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Wazzu statement: ‘The tragic news today surrounding Tyler Hilinksi is devastating to all’

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Tuesday night, the Pullman Police Department confirmed that 21-year-old Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski was found dead in his apartment of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.  Very early Wednesday morning, the football program and athletic department released statements addressing the devastating developments.

HEAD FOOTBALL COACH MIKE LEACH
We are deeply saddened to hear the news of Tyler’s passing. He was an incredible young man and everyone who had the privilege of knowing him was better for it. The entire WSU community mourns as thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

INTERIM ATHLETIC DIRECTOR John Johnson
The tragic news today surrounding Tyler Hilinski is devastating to all. Tyler was a tremendous individual, great friend and teammate, and he will be deeply missed. Our hearts go out to his family and friends.

Earlier tonight, the football team was brought together and informed of the tragedy. There, they were met by campus and department counseling and psychological services, including athletics’ on-staff clinical psychologist and a licensed mental health counselor, along with WSU Athletics medical team. The university will continue to coordinate and provide ongoing counseling care for all student-athletes as long as needed.

Washington State QB Tyler Hilinski found dead in apparent suicide

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There is utterly tragic and horrific news coming out of Pullman Tuesday night.

According to the Pullman Police Department, Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski was found dead at his apartment late Tuesday afternoon of what was described as an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. “A rifle was discovered next to Hilinski and a suicide note was found,” the police stated in a release.

Police officers were called to the residence at 7:30 p.m. ET (4:40 p.m. local time) for a wellness check after the redshirt sophomore failed to show up for a team activity earlier in the day.

Hilinski was just 21 years old.

As of this posting, there’s been no official response from the football program regarding the passing of Hilinski.  Wednesday, the university had been expected to announce the new athletic director replacing Bill Moos, Florida Atlantic’s Pat Chun; because of the football player’s death, that press conference will be rescheduled for a later date.

In place of Luke Falk, Hilinski started Wazzu’s Holiday Bowl loss to Michigan State.  With Falk off to the NFL, Hilinski was expected to be the Cougars’ starting quarterback in 2018.

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to all of those impacted by Hilinski’s way-too-early passing.

Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Bryce Love among Lombardi Award candidates

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The college football season may be in the books for the 2017 season, bu there is still a piece of hardware to present to one of the sport’s top players from the most recent season. On Monday, the Lombardi Foundation unveiled a list of 21 players named as a candidate for the Lombardi Award for the 2017 season. This year, the award is open to players of any position based on performance, leadership, character and resiliency and the list of candidates includes a number of names you should be familiar with.

2017 Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield, 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, Bryce Love, Saquon Barkley, Roquan Smith, and J.T. Barrett are all among the players nominated for the award. The list of 21 candidates will be whittled down to seven finalists by a select panel of award voters this week, and four of those finalists will be invited to the Lombardi Honors presentation for the awarding of the Lombardi Award. The seven initial finalists will be announced this coming Monday, January 22.

Saquon Barkley, Penn State (RB)
J.T. Barrett, Ohio State (QB)
Bradley Chubb, N.C. State (DE)
Tyrell Crosby, Oregon (OT)
DeShon Elliott, Texas (S)
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama (S)
Shaquem Griffin, UCF (LB)
Lamar Jackson, Louisville (QB)
Derwin James, Florida State (S)
Joel Lanning, Iowa State (LB/QB)
Bryce Love, Stanford (RB)
Hercules Mata’afa, Washington State (DE)
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma (QB)
Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame (G)
Ed Oliver, Houston (DT)
Da’Ron Payne, Alabama (DT)
Rashaad Penny, San Diego State (RB)
Roquan Smith, Georgia (LB)
Vita Vea, Washington (DT)
James Washington, Oklahoma State (WR)
Christian Wilkins, Clemson (DT)

Alabama’s Jonathan Allen won the award for the 2016 season.

Washington State reportedly hires Utah State co-defensive coordinator Kendrick Shaver

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The NCAA-approved 10th assistant became official on Tuesday, and so far the highest-profile hire — by far — has been Ohio State’s plucking of Washington State defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. In just three seasons on staff, the 37-year-old Grinch took a defense that was 99th nationally in total defense the year prior to his arrival and transformed them to the 16th-best unit in college football this season.

Grinch’s loss is one that Mike Leach does not believe can be filled by just one replacement.

Wazzu has already hired ex-Minnesota head coach Tracy Claeys to serve as defensive coordinator, but now the Cougars are moving on another up-and-comer to also join the staff.

According to UStateAggies and the Seattle Times, Utah State co-defensive coordinator Kendrick Shaver will join the staff in an as-yet-undefined role.

Officially, Shaver will fill the role left by outside linebackers coach Roy Manning, who left Pullman to become Chip Kelly‘s special teams coordinator in Westwood, but the guess here is Shaver oversees the secondary in a co-defensive coordinator role.

Shaver spent six seasons on staff at Utah State, where he was selected by his peers as a co-recipient of the FootballScoop Defensive Backs Coach of the Year award in 2012. Under Shaver’s guidance, Utah State recorded three seasons in which it ranked among the top 25 nationally in pass efficiency defense, including this season.

 

Wazzu confirms hiring of Tracy Claeys as DC

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Not long after Ohio State swiped its defensive coordinator, Washington State turned to a replacement with Big Ten ties to fill the void.

Following up on reports that surfaced earlier in the day, Wazzu confirmed a few hours later that Tracy Claeys has been hired as Mike Leach‘s defensive coordinator.  Claeys replaces Alex Grinch, who took a job with Urban Meyer at OSU earlier today.

“Tracy comes highly recommended as a tremendous teacher, strategist, and a player’s coach with an impressive body of work that has withstood the test of time,” a statement from the head coach began. “We are fortunate to have him at Washington State University.”

Claeys was named interim head coach at Minnesota in 2015 when Jerry Kill stepped down because of health concerns, with Claeys being named the full-time replacement not long after.  A little more than a year later, and not long after he supported protests by his players, Claeys was fired.

Claeys was the Gophers’ defensive coordinator for four seasons and part of a fifth before taking over as head coach.  Prior to that, he was the coordinator at Northern Illinois for three seasons, his first job at the FBS level.

Last season, Claeys was sidelined from the coaching profession.

“I would like to thank Coach Leach and Washington State University for the opportunity to coach the Cougs!” said Claeys. “I am looking forward to getting to Pullman, working with a great staff and getting to know the players.”