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Washington hires Fresno State's Kalen DeBoer as new head coach

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  • Kalen DeBoer
    American football player and coach

Washington stayed out west to find its replacement for head coach Jimmy Lake.

Washington has finalized a deal to hire Fresno State's Kalen DeBoer to be its next head coach. DeBoer just completed his second season as Fresno State's head coach. 

"I could not be more excited to welcome Kalen and his wonderful family to the University of Washington,” said Washington athletic director Jen Cohen. “We set out to find the best fit for Husky football and we found an individual that exemplifies everything this program represents. Kalen is a winner and champion, plain and simple. He has succeeded at every stop because he does it the right way and is committed to a culture of excellence for Husky football student-athletes. His strong value alignment with our department, university and community will make all of Husky Nation proud.”

Washington was looking for a coach after firing Lake on Nov. 14. He was suspended for making contact with a player's facemask on the sideline during the team's loss to Oregon. Lake was suspended for a game following his push of Ruperake Fuavai. Lake denied that he pushed Fuavai after the game and said he was trying to separate his linebacker from an Oregon player. 

Lake was promoted to head coach at Washington following Chris Petersen's retirement after the 2019 season. Lake was the team's defensive coordinator under Petersen. 

Washington needs offensive improvement

Washington is looking for a boost after finishing 4-8 in 2021. DeBoer's Fresno State teams have a record of 12-6 and Fresno State is 9-3 in 2021. The Fresno State offense has been powered by quarterback Jake Haener, a former Washington recruit. Haener has completed 68% of his passes and thrown for over 3,000 yards and 32 touchdowns to nine interceptions.

After seeing limited playing time at Washington in 2018, Haener transferred to Fresno State where he has been the team's starting QB for the past two seasons. Washington quarterbacks threw for just 225 yards per game in 2021 and completed fewer than 60% of their passes. Dylan Morris and Sam Huard also combined to throw more interceptions than touchdowns. 

The Washington offense averaged just over 20 points per game. A midseason coordinator change with John Donovan's firing didn't do much to spark the unit. Washington scored 30 or more points just three times in 2021.

Fresno State, meanwhile, averaged over 33 points per game.

DeBoer, 47, was Indiana’s offensive coordinator in 2019 before going back to Fresno State. He was Fresno’s offensive coordinator for two seasons before his one-year stint at Indiana and replaced Jeff Tedford. Before coming to Fresno State, DeBoer was an assistant coach at Eastern Michigan and Southern Illinois. He also was the head coach at the University of Sioux Falls, his alma mater. He spent five seasons at Sioux Falls and won three NAIA national championships. 

“My family and I are so grateful for the opportunity to lead such a storied program and be part of this prestigious institution,” DeBoer said. “The tough, hard-nosed tradition of Washington football speaks for itself, and it was obvious throughout this process that UW is committed to competing at the highest level. This is a perfect fit for me and I would like to thank Jen Cohen and President Cauce for their trust. We could not be more excited to get to Seattle and get to work.”

Washington is looking to reassert itself atop the Pac-12 North. Oregon and Washington are the only two schools from the conference to make the College Football Playoff and Washington entered the 2021 season as the betting favorite to win the Pac-12. That status lasted all of one weekend as the Huskies inexplicably lost 13-7 at home in Week 1 to Montana. UW ended up finishing the season with a 4-8 record, capped off by a 40-13 loss to Washington State in the Apple Cup. 

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