Pac-12: Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

Looking back at some teams the current group of Pac-12 coaches have led during their respective head-coaching careers turns up an impressive list. All 12 have coached a team to a bowl appearance, 10 have finished a season with double-digit wins and eight have had teams appear in the AP top 10.

Taking it a step further and just looking at each individual coach's best team (in college) also made for an interesting study. Choosing which teams those are is clearly a subjective process so for the purpose of consistency, the teams listed below were chosen based on the final spot in the AP poll.

Here are some notable takeaways:

  • Eight teams ended with bowl victories, but two occurred after the coach left.
  • Seven teams started unranked, but only one finished out of the polls.
  • Half of the coaches did it at their current school, four of which occurred in 2013.
  • Six teams appeared in the top 5 at some point and nine were in the top 15.
  • Three coaches immediately parlayed the success into their current job.
  • Only three of the teams won conference titles, none of which was in the Pac-12.
  • Two teams beat No. 1-ranked squads.
  • Four teams played in BCS bowls, and three were victorious.
We're not going attempt to rank them ourselves, but here they are in reverse order based on each team's final AP ranking:

No. 12 Sonny Dykes, Louisiana Tech, 2012

Dykes' record: 9-3 (4-2, third in WAC)
Final AP rank: unranked
Highest AP rank: 19
Bowl result: no bowl
The team:
The Bulldogs finished the season as the country's highest scoring team (51.50 ppg) and top-ranked offense (577.9 ypg). They rose to No. 19 in the AP poll before losing their final two games of the season, including one against Mike MacIntyre-coached San Jose State in the season finale. Louisiana Tech was offered a spot in the Independence Bowl, but it was given away while the school unsuccessfully sought other bowl options. Dykes left for Cal after the season.

[+] EnlargeSteve Sarkisian
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesSteve Sarkisian parlayed his successful 2013 season into the head-coaching job at USC.
No. 11 Steve Sarkisian, Washington, 2013

Sarkisian's record: 8-4 (5-4, third in Pac-12 North)
Final AP rank: 25
Highest AP rank: 15
Bowl result: Beat BYU in Fight Hunger Bowl (Sarkisian did not coach)
The team:
The season began with a win against then-No. 19 Boise State, and the season ended with Broncos coach Chris Petersen being hired by the Huskies. Sarkisian departed for USC prior to the bowl. After the win against Boise, Washington debuted in the rankings at No. 19 and rose four spots before a string of three straight losses to Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State.

No. 10 Mike MacIntyre, San Jose State, 2012

MacIntyre's record: 10-2, (5-1, second in WAC)
Final AP rank: 21
Highest AP rank: 21
Bowl result: Beat Bowling Green in Military Bowl (MacIntyre did not coach)
The team:
Two years after coaching San Jose State to a 1-11 record in his first season as head coach, MacIntyre's team became the first in program history to finish in the final AP poll -- although, the Spartans were unranked when MacIntyre accepted the job at Colorado. SJSU didn't beat any ranked teams, but lost just 20-17 to Stanford, which went on to win Pac-12 and Rose Bowl championships. The other loss came to Utah State, which finished No. 16.

No. 9 Todd Graham, Arizona State, 2013

Graham's record: 10-4 (8-1, won Pac-12 South)
Final AP rank: 21
Highest AP rank: 11
Bowl result: Lost to Texas Tech in Holiday Bowl The team: In his eighth season as an FBS head coach, Graham's most recent Arizona State team was his best. The Sun Devils began the season unranked and entered and exited the Top 25 twice before closing the regular season with a seven-game winning streak. It was ranked No. 11 when it hosted Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game, but a second loss to the Cardinal kept ASU out of the Rose Bowl.

No. 8 Mike Riley, Oregon State, 2008

Riley's record: 9-4 (7-2, tied for second in Pac-10)
Final AP rank: 18
Highest AP rank: 17
Bowl result: Beat Pittsburgh in the Sun Bowl
The team:
The Beavers started unranked and lost their first two games before winning eight of nine to peak at No. 17. After a 1-2 start, it beat No. 1 USC in Corvallis, but didn't immediately build off the big win. The next week the Beavers lost to Kyle Whittingham's undefeated Utah team (more later). Riley's highest spot in the polls came in 2012, when the Beavers reached No. 7 after a 6-0 start. He was a head coach in the NFL for three years and the Canadian Football League for four, where he won a pair of Grey Cups.

No. 7 Jim Mora, UCLA, 2013

Mora's record: 10-3 (6-3, second in Pac-12 South)
Final AP rank: 16
Highest AP rank: 9
Bowl result: Beat Virginia Tech in Sun Bowl
The team:
The Bruins spent the entire season in the polls after starting at No. 21. They began 5-0 and rose to No. 9 before road losses to No. 13 Stanford and No. 3 Oregon. Mora's best coaching job came in the NFL in 2004 when he guided the Atlanta Falcons to an NFC South title and an appearance in the NFC Championship.

No. 6 Mike Leach, Texas Tech, 2008

Leach's record: 11-2 (7-1, tied for first in Big 12 South)
Final AP rank: 12
Highest AP rank: 2
Bowl result: Lost to Ole Miss in Cotton Bowl
The team:
The Red Raiders started the year at No. 12 and moved up to No. 6 after an 8-0 start. They rose to No. 2 after Michael Crabtree's memorable touchdown catch secured a win vs. No. 1 Texas. After two weeks at No. 2, the Red Raiders lost to No. 5 Oklahoma in a game that propelled Sooners quarterback Sam Bradford to the Heisman Trophy. Leach arrived at WSU in 2012.

[+] EnlargeDavid Shaw
AP Photo/Kevin ReeceDavid Shaw's best team at Stanford didn't win the Pac-12 title.
No. 5 Mark Helfrich, Oregon, 2013

Helfrich's record: 11-2 (7-2, tied for first in Pac-12 North)
Final AP rank: 9
Highest AP rank: 2
Bowl result: Beat Texas in Alamo Bowl The team: Of all the teams on the list, none started higher than the Ducks in Helfrich's head-coaching debut at No. 3. Oregon spent eight weeks at No. 2 before losses to Stanford and Arizona in a three-game span ended any hopes of a conference or national title. The team finished ranked No. 2 in the country in both total offense (565.0 ypg) and scoring (45.5 ppg). Quarterback Marcus Mariota dealt with some late-season injury problems, but, when healthy, he was as good as any player in college football.

No. 4 David Shaw, Stanford, 2011

Shaw's record: 11-2 (8-1, second in Pac-12 North)
Final AP rank: 7
Highest AP rank: 3
Bowl result: Lost to No. 3 Oklahoma State in Fiesta Bowl The team: In three seasons as head coach, Shaw has won a pair of Pac-12 titles. But in 2011, when Oregon won the Pac-12 title, he probably had his best team. The Rose Bowl championship team the following year also finished No. 7 and has more hardware, but it didn't have Andrew Luck. Stanford started the year at No. 7, moved up to No. 3 after winning its first nine games, but then lost 53-30 at home to No. 6 Oregon. Stanford received a second consecutive BCS at-large bid, but suffered an overtime loss to No. 3 Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl. In addition to Luck, 10 other players landed on 53-man NFL rosters from the team's departing class. Stanford's low ranking of No. 8 was the best among teams on this list.

No. 3 Rich Rodriguez, West Virginia, 2005

Rodriguez's record: 11-1, (7-0 Big East champion)
Final AP rank: 5
Highest AP rank: 5 Bowl result: Beat No. 8 Georgia in Sugar Bowl The team: Freshmen QB Pat White and RB Steve Slaton were the names of note for the current Arizona coach. West Virginia started the year unranked and its lone loss came to then-No. 3 Virginia Tech. It was the first of three consecutive double-digit win seasons for the Mountaineers, who were undefeated in Big East play and capped the season with a win over No. 8 Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. A strong case can be made that West Virginia had a better team in 2007, when Rodriguez left following the regular-season finale to become head coach at Michigan. The Mountaineers were ranked No. 2 (No. 1 in the coaches poll) going into Rodriguez's final game, but lost to a 4-7 Pittsburgh team in the 100th Backyard Brawl, which cost them a chance to play for the national title. They finished No. 6.

No. 2 Chris Petersen, Boise State, 2009

Petersen's record: 14-0 (8-0, WAC champions)
Final AP rank: 4
Highest AP rank: 4
Bowl result: Beat No. 4 TCU in the Fiesta Bowl The team: Washington's new coach has quite the résumé. Many consider Boise State's undefeated 2006 team that beat Oklahoma in that's year memorable Fiesta Bowl as the school's best, but three years later the Broncos finished 14-0 and finished a spot higher in the final AP poll. They opened the season at No. 14 and started with a win against No. 16 Oregon in Chip Kelly's first game as head coach. Boise capped the season with a win against undefeated TCU in the Fiesta Bowl. The team's offensive coordinator, Bryan Harsin, is now the head coach and its defensive coordinator, Justin Wilcox, spent last season with Sarkisian at Washington and followed him to USC in the same capacity.

No. 1 Kyle Whittingham, Utah, 2008

Whittingham's record: 13-0 (8-0, Mountain West champions)
Final AP rank: 2
Highest AP rank: 2
Bowl result: Beat No. 4 Alabama in Sugar Bowl The team: In Whittingham's fourth season as head coach, the Utes finished as the nation's lone undefeated team after starting unranked. Utah opened with a win at Michigan -- Rodriguez's first game as the Wolverines' coach -- and went on to beat four teams that finished in the final AP poll, including Alabama (6), TCU (7), Oregon State (18) and BYU (25). Quarterback Brian Johnson threw for 336 yards in a convincing 31-17 win against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

Want to swap out one team for another or switch the order? Email me at Kyle.Bonagura@espn.com.

BERKELEY, Calif. -- While California has hired two coaches over the past 12 years, it didn't hire them to do the same job.

Jeff Tedford took possession of a dilapidated and unlivable house on college football's skid row in 2001. Sonny Dykes this winter moved into a nice home in a posh neighborhood that needs some minor interior renovations.

Sure, Cal went a dreary 3-9 last season, its second losing season in three years, which got Tedford fired. But he took over a program that went 1-10 in 2001, played in a crumbling stadium that averaged 30,000 in attendance and featured some of the worst facilities in major college football.

Dykes has inherited a team that went 82-57 under Tedford and plays in front of 55,876 fans even during a 3-9 season. And the facilities? Sparkling. Brand freaking new. Among the best in the Pac-12 and the nation.

Tedford made the Bears respectable and then made a push for the top of the Pac-10. That initiated the process -- glacial in pace -- of facility upgrades. But he couldn't reach the top of the conference. The program plateaued and then reversed course. In 2004, it seemed certain Tedford would get the Bears to their first Rose Bowl since 1959. In 2012, the Rose Bowl seemed infinitely far away, and it didn't help that stricken Old Blues had to watch crosstown rival Stanford win the darn thing.

Enter Dykes.

"Jeff had a rebuilding job. His job was different," Dykes said. "He made this place credible. He made people take notice and say, 'Cal is a good job. You can do things at Cal.' If it hadn't been for his success, we wouldn't be sitting in this facility right now. He did a great job with the program. They kind of fell off the last couple of years, but he's what made this place a good place."

Dykes is expected to make it a great place.

That won't be easy. Stanford and Oregon are in the way, for one. Washington and Oregon State, potential top-25 teams in 2013, also are looking to take the proverbial "next step." And that's just the North Division.

Further, there are some things that need to be cleaned up, not the least of which is team academics.

Cal is the nation's most celebrated public university. It's difficult to walk around campus without running into someone wearing a Nobel Prize medal. Yet the football program not only ranked last in the Pac-12 in graduation rate last season at 48 percent -- 5 percent behind No. 11 Arizona -- it ranked second worst among automatic qualifying conference teams, 1 percent ahead of Oklahoma, where folks believe the Nobel Prize is something a person gets for visiting the "Rock Rose Capital of the World."

On the football side of things, the Bears seemed mired in a general malaise over the past few seasons. Quarterback play, upon which Tedford built his strong reputation, was mediocre to bad post-Aaron Rodgers. Further, when Cal lost, it didn't mess around. Over Tedford's final four years, the Bears lost 16 games by at least 17 points. That happened while the Bears nonetheless remained a major pipeline to the NFL.

Top-to-bottom talent didn't seem like the problem. It seemed like the Bears had become a bit of a head case. Chief among Dykes' first-year tasks is creating a mentally tougher team.

"This is not a traditional rebuilding job," Dykes said. "But some things do need to be rebuilt. I think the psyche needs to be rebuilt. Maybe expectations need to be rebuilt. We need to do a good job of balancing athletic and academic success."

As for X's and O's and quarterback woes, Dykes and his spread-guru offensive coordinator Tony Franklin averaged 51.5 points per game last season at Louisiana Tech, with quarterback Colby Cameron ranking 22nd in the nation in passing efficiency while throwing 31 TD passes with just five interceptions.

Too pass-happy? The Bulldogs averaged 227 yards rushing, which ranked 17th in the nation. Dykes, who also coached Nick Foles as Arizona's offensive coordinator before going to Louisiana Tech in 2010, has the offensive bona fides, without question.

In terms of putting it all together at an elite academic institution -- Cal fans might want to cover their ears -- Dykes sees a pretty good model playing ball a bit to the south.

"The thing Stanford has done is they've done it the right way," he said. "Their kids are graduating. They've proven you can have high academic standards and still have success on the field."

Dykes says his charge is "not about building a team; it's about building a program." That means creating a culture aimed at long-term and high-level success.

Yes, more than a few Old Blues have related to Dykes their singular wish to experience a Rose Bowl before they die. Tedford used to joke that many Cal fans wanted the Rose Bowl more than a national title.

Tedford took over a team that hadn't posted a winning season in eight years. He made winning seasons the standard. Now Dykes is charged with pushing the Bears back into the national rankings and into the Pac-12 title picture, while maintaining high academic standards.

And if he produces a Rose Bowl victory, they'll probably build a statue of him outside remodeled Memorial Stadium.

Top performances 2012: Marqise Lee

February, 7, 2013
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We're looking at some of the top individual performances in the Pac-12 in 2012.

Up next: Marqise de Receiving

Who & against whom: USC receiver Marqise Lee set a new Pac-12 receiving record in a losing cause at Arizona.

The numbers: Lee caught 16 passes for 345 yards with two touchdowns and a 2-point conversion in the 39-36 loss. He also had three kick returns for 123 yards, with a long of 72, to finish with 469 all-purpose yards.

A closer look: Talk about a brilliant effort on a horrible day for USC. Lee's receiving total set a new Pac-12 record and was fifth most in FBS history, just 60 yards off Louisiana Tech receiver Troy Edwards' mark set in 1998. Lee broke the conference record of 293 yards receiving set by Oregon State's Mike Hass against Boise State in 2004. It probably could have been more. Lee hit 299 yards early in the third quarter after catching a 44-yard touchdown pass that put the Trojans up 28-13. He also caught a 49-yard TD pass, and his long reception of the day was 57 yards. The Trojans lost despite piling up 618 yards of offense. The culprits? Losing the turnover battle five to one and getting 13 penalties for 117 yards.

Sonny Dykes hires two, completes staff

January, 24, 2013
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California has formally announced the hiring of Garret Chachere as defensive ends coach and Zach Yenser as offensive line coach, which means new coach Sonny Dykes has filled out his staff of nine assistants.

Chachere coached tight ends coach and was special teams coordinator at Southern Miss last year. He had spent the three previous campaigns at Arizona coaching receivers. From 1992 to 2006, including eight years at Tulane, he coached almost exclusively on defense.

Yenser was the assistant offensive line coach at Louisiana Tech in 2012. He was a four-year starter at Troy, appearing in 42 consecutive games from 2003-06.

You can read the official release here.

Here's a bit of perspective on the hires.

Q&A: Cal coach Sonny Dykes

December, 20, 2012
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Sonny Dykes has been California's coach for just over two weeks, and he's nearly filled out his coaching staff and made a dive into recruiting.

He also announced that he's bucking a recent Pac-12 trend toward closing practices. So that will earn him grins from fans and media.

[+] EnlargeSonny Dykes
AP Photo/Seth PerlmanSonny Dykes went 22-15 in three seasons at Louisiana Tech.
It seemed like a good time to check in with the 43-year-old who went 22-15 in three seasons -- 9-3 this season -- at Louisiana Tech.

You guys had a great season at Louisiana Tech, but when the Cal job opened up, did you immediately raise an eyebrow and see it as an intriguing possibility?

Dykes: Yeah, I think so. I didn't know much about Cal prior to getting in the Pac-12. But after my time at Arizona [2007-09], my eyes were opened to the potential. I don't know I knew that prior to that. Just from a recruiting standpoint, and then the name that Cal carries in the state of California and nationwide, the academic institution being as great as it is. To me, when you sit down and look at a place and you say, 'What do we have to sell?' You've got a lot to sell at Cal. The No. 1 public institution in the US. You've got the best area in the US to live in in the Bay Area. You've got $475 million worth of new facilities. You've got the Pac-12 conference and the state of California to recruit. So you sit down and look at the whole deal and this checks all the boxes. I think the place has tremendous potential. I'm really fortunate to be here.

Athletic director Sandy Barbour talked about how you had a great interview. What do you think so impressed her?

Dykes: That's all about connecting with someone and having a shared vision. I think Sandy and I share the same vision. It all begins with understanding what Cal is and what the culture is and realizing it's a positive and not a negative. The fact that it is the No. 1 academic institution in the US, we view that as a positive, while some view it as a negative. I think it all started there. We shared the same vision in how we want to build the program and how we want to deal with people. How we are going to build this thing to reach its potential. I think that is the biggest thing you do when you interview for a job. A lot of it is, you get a feel for what they are looking for and they get a feel for who you are. If the two match, it's a great marriage. I liked Sandy personally when I met with her. I was impressed with her vision for Cal. To me, I walked away from the deal going, 'I'd like to work for her. I'd like to work at this institution.'

Have you reached out to Jeff Tedford?

Dykes: I have. We've spoken. We talked about the uniqueness of Cal and the challenges that are here and also the opportunities. Jeff did a remarkable job with this program. He brought this thing so far and did an incredible job. It would be a bad decision on my part not to get his input. And it's like anything else: What would you do differently? What would you do if you had a chance to do it over again? Jeff was great. Jeff loves Cal. He loves the people here. Jeff obviously loves the players. It was a great conversation.

From what you gathered from him and from what you've heard from folks around the program and from your own assessment since you've been hired, what do you feel like went wrong, as far as the program falling off from its early surge under Tedford?

Dykes: I think it was a variety of things. First of all, it's hard to sustain success in college football. Just look around the country. In good, competitive leagues like the Pac-12, it's hard to sustain something for 10 to 12 years. It's difficult to do. You're going to have your highs and lows. I think it all begins there. Then the other stuff, there are things that are unique to this situation. The thing we have to do is look forward and learn from the mistakes that might have been made in the program. Like I said, Jeff took this thing a long way and really built this thing. I think he did a good job. The thing we've got to do is address the academic side of it quickly and get that part fixed. I think there is a correlation with that. Jeff's best teams were probably the teams full of the best students as well. Looking from the outside-in, I think that's a good lesson for me.

Tell me about Andy Buh. Why was he the choice for defensive coordinator?

Dykes: I'm a believer in fit. I've known Andy for a long time. I have a lot of respect for him. He's been successful everywhere he's been. He's been a part of really good defenses. I coached against him at Nevada and had tremendous respect for him there. I think he understands the Cal culture having been here and also coaching at Stanford. I think he's exactly what I want. He's passionate. He does a tremendous job teaching fundamentals. I think he understands how to adjust. When I brought him in to talk, the thing that was most impressive to me was his ability to adjust to different styles of offense in the Big Ten. I think that is important in this league because this is an unusual league. You are going to play against pro style one week against USC and the next week you are going to play Oregon, which is going to be fast-paced, then you're going to play against Washington State, which is going to be throwing every down. There's just unique offensive personalities in this league. I think Andy's ability to adjust is important. But it all starts with fundamentals. There's also his ties to California in recruiting. He's been recruiting here for a long time and has deep recruiting ties. This was a very important hire for me, and I have complete faith in Andy and the coaching staff we are going to put together.

He's a 4-3 guy. Are you guys going to switch from the 3-4 to a 4-3?

Dykes: We'll transition to a little bit more of an even [4-3] front. But we'll have some odd elements, especially on third down.

In recruiting, what's been the pitch and what's been the reception so far?

Dykes: I've been incredibly impressed and surprised to a degree about the name that Cal carries on the West Coas,t but also from a national perspective. We're able to get in on guys. We have name recognition, and to an academic kid, we're incredibly appealing. That gets in the door. We get them on campus, they see the Bay Area, they see the facilities, they meet the coaches. I think to a degree, Cal sells itself. I have been places that haven't necessarily done that in the past. I've had to do a lot of selling.

You're going to have a quarterback competition this spring. That's obviously a big deal anywhere, but QB play has been a problem of late for Cal. What are the key things those guys need to do to impress you and win the job?

Dykes: The biggest thing is be productive. When they get their opportunities, move the offense, scoring points, protect the football and be a leader. Those are the things we'll judge those guys on. Who can command the attention of the team? Who does the team have confidence in? Who's the most productive? We're not big on 'This guy has the most potential. This guy has the biggest arm.' That stuff doesn't matter to us. We're most interested in who can complete the passes to our guys and who can get first downs. Who do the guys believe in? And who takes care of the ball? That's what it comes down to these days, how you win and lose football games. Turnovers. You take care of the ball you win. You don't, you lose.

Sonny Dykes hires two assistants at Cal

December, 11, 2012
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Two Louisiana Tech assistant coaches will follow new California coach Sonny Dykes to Berkeley: Offensive coordinator Tony Franklin and receivers coach/assistant head coach Rob Likens.

Franklin, who's been an offensive coordinator for Kentucky, Troy, Auburn and Middle Tennessee, was with Dykes at Louisiana Tech the past three years. This past season, the Bulldogs led the nation with 51.5 points per game. He was a 2012 nominee for the Broyles Award given annually to the nation’s top assistant coach and one of four finalists for the FootballScoop.com Offensive Coordinator of the Year.

“Tony Franklin is an innovative and creative mind who is one of the top offensive coaches in the nation,” Dykes said in a statement. “He’s had a tremendous amount of success producing some of the most prolific offenses in college football. I’m excited that he is joining our staff at Cal and look forward to much more success in the years ahead.”

Said Franklin in the same statement, "I’ve been recruiting California for a long time and this is where my wife and I wanted to live. It’s funny how dreams sometimes do come true. ... This is our last stop, this is where we want to finish. I have no desire to be a head coach. I wanted to be here to make this thing work for Sonny and give the Cal alumni something they can be proud of. As much pride as they have in their academics, we want it to be the same for their football program. That’s our goal.”

Likens served as an assistant head coach and wide receivers coach for Dykes at Louisiana Tech the past three seasons. He coached 2012 second-team AP All-American and Biletnikoff Award semifinalist Quinton Patton, who was a major contributor to the team’s prolific scoring offense.
In 2012, Louisiana Tech ranked among the NCAA's top 20 in total offense (2nd, 577.92 yards per game), passing offense (4th, 350.75 ypg), fewest sacks allowed (8th, 0.83 spg) and rushing offense (18th, 227.17 ypg). The Bulldogs scored more than 40 points in 11 of 12 games and over 50 points on eight occasions. Louisiana Tech’s 13 turnovers were tied for the 10th-lowest total in the country, while the team’s turnover margin of plus-1.08 per game was also tied for 10th nationally.

Quarterback Colby Cameron was named the WAC Offensive Player of the Year and earned the Sammy Baugh Award, presented to college football’s top passer by The Touchdown Club of Columbus. Cameron completed 359 of 522 passes for 4,147 yards and 31 touchdowns with just five interceptions. He ranked fourth nationally in total offense (360.33 ypg) and 24th in passing efficiency (153.19) at the end of the regular season.

Likens directed one of the most potent wide receiver corps in the country in 2012 led by Patton, who paced the WAC in both per-game receiving yards (116.00 ypg) and receptions (8.67 rpg), while ranking fourth in the nation in both categories while compiling totals of 104 catches and 1,392 receiving yards. Patton was also tied for fifth in the nation among wide receivers with 13 touchdowns receptions. Overall, Tech’s receivers recorded 4,209 receiving yards and had more receiving yards than 28 FBS teams had yards of total offense.

Prior to his three-year stint at Louisiana Tech, Likens served for four seasons as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Central Connecticut State (2006-09) and led the Blue Devils to more wins than in any other four-year period in school history.

In addition to his coaching career, Franklin is the owner of The Tony Franklin Systems that conducts a series of football seminars for coaches emphasizing winning solutions. Franklin also has written two books, including "Victor's Victory," which chronicled the tragic death and spectacular life of 15-year-old Hoover High football player Victor Dionte Hill.

Hill died from sudden cardiac arrest on the football practice field during one of Franklin's consulting sessions. The book has helped to continue the mission of Cheryl Hill, Victor's mother, to make teachers, coaches, and parents aware of the need for automatic external defibrillators (AED's) in every school and youth organization in Alabama.

Dykes replaces Tedford at California

December, 5, 2012
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California has hired Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes, an offensive specialist, to replace Jeff Tedford as the Bears head football coach.

Why is the 43-year-old with a 22-15 record coaching in Ruston, La., a good hire in Berkeley?

For one, offense.

Louisiana Tech's offense ranked No. 1 in the nation in scoring this season with 51.5 points per game. And it wasn't just about passing. Most intriguing is the solid balance, as the Bulldogs rushed for 227.2 yards per game, which ranked 18th in the nation. They also ranked 18th in the nation in passing efficiency while yielding just eight sacks.

[+] EnlargeSonny Dykes
AP Photo/Seth PerlmanSonny Dykes went 22-15 in three seasons as coach of Louisiana Tech.
Dykes, who replaced recently fired Tennessee coach Derek Dooley at Louisiana Tech, is the former offensive coordinator at Texas Tech -- co-coordinator with now-West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen -- and Arizona, where he was largely responsible for the development of former Wildcats QB Nick Foles, now with the Philadelphia Eages. He learned offense from Hal Mumme and Mike Leach and is the son of former Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes, so he's grown up around the business.

In 2006, the year before he arrived at Arizona, the Wildcats ranked 115th in the nation in total offense and 105th in scoring offense. In 2008, the Wildcats ranked 16th in scoring and 33rd in total offense.

Dykes was the 2011 WAC coach of the year and led the Bulldogs to a 9-3 finish this season, which included road wins over Illinois and Virginia. The Bulldogs also almost knocked off Texas A&M before losing 59-57.

Dykes is known as a good recruiter with a good eye for talent. He also is socially smooth, so he should be able to negotiate those demands at Berkeley, which isn't the typical environment for a coach who expects football to be first at all moments.

Any questions? Well, defense. The Bulldogs were horrible at it this year. They were much better a year ago. The first big question will be who Dykes hires as his defensive coordinator.

Still, Cal appears to have grabbed a rising star, a molder of quarterbacks, one who knows the West Coast but also has knowledge of other areas, including Texas and the Southeast.

He steps into a good situation. Cal has a newly remodeled stadium and upgraded facilities that are the match of any Pac-12 team. It has a good Bay Area recruiting base, and a brand name that allows for a national reach.

Dykes needs to know, however, that Bears fans, despite being pretty darn bright, have become demanding. Fans started to grumble about Tedford not when he posted his first losing season in 2010 but in 2008 and 2009 when he won 17 games. Seven or eight wins a season won't create much enthusiasm. (And Dykes won't have the services of standout receiver Keenan Allen, who announced Wednesday that he will enter the NFL draft).

Of course, if Dykes leads the Bears to their first Rose Bowl since 1959, they will immediately build a statue of him outside of Memorial Stadium.

SEC to play nine? Heck, no!

February, 6, 2012
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Life just got easier for the SEC. As if the SEC needed things to be easier.

When the ACC expands to 14 teams, it will play a nine-game conference schedule. Just like the Pac-12. Just like the Big 12.

The Big Ten approved a nine-game conference schedule, beginning in 2017, but then the Pac-12 partnership was announced. That automatic addition of a challenging game has convinced the Big Ten folks to stick with an eight-game conference schedule.

And the SEC? It will continue to play eight conference games. Even with 14 teams. And that will help it continue to dominate the BCS standings.

Why is this important? A nine-game schedule means a conference forces itself to appear weaker in the BCS standings. A 12-team league automatically adds six defeats to its ledger. No matter what. The ACC, with 14 teams, will add seven. Again, no matter what.

An eight-game conference schedule allows a team to become Mississippi State. (We apologize to Bulldogs fans for constantly bringing this up, but we wouldn't bring it up if it weren't 100 percent true).

Mississippi State played in a bowl game last year despite going 2-6 in SEC play. No Pac-12 team played in a bowl game with fewer than four conference wins.

The Bulldogs best win last year? Probably an overtime win at home over Louisiana Tech, a game that Tech controlled but lost because of three turnovers.

When Mississippi State -- or many SEC teams -- makes its schedule, its singular goal is to guarantee four wins just about every year. That's what happens when you play teams like Memphis, UAB and Tennessee-Martin on an annual basis.

This wasn't always the case for Mississippi State. Just a few years back, it played home-and-home series with Georgia Tech and West Virginia. Solid teams. But after getting poleaxed in all four games by a combined count of 160-65, it decided it was better to get picked on by the Pac-12 blog than try to man-up against quality nonconference competition.

Oh, as a footnote, Mississippi State is already 4-0 in 2012: Jackson State, Troy, South Alabama and Middle Tennessee State. No, I did not make that nonconference schedule up.

Meanwhile, in addition to Pac-12 teams playing a nine-game conference schedule, every conference team in 2012 -- other than Oregon and Colorado -- plays at least one A-list nonconference foes. Many on the road. (Yes, Ducks fans, I know Kansas State canceled a home-and-home series).

What this means is Pac-12 teams expose themselves more often to a risk of losing. That means more 4-8 and 5-7 teams and therefore fewer bowl teams. That means more opportunities for a team to fall out of the national title hunt with a single loss. Or a second BCS bowl berth with a second. That means when the computers measure the conference for the BCS standings, they see not only more defeats but those defeats cause the conference to get docked for strength of schedule.

Yes, the SEC as a whole benefits from Mississippi State -- and other low-rung SEC programs -- avoiding challenging nonconference games.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, fresh off a contract extension, understands this. So do most of the Pac-12 coaches. They need to figure out a way to get the Pac-12 presidents and athletic directors on board.

Unless, of course, the SEC comes around -- which some believe is inevitable -- and all the AQ conferences all agree to play the same scheduling format.

The nine-game conference schedule made some sense for a 10-team league because it crowned a true champion as every team played every one else. And, yes, more AQ conferences will play a nine-game slate in 2012 than did in 2010.

But the conference that has won six consecutive national championships won't. That might not be a coincidence.

Oregon shouldn't take Tennessee lightly

September, 8, 2010
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Oregon is nearly a two-touchdown favorite for its visit to Tennessee on Saturday. That seems a bit odd, doesn't it, if you watched much of the Volunteers when they won 152 games and a national title from 1993-2008 under former coach Phillip Fulmer?

But Tennessee has experienced as much upheaval as any program in the country over the past two years. First, Fulmer was pushed out the door and replaced with Lane Kiffin. Some of you may have read this: Kiffin then bolted after a single season for USC, inspiring near-riots in Knoxville. Next, after being rebuffed by a number of higher-profile candidates, Tennessee hired Derek Dooley away from Louisiana Tech. He's the son of SEC coaching legend Vince Dooley, who won a national title at Georgia, and he's in charge of returning the Vols to past glory.

But that ain't happening this year. The roster Dooley inherited doesn't much look like the NFL factory once quarterbacked by the likes of Peyton Manning.

"Everything is new," said Oregon coach Chip Kelly, speaking specifically about the Tennessee coaching staff, which has brought in new offensive, defensive and special teams schemes, the nuances of which certainly weren't revealed in a 50-0 beatdown of Tennessee-Martin.

Still, making a cross-country trip to play in the Southeastern humidity in front of more than 100,000 fans isn't an easy task even when the Vols are down. Just ask California. In 2006, a talented Bears team wilted in Tennessee in a 35-18 route that wasn't nearly as close as the final score suggested. More than a few Bears later admitted they got wide-eyed taking in the Neyland Stadium frenzy.

Neyland is no joke. It's going to be loud and rowdy and orange. Lots of orange. And Oregon's sophomore quarterback Darron Thomas will be making it the venue for his first road start.

No matter how cavalier Oregon fans want to be on that -- well, UCLA's Kevin Prince did just fine last year! -- it's an issue until Thomas makes his mark.

"It's still an unknown -- he hasn't played in this environment," Kelly said. "There aren't many stadiums in college football that have 100,000 [fans]. We've got a lot of young guys it's going to be new for."

One of the most interesting statistics coming out of the Ducks blitzkrieg versus New Mexico was zero rushing yards from Thomas. Oregon quarterbacks ALWAYS have rushing yards. By design? No, said Kelly. But it was hard not to wonder if Kelly -- a certifiably tricky guy -- has something up his sleeve.

If Oregon handles the atmosphere in a businesslike way, the Ducks roll. They're just too fast, too experienced and too talented on both sides of the ball for the Volunteers. But the Vols also have enough talent that if the Ducks make mistakes or get distracted by 105,000 screaming Volunteers fans, then things could get interesting.

Oregon didn't punt vs. New Mexico. Kelly said Tuesday that's he's sure that won't be the case in Knoxville. This one, whatever the word coming out of Vegas is, won't be easy.

"We're going to be tested," he said.

Opening camp: Arizona

August, 5, 2010
8/05/10
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Arizona opens preseason camp today. Here's a quick look.

Who's back: Eight starters on offense, four on defense and both specialists.

Big names: QB Nick Foles, WR Juron Criner, C Colin Baxter, CB Trevin Wade, DE Ricky Elmore, DE Brooks Reed

What's new: The Wildcats lost both coordinators during the offseason. Offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes is now the head coach of Louisiana Tech. Defensive coordinator Mark Stoops is the coordinator at Florida State. They were both replaced by co-coordinators: Bill Bedenbaugh (offensive line) and Seth Littrell (running backs and tight ends) on offense and Tim Kish (linebackers) and Greg Brown (secondary) on defense. Littrell will call the offensive plays. Brown is the only one of the four who is new to the staff -- he was at Colorado in 2009. Also, Frank Scelfo is the new QBs coach. Beyond the football staff, Arizona has a new athletic director: Greg Byrne, who was hired away from Mississippi State.

Key competition: There isn't too much intrigue heading into fall camp, though the pecking order at defensive tackle is worth watching. As for the official depth chart, Vaughn Dotsy and Jovon Hayes are competing at right guard as are Phillip Garcia and Jack Julsing at right tackle. Is Nic Grigsby going to stay healthy and remain No. 1 ahead of Keola Antolin at tailback? The weakside LB spot is unsettled between Paul Vassallo and R.J. Young.

Breaking out: The 6-foot-4 Criner has a chance to be an All-Conference performer. 258-pound H-back Taimi Tutogi had a good spring and figures to help the offense in myriad ways as a runner, blocker and receiver. Who will get more sacks: Elmore or Reed? The over-under for the pair is 18.

Quote: Coach Mike Stoops on exceeding preseason expectations but then flopping in the Holiday Bowl against Nebraska: "Last year that was a little bit of a question mark for this team and a lot of people questioned our ability in picking us preseason eighth, but we finished tied for second and went to the Holiday Bowl. This is a team that I thought really achieved some good things last season and I think the loss in the Holiday Bowl really humbled us and fueled us in the offseason. We realized how quickly things can disintegrate if we don’t do things right. I think we are eager to get back out on the field and correct some of those things."

Notes: Arizona will hold most of its training camp practices at the Rincon Vista Complex, located near the school's soccer and track facilities on 15th Street and Plumer Ave. The newly renovated Jimenez Practice facility on campus will host its first practice later this month. The Wildcats will be at Ft. Huachuca from Aug. 11-15... Cornerback Shaquille Richardson, one of the three UCLA signees who was kicked off the team last month after being arrested for stealing a purse, is now with the Wildcats... Receiver Delashaun Dean, who had caught 132 passes over the past three seasons, was given the boot after being arrested on a gun charge. He has transferred to Texas A&M-Kingsville.

Don't be surprised if ... Oregon State

August, 3, 2010
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Seventh in a series of Pac-10 thoughts that might come from unusual angles (You can see Oregon State's 2009 prediction here).

Don't be surprised if ... Beavers offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf becomes a hot head-coaching candidate when new starting quarterback Ryan Katz posts surprisingly strong numbers this fall.

If the above line is giving you a sense of deja vu, it should. We wrote the same thing about Sonny Dykes last year, and Arizona's offensive coordinator was hired this past offseason as Louisiana Tech's head coach.

Langsdorf, who doubles as the Beavers' quarterbacks coach, will be a head coach within the next two years -- at least he should be -- and if Katz puts up impressive numbers as a first-year starter, a sharp AD somewhere will snatch him away from what many feel is the Pac-10's best collection of assistant coaches before the 2011 season.

Why? In his six seasons as offensive coordinator, the Beavers have posted five of their top-nine all-time seasons of total offense.

Remember the early careers of quarterbacks Matt Moore, Sean Canfield and Lyle Moevao? One word: Yucky. Remember their late careers? Two words: Dramatic transformation. Canfield earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors in 2009 and joined Moore in the NFL.

The fly sweep with James Rodgers and the "Wild Beaver" formation with Jacquizz Rodgers lining up at quarterback? Those innovations were executed by Langsdorf, who took over play-calling duties from head coach Mike Riley midway through the 2008 season.

Langsdorf is young enough -- 38 -- to be young and old enough to be experienced (14 years coaching, with three years in the NFL and CFL). Character? In 2007, he donated a kidney to Laurie Cavanaugh, the wife of Beavers offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh.

And, really, isn't it time that Riley developed a coaching tree? Is there any college coach who is a better role model for the best way to be?

Langsdorf learned to evaluate talent from Riley, who's built a top-25 program and NFL pipeline without ever ranking in the top 25 in recruiting. He's learned how to gather and cultivate a loyal, accomplished staff from Riley. He's learned how to win under less-than-ideal circumstances from Riley. He's learned how to conduct himself with class from Riley.

He also probably learned a bit from his father, Ed Langsdorf, who coached at Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore., Danny Langsdorf's alma mater, for 20 years before becoming a scout for the San Diego Chargers.

No assistant coach is a sure thing when he makes the leap to head coach. But Langsdorf feels pretty close to it, particularly in the right circumstances.

If Oregon State surges this year on offense, and Katz stands out as another Langsdorf pupil, it's hard to imagine Langsdorf won't raise more than a few eyebrows among ADs looking for a go-getter to jump-start their program.

Jeremiah Masoli to Louisiana Tech?

June, 30, 2010
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Is Jeremiah Masoli possibly headed to Louisiana Tech? That's what one TV station in Monroe, La., is reporting.

The Bulldogs' new coach, Sonny Dykes, would be plenty familiar with Masoli. Dykes was Arizona's offensive coordinator last year when Masoli led the Ducks to a 44-41 double-overtime win in Tucson. In that game, Masoli accounted for six scores -- three running, three passing.

Masoli was kicked off the Ducks on June 9 after he was cited by police on charges of possessing less than one ounce of marijuana, driving with a suspended license and failure to stop at a driveway or a sidewalk while he was already serving a season-long suspension for his involvement in a fraternity house burglary in January.

Note: The report only said Masoli visited the Ruston, La., campus. And it also said Masoli is looking at Mississippi State.

Masoli could redshirt in 2010 and be able to play one season in 2011.

Opening the mailbag: How does the Pac-10 survive (thrive)?

April, 23, 2010
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To the notes.

Robert from Seattle writes: Who does the Pac-10 ultimately answer to? The fans or to the presidents? A follow-up not-so-quick question. If the Pac-10 wants to survive as a conference, what do they do?

Ted Miller: Who does the Pac-10 answer to? Easy: $.

Commissioner Larry Scott's charge going forward is to maximize sports revenue, which means football and men's basketball (but mostly football). Of course, he doesn't want to completely compromise the culture and values of the conference -- academic or otherwise -- but my guess is his first interest is revenue.

He has two basic issues ahead of him that he'd like to have a handle on before he goes off to negotiate new media/TV deals after the first of the year (the Pac-10's contracts with Fox and ESPN-ABC expire after the 2011-2012 academic year).

The first is expansion: Would adding teams increase revenue per team? The 10 existing members want their pie slices to grow, not get smaller, with expansion. So he's looking for teams that: 1. are interested in joining the Pac-10; 2. would increase revenue. Much of that, of course, is tied to the idea of creating more value -- real and perceived -- when negotiating new TV contracts.

The second issue -- if he cannot bring the presidents an expansion plan that works -- is defending the Pac-10's interest if expansion becomes the rage back east.

If, suddenly, a 16-team Big Ten and 16-team SEC are nose-to-nose for domination, Scott has to figure out what that means for the Pac-10. At the BCS meetings, Scott said he doesn't necessarily believe that would force the Pac-10 to follow the leaders. Maybe. But maybe not.

It's possible that the new, powerful super-conferences would make demands, such as second automatic berth in BCS bowl games (and perhaps an option for a third) as well as other special accommodations. That could create a significant revenue imbalance.

Moreover, Scott has to be aware of what might happen if there is a long-term and significant revenue imbalance between the Pac-10 and the super conferences.

For example, what happens if the SEC-16 starts to pay assistant coaches an average salary of $750,000, while Pac-10 assistants average just $250,000? Or think about this: What if Florida offered Mike Stoops $2.5 million to leave Arizona to become the Gators defensive coordinator? Or what if the existing imbalances in facilities become so pronounced that a significant percentage of recruits from southern California start heading east?

The Pac-10 could suddenly learn what it feels like to be a non-AQ conference. Heck, it could become a non-AQ conference.

Still, as I wrote on Thursday, we are wallowing in speculation and hypotheticals.

Ultimately, Scott's job is simple: He's going to try to improve the Pac-10's position in the marketplace, but, failing that, he needs to at least maintain it.

Matt from Athens, Ga., writes: When is the last time a USC player was not drafted in the 1st round? Does that point to any talent drop-off at USC or is it more particular players not fitting teams' needs in a given year?

Ted Miller: Last time? All the way back to ... 2007.

This is a good note from the Orange County Register though: "In the 75-year history of the National Football League draft, USC (63), Miami (56) and Ohio State (53) have produced the most first-round selections. On Thursday night in the 2010 first round, they combined for zero."

As for USC's talent, I don't think this is a moment to say the sky is falling. USC figures to have perhaps six players go in the next two rounds: Everson Griffen, Taylor Mays, Charles Brown, Damian Williams, Joe McKnight and Anthony McCoy. That ain't too shabby.

Michael from Tucson, Ariz., writes: Your Pac-10 predictions discount an Arizona team the returns almost the entire talent-ridden offense that, despite new coordinators, will run the same offense. As for the defense, it's still a Stoops team that always ranks high defensively, star talent or not. What's keeping the Cat's out of Pac-10 favorites?

Ted Miller: First, those aren't "predictions" -- they are "power rankings." They are based at the present moment. Things can change (and probably will).

A few points.

First, Arizona not only lost two coordinators, it lost two very good coordinators in new Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Dykes and new Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops. That can't be written off. The new foursome of co-coordinators are all smart, respected coaches, but it's prudent to take a wait-and-see attitude to how this unusual arrangement will work out going forward.

Second, Mike Stoops knows defense, without a doubt. But just like everyone else he needs players. As for "always" ranking highly: The 2007 unit ranked seventh in the Pac-10 in scoring defense and fifth in total defense.

Third, the 2010 defense must replace seven starters, including both defensive tackles, all three linebackers and half its secondary. That seven includes three second-team All-Pac-10 players from each level (tackle Earl Mitchell, linebacker Xavier Kelly and free safety Cam Nelson). Moreover, they are counting on a pair of JC transfers to start at linebacker. I'm skeptical of JC transfers until proven otherwise.

Now, despite all this, the Wildcats still look like a bowl team -- in large part because, as you note, the offense should be able to score on anybody. Therefore, they are a member of what I see as the Pac-10's extremely competitive and deep middle. I rank USC, Oregon and Oregon State as a clear top three. But from Nos. 4 to No. 8, you could arrange and re-arrange teams and not get much of an argument from me.

Luke from Philadelphia writes: I am a fan/follower of PSU and the Big Ten. But I am really excited about what looks like a lot of changes out there in Pac-10 country. Naturally I hate USC, so seeing them humbled last year was awesome. It's great to see the rest of your conference rise up and bring more drama to the season and the Rose Bowl. What's the feeling out there in the west? Did Pac-10 fans traditionally feel proud of USC for being the football flagship and thus feel sad about their becoming mortal in 2009? Or are they as happy as I am to see some drama in the conference, even if it means the Pac-10 could actually lose a Rose Bowl or two?

Ted Miller: Not getting a sense of any sadness from the other nine teams of USC slipping back -- potentially slipping back, I should type -- particularly when I was in Westwood last week.

A wide-open Pac-10 is more fun. For a while there, it felt like everyone was playing for second place behind the Trojans, though it's important to note that three times during the Pete Carroll Era, USC only shared the title with another conference team (2002, 2006, 2007).

As for pride in USC, it was more a case of a desire for more sympathy and less "Pac-1" ridiculousness. The Trojans would have dominated any other conference just as they did the Pac-10 from 2002-2008.

Would they have won seven consecutive SEC titles? Probably not. But I also think that if USC had played in the SEC, it would have won more national titles during that span.

Gerald from Norcross, Ga., writes: How's the Eric Berry versus Taylor Mays comparison looking?

Ted Miller: Fair to say that Berry is the decisive winner after going No. 5 overall. Heck, Pete Carroll even rated Mays below Texas' Earl Thomas by taking Thomas over Mays with the No. 14 pick.

And how about this: Who would have thought that Mays wouldn't even be the first Pac-10 safety selected (Cleveland just picked Oregon's T.J. Ward with the sixth pick of the second round)?

Tough day for Mays no doubt. But he'll eventually get drafted and have plenty of opportunities to prove his doubters wrong.

Craig from Corvallis, Ore., writes: Do you think that a super conference for the Pac-10 would be considered if it partially revived the old Southwest Conference? The conference could have two divisions, the pacific and southwest. The Pacific would be composed of the original Pac-8 members. The Southwest would include the Arizona schools and six Texas schools. Unfortunately, some of the old Southwest members would have to be left out (I know Arkansas would not mind, they are probably very happy in the SEC). I think the best fit would include: Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, SMU, TCU and Texas Tech (or Rice). It would be a bold move by Larry Scott but very interesting for the world of college football. I think it would be interesting to see SMU brought back to the forefront of college football after their long dark-age.

Ted Miller: The Country-Western Conference!

It would be even better if you dropped Baylor and added Oklahoma, though that breaks from your old Southwest Conference theme.

This is an interesting idea, and not a bad one. I think the chances of something like this happen are decidedly remote, but I've read ideas that were far worse.

Q&A: Arizona co-offensive coordinator Seth Littrell, Part II

April, 15, 2010
4/15/10
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Part II of a chat with Arizona's co-offensive coordinator Seth Littrell, who will call the offensive plays this season.

Read Part I here.

We know the established guys: Give me some names of youngsters or former reserves who impressed you.

Seth Littrell: A guy who not a lot people have heard about who had a pretty solid spring was two guys at receiver. Gino Crump, who transferred here last year from West Virginia, has really done some good things and is developing his skills. His deal when he got here was he was inconsistent catching the football, but he did a better job hanging onto the football this spring. He didn't drop as many balls. Also a guy in the same category is Travis Cobb, who is always impressive because he's extremely fast. He can really stretch the field. The biggest thing with him was getting comfortable in the offense. He did a lot better this spring than he did last fall when I don't know how comfortable he was. He was pretty impressive in practices just going to get the football. Nick would drop back and throw a fade route and it would look like it was going to be overthrown by 10 yards and Cobb just runs and gets it. Pure speed, he's probably the fastest guy on our team. Then there's Taimi Tutogi. He played a few games last year and didn't redshirt and played as Chris Gronkowski's backup. But this spring he's really come along. We've done a lot of things with him, from the fullback position to putting him on the line as a tight end, or lining him up at tailback, which we've done in a few practices. He's a guy who, if he develops and gets that confidence as a running back, or fullback, H-back, the more we can expand his role even to tailback also. There's a lot of guys who stepped up and had good springs. Some young O-linemen. It's hard to say one guy. There's a lot of young guys who did some good things this spring.

What will be different about the offense next fall compared to what we saw in 2009?

SL: Hopefully, we'll be better. Without giving away too much, we're going to do some different things, things we were even talking about before Coach Dykes got the head job at Louisiana Tech. We're always looking to expand and looking to get better. I feel like this spring we've done some evaluations of what we feel like we need to do to be a top offense in the country. Even with Coach Scelfo coming in, bringing a new set of eyes and being able to evaluate some of the things we were doing. Sometimes it's good to have something from the outside looking in to give you a different perspective. We've been looking at some of the stuff he did at La-Tech. They were very successful there.

Tell me about how Coach Stoops decided that you would call plays?

SL: The biggest thing with this offense is we are all part of this offense. Obviously, one guy has to be designated to call the plays. In the course of the game, we're all having input. Even though I may be calling the offense, we've called it all week, we have a script, we pretty much know what we're going to do situationally throughout a game. When you're calling it, obviously you've got to get some type of game-time rhythm, know the situations and how to set stuff up. But also at the same time, Frank is going to be in the box with me. Coach Bedenbaugh will be on the field with [receivers coaches Garret Chachere and Dave Nichol]. Really, honestly, it's a matter that coach Bedenbaugh has to be on the field with the O-linemen. That's a huge role for him, being around the linemen the whole game, making adjustments. It would be pretty difficult for him to call plays from down there. Not to say he couldn't because he could but it's really just a matter of me being in the box.

Football coaches, by nature, are fiery guys, as you know from working with the Stoops brothers. Sometimes the collaborative process can get pretty animated: Think everybody will be able to get along?

SL: I don't think there's any doubt. We're all pretty passionate. I've been around coach Stoops for a long time. I played offense [at Oklahoma], but I played under Bob Stoops at OU and Mike Stoops was the D-coordinator. And I've been under [Mark] Mangino and Mike Leach and a lot of different guys. Everybody has their own fire and passion. Obviously, I've only coached with them [at Arizona] for one season but we've been around each other. One thing about Mike is he's passionate about the game but nothing is ever personal. It's about business and winning football games. He knows I'm the same way. We've always gotten along and always had a great relationship. It's going to be no different.

Q&A: Arizona co-offensive coordinator Seth Littrell, Part I

April, 14, 2010
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In 2000, Seth Littrell was a fullback and captain of Oklahoma's national championship team.

In 2004, he was a graduate assistant at Kansas.

In 2010, he became the Arizona Wildcats' co-offensive coordinator. And, at 31, will be the youngest play-caller in the Pac-10 and one of the youngest in the nation.

It's been a quick climb through the coaching ranks for Littrell. And there's pressure, sure. Wildcats coach Mike Stoops tapped him to fill the job capably manned last fall by Sonny Dykes, who's now Louisiana Tech's head coach, over two more veteran assistants, line coach and co-coordinator Bill Bedenbaugh and quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo.

While Littrell goes to great lengths to play down the distinction of calling plays, it's clear that Stoops believes he's got a talented young coach who's up to the job.

The good news is Littrell has a lot to work with. Seven starters return from an offense that averaged nearly 32 points per game in Pac-10 play, including quarterback Nick Foles.

With the Wildcats concluding spring practices last weekend, it seemed like a good time to check in with Littrell.

So give me the rundown of the offense this spring: What are you happy with? What didn't go as well as you wanted it to?

Seth Littrell: Overall, we were pleased. The biggest thing was the effort. We did some different things offensively that we haven't done in the past, trying some new things out to maybe fit us a little bit better personnel-wise with some guys. I think our players really enjoyed it. So overall they were pretty focused and intense. There was good competition. We had a lot of guys with a lot of returning experience so the hardest thing with that a lot of times is they get bored. We tried to find different ways to keep it exciting and keep it enthusiastic. They were willing to come out and work to become the No. 1 offense in the Pac-10, which is always what our goal is. Probably the most disappointing thing was we came out flat in the spring game. I thought we had good work for the most part leading up to that. We were pretty basic and vanilla in the game, but I was a little disappointed in how flat we were. We didn't make plays we'd made all spring. We dropped too many balls, which hadn't been a problem. Way too many turnovers. Things we didn't have issues with during the spring just kind of popped up in a game-type atmosphere. But that's really the only disappointment I had.

Nick Foles, I wouldn't say faded a bit late in the season, but he didn't have a good Holiday Bowl: Where did he get better this spring?

SL: Overall grasp of the offense. In Nick's defense, he played pretty well early in the season but each and every game we put more on him. I don't know if he faded out but looking back on it maybe we had a little too much offense. Maybe he wasn't ready for all that. That's not an excuse for him. He'd only played a few games -- he redshirted and played a few games at Michigan State [from where he transferred] -- so he's still pretty young. We probably could have kept it a little safer for him, not put so much on him. I think the thing he's really improved in is understanding the offense. Understanding that not every play has to be a touchdown. It's about moving the chains and being productive and getting the ball into other guys' hands. He doesn't have to be the superstar. There's 11 guys on the field and everybody has a role to play. He's just one part of that 11.

Where does backup quarterback Matt Scott stand?

SL: I thought Matt Scott had an unbelievable spring. He's probably been one of the guys I've been most impressed with -- he's probably had the biggest jump of anybody. Coach Scelfo does an unbelievable job with those quarterbacks. [No. 3 QB] Bryson Beirne even had a good spring. Things [Scott] needed to work on, he worked on them and bought into it and worked each and every day. He's way more accurate than he was because of the things he's worked on with Coach Scelfo. Another thing is he really took it upon himself to study the offense. He wants to get involved and learn and it showed on the field.

You oversee the running backs: Are there concerns that Nic Grigsby might not be able to stay healthy?

SL: It may appear that way, huh? It wasn't only him, though. I was down to my fifth running back last year. We played five different guys. We had to get [fullback Taimi Tutogi] ready to take some snaps at tailback. It's always a concern for running backs. I've been around offenses that have been two or three years without one injury and they've been some of the smallest guys on the field. It's always a concern, as a running backs coach, keeping your guys healthy. But as long as we're doing what we need to do in the offseason with [strength and conditioning coach Corey Edmond] and the weight room. As long as we are taking care of our bodies, I don't think that should be too big of an issue. I don't know how well we did that last year. Hopefully we learned a big lesson and are trying to protect ourselves better by taking care of our bodies and doing what is necessary in the offseason to prevent some of that.

Seems like you guys are fairly strong on the offensive line: How did they do this spring?

SL: They are a very solid group. Coach Bedenbaugh does an unbelievable job with O-linemen. Just how physical and tough those guys are. They are obviously the leaders on our offense. Everybody kind of looks to those guys and they set the tone. One thing we still have to develop is depth across the board. But when you talk about our first five -- and really up to seven or eight, we've got pretty solid guys -- we're pretty comfortable. As always, and it's the same across the country, everybody is looking for depth across the offensive line.

In Part II on Thursday, Littrell talks about youngsters who stood out this spring, changes in the offensive scheme and why he was tapped the play-caller.

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