Pac-12: Bob Diaco

Best case/worst case: Pac-12 bowls

December, 13, 2012
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Our assignment is to pose a best-case and a worst-case scenario for every Pac-12 bowl team.

So here goes.

Arizona

Gildan New Mexico Bowl, Albuquerque, N.M., Dec. 15: Arizona (7-5) vs. Nevada (7-5), 1 p.m. ET, ESPN

Best case: Arizona rolls 40-28, as quarterback Matt Scott goes out with a bang that raises NFL eyebrows, and running back Ka'Deem Carey rushes for 195 yards to sew up the national rushing title.

Worst case: Scott gets knocked out of the game early and backup B.J. Denker looks overwhelmed, raising questions about the future at QB. Carey rushes for 35 yards and loses the rushing title as Nevada rolls 42-21. Michigan fans hit the message boards with a litany of "I told you so" about Rich Rodriguez.

Washington

MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Dec. 22: Washington (7-5) vs. Boise State (10-2), 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Best case: In a "Welcome back!" performance, QB Keith Price throws for 295 yards and three touchdowns -- matching the total TD passes the Broncos have yielded all season -- and runs for another score as the Huskies end 2012 with a statement victory that bodes well for 2013. The Huskies' hot offseason topic is how high the preseason ranking will be.

Worst case: Washington starts slowly as it has much of the season, then gives up a double-digit fourth-quarter lead as Price throws multiple interceptions. Boise State wins going away 38-17, and the Huskies' hot offseason topic is whether coach Steve Sarkisian has plateaued.

UCLA

Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl, San Diego, Dec. 27: UCLA (9-4) vs. Baylor (7-5), 9:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

Best case: That the Bruins score 45 points is not unexpected. That Baylor is held to just 17 points is unexpected. UCLA dominates on both sides of the ball, and quarterback Brett Hundley looks like a budding Heisman Trophy candidate. After the game, linebacker Anthony Barr and guard Xavier Su'a-Filo both announce they are returning for the 2013 season. Says Barr, "Unfinished business? Naaah. I just like playing with these guys."

Worst case: Baylor rolls over UCLA in a 55-30 win, as the Bruins' defense can do nothing to slow the Bears, while Hundley throws three picks. Barr and Su'a-Filo opt to leave for the NFL, as does coach Jim Mora, who is hired by the Philadelphia Eagles.

Oregon State

Valero Alamo Bowl, San Antonio, Dec. 29: Oregon State (9-3) vs. Texas (8-4), 6:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

Best case: Oregon State throttles the Longhorns 31-13 with stifling defense, but the big story is Cody Mannion -- or is it Sean Vaz? -- throwing four touchdown passes and making a strong case to be the 2013 starter.

Worst case: The Beavers become the only team that couldn't run on Texas this year, and Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz both throw two interceptions in a 30-10 defeat. Meanwhile, Oregon State makes both Case McCoy and David Ash look like superstars. "Well," say all the national commentators. "This makes a strong case for the Big 12's superiority over the Pac-12. But we've still got to see the Fiesta Bowl."

Arizona State

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, San Francisco, Dec. 29: Arizona State (7-5) vs. Navy (7-4), 4 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Best case: Arizona State uses its superior speed on both sides of the ball to throttle Navy 48-17. After the game, consensus All-American defensive tackle Will Sutton announces he's returning for his senior year.

Worst case: Navy's triple option wears down the Sun Devils in a 28-17 victory. Even worse, the Sun Devils turn the ball over five times and commit 12 penalties for 105 yards, including two personal fouls. They look like the 2011 team, not the 2012 version under new coach Todd Graham.

USC

Hyundai Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas, Dec. 31: USC (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech (6-7), 2 p.m. ET, CBS

Best case: Matt Barkley looks like, well, Matt Barkley, throwing five touchdown passes as the Trojans roll 40-10. As for the defense, coordinator Monte Kiffin goes out in style, with the Trojans holding Georgia Tech's option to just 225 total yards. Head coach Lane Kiffin announces after the game that he has hired Bob Diaco away from Notre Dame to be his defensive coordinator.

Worst case: Barkley tries to play but reinjures his shoulder, and the Trojans fold thereafter, ending a horribly disappointing season with a 38-17 loss. After the game, receiver Robert Woods, running back Silas Redd and cornerback Nickell Robey announce they will enter the NFL draft. Lane Kiffin also announces the hiring of Nick Holt to run the Trojans' defense.

Stanford

Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio, Pasadena, Calif., Jan. 1: Stanford (11-2) vs. Wisconsin (8-5), 5 p.m. ET, ESPN

Best case: Stanford dominates on both sides of the ball in a 30-10 victory, holding the Badgers to just 79 yards rushing and 210 total yards. Quarterback Kevin Hogan throws two touchdown passes and runs for another, while running back Stepfan Taylor rushes for 145 yards and a score. After the game, linebacker Shayne Skov, defensive end Ben Gardner and tight end Zach Ertz announce they will be returning for their senior seasons.

Worst case: Montee Ball rushes for 197 yards and two scores as Wisconsin pushes the Cardinal around in a 24-17 win. The Badgers sack Hogan four times, overwhelming the Cardinal's offensive line. After the game, Skov, Gardner and Ertz announce they will enter the NFL draft. Coach David Shaw is hired by the Philadelphia Eagles, and Walt Harris is rehired.

Oregon

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Glendale, Ariz., Jan. 3: Oregon (11-1) vs. Kansas State (11-1), 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Best case: Oregon starts fast and never lets up in a 51-20 blowout, with running back Kenjon Barner rushing for 187 yards and two scores and quarterback Marcus Mariota throwing for three TDs. The Ducks sack Collin Klein five times and grab two interceptions. "I'm sure glad we didn't play them in the regular season," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder says afterward. Shortly after the game, Ducks coach Chip Kelly signs a lifetime contract, opens practices and promises to be more patient with hypotheticals and other sorts of irritating questions.

Worst case: The Kansas State defense throttles the Ducks' offense, and Klein throws three TD passes in a 30-13 victory. The Ducks rush for only 101 yards. "Oregon struggles in these big games," say the national commentators afterward. "And this really makes the Pac-12 look bad." Kelly is hired by the Philadelphia Eagles. Mariota quits football to become a professional surfer. John Mackovic is hired to replace Kelly.

Cal coaching search begins

November, 27, 2012
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California, a week past the 11-year Jeff Tedford Era, is presently a program in limbo. It has a skeleton staff of five coaches trying to maintain a recruiting presence, while athletic director Sandy Barbour hopes she can manage a coaching search in total secrecy.

Even if she succeeds, that won't stop the blather. Media folks -- yes, that includes me -- will trot out lists of the usual suspects, and then the Internet will go wild with rumors, many of which will begin with, "I just talked to a guy [a big booster, someone in the athletic department, random insider, etc.] who said that Coach X is on his way to Berkeley to sign a contract!"

And "Coach X" is surely to be Boise State's Chris Petersen.

Cal has retained DHR International to lead the search. Typically, I'd slap my forehead over that because these search firms charge a lot of money for very little. But, as Jon Wilner reported, Glenn Sugiyama is handling Cal's account, and his track record includes former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh and San Jose State head coach Mike MacIntyre, who figures to get a look from Cal.

(Still, I bet Wilner, Kevin and I -- and a bottle of Lagavulin 16yr -- could give Cal just as good a list of candidates, with far more first-hand insight, for a Amazon.com gift certificate and a table at Chez Panisse on a Friday night).

[+] EnlargeCal's Jeff Tedford
Kelley L Cox/US PRESSWIRECal's hefty buyout of Jeff Tedford could make finding his replacement more of a challenge.
It will be interesting to see how Cal plays this. It is unlikely it will be able to afford to lure away a "big-name" coach, which would be expensive and subsequently would inspire many, many frowns on upper campus.

For example, Louisville coach Charlie Strong was essentially a runner-up to Tedford 11 years ago. He makes $2.3 million coaching a Big East team. Making that much in Louisville is equivalent to making $3.4 million in Oakland. Further, he has been connected to the vacancy at Arkansas, where he surely would take a substantial leap across the $3 million line.

The next tier is made up of up-and-coming college head coaches, top coordinators or perhaps an NFL coach looking to jump back to the college ranks for whatever reason.

Cost, again, is a big issue, and it's not just about the head coach. In fact, Cal administrators need to pay as much attention to the assistant coaches as the head coach. It should be one of the first interview questions: "We like your stuff. Give me 10 or 15 coaches you'd want to hire, starting with your coordinators."

Yet emphasizing a quality staff means budgeting about $1 million for offensive and defensive coordinators, and at least $1.4 million for the other seven positions. And these are conservative numbers, folks.

If you pay the head coach between $2.5 and $3 million, then you're talking about $5 million-plus annually for a quality staff, top-to-bottom. Meanwhile, Cal is paying off Tedford -- nearly $7 million -- and his former staff.

Doing this right ain't going to be cheap.

Still, there's plenty to sell California.

  • Brand new facilities that are outstanding. Among the best in the conference.
  • The program is on solid ground. There's enough talent on hand to make a quick turnaround, see UCLA.
  • Good recruiting area. The Bay Area isn't as rich as Southern California, but it's darn good.
  • A national brand as the nation's best public university. That means a chance to recruit nationally.
  • There is good fan support, and it isn't crazy-nutso, expecting every season to end with a BCS bowl victory.
  • And, of course, becoming Cal's coach means a chance to chat regularly with the Pac-12 blog. (Sandy, you can't undersell that!).

So now we trot out a list.

It's just a list. Barbour didn't email it to me. It might be useful/entertaining for Colorado fans, too.

Head coaches

Chris Petersen, Boise State: We couldn't leave him out! If I were a betting man, I'd say the only place that could lure him away from the comfort of Boise is Oregon. I do love this, though, a wonderful mix of journalism and unabashed fandom. Great effort guys.

Charlie Strong, Louisville: He's done a great job at Louisville, but the general feeling is he wants an SEC job.

Mike MacIntyre, San Jose State: He went 10-2 with a San Jose State program that was left for dead. It gave Stanford a better game than Cal did. The scuttlebutt on him is very good.

Sonny Dykes, Louisiana Tech: Dykes' team is 9-3 after losing to San Jose State -- score one for MacIntyre. He's a former Arizona offensive coordinator who learned offense from Mike Leach. Just a matter of time before he gets a big job.

Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State: He's done a really nice job turning Fresno State (9-3) back around in one year. Just ask Colorado.

Art Briles, Baylor: Briles makes $2.5 million and seems to love Baylor. Defense not a selling point.

Gary Andersen, Utah State: Not only did Utah State go 10-2 this year -- beating Utah -- it lost to BYU and Wisconsin by a combined five points. Also something to be said for a guy who's been around for a while. He spent five seasons as the assistant head coach, defensive coordinator and defensive line coach at Utah, where he worked under Urban Meyer and Kyle Whittingham.

Dave Doeren, Northern Illinois: He took over a MAC power and is 22-4 in two seasons. Colorado also might be interested, but Doeren is a guy who is probably eyeballing a Big Ten job.

Darrell Hazell, Kent State: If you're going to list Doeren as a hot coaching candidate, as lots of folks do, how can you not list Hazell, who is a former Ohio State assistant in his second year leading a program that plays Northern Illinois for the MAC title on Friday? The Golden Flashes' last league title came in 1972. That 6-5-1 team, by the way, featured Pro Football Hall of Famer Jack Lambert, Alabama coach Nick Saban and Missouri coach Gary Pinkel.

Willie Taggart, Western Kentucky: A former Stanford assistant, he's done a great job building a respectable program at Western Kentucky.

Coordinators

Mark Helfrich, offensive coordinator, Oregon: How highly respected is Helfrich? He might be the top candidate to replace Chip Kelly if Kelly bolts for the NFL.

Noel Mazzone, offensive coordinator, UCLA: He's coached everywhere, but really has found his offensive legs the past few years. Made Brock Osweiler into an NFL QB at Arizona State, and appears to be doing the same with Brett Hundley at UCLA.

Pep Hamilton, offensive coordinator, Stanford: He was part of the Jim Harbaugh transformation at Stanford, which included building an offense that emphasized a physical, downhill running game. He's worked with Andrew Luck, but his best selling point may be the midseason transition to redshirt freshman QB Kevin Hogan.

Derek Mason, defensive coordinator, Stanford: A frontrunner for the Broyles Award given annually to the nation's top assistant coach. He's built the Cardinal into a defensive power -- see the upset at Oregon on Nov. 17.

Justin Wilcox, defensive coordinator, Washington: Highly respected coordinator who rebuilt the Huskies defense from abysmal to pretty good this fall. Played at Oregon and coached at Cal, Boise State and Tennessee, so he knows the national landscape. It's only a matter of time before he gets a head coaching job.

Bob Diaco, defensive coordinator, Notre Dame: Have you seen the Notre Dame defense? 'Nuff said. Other than he seems like a guy who'll end up in the Big Ten.

Kirby Smart, defensive coordinator, Alabama: See Diaco. It also helps that he's coached under Nick Saban, so he knows how a national power conducts business.

Todd Monken, offensive coordinator, Oklahoma State: You want offense? The Cowboys are the answer to Oregon in the Big 12.

Lorenzo Ward, defensive coordinator, South Carolina: Steve Spurrier arrived at South Carolina as an offensive genius, but Ward is a big reason the Gamecocks are now known for defense. A great recruiter with a lot of charisma. Likely a guy who wants to stay in the SEC.

NFL

Ron Rivera, head coach, Carolina Panthers: My mailbox suggests a lot of Cal fans are hoping this former Bear is done with the Panthers and wants to come back to Berkeley. Could be the latest incarnation of Pete Carroll/Jim Mora.

Greg Roman, offensive coordinator, San Francisco 49ers: What Chip Kelly is to the spread, Roman is to the Harbaugh-ian creativity of power football. You know: All those tight ends shifting around everywhere. He probably will be a top NFL candidate, too, which is a problem.

Hue Jackson, defensive backs, Cincinnati Bengals: Lots of college and NFL experience. He served one year as the Bears offensive coordinator under Steve Mariucci, and is a former Oakland Raiders head coach, so he knows the Bay Area.

Finalists for Broyles Award announced

November, 26, 2012
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The five finalists for the Broyles Award, which is given annually to college football's top assistant coach, were announced Monday.

Two reasons you should care: 1. One was Stanford's defensive coordinator Derek Mason; 2. When you talk about potential hot coaching prospects, these five should be on your list.

The winner will be named on Dec. 4.

The finalists are:
Mike Bobo (Georgia -- offensive coordinator/quarterbacks)

Bob Diaco (Notre Dame -- defensive coordinator/linebackers/assistant head coach)

Kliff Kingsbury (Texas A&M -- offensive coordinator/quarterbacks)

Derek Mason (Stanford -- co-defensive coordinator/associate head coach)

Dan Quinn (Florida -- defensive coordinator/defensive line)


Manti Te'o a true threat for Trojans

October, 20, 2011
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In football, like in life, you're usually either moving downhill or uphill. There's very little in between.

Notre Dame middle linebacker Manti Te'o is definitely a downhill mover. Or so says USC freshman fullback Soma Vainuku, in charge of emulating Te'o in Trojans' scout-team drills this week, and Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin -- and just about everyone else who talks about Te'o for any amount of time, for that matter.

[+] EnlargeManti Te'o
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesManti Te'o is an imposing presence in the middle of the Notre Dame defense and Lane Kiffin wishes he was in cardinal and gold.
They always bring it up. Te'o, they say, plays football fast, diagnoses plays quickly, and, above all, plays downhill.

So, what exactly does that mean on the field, and what does that mean for USC's game against the talented Te'o and Notre Dame in two days' time?

It means he's going to bring a lot of Trojans down. The junior from Hawaii is averaging just short of 10 tackles per game this season, tied for 21st in the country, and 8.5 tackles for loss, tied for 25th in the country. Both numbers are better than anyone USC has faced this season and, currently, better than anyone it will face in the second half of the year.

He also leads the Irish in sacks with four after posting just one sack a year ago. His overall tackles numbers are slightly off his pace from a year ago, but all the other figures represent significant improvements from his first year in coordinator Bob Diaco's 3-4 system -- or at least it appears so.

"I don't think it's that much different," Kiffin said this week. "I just think it's his second year in the system, even though he's started before. Now he's playing extremely fast. He's off-the-charts physical, downhill, aggressive, and he plays every snap like its third-and-one.

"He's a great player. I wish he was here."

Well, yeah -- he almost was. Everyone expected Te'o to sign with USC until the morning of signing day back in 2009, when he spoke with former Trojans coach Pete Carroll at length on the way to making his announcement that he was attending Notre Dame.

It was the surprise of the year at the time, and the decision's followed Teo throughout his first two-plus years in college. In the past he has admitted to feeling a different combination of excitement and nervousness in the week leading up to Notre Dame's annual game against the Trojans. But he says that feeling is no longer.

(Read full post)

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