Pac-12: Chris Petersen
WASHINGTON vs. BOISE STATE
Ted Miller: I like the matchup of the Huskies' defense against the mediocre Boise State offense. I like that Huskies defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox coached under Chris Petersen and knows how he game-plans and thinks. I like the notion that the Huskies are angry about their last game, a woeful fourth-quarter collapse at Washington State. Therefore, I like the Huskies. Washington 24, Boise State 21.
Kevin Gemmell: And here I thought this would be the game that separated Ted and I, because I, too, like the underdogs this week. Washington has been through a brutal schedule. They've seen some of the best the country has to offer. Boise State has not. They lost their only game to a top 25 team, and the 7-6 win against BYU is far from signature. I look for big games from Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Bishop Sankey. And like Ted, I think Justin Wilcox is the real game-changer. Washington 24, Boise State 17.
To see the complete chat (including how my hair is better than Ted's), you can click here, or just enjoy these highlights.
james (atlanta, ga): Kev, why do you seem to not like the SEC? I know you are a pac 12blogger and want the teams you cover to do well, but i remember you saying you aren't going to give in to the SEC dominance but yet again they are poised to take the crystal for a 7th straight time and just look at the bcs top 10. Are u willing to admit it now?
Kevin Gemmell: (2:02 PM): James -- First, let's be clear. What I said was that I wasn't going to give into the mass-thinking when Alabama and Oregon were both undefeated that Alabama was simply better because they are in the SEC. Which is why I had Oregon No. 1 on my ballot. At the time, I was simply offering an alternative to the SEC-is-unstoppable dogma. As it turns out, both teams lost games. I have nothing against the SEC as a conference and you can't question their success.
CatsFan (Tucson): How much does Vegas care about not repeating last year's match up (ASU vs Boise St) or the UW opener vs Boise St next year? Do the Wildcats sneak into that spot?
Kevin Gemmell: (2:03 PM): I think UW probably gets the nod there. Arizona is in a tough spot because it has the weakest conference record and that's what determines the pecking order. Thinking they are pretty much stuck in the New Mexico Bowl unless Kraft takes a gamble, but I don't see that happening.
Cardinal Alumnus (CA): Hi, Kevin, and thanks for coming on to chat yet again. I'm worried about the talent Stanford Football is losing after this year. Assuming they can keep the coaching staff intact but lose all the redshirt juniors, how do you see Stanford doing in the PAC-12 and the PAC-12 North next season?
Kevin Gemmell: (2:14 PM): Hi Cardinal Alumnus. Thanks for asking the question. Seems like every year we question how Stanford will do it. No Harbaugh, no problem. No Luck, no problem. I think it's time to start giving Stanford the benefit of the doubt that they will be able to make the adjustments. Yes, they lose a lot of talent on defense, but there is some good talent coming up as well.
Chris (Gainesville): Who is the favorite for the Cal and Colorado job in your mind?
Kevin Gemmell: (2:19 PM): Lots of choices here. Cal is in a better position right now than Colorado, so I'd expect a bigger name for the Bears -- Greg Roman pops up, obviously Petersen is being mentioned. Gary Anderson, Noel Mazzone, etc. At Colorado, I think Tim DeRuyter has done a great job at Fresno State -- another place it's tough to build. Mike McIntyre has turned around a terrible San Jose State program. And I think if Tedford wants to get back into the game immediately, Colorado could be a good landing spot.
Cory (Ohio): Tell me your thoughts of Denard Robinson in the NFL QB,WR,Special teams hes a true athlete it would be a shame to see him not play. Also where is the best fit for him. and were would he end up in the draft?
Kevin Gemmell: (2:23 PM): I watched Michigan more closely last year -- only because I wanted to see how he would do in an Al Borges system (knowing Al fairly well from the SDSU days) and, not surprising, he didn't fit. I haven't studied him enough this year to make a serious evaluation. But WR seems like a good fit given the size and speed.
Bryce (SF): How will the Pac-12 stack up in the preseason rankings? Who should be ranked, and where?
Kevin Gemmell: (2:28 PM): Uh... off the top of my head. Top five, Oregon. Top 10, Stanford. Top 15, UCLA, Oregon State. Top 25, USC, Washington, maybe Arizona and ASU. Would have to really study rosters.
Brian (Spokane WA): Do you think UCLA loses Mazzone to a head coach job this off season?
Kevin Gemmell: (2:29 PM): My gut says no, but that's not to say there won't be offers. I talked with him extensively about that yesterday, poking and prodding and trying to get anything to suggest otherwise. But my gut says he really likes having a raw Brett Hundley to shape for the next couple of years.
Gowazzu02 (Not allowed to comment in your articles anymore): Dominique Williams was uncover -able during the Apple Cup Trufant a First team all pac CB had to literally shove him to the ground a few times to guard him. The next Wilson? without the quitters mentality?
Kevin Gemmell: (2:36 PM): Different body frame. He's a couple inches shorter than Wilson -- but not a bad start. 30+ catches, a three TDS, 500 yards. He's got the size on Gabe Marks, who also had a strong first year. Could be a scary combo in the years to come.
BeavsBelieve (Albany, OR): We are seeing more and more read-option, spread-type mechanics in pro offenses. Do you think that Hundley, and Mariota type mechanics will begin to fit into more of these pro systems?
Kevin Gemmell: (2:40 PM): One of my biggest gripes about the NFL is that people are attributing fantasy success to actual success. How many games has Cam Newton won? How many playoff games? Running quarterbacks get figured out or eventually hurt -- that's the nature of the NFL. The point is to win a Super Bowl and all of these dual-threat guys had better learn to be better pocket passers if they want to succeed in the playoffs.
Jon Embree (Tedford's basement): Seriously, what just happened?
Kevin Gemmell: (2:55 PM): You got hosed.
- Should Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey get Heisman Trophy votes?
- Arizona State is eyeballing a bowl trip to the Bay Area to help Kraft fight hunger.
- Chris Petersen to Cal! Chris Petersen to Cal! Chris Petersen to Cal! (Picture me swinging my arms like the robot from "Lost in Space").
- Colorado's greatest coach is unhappy with the firing of Jon Embree. Big time.
- Until all the NFL vacancies are filled -- and there will be several -- Oregon fans need to be prepared for the "Chip Kelley to ..." rumors.
- Oregon State is just happy knowing it will go to a quality bowl game.
- The unheralded guys give the Stanford defensive line quality depth.
- With the stakes much higher in the rematch, UCLA should have a bit more fire against Stanford on Friday.
- To this open letter to Lane Kiffin, I say, "Ditto."
- So how do you grade Utah's season?
- Steve Kelly believes it's time for Steve Sarkisian to take the next step at Washington.
- Washington State fans enjoyed the Apple Cup.
- An old Pac-10 friend gets his shot at Kentucky.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Some more on the Arizona players selected for postseason honors.
- Praise for ASU coach Todd Graham (video).
- Chris Petersen is Cal's dream candidate for the open coaching spot.
- A list of some potential coaching candidates for Colorado.
- If Oregon goes to the Fiesta Bowl, it may or may not face Oklahoma, which doesn't want a return trip to Phoenix.
- The Beavers are expecting Nicholls State's best shot.
- Some more on David Shaw being named Pac-12 Coach of the Year. Stanford gets an A+ for its performance against UCLA.
- Bruins hoping to have a better showing defensively against the run. Jim Mora has changed the way things are done at UCLA.
- USC is ranked No. 6 ... among California programs.
- Missing a bowl game hurts Kyle Whittingham on the field and in the wallet.
- Some possible bowl destinations for the Huskies.
- Mike Leach shoots down the rumors and said he is staying at Washington State.
- Athlon Sports offers up its 2012 Pac-12 awards and storylines.
Follow the Pac-12 blog on Twitter here.
To the notes.
Stephan from Shanghai, China, writes: A lot is being made about the possibility of Chip Kelly heading for the NFL next year. This past off season, he was in talks with Tampa. Who are possible candidates for his replacement should he leave Oregon? Would anyone on his staff be able to replicate the kind of offense we have come to know Oregon for?
Ted Miller: First off, I am not ready for Chip Kelly to leave. I'm obsessed with the idea of tricking him into entertaining a hypothetical question before that happens.
It seems, as former Ducks coach Mike Bellotti has said, "inevitable" that Kelly takes a shot at the NFL, probably sooner rather than later. His stock couldn't be higher. It's almost certain that he will be pursued by multiple NFL teams after the season. So if Kelly decides he likes an opportunity, he'll probably bite. Not a sure thing -- my impression is he hardly seems eager to bolt Eugene -- but a lot of folks around the program feel resigned to the eventuality.
Who would be next? Well, this has been speculated about already because of how close it appeared Kelly was to leaving for Tampa Bay last year. There are two obvious names: Boise State's Chris Petersen and Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich.
Oregon has long been seen as the one job that might lure Petersen away from Boise State. Petersen knows the program, having been an assistant under Bellotti from 1995-2000, and it seems to be a good fit. Oregon is one of the few big-time programs where Petersen could remain in the region and not be dumped into a big city media market, which he reportedly doesn't want. Further, he'd have a chance to win a national title and get paid a lot more money.
Helfrich would ensure system continuity, and it's no secret a lot of folks inside the athletic department and potential decision-making process are high on him.
After that, you could line up a list of the usual suspects. Oregon has become an A-list job, one that will pay well. Of course, some might shy away as Kelly would be a tough act to follow.
Beavfann from Denver writes: Ted it is deja vu all over again. I think I am correct that you are 2-6 picking the Beaver games this year is that right? It is just like 2009 and 2010 your total lack of faith continues to inspire the Beavs. If the Beavers do pull it out this weekend will you make sure to pick against them the rest of the year? It should not matter after this week since Kevin will have the picking crown about wrapped up.
Ted Miller: I'm 4-4 picking Oregon State this year. I am 4-1 picking them to win (Utah, Arizona, UCLA and Washington State being correct as wins, Washington being the wrong win pick). And 0-3 picking the Beavers to lose (Arizona State, BYU and Wisconsin).
Don't recall too many folks picking the Beavers over Wisconsin, but I did write this. I picked BYU to beat the Beavers because that was Cody Vaz's first start for an injured Sean Mannion and I thought the road venue against a good defense would prove too much. I was wrong.
I thought the QB turmoil might hurt the Beavers last week against Arizona State, particularly coming off a loss at Washington. I was wrong.
It's very possible I will be wrong picking Stanford over the Beavers. I tried to explain the tough call here.
And if Mike Riley is successfully using my predictions to motivate his team, well, that would make me very happy. The Pac-12 blog loves to be a resource to its coaches.
Sam from Los Angeles writes: Your article on UCLA ascending to the top of the LA food chain makes it so glaringly obvious that you have not watched a single UCLA game this year. It must be hard considering you are the biggest USC homer of them all.1) UCLA didn't get "whooped" by Oregon last year. In fact, they did much better than essentially any person, bruins fans included, would have expected.2) "And the Bruins have been good on special teams too" - was that leftover from an article you wrote last year about UCLA? We have about 4 fumbles on muffed punts and a freshman kicker who has missed multiple PATs and it has become glaringly obvious can only hit field goals <35 yards. Yes we have a great punter, but that doesn't make up for the atrociousness that our special teams has been this year.3) Sheldon Price is having a breakout year? - Our cornerbacks have been absolutely terrible this year. They are by far our weakest and most vulnerable unit, and most likely going to be a huge reason why we lose to USC (if we lose). Our cornerbacks are big and athletic, and it makes me laugh everytime an announcer/"reporter" talks about how great they are based purely on their athleticism when the announcer has obviously not seen them play at all this year. Its nice to finally get some recognition that the Bruins deserve, but its just insulting when it comes from a guy who has been drinking the USC kool-aid since... forever... and its obvious that he has no clue whats going on at UCLA.
Ted Miller: All righty...
You write: "UCLA didn't get "whooped" by Oregon last year. In fact, they did much better than essentially any person, bruins fans included, would have expected."
UCLA lost to Oregon 49-31. The Bruins trailed 49-24 entering the fourth quarter. Oregon outgained the Bruins 571 yards to 337.
You write: "And the Bruins have been good on special teams too" - was that leftover from an article you wrote last year about UCLA? We have about 4 fumbles on muffed punts and a freshman kicker who has missed multiple PATs and it has become glaringly obvious can only hit field goals <35 yards. Yes we have a great punter, but that doesn't make up for the atrociousness that our special teams has been this year."
As you note, UCLA has one of the best punters in the nation in Jeff Locke. The Bruins rank No. 2 in the Pac-12 in kickoff coverage, No. 3 in kickoff returns and No. 5 in punt returns. They are 11 for 16 on field goals. That .688 percentage ranks seventh in the Pac-12, but 11 made field goals is tied for third most in the conference. Yes, Ka'imi Fairbairn has missed three of 41 PATs and has limited range, but refresh my memory about what he did against Arizona State.
You write: 3) Sheldon Price is having a breakout year? - Our cornerbacks have been absolutely terrible this year. They are by far our weakest and most vulnerable unit, and most likely going to be a huge reason why we lose to USC (if we lose).
I listed six guys, but you criticism is valid -- a bit overstated but valid -- with my positive assessment of Price. I overvalued Price's three interceptions, which all came against Houston. And Price played poorly against Oregon State, California and Arizona State.
I am sorry you believe I insulted your team by writing that article. I am sure your letter will be hung up in the UCLA coaches' offices and used in recruiting.
Here are some highlights.
David Smith (University of Washington (Seattle)) Are the huskies overrated? Do they really belong in the top 25 or is this just a one week stay like the other times in the past 4 years?
Ted Miller (3:02 PM) Maybe... we still don't really know who Washington is because we don't really know who Stanford is or USC for that matter. The LSU game was really ugly, too. If Washington is within 10 of Oregon on the road, that suggest to me this is a top-25 sort of team.
Robert (Seattle, WA) How much of the Beaver's success is due to the fact that Mike Riley took over the play calling from offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf this season?
Ted Miller (3:06 PM) Hard to estimate because my impression is he and coordinator Danny Langsdorf collaborate plenty... but when things go well, you tend to think that was a dramatic change. I'd suggest a lineup growing up, particularly the O-line, Mannion and WR Brandin Cooks counts for more...
Jesse (The District of Columbia) How much do you think the Huskies' extra two days to prepare for Oregon will factor in the game Saturday night @ 10:30pm EDT on ESPN? (see what I did there?)
Ted Miller (3:09 PM) I think it has to help just based on getting ready for the change of tempo and the misdirection. It's more time for a defense to train its eyes. It also helps because Stanford was a much different team. Further, the extra rest after a physical game helps, as does the time to get over the euphoria.
Noah (hollywood) Hi Ted. How terrible of a decision was it for the ACC to abandon its plans for a 9 game conference schedule next year?
Ted Miller (3:11 PM) Well, probably not terrible for ACC teams... helps them. It also puts further pressure on the Pac-12 to consider going back to 8 games. If the SEC, Big Ten & ACC are playing 8 conference games and the Big 12 and Pac-12 are playing 9, then three conferences have an automatic advantage at the beginning of every season. Just pure math.
Winston Free (Big Apple) UW's offense has not been in sync all season vs. FBS opponents. Was former Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier more valuable than previously thought?
Ted Miller (3:18 PM) Maybe... but Sark calls the plays. What Sark would like to do is to order up a couple more healthy, veteran offensive linemen. The Huskies have struggled up front, and it's difficult to do much of anything on offense when you're not blocking well.
Chris (Eugene) Is it fair to say that Oregon has one of the best if not the best Coaches in the game today?
Ted Miller (3:23 PM) yes.... Saban, Meyer, Kelly..
Jason (Phoenix) If Cal ponies up serious money to dump Tedford, who do you think would be a good fit? Season Professional a la raid another coach Petersen or TCU's Coach, Hired Gun Petrino, or go young up and comer IE Wilcox?
Ted Miller (3:30 PM) I try to be objective in how I cover things, but I've known Tedford for so long, it's extremely difficult for me not to root for him to get things turned around. So I felt a twinge this week when I first thought to myself: I need to consider who might be next. Petrino isn't happening. I don't think Petersen will leave Boise, nor Patterson TCU.... Wilcox, it seems to me, would be on the list. But it's difficult to project forward because you really don't know the money Cal could pay. $2 million is a baseline rate. To get an A-list guy to come to the super-expensive Bay Area, I'd say you'd have to ante up $4 million. And then you have to pay his staff. So I don't expect Cal to be able to go for a big name. And that might not be a bad thing.
Lance Romance (Winnipeg, Canada) If the devils can finish with 9 wins, meaning 2 conference losses, is that enough to get them into the Pac-12 title game?
Ted Miller (3:31 PM) If they beat USC... won't be easy in the Coliseum... they both would have 2 conference losses & the Sun Devils would own the tiebreaker.
John (College Station) Do you think Colorado's victoria solamente versus Wazoo will keep Embree his job for entire season? Would a loss have opened the exit door sooner?
Ted Miller (3:33 PM) I think folks recognize what Embree inherited. It would be a mistake to write him off after just 2 years. So I think he survives this season no matter what. He's a Buff after all, so he deserves a fair shot even more than an outsider would. Got to show respect within the family.
Kyle (Springfield) Do you think it is better to go into a rivalry game with the Chip Kelly every-game-is-the-same attitude, or do you like coaches playing to their players emotions for a rivalry?
Ted Miller (3:39 PM) I don't think they are mutually exclusive. I also think that Chip could humor folks -- fans, media -- on the topic a bit more while maintaining the team culture of "Every game is a super bowl." Overall, I think his approach is more the future. It's sound. But when the Ducks walk onto the field, and the crowd is charged more than it has been -- or probably will be -- this season, then the rivalry emotion will come into play. For a good team with a good culture, you don't need that during the week of preparation.
Herman (Tucson) The Wildcats started off the year looking pretty impressive, but have since lost their last two games. Would you mark that up to scheduling, lack of real ability, a little bit of both, or something else entirely?
Ted Miller (3:46 PM): Oregon is the No. 2 team in the nation, and the Beavers also have quality wins over Wisconsin and UCLA. So, yes, it seems to the Wildcats just lost to two good teams. But the schedule ahead is rugged, too, and the Arizona defense is thin up front. Doesn't help that they are going to face Stanford's tough front-7 without center Kyle Quinn. I think the Territorial Cup could be very interesting.... In the preseason, .500 looked like a good record with the available talent. That still might be the case.
Jim Mora (Westwood) I have the same players pretty much as last year's squad, but everyone around me says things are different. Quantify my success: __% better coaching __% better players (ie Hundley) __% better schemes
Ted Miller (3:49 PM) I think it's too early to make definitive statements. But the Bruins do seem better coached, Hundley is clearly a better QB (thanks to Rick Neuheisel for redshirting him) and the schemes are better because they are working... I think Mora's coordinators are much better, particularly because they are getting to run the schemes of their choosing,... so 20 %, 20 % and 18 %.
Trevor (Hillsboro, OR) Reynolds and Poyer. Wheaton and Cooks. Best CB and WR duos in the league? Coincidence?
Ted Miller (4:01 PM) That is a very strong foursome... you might be able to enter it in the "best in the nation" argument, in fact. But, of course, Mike Riley can't recruit. The game has passed him by... I think a lot of us in the media are enjoying the Beavers resurgence just because of how it silenced the absurd gripes about Riley.
There are several in the Pac-12. Here are a few:
Justin Wilcox, Washington, defensive coordinator: It seems like it's just a matter of time for Wilcox, who has been a hot assistant coach for years after building an elite defense at Boise State under Chris Petersen. He is young -- 35 -- and has been around. If he transforms the rotten Huskies defense into a top-ranked unit, he'll have his pick of jobs. By the way, Brock Huard beat me to the punch on this one.
Mark Helfrich, Oregon, offensive coordinator: Word on the street was that if Chip Kelly had left for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Helfrich would have been promoted to replace him, a decision made behind the scenes by the same folks who identified Kelly's talent. While folks see the Ducks' high-powered offense as Kelly's baby -- and it is -- Helfrich's role is underrated. He also understands how Kelly built a culture, which is more important for a head coach than X's and O's.
Pep Hamilton, Stanford, offensive coordinator: Hey, he is the Andrew Luck Director of Offense! Hamilton has been around -- both in college and the NFL -- and he has a way about him that suggests he would be a capable team CEO. He is a charismatic guy who is a good teacher and likes a smashmouth style of play. And the Cardinal offense has been a thing of beauty for three seasons.
Noel Mazzone, UCLA, offensive coordinator: Mazzone is old, 55, and follically challenged, but if he creates a strong offense at UCLA after doing the same at Arizona State, it's hard to imagine that some smart athletic director out there won't bite. Mazzone has coached just about everywhere, and a few years ago he reinvented himself as a spread offense/quarterback guru. He is an outgoing, likable guy who is great with the media, but that shouldn't be held against him. At least no more than his haircut.
Kalani Fifita Sitake, Utah, defensive coordinator: Sitake has a few things going for him. For one, it's become clear that he can coach the heck out of a defense. Second, he has risen through the ranks at Utah learning from Kyle Whittingham, one of the nation's best coaches. Third, some AD at some point is going to go: "If we hire a native Tongan, I wonder if that might help us recruit the thousands of Polynesian athletes who scatter across the college football nation annually?"
ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach took another angle: Underrated coaching jobs. And he tapped two from the Pac-12: Stanford and Washington.
Here's what he had to say:
Stanford: Stanford is the perfect model for mixing athletics and academics. Despite facing tougher admission standards than a lot of other schools, the Cardinal have won 23 games the past two seasons. Former Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh, now coaching the NFL's San Francisco 49ers, instilled a blue-collar work ethic, and David Shaw, his former assistant and replacement, picked up right where he left off. Shaw's best sales pitch? Offering recruits an education that's worth about $58,000 annually.
Washington: The Huskies won a national championship under coach Don James in 1991, so there's no reason they shouldn't be more competitive in the Pac-12. Coach Steve Sarkisian, a former USC assistant, has expanded UW's recruiting base into California. Husky Stadium is finally getting a face-lift, so the Huskies will play this season at the Seattle Seahawks' CenturyLink Field. The $250 million project will remove the lower bowl of Husky Stadium and add a 40,000-square-foot football operations center, including a weight room and meeting rooms.
First off, when Mark writes about Stanford having "tougher admission standards that a lot of other schools," what he meant to say is admission standards that are higher THAN EVERY OTHER SCHOOL PLAYING FBS FOOTBALL.
I like these picks. Of course, "underrated" suggests a lot of things. Mostly I see it as a measure of a good place to be where you have a chance to win but a little less win-or-else pressure.
But are "underrated" jobs destination jobs? Or are the competitiveness and ambition -- required qualities in big-time college sports -- too overwhelming to prevent an eye from wandering. Sure, some guys who win big stick around second-tier jobs -- Boise State's Chris Petersen and Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer being two -- but it seems the vast majority of coaches are committed to the climb.
For most highly competitive sorts, they want to go to the most prestigious program, one that gives them the best chance to win national championships on a regular basis. And they'd want to see their name atop lists of highest paid coaches.
For some, though, there are other considerations, such as putting down roots and quality of life. And, perhaps, toning down the win-or-else reality of several big-time programs.
It will be interesting to watch Shaw at Stanford, his alma mater, and Sarkisian at Washington over the next few years. Shaw has been adamant that he already has his dream job and has no interest in going elsewhere. But what if he wins a national title and gets a call from the NFL? Same could be said of Sarkisian. Would he turn down the NFL? Heck, would he turn down, say, Florida if it ever became available?
My feeling is both are presently content at their "underrated" programs. But you learn in this business to never say never.
Read Part I here.
Tell me about your defensive philosophy: What are the first things you tell your guys that need to happen?
Justin Wilcox: The first thing is you've got to develop an identity. The great thing is, from the core values Steve Sarkisian has implemented here in terms of the competitiveness, the toughness, the work ethic, those things have been ingrained in these kids. How they train, how they work, how they prepare. That is paramount to being a successful program. From our side of the ball, on top of everything Coach Sark stands for, the toughness and competing that we're going to emphasize to these kids, the big thing on defense, especially this day and age, is the execution. Effort and toughness -- you have to have those. They are non-negotiable. Unfortunately, they won't win you games. You can play with the greatest effort and the greatest toughness, but if you don't execute at a high level, you're going to play bad defense. What we need to focus on is being able to execute at a high level, down-in, down-out, up-tempo, for four quarters, even when we are tired. That's just conditioning your mind, conditioning your body. That's what we're focusing on. The scheme is important. There's no doubt. But how you execute the scheme is even more important. That's what we're focusing on this spring, getting good at what we do. There are a lot of different defenses, a lot of different ways to do things. Throughout the country, everybody's got a little bit different wrinkle. But at the end of the day, if you're a 3-4 team or a 4-3 team or a quarters team or a three-deep team, you've got to be good at what you're doing. That's what our focus is going to be. We've got to find out a little bit who we are in terms of personnel and what we think we can be good at. We're always going to be fundamentally driven. We've got to be great tacklers; we've got to be great at taking on blocks; and we've got to be great at covering people. That's what defensive football is. Whatever scheme we play, whatever coverages we play, it always goes back to tackling, taking on blocks and covering people. Those are the things that we're going to work on day-in, and day-out. You could have 800 defenses, and they could be the greatest defenses on the board, make the most sense and cover everything, but if you are not good at what you're doing, you're just flailing in the wind -- a jack of all trades, master of none. We need to find our identity of what we are going to be schematically, and then play better football. I know that sounds kind of boring but that's the truth. It's going to be fundamentals for us. And it's going to be execution.
Give me a CliffsNotes version of your scheme. It seems more teams are using 3-4, odd-front looks, and that's more your reputations, too, but you also seem kind of flexible.
JW: Yeah, that's fair to say. We're a little more 3-4, under-front, odd-front in our base downs. We've got to play more nickel and possibly some dime, depending on our personnel, because we will see a fair amount of 11-personnel, 10-personnel -- meaning one-back stuff. So we will practice that the first day, nickel and some dime, so we can try to get our best coverage matchups, which will give you more flexibility with what you can do, coverage-wise, when you have another DB out there. We need to find out, personnel-wise, throughout the spring, who we are. Who can we put the stress on? Who are the guys on our defense who we can say: This guy can win the one-on-one battles. And if we need to help protect another position, that we've got to build it around that. We'll install our base coverages out of our base group, our nickel coverages and all of our blitzes and fire zones, and then we'll kind of hone it in on what we think we'll be good at. You're going to do the scheme part of it, but we really need to practice the fundamentals and get good at it -- playing three-deep, playing quarters, playing press, taking on blocks and tackling. All those fundamental things that sometimes can get loose if you are not careful.
What have you seen on film from the guys you've got coming back: Did anything stand out?
JW: I'm excited. There's some good young talent. There are some edge player -- the Josh Shirleys, Hau'oli Jamora, [Andrew] Hudson -- those guys who are more edge-type guys. We've got some young defensive ends who we think have a chance, guys who haven't played a lot. There's a young noseguard who has flashed, Danny Shelton. You probably know about him. We've got to continue to develop our defensive ends and continue to develop in recruiting in terms of size and length. At linebacker, it's going to be very competitive there. We've got some guys who we might move around in terms of changing positions, to try to give us a little bit more flexibility at those spots. The secondary, there are some good young players. Obviously, you've got [cornerback] Desmond Trufant coming back. That's a big deal for us and we're excited for him. There will be some competition at corner. Greg Ducre, Marcus Peters, some freshmen who redshirted. At safety, you've got Sean Parker and some guys who played last year, Nate Fellner and Justin Glenn. There's a redshirt freshman who has flashed some, Travis Feeney. I'm trying not to miss anybody. The other thing is we'll play a lot of nickel, so developing that nickel position, and possibly a dime, because we have some of those body types. Again, we're trying to find out who are the best guys and who do we think gives us the best chance to win. If you get so rigid on, 'We're a 4-3 team, so we're going to play 4-3 no matter what,' but what if your fifth DB is better than your third LB, then you're kind of spinning your wheels and not playing with your best guys. We want our best guys out there.
How much can a defense improve from one year to the next? Do fans need to be patient, or do you feel like this defense can put up much better numbers than in 2011?
JW: It's hard for me to get into all that. I could stand on a soap box and say, 'We're going to do this, this and this,' but really it's going to be a product of what we accomplish this spring, in our offseason workouts and fall camp. As long as we are playing as well as we can possibly play, that's what I care about. The stats are what they are, as long as we are playing up to our capability that's what I am focused on. I don't think any of us are very patient. We want to play good defense. That's why we are here. That's what we spend our time trying to do. That's a multi-level question. For me to sit here and say, 'We're going to be here, here and here,' I have a hard time doing that.
Speaking of patience, your name is starting to pop up on lists of hot coaching candidates: How patient are you about getting a chance to be a head coach?
JW: I appreciate you saying that, but to be honest I never have thought that way. I've really not thought that way about moving jobs. I don't spend time getting involved in that part of it. All I really care about, for me, is that we are playing as good as we can play and we are coaching them as good as we can coach them and we're doing whatever is best for us for our team to be successful. That is really all that consumes me. I think once you start worrying about things that are out of your control, you are wasting time. All that drives my professional life is how we are going to play better, how are we going to improve, how are we going to coaching them better, how are we going to teach them better, how can we practice better.
And that's why Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian brought in Justin Wilcox from Tennessee. Wilcox, who became a rising star while running Chris Petersen's defense at Boise State, is charged with rebuilding a unit that has been mostly poor-to-middling since a dominant run under Don James and coordinator Jim Lambright in the 1980s and '90s.
Here's what Wilcox had to say as the Huskies get ready to start spring practices next week.
Looking back a bit, you left Boise State for Tennessee: How big of a change was that for you, jumping to the SEC?
Justin Wilcox: Obviously, there is great football in the SEC. It was a totally different experience, totally different environment. An awesome, unbelievable experience. Football is football, though. There was a lot of carry-over. There's a different style of offense that we played against. There were different things you dealt with. The recruiting was obviously different. The types of kids were different types of kids than we had at Boise State. There is scrutiny everywhere, there was scrutiny at Boise State, but there were a lot more people involved at Tennessee. That was definitely different -- not better or worse, just different. It was an awesome experience. I learned a ton.
The conventional wisdom is the SEC keeps winning national titles because it has the best talent. Is that your take during your time in Knoxville?
JW: I always hated to get into this because everybody would bring it up when I was at Tennessee -- that could Boise State play [in the SEC]? I would say, from top to bottom, from the conferences I've been in, [in the SEC] the physical ability was pretty substantial in terms of the depth and the size and speed of the kids down there. That doesn't mean there's not great football other places. There is great football other places. I would just say on a physical scale there were bigger guys. I don't want to get into comparing conferences and leagues, but there were some extremely talented guys playing down there. There's no doubt about that.
You're a West Coast guy: Did you always imagine you would return to the West Coast in your career?
JW: My time at Tennessee was unbelievable. It's a great place. A lot of unbelievable people there, some great kids. But you kind of are who you are. You grow up in certain places, and that's kind of what you are used to. Now in our profession, you don't get to choose where you work all the time, so I was very fortunate to have an opportunity to come back here. I was grateful because it is closer to home for me. That's not everything by any means -- that was a small part of it. The chance to work with Steve Sarkisian and knowing Washington as I was growing up, seeing Washington and knowing what this place is about is very appealing to me. So the big picture of it was this was an awesome opportunity. It wasn't necessarily just because I'm from the West. But I am who am. I'm from Junction City, Ore. That's not too far from here and my family is closer. That is exciting but that wouldn't be a sole reason by any means.
OK... this is fan-type question. You played at Oregon. Same for new Huskies LBs coach Peter Sirmon. Oregon and Washington have perhaps the most bitter rivalry in the Pac-12. Was there at least a momentary grin when you first donned the purple of Washington?
JW: This has come up before. I coached at Cal. I coached at Boise and we played Oregon. In our line of work, my allegiance is with the University of Washington. I am proud to be from where I am from. I had a great experience [at Oregon] as a player. I have a lot of great friends that I made there. They are both great places. I know sometimes the fans, it might be kind of a hard dynamic, but I know where my allegiance is now. But that doesn't mean I'm not proud of where I'm from, having gone to school at Oregon, and having been a part in that. I kind of got over that way back when though, when I was a young coach, when my first full-time job was at Cal and we played Oregon. I went through that three or four years after being out of college, so it was a little bit different then. I've been down that road. It's not hard for me to prepare for them. I'd prepare just as hard as I would for any other team. I know that's not an exciting, fun answer that you want but it's the truth.
In Part II, Wilcox talks specifics about philosophy, scheme, personnel and the future.
And, in late January, when Kelly had a prolonged and invested flirtation with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, many in Eugene -- after wiping away tears over Kelly leaving -- sought consolation by eyeballing Petersen.
So, even though Kelly stayed and Petersen provided his annual round of "thanks, but no thanks" to various suitors, Ken Goe of The Oregonian took a jaunt up to Boise to visit with the man who could go just about anywhere but hasn't. Yet.
With his 73-6 record in seven seasons in charge at Boise State, Petersen is college football's most coveted commodity. When the annual firing-hiring season begins in December, Petersen's name seemingly appears on the short list of every coach-hunting athletic director in the land.
Petersen hasn't budged, hasn't been interested, apparently never has officially interviewed. And, yet there are many who believe it would be different if Chip Kelly leaves Oregon -- as he almost did over the winter -- and the Ducks turn in Petersen's direction.
First of all, there was credible evidence that if Kelly bolted the Ducks might turn to offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich. Some Ducks fans might not have been warm to that, but think of it this way: It's like hiring Petersen before he becomes Petersen. Helfrich has impressed more than a few folks who have some power in Eugene, some of the same folks who saw Kelly's potential.
Petersen knows Oregon. He was the Ducks' receivers coach for six years under Mike Bellotti before Dan Hawkins brought him to Boise State as offensive coordinator. So what does Petersen tell Goe about the Ducks?
Well, Petersen has been playing this game with the media for a while, and he knew why Goe stopped by for a chat.
Petersen sees the Oregon question coming. He braces for it, response prepared.
"I live this job year-to-year, because that is just how hard this job is," he says. "We really like it here. Until that changes, we don't really see anything else changing. I always tell our recruits this: There is not another job out there in the country that I go, 'Oh if that thing opens, that's the job I want.' I don't think like that. I don't have that place."
My impression is Kelly really likes coaching at Oregon. He's also smart enough to be familiar with the whole "grass is always greener" thing that so many coaches learned the hard way. And if he sticks around for another decade, they'd name the football building after him. But he's also ultra-competitive. If, say, the Pac-12 blog told him he probably wouldn't enjoy coaching in the NFL, he'd tell the Pac-12 blog to go stick it.
Same with Petersen. He clearly loves Boise State. And he's seen what happened to Dirk Koetter and Hawkins, previous Broncos coaching savants whose jumps to AQ programs didn't go so well.
But let's be clear: You can't coach at a high level without being competitive. At some point, Petersen might feel an itch that he needs to scratch, and there are plenty of folks who believe Oregon holds some allure for him.
As Goe concludes:
Petersen won't completely close the door.
"I'm at the place I want to be," he says. "But that being said, you always hear these coaches say, 'I'm staying here forever.' And the next year they're out. I think they really believe it at the time.
"But things change."
"The big story," he said conspiratorially,"is all these new coaches."
Well, it's the big story now as the Pac-12 turns its attention away from the 2011 season and toward 2012 spring practices. And, of course, Kelly is part of a reason there are four new coaches in the conference. Mike Stoops, Dennis Erickson, Rick Neuheisel and Paul Wulff -- fired at Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and Washington State, respectively -- never beat Kelly and, in fact, came within double digits of his Ducks only once (Arizona, with a 44-41 loss in 2009).
But the story isn't just four new coaches. It's four new coaches whom folks have heard of, each of whom is getting a big-boy salary that would fit in among the SEC or Big Ten. Big salaries are the new normal in the Pac-12 after the conference signed a $3 billion TV deal with ESPN and Fox.
The chief idea is obvious: Pac-12 schools are paying for an upgrade in coaching talent, and there are high expectations for getting their money's worth. And, by the way, there's an added bonus for each hire: Each new coach has a chip on his shoulder and something to prove.
- In 2010, Rodriguez was ingloriously dispatched at Michigan after three tumultuous and unsuccessful years. Athletic director Greg Byrne is betting that Rodriguez is far closer to the highly successful coach he was at West Virginia than the one who got run out of Ann Arbor, and Rodriguez surely wants that impression to be his legacy. It helps that he got his man, Jeff Casteel, to run the Wildcats' defense, which he failed to do at Michigan.
- Graham took a lot of heat from a pandering, sanctimonious media and a whiny Pittsburgh fan base for how he left the Panthers. "He didn't even say goodbye," they collectively sobbed. "Waaah." Of course, Graham does have an unfortunate habit of describing every job as his "dream job." All that stuff is mostly hogwash, though. What matters is winning, and if Graham does that, the media will all come down en masse to Tempe pretending they didn't trash Graham's character for taking a better job, in a better conference, in a better place to live while making his family happy in the process.
- Mora was fired in 2009 after only one season with the Seattle Seahawks, and he's bided his time looking for another head-coaching job. Seeing that he was two or three names down UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero's coaching list -- Chris Petersen! Kevin Sumlin! -- some Bruins fans reacted with disappointed smirks to Mora's hiring. Then Mora hired an outstanding staff. Then he reeled in an outstanding recruiting class. Some of those frowns are turning upside down.
- Leach was fired at Texas Tech in 2009. He's one of the best offensive minds in the nation, and the almost universal reaction is athletic director Bill Moos hit a home run with this big-name hire. The Pirate Captain looks like the perfect match for Pullman and the Cougs, and he'll be plenty motivated to prove his critics wrong and erase the bad ending in Lubbock.
It's fair to say these four hirings have generated positive momentum for these programs, though, of course, to varying degrees. There's a hope among the fan bases that these four can create quick turnarounds.
And that also leads into another major coaching story entering the spring: The Pac-12's most senior coaches, California's Jeff Tedford and Oregon State's Mike Riley, sit on the hottest seats.
Tedford enters his 11th season in Berkeley having followed up his first losing campaign -- 5-7 in 2010 -- with a middling 7-6 finish in 2011. Riley, the man deserving the most credit for making one of the worst programs in college football respectable, enters his 12th year in Corvallis -- two tenures wrapped around an ill-fated stint with the San Diego Chargers -- burdened by consecutive losing seasons, including a 3-9 finish that felt so 1987.
Spring practices for Tedford and Riley will be about setting up turnaround season that give their frustrated fan bases hope -- and keep their athletic directors from issuing dreaded votes of confidence while checking their coaching Rolodexes.
Meanwhile, Kelly and USC's Lane Kiffin, still relative coaching newbies in the conference, enter spring likely trying to tone down the positive hype. Both will begin the 2012 season ranked in the top 10. USC could be preseason No. 1. Both are overwhelming favorites in the North and South Divisions. And their meeting on Nov. 3 in L.A. could have national title implications.
But that's looking ahead.
The big story this spring in the Pac-12 is newness and rebirth. One-third of the conference's teams hope that newness at the top of their programs will create a rebirth in the Pac-12 standings.
Schefter reported Kelly "interviewed with the Buccaneers last week and the two sides are aiming to work out a deal within the next 48 hours."
So not a done deal, but obviously this would feel fairly cataclysmic for Ducks fans. The Pac-12 blog was of the mind at the Rose Bowl that Kelly was in for the long term with Oregon.
Couple of quick thoughts.
- Tampa Bay must really want Kelly. Unless there's a negotiated settlement, Kelly's buyout is $3.75 million and he's scheduled to make $3.5 million next year. So we're talking -- conservatively -- $8 million just to get started. Of course, top NFL salaries are $7 million.
- Would Kelly bring a spread-option to the NFL (even though he ran less spread-option last year than ever)? Maybe. It seems the NFL, long staid about what offenses should look like, has become more open-minded of late.
- Some will immediately think Kelly is getting out ahead of NCAA sanctions, see Pete Carroll at USC. That's not my take. The recent scuttlebutt has hinted that the sanctions won't be severe.
- That said: Kelly is a football savant who loves coaching and watching film -- and watching film and coaching. College coaching includes a lot of non-coaching responsibilities, including the NCAA, recruiting and boosters, etc. That has never been Kelly's cup of Joe.
If this happens and Kelly leaves, the name you would hear immediately would be Boise State's Chris Petersen. While his name comes up with just about every major opening, he has strong ties to Oregon. He coached there from 1995-2000. When people talked about jobs that might lure Petersen away from his comfort zone in Boise, Oregon often topped the list.
The Ducks could double his $2 million salary -- and give his assistant coaches huge raises, too.
So stay tuned. As stories go in the Pac-12, this could become a biggie.
The Oregonian reacts here.
And the Eugene Register-Guard.
He likes Mike Leach to Washington State — a lot — and Rich Rodriguez to Arizona. He's not so impressed with Todd Graham to Arizona State and Jim Mora to UCLA.
Here are his Pac-12 grades and takes.
Washington State (Mike Leach, former Texas Tech head coach): A+
AD Bill Moos looked past the controversy surrounding Leach's bizarre 2009 ouster in Lubbock and focused more on his 84-43 record and 10 straight bowl trips. The quirky offensive mind is a perfect fit in remote Pullman and already has the quarterbacks (rising senior Jeff Tuel and sophomore Connor Halliday) he needs to lead the dormant Cougars to their first postseason berth in nine years.
Arizona (Rich Rodriguez, former Michigan head coach): A-
AD Greg Byrne knew exactly who he wanted, pouncing early (Nov. 21) in naming Mike Stoops' replacement. While Rodriguez's three-year tenure in Ann Arbor did not end well, the pressure is much lower in tradition-starved Tucson. He's reunited the majority of his staff from West Virginia, where he led the Mountaineers to two BCS bowls. Arizona is still waiting on its first.
UCLA (Jim L. Mora, former Seattle Seahawks head coach): D
After striking out with Chris Petersen, Al Golden and Sumlin, AD Dan Guerrero turned to an unemployed NFL lifer. Mora has assembled a nice staff and will likely make initial waves in recruiting, but history does not bode well for NFL-bred coaches. UCLA hopes Mora will become its Pete Carroll, but odds are much higher he emulates Bill Callahan, Charlie Weis, Chan Gailey, Mike Sherman ...
Arizona State (Todd Graham, Pittsburgh head coach): D
Forget the unseemly way he exited Pitt. Why exactly Graham is a hot commodity to begin with? It's certainly not due to his one 6-6 Big East season. He had three 10-win seasons at Tulsa, but much of the credit belongs to respected offensive coordinators Gus Malzahn and Chad Morris. His one season without either, he went 5-7. But perhaps his fourth dream job in six years will be the one.
These divergent grades shouldn't be surprising. Just about everyone — yes, there is always some contrarian wackiness — believes Washington State and Arizona made great hires. And both Mora and Graham have baggage.
A lot of rating a coaching hire is about process: Did the AD get his or her first choice? Washington State and Arizona appeared to do just that and UCLA and Arizona State didn't. The lesson, taught over and over and over again, is that ADs always need to have a solid list of coaching candidates and Plan Bs in their desk drawer, and they need to move proactively and aggressively from the moment they decide to fire their coach — even taking steps in advance of the pending termination.
And, most important, the fewer people involved in the process, the better. The best search committees are made up of one person — see ADs Greg Byrne at Arizona and Bill Moos at Washington State.
Mandel also looks at "Ten impact coordinators/assistants," and two from the Pac-12 make the list, as well as a former conference head coach and QB.
Jeff Casteel, Arizona (defense): Defense was the bane of Rodriguez's existence at Michigan. It was critical he reunite with his highly effective former West Virginia coordinator.
Mike Stoops, Oklahoma (defense): Bob's brother returns to Norman, where he produced some of the nation's most dominant units from 1999-2003. The Sooners needed him.
Tosh Lupoi, Washington (defensive line): Steve Sarkisian sent shock waves through the Pac-12 by luring away Cal's ace recruiter, considered the best on the West Coast.
Jonathan Smith, Boise State (quarterbacks): Petersen tabbed the former Oregon State standout and Montana offensive coordinator to help mold Kellen Moore's successor.