Who’s Kalen DeBoer?
The short answer is, he’s UW’s next football coach.
As for the longer answer?
That’s why we’re here.
While the dust settles around UW’s national coaching search, let’s get to know the 47-year-old South Dakotan and former coach at Fresno State.
DeBoer was born Oct. 24, 1974, in Milbank, South Dakota. He attended Milbank High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from the University of Sioux Falls, where he also played wide receiver from 1993 to 1996. He has a wife, Nicole, and two daughters, Alexis and Avery. He comes to UW following two mostly successful seasons at Fresno State, where he went 12-6 (including 9-3 in 2021).
The track record
DeBoer has cultivated successful offenses throughout his career.
Fresno State — which notably upset No. 14 UCLA 40-37 on Sept. 18, and narrowly lost 31-24 at No. 11 Oregon on Sept. 4 — currently ranks ninth nationally in passing offense (330.1 yards per game), 10th in passing touchdowns (34), 15th in total offense (463.6 yards per game), 15th in pass efficiency rating (156.64), 16th in first downs per game (24.2), 17th in completion percentage (66.8%) and 25th in red zone touchdown percentage (68.75%).
Before being named Fresno State’s head coach Dec. 17, 2019, DeBoer served as Indiana’s offensive coordinator, associate head coach and quarterbacks coach for a single season — swiftly transforming the Hoosier attack. IU improved from 5-7 in 2018 to 8-5 — its best record in 26 years — and the eight wins were its third-most in school history.
Under DeBoer, a previously middling Indiana offense ranked eighth in the nation in completion percentage (67.9%), 15th in passing offense (302.4 yards per game), 15th in third down percentage (46.89%), 20th in first downs per game (23.4), 24th in pass efficiency rating (150.61) and 24th in yards per pass attempt (8.3).
DeBoer touts head coaching experience as well — albeit not at the Division I level. He built his alma mater into a national powerhouse, finishing 67-3 and leading Sioux Falls to three NAIA championships in five seasons, from 2005 to 2009.
The current Husky coach also served at Southern Illinois (offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach, 2010-13) and Eastern Michigan (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, 2014-16), before being hired by Fresno State’s Jeff Tedford as his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2017 and 2018.
The reasons for optimism
So, you want to score some points?
You’re going to score some points.
DeBoer’s offenses have done that everywhere he’s been. His track record should intrigue UW’s collection of young offensive talent — including quarterback Sam Huard, wide receivers Rome Odunze, Jalen McMillan, Ja’Lynn Polk and Taj Davis, running back Cameron Davis and more. DeBoer is a respected offensive strategist and schemer, who should immediately improve UW’s most glaring weakness this fall — its consistent offensive incompetency.
And, though limited, DeBoer has enjoyed success as a college head coach — something Jimmy Lake notably lacked. Before he led Fresno State to a 12-6 record across the past two seasons, DeBoer guided Sioux Falls — his alma mater — to a staggering 67-3 record and three NAIA championships from 2005 to 2009.
From a recruiting standpoint, DeBoer has plenty to prove, but he arrives with significant West Coast ties — something he’ll have to lean on to build the Huskies’ talent base.
The question marks
Will DeBoer excel as a Power Five coach?
The answer to that question remains unclear, considering the 47-year-old assistant has experienced just a single season on the Power Five level — as Indiana’s offensive coordinator, associate head coach and quarterbacks coach in 2019.
And, when it comes to recruiting, how will he compete with more nationally recognized names — such as Oregon’s Mario Cristobal and USC’s Lincoln Riley? Can he assemble a staff that will maintain Washington’s standard and reputation on the defensive side while outworking the Huskies’ competition on the recruiting trail?
Seattle, as we know, is not Sioux Falls.
But DeBoer might be prepared to succeed on the Pac-12 level just the same.