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Originally published Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 3:36 PM

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Huskies add Keith Heyward to defensive coaching staff

Washington coach Steve Sarkisian says hiring of Oregon State coach Keith Heyward is continuation of a necessary defensive makeover.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The makeover of the Washington defensive coaching staff continued Thursday with the hiring of Keith Heyward as defensive-backs coach. Heyward spent the past four years in a similar position at Oregon State.

His addition continues what UW coach Steve Sarkisian said in a televised interview this week is a change needed following the 2011 season, when the Huskies set records for total points and yards allowed per game.

In an interview for the "Huskies All Access" show on ROOT Sports — which is essentially his coach's TV show — Sarkisian said he came to the conclusion to fire defensive coordinator Nick Holt based on the season as a whole and not just due to the 67-56 loss to Baylor in the Alamo Bowl.

"It's an overall body of work," Sarkisian said. "And I don't know if there was one exact moment that, 'This was it.' But I just felt like, as we were assessing the season ... where we are headed as a program, I just felt like ... it was time to make a change. And only time will tell if it was the right change."

The school announced the firing of Holt, linebackers coach Mike Cox and safeties coach Jeff Mills on Dec. 31. Two days later, the school announced the hiring of Justin Wilcox as defensive coordinator and Peter Sirmon as linebackers coach. Each came to UW from Tennessee, and are longtime friends and former teammates at Oregon.

Sarkisian, though, said adding the two "wasn't necessarily a package deal. I wanted to make sure once I hired the defensive coordinator — and I wanted to do that first — and obviously Justin was the key to that.

"And then we wanted to hire the next three pieces together to make this work and not go in reverse order. So we did the coordinator thing first and got Justin on board and Justin highly recommended Peter for the linebacker job. I had a chance to visit with Peter and it was pretty quickly I could tell he was a great fit for what I wanted to do here."

Before the Alamo Bowl, UW lost cornerbacks coach Demetrice Martin to UCLA, meaning it had four vacancies on the defensive staff to fill. The hirings of Wilcox, Sirmon and Heyward give UW one more open spot to fill.

All of the coaches will on Friday begin the last heavy rush to put together UW's recruiting Class of 2011 as a 16-day full contact period begins, the last before letter-of-intent signing day Feb. 1.

Heyward played cornerback at Oregon State from 1997-2000 and was a key part of the team that went 11-1 and won the Fiesta Bowl in 2000. A native of Woodland Hills, Calif., he has recruited the Southern California area for Oregon State, a territory Martin had handled for UW before leaving for UCLA. Recruiting analysts have called Heyward one of Oregon State's better recruiters the past few years.

Washington has yet to release contract details for any of the new assistants. Heyward, 32, made $105,000 at Oregon State last year.

Nussmeier interviewing at Alabama

While the Huskies are attempting to rebuild their defensive staff, they are hoping to keep the offensive side intact. However, reports broke Thursday that offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier is expected to interview at Alabama to replace departing Tide offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, who is the new head coach at Colorado State. Nussmeier, who has been at UW since 2009, also replaced McElwain as offensive coordinator at Fresno State in 2008 before coming to the Huskies in Sarkisian's first year.

Also reported as candidates for the Alabama offensive coordinator job are former Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter, currently offensive coordinator for Jacksonville in the NFL, and former New York Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @bcondotta

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