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Previously unreported candidate among leaders to fill Montana State vacancy

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Montana State has been on the hunt for a new head football coach for two weeks after the abrupt departure of Jeff Choate to become the co-defensive coordinator at Texas.

On February 5, Skyline Sports confirmed with three sources with direct knowledge of the hiring process that Ken Wilson has vaulted into mix and could be the leading candidate. Two source independently suggested Wilson is the leading candidate and could be offered Montana State’s head coaching position as early as Friday afternoon.

Wilson, who has been an assistant coach at the FBS level since 1989, has spent the last two seasons on Mario Cristobal’s staff at Oregon coaching linebackers. His career started in the Big Sky Conference as a position coach on Chris Ault’s staff at Nevada from 1989 until 1995. Wilson stayed on at Nevada under Jeff Tisdell from 1996 until 1998. In 1996, Wilson was the nation’s youngest defensive coordinator at the FBS level.

Ken Wilson

From 1999 until 2004, Wilson was not in coaching, serving as assistant athletic director for sports services at Nevada the previous four and a half years (1999-2003). When Ault came out of retirement in 2004 to coach at Nevada, Wilson returned to the sideline as his associate head coach while also coaching various defensive positions.

Wilson coached at Nevada until 2012 before taking a job on Mike Leach’s staff at Washington State. There, Wilson took over for Choate as the linebackers coach before the 2013 season. Wilson coached from 2013 until 2018 in Pullman before joining Cristobal’s staff at Oregon in January of 2019.

Over his 19 total seasons at Nevada, Wilson coached the defensive line, linebackers and safeties, while serving as defensive coordinator for four seasons. The Wolf Pack reach a bowl game 11 times, including each of the last eight seasons, and Wilson was part of five Big West Championship teams, two WAC titles and two Big Sky Championships.

Under Wilson’s guidance, Washington State’s linebackers produced a pair of players that finished in the top five in the Pac-12 in tackles in Peyton Pelluer (2015, 2016) and Justin Sagote (2013). A three-time Pac-12 all-conference choice, Pelluer played in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl after finishing his career fifth all-time in tackles (352) at WSU. In 2015, Pelluer combined with Jeremiah Allison to give the Cougars two of the top seven leading tacklers in the Pac-12.

Over the last two seasons at Oregon, Wilson has helped mentor some studs, including NFL draft pick Troy Dye.

Ken Wilson file (courtesy of Oregon Athletics)

NFL DRAFT PICKS COACHED

2020 (RD 4) LB Troy Dye – Oregon – Minnesota Vikings
2012 (RD 4) LB James-Michael Johnson – Nevada – Cleveland Browns
2012 (RD 5) LB Brandon Marshall – Nevada – Jacksonville Jaguars
2011 (RD 3) OLB Dontay Moch – Nevada – Cincinnati Bengals
1998 (RD 4) LB Deshone Myles – Nevada – Seattle Seahawks
1998 (RD 6) DT James Cannida – Nevada – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1997 (RD 6) LB Mike Crawford – Nevada – Miami Dolphins

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS

2019 Pac-12 Conference – Oregon (Linebackers)
2019 Pac-12 North – Oregon (Linebackers)
2010 Western Athletic Conference* — Nevada (Associate Head Coach/Defensive Ends)
2005 Western Athletic Conference* Nevada (Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers)
1997 Big West Conference* — Nevada (Defensive Coordinator)
1996 Big West Conference* — Nevada (Defensive Coordinator)
1995 Big West Conference – Nevada (Assistant Coach)
1994 Big West Conference – Nevada (Assistant Coach)
1992 Big West Conference – Nevada (Assistant Coach)
1991 Big Sky Conference – Nevada (Assistant Coach)
1990 Big Sky Conference – Nevada (Assistant Coach)
* – Co-champions

BOWL GAMES

2020 Rose Bowl – Oregon (Linebackers)
2018 Alamo Bowl – Washington State (Linebackers)
2017 Holiday Bowl – Washington State (Linebackers)
2016 Holiday Bowl – Washington State (Linebackers)
2015 Sun Bowl – Washington State (Linebackers)
2013 New Mexico Bowl – Washington State (Linebackers)
2012 New Mexico Bowl – Nevada (Associate Head Coach/Linebackers)
2011 Hawaii Bowl – Nevada (Associate Head Coach/Defensive Ends)
2010 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl – Nevada (Associate Head Coach/Defensive Ends)
2009 Hawaii Bowl – Nevada (Associate Head Coach/Linebackers)
2008 Humanitarian Bowl – Nevada (Associate Head Coach/Linebackers)
2007 New Mexico Bowl – Nevada (Defensive Coordinator/Safeties)
2006 MPC Computers Bowl – Nevada (Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers)
2005 Hawaii Bowl – Nevada (Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers)
1996 Las Vegas Bowl – Nevada (Defensive Coordinator)
1995 Las Vegas Bowl – Nevada (Inside Linebackers)
1992 Las Vegas Bowl – Nevada (Inside Linebackers)

1-AA PLAYOFFS
1991 Quarterfinals – Nevada (Inside Linebackers)
1990 Championship {runner-up} – Nevada (Outside Linebackers/Defensive Ends)

ALL-AMERICANS COACHED
2010 DE Dontay Moch – Nevada (Sports Illustrated)

CONFERENCE PLAYERS OF THE YEAR COACHED
2009 DE Dontay Moch – Nevada (WAC Defensive Player of the Year)
1996 OLB Deshone Myles – Nevada (Big West Defensive Player of the Year)

ALL-CONFERENCE SELECTIONS COACHED
2019 LB Troy Dye – Oregon – Pac-12 (AP – 1st, Coaches – 2nd)
2018 LB Peyton Pelluer – Washington State – Pac-12 (Coaches – HM)
2018 LB Jahad Woods – Washington State – Pac-12 (Coaches – HM)
2017 LB Frankie Luvu – Washington State – Pac-12 (Coaches – HM)
2016 LB Peyton Pelluer – Washington State – Pac-12 (Coaches – HM)
2015 LB Peyton Pelluer – Washington State – Pac-12 (Coaches – HM)
2014 LB Jeremiah Allison – Washington State – Pac-12 (Coaches – HM)
2012 LB Albert Rosette – Nevada – Mountain West (Coaches/Media – 1st)
2010 DE Dontay Moch – Nevada – WAC (Coaches – 1st)
2009 LB James-Michael Jackson – WAC (Coaches – 2nd)
2007 LB Ezra Butler – Nevada – WAC (Coaches – 2nd)
2006 LB Ezra Butler – Nevada – WAC (Coaches – 1st)
2005 LB Roosevelt Cooks – Nevada – WAC (Coaches – 2nd)
2004 LB Jeremy Engstrom – Nevada – WAC (Coaches – 2nd)
1998 OLB Jason Burk – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 1st)
1998 CB Don Morgan – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 1st)
1998 S Maxzell Williams – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 1st)
1998 DL Rick Cross – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 2nd)
1998 ILB Ken Sapolu – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 2nd)
1998 S Reggie Mitchell – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 2nd)
1997 DL James Cannida – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 1st)
1997 CB Dan Morgan – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 1st)
1997 ILB Ken Sapolu – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – HM)
1996 DL James Cannida – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 1st)
1996 ILB Mike Crawford – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 1st)
1996 OLB Deshone Myles – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 1st)
1996 CB Darnell Hasson – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 1st)
1996 S Molech Blythe – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 1st)
1996 CB Don Morgan – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 2nd)
1996 S Garnett Overby – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 2nd)
1995 ILB Mike Crawford – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 2nd)
1993 ILB Steve Bryant – Nevada – Big West (Coaches – 2nd)
1991 ILB Matt Clafton – Nevada – Big Sky (Coaches – 1st)



About Colter Nuanez

Colter Nuanez is the co-founder and senior writer for Skyline Sports. After spending six years in the newspaper industry with stops at the Missoulian, the Ellensburg Daily Record and the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the former Washington Newspaper Association Sportswriter of the Year and University of Montana Journalism School graduate ('09) has cultivated a deep passion for sports journalism during his 13-year career covering the Big Sky Conference. In August of 2014, Colter and brother Brooks merged their passions of writing and art to found Skyline Sports.

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