Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Lupoi will need to step up at Washington
By ESPN.com staff
After the "boom!" there's this for Tosh Lupoi and Washington: Now what?
Well, of course, Lupoi, who bolted his alma mater California for the Huskies on Monday, will start reeling in four- and five-star recruits, correct? That's the thinking. There will be significant pressure for him to do just that -- and immediately. If he doesn't swing a Shaq Thompson (Cal commit) or an A-list D-lineman or help coach Steve Sarkisian close the deal with offensive lineman Zach Banner, the state's No. 2 prospect, and Washington's class sags to the middle of the Pac-12, then some will wonder what all the hubbub was about.
Washington fans, however, probably shouldn't get their hopes up too high. For one, signing day is Feb. 1. The window here is small, particularly when Lupoi now must completely change directions with his sales pitch. Young men and their parents who have for months heard, "Here's why you should come to Cal" -- a pitch, by the way, that previously implied why they shouldn't go to Washington -- will now hear something else.
It figures that Lupoi might need some time to create some new recruiting traction for himself. He has been a part of the Cal program for nearly half his life -- 12 of 30 years. He played for Jeff Tedford and hasn't coached anywhere else. As ESPN Recruiting's Greg Biggins told Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times that Lupoi "had a passion for Cal." Consider his Twitter page, where his "#Calgang" hashtag figures to be retired.
If Lupoi aggressively tries to flip a handful of players committed to Cal -- something we honestly doubt he will do -- then, well, we'd hope that would cause him to lose some sleep. While all is fair in love, war and recruiting, that would be a bit sleazy. Of course, effective sleazy that is within NCAA rules often falls under this category: good recruiting.
The bigger picture is what matters here for the Huskies and Lupoi.
For the Huskies, it's getting a guy who is a proven, elite recruiter. And -- oh, by the way -- it also is getting a good defensive line coach. Further, it's valuable that Lupoi has a good relationship with new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. Toss in LBs coach Peter Sirmon, and there will be immediate comfort and familiarity among the rebuilt defensive staff, one that includes DBs coach Keith Heyward, an import from Oregon State who also is a young, energetic recruiter.
For Lupoi, he takes a step forward in his career. If he has head-coaching ambitions, he doesn't want to get locked into a "super-recruiter" label. He needs to be eyeballing a coordinator role down the road. He needs to prove himself as a teacher and X's and O's guy.
That's the ultimate rub of Sarkisian's impressive defensive hires. If Wilcox does well rebuilding the Huskies' defense, he's going to get an opportunity to be a head coach at an A-list program within three or four years. Maybe sooner. And he might take Sirmon or Lupoi with him as a coordinator. Or Sarkisian might counter with an alluring promotion for one or the other.
But Sarkisian knows future staff turnover will only happen if Wilcox, Lupoi and the rest produce positive results in the short term. That means upgrading recruiting and upgrading scheme and execution. That means creating a defense that can win the Pac-12 North Division.
For everyone to win, the Huskies have to win first.