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Inside linebackers coach Ken Wilson becomes fourth Washington State assistant in four years to leave Cougars for Oregon

UPDATED: Tue., Jan. 22, 2019, 6:45 p.m.

Washington State linebackers coach Ken Wilson looks on during the second half of an NCAA college football game against California in Pullman, Wash., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. (Young Kwak / AP)
Washington State linebackers coach Ken Wilson looks on during the second half of an NCAA college football game against California in Pullman, Wash., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. (Young Kwak / AP)

PULLMAN – Next season, Washington State coach Mike Leach will face an Oregon team now featuring three of his former assistants.

For the fourth time in four years, the Ducks have hired away one of Leach’s position coaches, reportedly agreeing to a deal with longtime WSU inside linebackers coach Ken Wilson.

Wilson, who joined the Cougars from Nevada in 2013, had been the longest-tenured member of Leach’s staff. The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman was the first to report the news and Wilson later confirmed it, changing his Twitter profile picture to an Oregon helmet and his bio name to “Coach Ken Wilson UO.”

According to Wilson’s Twitter bio, he’ll serve as the Ducks’ outside linebackers coach, though the school has yet to make an official annonucement.

Wilson also penned a heartfelt thank-you note to WSU, writing “Thank you especially to our great student-athletes past and present that I had the chance to work with in my time with the Cougs. Your hard work and dedication to building this program has been exceptional. I am honored to have been a small part of the build.”

It’s been five years since Oregon has beaten WSU on the gridirion, and this marks the fourth consecutive offseason in which the Ducks have poached an assistant from Leach and the Cougars.

Former Oregon coach Mark Helfrich hired inside receivers coach David Yost (now the offensive coordinator at Texas Tech) to work with the Ducks quarterbacks in January of 2016. Helfrich’s replacement, Willie Taggart, brought WSU defensive line coach Joe Salave’a to Eugene nearly a year later, and one of the first hires for current UO coach Mario Cristobal was Cougar running backs coach Jim Mastro, who just finished his first year as running backs coach/run-game coordinator.

Salave’a, Mastro and Wilson will all be on the UO sideline when the Cougars visit Autzen Stadium on Oct. 26.

Wilson is the first assistant coach to leave the Cougars this offseason, though another staff member, WSU director of football operations Antonio Huffman, was hired as Texas Tech’s chief of staff earlier in the month. Five WSU assistant coaches and head strength/conditioning coach Jason Loscalzo left the program last offseason.

In his six seasons with the Cougars, Wilson helped push forward the “Speed D” movement former defensive coordinator Alex Grinch introduced in 2015. WSU’s scoring defense improved in five of Wilson’s six years on the Cougars’ staff: 38.6 ppg (2014), 27.7 ppg (2015), 26.4 ppg (2016), 25.8 ppg (2017) and 23.1 ppg (2018).

Wilson came into the program with WSU linebacker Peyton Pelluer and now leaves at the same time as Pelluer, who became the longest-tenured player in school history this season and finished his career with 352 tackles. In addition to Pelluer, Wilson oversaw the careers of a few other All-Pac-12 linebackers, including Jeremiah Allison and Jahad Woods, who earned all-conference honorable mention after the 2018 season.

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