Claeys talks to media for first time as defensive coordinator

Claeys beat WSU in 2016 Holiday Bowl as Minnesota head coach



WSU defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys receives the Holiday Bowl trophy after his Minnesota team defeated the Cougars 17-12 on Dec. 27, 2016.

DYLAN GREENE, Evergreen deputy sports editor

WSU defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys held a conference call with the media Tuesday afternoon. Claeys spoke about the changes he plans on making to the Cougars’ defense and the challenges of moving west to Pullman.

Q: Will you run your typical 4-3 defense with multiple looks or are you going to have a 3-4 option?

A: I will tell you that there’s a place for both, at different times during games or different opponents, and we’ve done both where I’ve been in the past and so I think we can piece that together. The one thing I’m going to do, and I told Coach Leach, is I’m going to learn their terminology and fit the things I know into their terminology.

Q: Will you also coach a position here at WSU?

A: Yeah, I probably will. Again, that’s not finalized yet until we get everybody here, but actually my first year I did linebackers at Saginaw Valley State, then I went to the D-line for a few years. But being a coordinator the last 10-12 years, I still have been – I like to be involved in the secondary with the way everybody spreads the field and the things they’re doing with formations and motions and the hurry-up. So I feel comfortable filling in wherever needed, so we’ll play out the staff strings no different than the players and then I’ll fill in.

Q: You spoke about learning the terminology … are you going to run a system similar to what Coach Grinch ran last year?

A: Well, they ran a lot of quarters and they ran some man, so there’s a lot of things in the secondary they did the same. Whether it’s 3-4 or 4-3, the secondary was all pretty similar. So all of that, and any of the blitzes we have that was in his system, whatever names that are already there, we’re going to use them. And I’m going to change and we’re going to add in terminology.

Q: You spent all of your career in the Midwest. What are some of the challenges that come with going to the West Coast?

A: Well, so far the weather’s a lot better, so that’s an easier adjustment. And recruiting is about relationships, and the one thing it will do is it’ll be something new and open up a few more doors. These first couple years, I’m going to have to work at it and whatever areas that I’m in, it will take some time to establish some relationships.

Q: Did you receive any other interest from other schools?

A: I had some other opportunities. I’m not going to get specific about them, but yeah, I had some other opportunities. But after being contacted by Coach Leach there was no doubt that this was my first priority.

Q: Where can WSU’s defense improve heading into next season?

A: Well, from a stats number, probably the red zone defense. That’s the one. And it’s simple, a lot of things are simple ideas – if you make teams at least kick field goals when they’re in the red zone, it gives you an opportunity to win in the fourth quarter. Of all the stats, that’s probably the one that stuck out to me, that can use the most improvement. We need to play better in the red zone. That’s where we’ll practice a lot.