New Cal DC Kaufman focused on future

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
11:00
AM ET
BERKELEY, Calif. -- New California defensive coordinator Art Kaufman has heard a lot about the defense he was hired to reconstruct following a disastrous start to the Sonny Dykes era. He's read about it too, but that about sums up the extent of what Kaufman knows about last season.

Since being hired on Jan. 22, Kaufman has not -- and will not -- watch any of game film of the 1-11 season to evaluate players or try to figure out where things stand for Cal defensively. And it's not just to save himself from potential headaches.

"If I'm grading guys on what they did last year -- which may have been right or wrong -- I don't know what they were asked to do," Kaufman said. "I don't know how young they were. Were they injured? I don't know the whole circumstances.

[+] EnlargeArt Kaufman
Jerod Foster/Icon SMINew Cal defensive coordinator Art Kaufman isn't worried about last year's performances, only what he sees in players this spring.
"I'm judging guys on what they could do, and that's all I'm worried about. I'll judge them based on what I see at our practices."

Six practices in, Kaufman still isn't sure what he has, and admits it'll be awhile until he does.

"It's going to be fall," he said. "All I'm trying to figure out right now is what guys can and can't do. Evaluate and coach fundamentals ... not trying to install a system."

For Kaufman, it's a process he's become all too familiar with over the past few years. Cal stands as his fourth school in four years, following stops as the defensive coordinator at North Carolina (2011), Texas Tech (2012) and Cincinnati (2013).

"[Having gone through it] it's easier to install and not be as impatient or wonder about the uncertainties because I've done it enough," he said. "I know what we're going to do and how we're going to do it."

His year at Texas Tech most closely resembles the current situation in Berkeley. The year before Kaufman arrived, the Red Raiders finished the year ranked No. 114 in total defense, No. 117 in scoring defense and allowed 47.5 points per game during a 1-7 stretch to end the season.

In his lone season in Lubbock, the Red Raiders were markedly improved across the board and finished No. 38 in total defense.

After making the jump to Cincinnati with coach Tommy Tuberville a year ago, he coordinated a unit that ranked No. 9 in the country in total defense (315.6 ypg), No. 10 in yards per play (4.77) and No. 14 in scoring defense (21.1 ppg).

It was good enough for Kaufman to be unceremoniously let go following the season, his 32nd coaching at the collegiate level.

In speaking with ESPN.com Wednesday, Kaufman seemed unfazed by his dismissal.

"In this business, nothing catches you off guard," he said.

It was about a week later when Dykes came calling. Not long after that, Kaufman was picked up for his first coaching job on the West Coast.

"Any time you look at football schools are where to go, you want a chance to be successful," Kaufman said. "And when you're the university of any state, to me you're going to have a chance ... and when you have [a population of] 38 million that really gives you a better opportunity."

Whether or not Dykes made the right call in bringing Kaufman aboard will ultimately be determined down the road, but he's encouraged by the working relationship they've developed in a short amount of time.

“We think the same. We both have the same approach to teaching and coaching and what the game is about from a simplicity standpoint and the focus on fundamentals, and I think we share that," Dykes said. "When you hire somebody you always think you have a lot in common.

"Typically you find out there’s less than you anticipated, but I think with Art it’s been more than we anticipated. We’re on the same page, and I feel good about it.”

Like his predecessor, Andy Buh, Kaufman employs a 4-3 scheme, but said there will be times they get into some 3-4 and 4-2-5 looks.

Linebacker Michael Barton said the defensive players have a new sense of optimism thanks to a winter of taking out their frustrations in the weight room and Kaufman's measured approach.

"What I like about him is he's very clear about what he wants us to do and he doesn't have to yell or anything," Barton said. "He'll tell us one time and we'll do it one time ... it sticks. He shows us a lot of respect, and in return we show him a lot of respect too."

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