play. This season at Baylor, Grimes has taken a former linebacker Gerry Bohanon and made him a legit run-pass threat. Abram Smith is a 1,000-yard rusher. Grimes called an amazing game in Saturday’s upset of Oklahoma.

Brent Brennan, San Jose State coach: The shine wore off a little bit this season after winning the Mountain West in 2020 as the Spartans have regressed to 5-6. But Brennan no doubt will be attractive because of the San Jose State turnaround and a career spent entirely in the West. Brennan was a graduate assistant for Rick Neuheisel in 1999.

Jonathan Smith, Oregon State coach: Smith is a loyal Beaver and seems committed to the turnaround at his alma mater. But Washington is set up to win with the right coach. It has more resources than Oregon State, and if Smith wants to jump to the next level, this is his chance. As long as Cohen can sell a coach with a 15-26 record.

Kaelen DeBoer, Fresno State coach: DeBoer is getting plenty of buzz in Year 2 at Fresno. Washington transfer Jake Haener is one of the leading quarterbacks in the country. DeBoer won three NAIA national championships at Sioux Falls. Counting his four years there, he is 78-9 as a head coach. 



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