Ken Wilson joined Mario Cristobal’s staff as linebackers coach in January 2019, bringing with him nearly three decades of coaching experience.
Wilson spent 19 years on the Nevada staff, which included five seasons as associate head coach and four as defensive coordinator, before his six seasons (2013-18) at Washington State. He has been part of 16 teams that have advanced to a bowl game, including 13 of the last 14 years.
In 2018, Wilson’s work with the linebackers helped Washington State finish with a program record 11 wins, including a victory in the Alamo Bowl, and a No. 10 ranking in both the Associated Press top 25 poll and USA Today Coaches poll. The Cougars led the Pac-12 and ranked tied for 16th nationally in sacks (38) while ranking in the top three in the conference in takeaways (2nd), rushing defense (3rd) and third down defense (3rd).
Washington State’s linebacker corps supplied its top two tacklers in 2018 to go along with its top two leaders in sacks and leader in tackles for loss. Senior Peyton Pelluer and sophomore Jahad Woods both earned Pac-12 All-Conference honors, while the position group totaled 37.5 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks.
Wilson’s linebacker group helped Washington State finish in the top four in the Pac-12 in tackles for loss each of the last four seasons, highlighted by a league-best 103.0 in 2017, good for eighth nationally. The Cougars also finished in the top three in the Pac-12 in rushing defense each of the last three seasons (2016-18).
Under Wilson’s guidance, Washington State’s linebacker room produced a pair of players that finished in the top five in the Pac-12 in tackles in Pelluer (2015 & 2016) and Justin Sagote (2013). A three-time Pac-12 All-Conference choice, Pelluer recently 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.
Wilson has seen over 20 of his former players sign professional contracts, including six linebackers who were all in the NFL all at once in 2012 and 2013. He currently has four former players in the NFL: Deone Buchanan (LB – Arizona Cardinals), Shalom Luani (SS – Seattle Seahawks), Frankie Luvu (LB – New York Jets) and Brandon Marshall (LB – Denver Broncos).
Over his 19 seasons at Nevada, Wilson coached the defensive line, linebackers and safeties, while serving as defensive coordinator for a total of four seasons. The Wolfpack reached 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.
Wilson served as associate head coach at Nevada over his final five seasons (2008-12), while splitting time between coaching linebackers and defensive ends. In his final season at Nevada in 2012, Wilson helped senior Albert Rosette successfully move back to middle linebacker after playing defensive end the year prior. Rosette went on to lead the Mountain West Conference – Nevada’s first year in the conference – with 135 tackles, good for the third-most in program single-season history, and earned All-Mountain West first team honors.
In 2009, Wilson headed up the linebackers and oversaw the development of a youthful group that included second-team All-WAC selection James-Michael Johnson, who went on to be taken by the Cleveland Browns in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft. In 2008, he coached a pair of future NFL linebackers in Joshua Mauga (New York Jets & Kansas City Chiefs) and Jerome Johnson (St. Louis Rams).
Prior to going back to coaching when Chris Ault took over the program in December 2003, Wilson had served as an assistant athletics director/sports services at Nevada the previous four and half years. He oversaw football, men’s basketball, baseball, track and tennis while coordinating grant-in-aid for all student-athletes in Nevada’s 19-sport athletics program.
Wilson spent six seasons working with Ault from 1989-92 and 1994-95. He was also an assistant coach for Jeff Horton in 1993 and Jeff Tisdel from 1996-98, spending those final three seasons as defensive coordinator. As the nation’s youngest Division I defensive coordinator, he directed the 1996 defense to the top of the conference in every defensive category and was part of the Las Vegas Bowl victory over Ball State.