Challenges for first-year Pac-12 coaches

June, 12, 2013
6/12/13
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The Pac-12 features three new coaches: California's Sonny Dykes, Colorado's Mike MacIntyre and Oregon's Mark Helfrich.

Each faces distinct challenges. We break those challenges down.

CALIFORNIA: Sonny Dykes

Who he replaced: Jeff Tedford (82-57, 11 years)

Who is he? Dykes, 43, went 22-15 in three years at Louisiana Tech, where he was hired after coordinating Arizona's offense for three seasons.

Why he's there: After Tedford built Cal into a Pac-12 and national power, the Bears plateaued and then regressed his final three seasons, going 15-22. It's also noteworthy that the team declined significantly on the academic side of things.

What's the good news? Dykes didn't inherit a team devoid of talent or one that can't remember winning. Further, he's going to benefit from massive facilities upgrades that were only completed last year. The Bay Area is a pretty fair place to live.

What's the bad news? Well, Dykes inherited perhaps the nation's toughest schedule, which will make it tough to produce an immediate turnaround, even if the Bears play much better. It's also tough playing in the Pac-12 North where Oregon and Stanford have dominated play of late. Oh, and it's an issue that Big Game partner, Stanford, shows no signs of slowing down.

How can he make fans happy in 2013? If Dykes can somehow squeeze six wins out of this schedule, thereby earning a bowl berth, his fans should be thrilled.

COLORADO: Mike MacIntyre

Who he replaced: Jon Embree (4-21, 2 years)

Who is he? MacIntyre, 48, went 16-21 in three years at San Jose State, resurrecting the Spartans to a 10-2 finish in 2012. Before that, he was defensive coordinator at Duke for two years.

Why he's there: Look at Embree's record.

What's the good news? Sorry for saying this again, Buffs, but MacIntyre would be hard-pressed to make things any worse. The roster also looks stronger than the 2012 version, most notably the return of receiver Paul Richardson. Last year, the Buffs played a lot of young players, who weren't ready for Pac-12 play. Those youngsters should be better and more prepared this fall.

What's the bad news? This team isn't big enough or fast enough to compete in the Pac-12. The fan base is put off by the program's slide over the past decade. Oh, and athletic director Mike Bohn was just controversially fired.

How can he make fans happy in 2013? The bar isn't very high for MacIntyre in Year 1. He could double the Buffs' win total and that would just mean two victories. The biggest thing is being more competitive. Going 3-9 wouldn't be a disaster if those nine games aren't dropped by an average of 30 points. It's also important to win at least one conference game.

OREGON: Mark Helfrich

Who he replaced: Chip Kelly (46-7, 4 years)

Who is he? Helfrich, 39, was the Ducks' offensive coordinator for the past four years under Kelly. Before that, he was offensive coordinator at Colorado.

Why he's there: After leading the best run in school history -- four consecutive BCS bowl games and three Pac-12 titles -- Kelly bolted for the Philadelphia Eagles. Helfrich then was promoted, as Kelly had been under Mike Bellotti, and Bellotti had been under Rich Brooks.

What's the good news? Helfrich inherited a well-oiled machine with a lot of talent, starting with quarterback Marcus Mariota. The Ducks are widely viewed as national title contenders, even without Kelly. They are favored to win every game. Further, Helfrich knows his school, his team and his staff, considering eight of nine assistant coaches are back.

What's the bad news? The bar couldn't be higher. A disappointing season for Oregon now is two losses. The only way Helfrich can exceed Kelly is by winning a national title. He falls short by going 11-2 and winning the Alamo Bowl. Oh, and there's the pending ruling from the NCAA on L'Affair de Willie Lyles.

How can he make fans happy in 2013? There's only one way he can thrill them: 14-0. They'd settle for 13-1 if that includes a national title. A Rose Bowl win would be considered OK.

Ted Miller | email

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