Pac-12: Pep Hamilton

Stanford coach David Shaw's decision to promote Lance Anderson to defensive coordinator should come as a surprise to exactly no one.

If there is anything Shaw has shown in his previous hires, it's that he likes to promote from within and strives to have continuity within the program. Choosing Anderson to replace Derek Mason, who left last week to become the head coach at Vanderbilt, fits the mold established with his initial coordinator hires of Pep Hamilton and Mason and last year's promotion of Mike Bloomgren.

The only coordinator hire that came from outside the program in Shaw's tenure was when he named current Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver the co-coordinator with Mason in 2011. Tarver was at Stanford for just that season, in which Mason still served as the play caller.

Shaw and Anderson are the only coaches who remain from Jim Harbaugh's initial staff at Stanford in 2007. Both made the jump with Harbaugh from the University of San Diego.

In all likelihood, this move was at least a year in the making. Anderson reportedly turned down the chance to become the defensive coordinator at South Florida a year ago under Willie Taggart, another former Harbaugh staff member, to remain at Stanford. It was clear then that Mason would land a head-coaching gig sooner rather than later, which makes it reasonable to assume Shaw and Anderson discussed the possibility that he'd be the eventual replacement.

That's roughly how it played out when Bloomgren was elevated from offensive line coach/run game coordinator when Hamilton took the offensive coordinator job with the Colts. In fact, Shaw and Bloomgren discussed the potential for that to eventually happen before he hired him in 2011.

With Anderson's promotion official, Stanford still has three spots to fill on its staff.

In addition to Mason, Shaw needs to replace Mike Sanford, who left to become Boise State's offensive coordinator, and inside linebackers coach David Kotulski, who will serve as Mason's defensive coordinator at Vanderbilt.

Tavita Pritchard shifted from running backs coach to quarterbacks coach immediately after Sanford left, which means the Cardinal is currently without coaches for its running backs, inside linebackers, defensive backs and does not have an official recruiting coordinator.

Lunch links: Hope in Colorado

July, 2, 2013
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If all the animals on the equator were capable of flattery, then Thanksgiving and Halloween would fall on the same date.

Q&A: Stanford's Mike Bloomgren

June, 19, 2013
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When Stanford coach David Shaw went looking for an offensive coordinator, he didn't look far, promoting Mike Bloomgren a couple of weeks after Pep Hamilton left for that role with the Indianapolis Colts. No other candidates were interviewed. Bloomgren, who was previously the Cardinal's offensive-line coach and run-game coordinator, took some time this week to chat with the Pac-12 blog about his expectations for this season (realistic or otherwise), the competition at running back and how his time in the NFL translates to the college game.

What would you like to see out of the offense in your first year as coordinator?

Mike Bloomgren: Well, probably average between eight or nine yards per carry, have zero incompletions and win every game we play.

Well played. What would you realistically like to see?

MB: I just want to see us keep getting better as a football team. I love the steps we've taken. I'm so proud of the way our guys work and how they fight and fight and fight. I want to keep seeing that mentality and hopefully they keep seeing that in the way we play. From an efficiency standpoint, protect the football and do all the things we talk about being the core of this offense.

What goes into game planning at Stanford? I know there were times when coach Shaw would call the plays and Pep would call plays and you'd call the plays. How much collaboration really goes into it?

MB: A lot. It was as segmented of a deal as I've ever been a part of when I first got here. And from what I understand, it was worse before I got here. Last year, it was segmented, but it worked out so freaking good. So much better than I thought possible. The reasons are very simple. We're experts in our field. There wasn't much that surprised me run-game-wise from the fronts and the defensive structure. I felt like I had a good beat on teams. I thought Pep and David and (running-backs coach) Mike Sanford had a good understanding for what the defense was going to do. David was all in on third down. He's so great at calling that. Pep in the red zone has been lights-out the last few years. It's great. It's a different system. The way I understand is it stems from coach Shaw working with Jon Gruden and Bill Callahan and how they did things when they came over to Oakland from Philly together. Jon was involved in calling the plays, but when he wanted to run, he asked coach Callahan. Hopefully I was able to be that for Dave the last few years.

There's so much NFL influence on this coaching staff -- you included from your time with the Jets. How much of the NFL game translates to what you guys want to do?

[+] EnlargeMike Bloomgren
Kyle Terada/USA TODAY SportsMike Bloomgren will have a diverse group of running backs at his disposal in his first season as Stanford's offensive coordinator.
MB: It's unbelievable how much translates, in terms of the volume of the system and that it's done in a West Coast terminology. Bill Walsh called plays in this system -- so much of it stems from what he came up with. And it's probably the same system that's used in more than half of the teams in the NFL. That's why our free agents do so well. They are plug-and-play guys. They show up to camp and already know the terminology. The NFL influence is real. It's real on who we are and the mark that's left on this system.

Having already served as the run-game coordinator, how much does that help as you transition into the offensive coordinator job?

MB: Hopefully a lot. I'll be frank with you. I'll still be really involved in the run game and I was an offensive coordinator before at Delta State. Obviously, a smaller level of football, but it's still played on a field that's 100 yards long and the football still had air in it. And then my time in New York with Bill Callahan and Brian Schottenheimer was incredible in helping me understand what goes into make a game plan and calling a game on game day. Plus coach Shaw isn't going anywhere, so we'll continue to have that great communication.

Coach Shaw -- unfairly, as I've written many times -- gets a lot of criticism for being too conservative of a playcaller. What do you bring as a playcaller?

MB: I'm not going to be great at talking about that because I don't think he's conservative at all. He's so well thought-out. People think he's emotionless on the sidelines. But he's not! I think back at some of the calls we had over the last few years. I remember my time with Jimmy Raye in New York, he used to talk about "Diet Coke calls." I asked him one day, "Jimmy, what in the heck are Diet Coke calls?" He said, "You call it, you grab your Diet Coke and take a sip. Sometimes you watch what happens. Sometimes you don't. And you can tell by the crowd whether it's good or bad." We had a bunch of those. The halfback flip against USC to basically end the game. Critical calls on fourth-and-1. The wildcat calls we do. Reverses. I don't see the conservative approach. I don't get it.

What about you?

MB: I hope I bring something that is well thought-out and gives our kids answers. So no matter what we call from the sideline, we'll have programmed the quarterback and the offensive linemen with ways to solve whatever problems they have. We have a solid system. It's more than just being a playcaller on game day. We want our kids to have answers to whatever the defense gives them.

Now that you've been through spring, what's your take on the running backs?

MB: It's an exciting group. We were just watching some of Stepfan (Taylor's) highlights and we were like, "Dang, that guy was good." We won't have a guy that carried the load like Stepfan did the last few years -- especially last season. We've got six guys who could probably start at most schools in America and they are going to share the load. They probably could be every-down backs. But they have specialties. You look at how big Gaff (Tyler Gaffney) is right now, and oh my goodness. The way (Anthony) Wilkerson ran downhill in the Rose Bowl. The zone-running gurus are Ricky Seale and Barry (Sanders) and how they run outside and read things. You see that instinctive cut. The truth is those guys have such a good feel. Remound Wright and Jackson Cummings. If Jackson went to an Ivy League school, he'd probably be the league's all-time leading rusher by now. And he had a great spring. Those guys run the gap schemes, the who-we-are-Stanford-football plays, so well. It's going to be interesting to see where they put themselves after training camp. Who has a defined role? Who is going to snatch a job and say "Hey, I'm the third-down back. I'm going to catch it out of the backfield. I'm going to hit linebackers in their face when they try to pressure our quarterback." Who is going to win that role? Who is going to be the first- and second-down back that gets the most carries that game? And will it change from game to game?

Obviously the passing game has been catered to tight ends the last few years. How much do you need the wide receivers to be more involved?

MB: An absolute ton. Because they can handle it. You watch what Ty Montgomery did this spring and he was absolutely dominant. It's what we hoped to see last year because he was great his freshman year. We need him to not try to be any more than he is. He doesn't have to press. He doesn't have to feel any pressure. Because he is big-time good. He just needs to play his game. If he does that, we could see something that we haven't seen here in a while -- at least as long as I've been here. Then there are other guys with world-class speed. Michael Rector had a great spring. Kelsey Young is dynamic. We don't know what position he plays yet. We just call him a football player.

Finally, coach Shaw didn't interview anyone else for the offensive coordinator job. Humbling and flattering, I'm sure. But is there some pressure that goes with that?

MB: I don't know. I don't feel the pressure, to be honest. But it is remarkably humbling. When things are in the works you get calls from friends wondering if you'll get the interview. For David to say what he said within the press release was absolutely humbling. I love working for him and continuing to learn this game from him. We're all just trying to get better and be as good as we can be.

Cardinal shuffle coaching staff

January, 29, 2013
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As expected, Stanford head coach David Shaw looked internally to find his new offensive coordinator -- promoting offensive line coach and run game coordinator Mike Bloomgren to the spot vacated by Pep Hamilton.

Bloomgren
This is not only the smart move, it's also the right move. Bloomgren already played a huge part in the play calling and devising the overall game plan. As the run game coordinator, much of what Stanford has accomplished the past two seasons on the ground has been by his design. His promotion ensures continuity within Stanford's pro-style attack that isn't particularly flashy, but coupled with a punishing defense has proven to be quite effective over the past two years.

And you can't argue with Bloomgren's results in both the running game and as a position coach -- working specifically with the interior line. In 2011 -- Bloomgren's first year -- the Cardinal ranked 18th nationally in rushing offense, totaling 210.6 yards per game. That number slipped in 2012 as the Cardinal only averaged 174.3 yards per game (48th nationally). However, part of that can be explained by losing Andrew Luck, David DeCastro, Jonathan Martin and Coby Fleener to the NFL. Luck's reputation as an in-game playcaller and what he did for the running game is well known.

This year, under Bloomgren's tutelage, four of the five offensive line starters earned all-league honors. David Yankey was an All-American and the Morris Trophy winner and as a unit they helped Stepfan Taylor to his third-straight 1,000-yard season.

The move makes way for running backs coach Mike Sanford to take on a bigger role in the offense as he assumes the job of quarterbacks and wide receivers coach. Sanford is one of the bright, young offensive minds in the conference, so it will be interesting to see what he does with the passing game next year. The Cardinal lose five of their top six receivers (including backs and tight ends) from the 2012 unit -- so this will no doubt be an area that is heavily scrutinized heading into spring and fall camps.

Sanford's move allows Tavita Pritchard (remember him, USC fans?) to move over from a defensive assistant to running backs coach.

“Tavita Pritchard is one of the brightest young coaches I have ever been around,” said Shaw in a statement released through the school. “He has been phenomenal helping Derek Mason on defense. He was instrumental to the turnaround of our program when he was our starting quarterback and a team leader. I’m excited to have him back on our offense coaching the running backs.”

With continued collaboration in the play calling and game plan between Bloomgren and Shaw -- and we can now assume Sanford will play a larger role as well -- we shouldn't see any real deviation from what the Cardinal want to accomplish on offense in 2013.

Pac-12 chat wrap

January, 24, 2013
1/24/13
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For everyone impersonating Trojan 1981 yesterday in the chat, here's the big reveal ... (drum roll) ... the real Trojan 1981 was actually running yesterday's chat! Mind = blown! You can read all of his brilliant answers here, or just check out the highlights below.
Ben (Scotland): Pretty straight forward question here, who do you believe wins the Pac-12 South and why?

Kevin Gemmell (2:01 PM): Straight forward answer: I don't know. I could make a case for UCLA repeating, USC bouncing back, Arizona or Arizona State winning. All four teams have a lot of things going in their favor and all four have question marks. I will say I'm liking the look of ASU's defensive front. Going to be nasty.

Cam (Los Angeles): Would you agree that UCLA has the best linebacker corp in the P12? Barr, Zumwalt, and Kendricks, plus to be determined.Favorite/Least Favorite GOT character?!

Kevin Gemmell (2:03 PM): Wouldn't say they are the best. Not saying they aren't either. But Stanford's corp looks pretty darn good with Trent Murphy and Shayne Skov coming back -- along with A.J. Tarpley. That's going to be just as formidable -- if not more formidable than any other group in the conference.

Trojan1981 (Next to Burrito Stadium): With the Beavs returning 4 OL starters, do you think they'll be able to play well enough to help Storm Woods have a break out season as well as pass protect a smidgen better?

Kevin Gemmell (2:06 PM): I thought the offensive line was coming along really well -- then Cody Vaz got sacked 10 times. But yes, line continuity is one of the most important keys to success. I think Woods was very close to having a breakout this year so I'd expect him to continue to trend up as the line matures together.

Tony (Richmond, CA): How damaging will the loss of Pep Hamilton be to the Stanford offense?

Kevin Gemmell (2:14 PM): That's a very interesting question. You wonder how much of it two years ago was Andrew Luck -- especially in the red zone where they were so good in 2011 and had a huge drop off in 2012. Luck did, after all, call a lot of his own stuff. If they promote Mike Bloomgren, I don't think there will be too much of a hit because he's the one who really got that run game going. They just need to find some offensive playmakers to help out Kevin Hogan because he's going to be asked to do a lot more. In terms of play-calling, I'd imagine it will still be Shaw with input from Mike Sanford and Bloomgren.

Johnny (San Francisco): Are there any projected recruits in danger of decommitting due to the departure of Chip Kelly and the hiring of Helfrich? What are the chances we maintain the current class and add some additional undecided prospects?

Kevin Gemmell (2:19 PM): There have been a couple of guys "open up" their recruiting to take other visits. That's not totally unusual this time of year though -- especially as 17 and 18-year-olds start to ponder their future. I think the chances are strong you retain the class. Remember, Oregon has developed into a program that recruits itself. They don't need to cast a wide net, so I wouldn't be too worried.

Johnny Bench (New Haven): Why does ASU always recruit JUCO players hard? I know they picked up some solid guys, but it seems every year they are signing 8+ JUCO players!

Kevin Gemmell (2:25 PM): JC players can be a good stop-gap, especially for newer coaches trying to build a program -- which is what Graham is trying to do. I'd expect that number to go down next year, the year after that and so on until the depth is there they want.

Connor Halliday (The Coug): Should I be worried about any of the other quarterbacks on the depth chart? I'm looking at you Austin Apodaca and Tyler Bruggman

Kevin Gemmell (2:35 PM): After this season, every Washington State quarterback should be looking over their shoulder and worried about their place on the depth chart. Certainly, you have the edge going into spring, but that doesn't mean you'll keep it.

Jon (Fairfield, CA): How long until Mora leaves UCLA to go back to the NFL?

Kevin Gemmell (2:39 PM): Not sure. I talked with him a lot about that this year and he seems really sincere when he says he loves being a college coach. He's spent so much time in the NFL that this is a new and exciting gig for him. He seems really energized being around the college athletes. He and I shared a good 10 minutes after the win over USC outside the Rose Bowl around 10 p.m. in the rain and you should have seen the look on his face. I don't think you can fake that.

Unclesnake (Smog lake city): Do you see any unique storylines coming out of the PAC-12 or even the whole league this year? Things to watch for?

Kevin Gemmell (2:42 PM): I think the rise of the young quarterbacks is going to be really fun to watch over the next couple of years: Mariota, Hundley, Hogan, Kelly etc.

Video: Changing playcallers

January, 22, 2013
1/22/13
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With Mark Helfrich in at Oregon and Pep Hamilton out at Stanford, play-calling is going to change for the Pac-12's top two teams.
Hector Savage. From Detroit. Ex-boxer. His real name was Joey Chicago.
Oh, yeah. He fought under the name of Kid Minneapolis.
I saw Kid Minneapolis fight once. In Cincinnati.
No you're thinking of Kid New York. He fought out of Philly.
He was killed in the ring in Houston. By Tex Colorado. You know, the Arizona Assassin.
Yeah, from Dakota. I don't remember it was North or South.
North. South Dakota was his brother. From West Virginia.

Pep Hamilton paired with Luck again

January, 20, 2013
1/20/13
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The Stanford Cardinal will have to find themselves a new Andrew Luck Director of Offense after Pep Hamilton, the former Andrew Luck Director of Offense, took the offensive coordinator job in Indianapolis to direct Andrew Luck on offense.

But it's not just Luck who Hamilton will reconnect with -- there's also tight end Coby Fleener and wide receiver Griff Whalen, who both enjoyed tremendous success under Hamilton at Stanford running the West Coast offense.

From the story:
"It will be a variation of it," Hamilton said when asked about bringing the West Coast offense to Indy. "Short passing game, high completion rate. But I enjoy watching our guys coming off the ball and trying to knock the opponent back. I'm a big believer in the power-running game, I believe that opens it up for your passing game. I want to be flexible schematically in that we find ways to get the ball into playmakers' hands."

This is no rebuilding project now.

In 2012, Luck set NFL rookie records for attempts and yards passing, fell just short of breaking the NFL's rookie marks for completions and TD passes, tied the league's single-season record for most winning drives in the fourth quarter (seven) and produced a league-high nine wins in one-possession games. Plus, the Colts had more combined yards rushing and receiving by rookies than any team since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

This shouldn't come as a huge shock to Stanford. Hamilton has had his résumé in circulation since late last year when he was rumored for the Alabama offensive coordinator job. He also reportedly interviewed for the Oregon head-coaching job, the New York Jets offensive coordinator position and Virginia Tech's offensive coordinator job.

You have to think Stanford's Mike Bloomgren gets a good, hard look from head coach David Shaw. Bloomgren, who serves as Stanford's run-game coordinator and offensive line coach, is already a huge part of the week-to-week game planning.

Pac-12 chat wrap

January, 17, 2013
1/17/13
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Fun chat yesterday -- might have been one of the best ever. And I actually mean it this time. You can check out the full chat here or simply enjoy the De'Anthony Thomas-esque highlights.

Marty (Manhattan, KS): Hey ducks....Hahahahaha. That is all.

Kevin Gemmell (2:01 PM): 35-17. That is all.

Jeremy (Honolulu): I asked this questions last week but now it seems a little more relevant... Who do you see replacing Helfrich as OC now that Chip has, ehem, left for the NFL? #WTD

Kevin Gemmell (2:06 PM): Not sure yet. Depends if they want to stay in house. Gary Campbell might get a shot? Steve Greatwood has some previous experience as the run game coordinator. Let's get the HC in place first and then we can worry about coordinators.

Anthony(Las Vegas) [via mobile]: Will the Pac12 be setting up a grief counseling hotline for us Oregon fans?

Kevin Gemmell (2:08 PM): Yes. That would be Ted's mailbag.

Robert (New York): How much improvement can we expect from Cougars with Yost hiring among other things?

Kevin Gemmell (2:12 PM): I like the move because it just brings a different set of eyes and a fresh take on the offense. Obviously, there are a lot of the same philosophies and beliefs -- but kudos to Mike Leach for making the move and bringing in a fresh perspective.

Freaky Kikki (Tempe): How many losses will it take for USC to start looking for new head coaches next season?

Kevin Gemmell (2:16 PM): I think if there is another seven or eight win season -- coupled with more off-the-field embarrassments (deflated balls, number switching, lying about the coaches poll, jogging away from press conferences when asked about injuries) then he could be gone. If he gets 8-9 and there are zero off-field distractions or issues, he could buy more time.

jeff berez (florida): Hello Kevin, Do you agree with Coach Shaws statement after the Rose Bowl victory that Stanford still doesn't get the respect it deserves? It seems they were a bit low in the final rankings considering they won 8 in a row including victories over 4 straight ranked teams! I feel the Cardinal have a legitimate shot at playing for the BCS Championship game. If they hadn't gagged the game against the Huskies they most likely would have played Notre Dame in a rematch! That would have been a great story.

Kevin Gemmell (2:23 PM): I think Shaw uses the lack-of-respect tactic to keep his players hungry. There is nothing better than an us-vs.-the-world mentality and it obviously works. I don't underestimate Stanford -- but I do think they have some offensive holes that need to be worked out.

CougarBrian (Nendels Inn): There was a lot of hype for WSU's first game this season vs. BYU, and we know how that turned out. With a down Auburn as the Cougs' opener in 2013, do you think expectations will be tempered, or will hype be high due to the Apple Cup win and a lesser(ish) opponent?

Kevin Gemmell (2:25 PM): I think they'll probably be a bit more tempered. 2012 was a reality check that things are going to take a little more time than we all initially thought. Can you believe there were folks out there actually predicting a big win for WSU against BYU (gulp).

Mike (Brussels): Do you think Pep Hamilton will leave Stanford?

Kevin Gemmell (2:27 PM): Not sure. He seems to be making himself available to the market, which is interesting. But I still have trouble believing he would leave for a lateral job as an OC somewhere else. If he gets a head coaching opportunity, he'd take it.

Larry Scott (undisclosed location): Who will be the next coach I lose to the NFL?

Kevin Gemmell (2:43 PM): Interesting question -- Mora or Shaw seem to be the most obvious choices right now. But both seem awfully content. Going to be a couple of years at least until we see another one go to the NFL. Just my guess.

robert (Puyallup, WA): is ASJ the best tight end in the conference now?

Kevin Gemmell (2:43 PM): Conference, yes. Country, yes.

Chip Kelly (Philadelphia): How are the Philly fans going to treat me?

Kevin Gemmell (2:49 PM): Dude, they booed Santa Clause...

Matt (Tucson): Arizona has a ___% chance of successfully replacing matt Scott next season

Kevin Gemmell (2:52 PM): 30. I don't think people appreciate how good Scott was this year. And Carey and Hill both benefited from that.

Nate (Tacoma, WA) [via mobile]: Will the PAC-12 finally join the rest of the leagues in an eight game conference schedule?

Kevin Gemmell (2:58 PM): I hope not. Ted is for the eight-game schedule. I'm still on the fence, but tend to lean more toward the nine-game schedule. I like that winning your conference really means something. Stanford earned its conference title this year.
I am an American, Chicago born -- Chicago, that somber city -- and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent.

Pac-12 chat wrap

January, 10, 2013
1/10/13
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The first Pac-12 chat of the offseason was a resounding success. We all had a blast, and at the end of the day I'd like to think that we all learned a little something about life ... and about ourselves. To get the full experience, you can see the complete chat here. Or you can check out the highlights and enjoy the astute questions of your brethren

Eric (KC): Can you see Stanford being an Alabama West in coming years?

Kevin Gemmell (2:01 PM): They have to start winning national championships before we can even remotely start making that comparison. For that matter -- the Pac-12 has to start winning some national championships.

paul (spokane): Hi Kevin, what is your opinion about the conclusion of the Pac 12 investigation into abuse allegations at WSU? I know Ted Miller typed up a commentary prior to it's closure and apparently it is time to move on...Inspite of his speculative criticisms.

Kevin Gemmell (2:07 PM): Obviously, it's good that WSU can put it behind them now. As you say, it's time to move on. It was a joke that it became what it was. Now they move into the offseason with a little momentum from the Apple Cup win and without this dark cloud hanging.

Andrew (Kansas City): Could Stanford vs. Oregon be one of the nation's top rivalries in the coming years if both schools are consistently dominant? I'm excited about this rivalry's true potential.

Kevin Gemmell (2:09 PM): Absolutely. It's not just a clash of great teams. It's conflicting philosophies, approaches to how the game is played -- coaches personalities, public school vs. private. Everything about it screams classic matchup ... if both stay at the top of their games.

Roman (LA): Now that the season's over, what was your favorite game?

Kevin Gemmell (2:17 PM): I'm be doing a post on this next week. But off the top of my head, I loved Stanford-Arizona, Oregon-USC, Washington-Stanford. Some great ones to choose from. Territorial and Apple Cups were great.

Peter K (Mountain View, CA): I'm seeing reports that Stanford OC Pep Hamilton is interviewing for the Va Tech OC job. A few questions: 1) Why would he possibly make this move? 2) Considering Stanford's mediocre offense this year, would it really be that awful if he left?

Kevin Gemmell (2:19 PM): I don't think the move makes sense either -- it's a lateral move to a weaker conference. But maybe he'd be groomed as the next head coach? Probably more money also. I think someone, say a Mike Bloomgren, who coordinates the running game could step up to OC. But Stanford has a lot of offensive holes they are going to have to fill next season. For as nasty as that defense is -- and it will be again -- the offense has lots of question marks.

College football fans (Everywhere): Do you think once the "playoff" system is initiated we will see even fewer compelling out of conference matchups during the season?

Kevin Gemmell (2:23 PM): I hope it will be the opposite. I hope they put a huge emphasis on strength of schedule and we'll see some of these teams that pad the front end of their schedule actually go out and play somebody.

Julian (Sunnyvale Trailer Park): What does the return of Will Sutton mean for ASU? Most people already had them in the mix to win the South so where would you put the now?

Kevin Gemmell (2:28 PM): It's huge. I watched the news conference and, I admit, I had a big smile on my face. He just looked so darn happy with his decision. Good for him, good for the school, good for the league, good for college football. I think ASU certainly improves its position for top of the South next year. Need to really study it, but the division favorite isn't out of the realm of possibility.

John (Mountain View, CA): Who is Stanford's starting running back next year?

Kevin Gemmell (2:30 PM): Not sure. Probably a by-committee approach until they figure some things out with Wilkerson, Seale, Young, Sanders. Someone will probably emerge in the spring as the primary and then it's a matter of where the rest fit in.

David F. (Calgary, Alberta): Hey Kev. Losing Barner this year is bad for UO. I know Marshall got some experience at the beginning of the year and Tyner is a nice recruit, but do you see Oregon's Offense balance a little more this next year?

Kevin Gemmell (2:36 PM): I think as Mariota becomes a better passer (not that wasn't pretty darn good this year) we could see more of that. But the Fiesta Bowl was a perfect example of what Oregon does. Once Colt started catching those passes over the middle, it opened everything up and they were able to run, run run. I don't see that changing.

Engineer Mike (Switzerland): I keep hearing comments about how Kelly's "system" would never work in the NFL, especially since he wouldn't have access to so many relatively highly-talented players. Call me crazy, but I feel like Oregon's success over the past 4 years is even more impressive since they've done it with (mostly) nobodies, at least at the time they were recruited. Thoughts?

Kevin Gemmell (2:39 PM): A good coach makes adjustments. And Kelly is a good coach. The big issue is finding a QB that can handle the system (without getting hurt), a team that isn't veteran heavy and [can adjust] to change, and a defense that can accept being on the field for a while. I think his "system" would evolve and he'd do just fine.

Matt (Boise): Week 1 off the season next year are you going to be in Seattle for BSU/Washington rematch? Does playing at home re-opening Husky Stadium give the the Huskies a big advantage in the game?

Kevin Gemmell (2:53 PM): Maybe? But then again, playing the first game in the newly remodeled stadium was supposed to be a huge boost for Cal. Ask Nevada how that worked out.

Pac-12 chat wrap

January, 3, 2013
1/03/13
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I must say, yesterday's chat was by far the best Pac-12 chat of the year. You can read the whole thing here or catch the highlights.

Tim Gray (Palo Alto): Does Stanford finish in the top 5 in the BCS standings?

Kevin Gemmell (2:03 PM): Very good possibility. Depends if folks are able to look past the non-cosmetic victory. If they understand that's just how Stanford is built, they should finish in the top 5.

JR (Houston): Kevin don't be a sore loser, let me hear you say it..2013: Big 12 > Pac 12Baylor WRECKED your south champion and Texas (on an off year) bested your Cinderella team. Even your northern champion had a tough time beating mediocre 8-6 Wisconsin. But hey don't feel bad, at least ya'll are still ahead of the ACC..

Kevin Gemmell (2:04 PM): No sore loser here. Baylor brought it. UCLA didn't. Horrible, horrible performance by the Bruins. UCLA and Oregon State made the Big 12 defenses look like the '85 Bears. Great showing by Baylor and Texas. Poor showing from the Pac-12 teams.

biggeazy206, middle earth [via mobile]: How sick will the PAC 12 North be next season? Toughest division in CFB?

Kevin Gemmell (2:05 PM): Potentially. If Stanford can rebuild again (and let's start assuming they will), plus with all that Oregon brings back, an Oregon State team trending up, Washington is hopefully tougher, Washington State should show some improvement and we'll see what Dykes can do at Cal. Very tough division.

Don (Berkeley, CA): Will David Shaw lose at least one of his top assistants during the offseason?

Kevin Gemmell (2:11 PM): Maybe -- but it will have to be for a head coaching job or an NFL assistant job. I don't see either Pep Hamilton or Derek Mason making a lateral move within college football.

BHollandz (Next to The Burrito Stadium): Why didn't Coach Riley make the adjustment against Texas to get Kelly help blocking Okafor? Also why did he abandon the run the 2nd half?

Kevin Gemmell (2:12 PM): As questionable as staying with Vaz was, that's what shocked me most. No max protect, no running back chipping on Okafor. No extra tight end to help block. Schematically, it was a bad showing.

drake [via mobile]: Kevin people are already writing off Arizona for the south, but we return an all American a great oline and tremendous WR's. Which will all make the new QB's job easier and we return the whole defense and add depth. Too early to write off the Cats

Kevin Gemmell (2:13 PM): I'm not writing anyone off in the South. It's going to be the wild-freaking-west. Right now I see four teams that could win it.

Angelique (Pasadena): Which team will show the most improvement next season: UCLA or USC?

Kevin Gemmell (2:14 PM): Probably the Bruins. Hundley will be another year older. I think there are four offensive linemen back (Baca is the only one gone ... I think) and some of the young WRs will have gotten good experience. Finding a replacement for Franklin will be tough. Expect a by-committee approach for at least the first few weeks.

Gowazzu02 (Sark 0-1 V Leach): Who is next year's Oregon State? OSU despite their terrible bowl loss had a heck of a year following a 3-9 season.

Kevin Gemmell (2:15 PM): Not to get GoooooooooBears hopes up, but I think Cal has plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. If they take to the scheme, I could see a quick turnaround.

Optimistic Bear Fan (Bronx, NY): Sneaking in a question here on my prep period. Do you think Cal has a chance to retain Sonny D if he has success in Berkeley?

Kevin Gemmell (2:20 PM): I'm going to tell you a quick story. When Chuck Long was hired as the head coach at San Diego State, a competing newspaper wrote a story that "big time" programs could come knocking. He was the OC at Oklahoma and had a "name." He tanked, horribly. The lesson here is let the guy coach a bit before you start worry about losing him.

Tim (San Diego, CA): The annual Chip Kelly to the NFL talks are an inevitable offseason storyline. What type of situation is he waiting for? What NFL team would you guess he goes to?

Kevin Gemmell (2:35 PM): I think a team where he has some personnel control. Also, he needs an owner/GM who are going to give him the freedom he needs to do things his way. It might go against the grain of NFL thinking and it's not always easy for GMs to allow that. It has to be the right fit. But it could work.

Gecko (Fudge Texas.): Which is better: An 8 team playoff (all at-large), or a 16 team playoff (11 conference champs and 5 at large)?

Kevin Gemmell (2:41 PM): I think eight teams is enough. If you're No. 9, too bad.

Ray (Denver): Who is the better coach, Shaw or CK?

Kevin Gemmell (2:47 PM): Interesting question. Different coaches. Different philosophies. Different approaches. Different styles. I don't think Shaw would be a good coach at Oregon and I don't think Chip would be a good coach at Stanford. Both are great for what they do and where they do it.

Weez (An Office near Boulder): MacIntyre's staff at Colorado will be announced in the next day or so. The rumor is it will mainly be his SJSU assistants. With the assistant pool $ he was given should he have looked more outside?

Kevin Gemmell (2:57 PM): Not if he trusts his guys. It wasn't just him that rebuilt San Jose State. If those are his guys, he should bring them with him.

The evolution of Kevin Hogan

December, 28, 2012
12/28/12
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Kevin HoganEzra Shaw/Getty ImagesKevin Hogan has a chance to have a 5-0 start to his career with a win in the Rose Bowl.
LOS ANGELES -- In a sense, Kevin Hogan caught a break. He didn’t have to be the guy who followed Andrew Luck. Instead, he was the guy who followed the guy who followed Andrew Luck.

And while Josh Nunes helped the Cardinal to a fairly successful, albeit inconsistent 7-2 start, Hogan has stepped in as the starting quarterback and gone 4-0 against four ranked teams and was named the MVP of the Pac-12 championship game. And he's leading his team into the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio against Wisconsin on New Year's Day. Not exactly a terrible start to a career.

“It’s helped him a lot [to sit early in the year],” said Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton. “To have an opportunity to get those additional reps -- it’s been amazing to watch his evolution and development over a short time. The one thing, though, that I think is his best attribute is his poise. Nothing is too big for him. He’s very much even-keeled. He never gets too high with the highs and too low with the lows and that’s allowed him to make some big games in big plays.”

Both Nunes and Hogan started their careers 3-0, which hadn’t been done at Stanford since 1991 when Steve Stenstrom took over in the fifth game of the season and won seven straight. But the biggest difference between the two has been the Hogan’s mobility and efficiency in the red zone. Inside the 20 he’s completed 14 of 16 passes with seven touchdowns. He’s also averaging 7.1 yards per carry on his “non-sack” rushes and has picked up 15 first downs.

“Josh made a ton of big plays for us in the SC game as well as the Arizona game,” Hamilton said. “But I asked myself at times, man, if we had the ability to run more bootlegs and really open up the offense against a team like Notre Dame, would the result be different?”

Quiet and unassuming -- much like his predecessor’s predecessor -- the 6-foot-4, 225-pound redshirt freshman from McLean, Va., has led his team to wins over Oregon State, at Oregon and twice against UCLA. He understands that even though there is a Nunes-buffer between him and Luck, whose credentials need no re-hashing, there will inevitably be comparisons. He meets said comparisons with a good attitude and a bit of self-deprecation.

“I’ve heard it, but I try to stay away from that,” Hogan said. “We’re different players. He’s an amazing player. He’s like an idol. But I wouldn’t want to be compared to him. I don’t think that does him justice.”

Then again, Luck never led his team to a Pac-12 championship. Luck never won at Autzen Stadium. Luck never got his team to the Rose Bowl nor started his career 3-0. But Luck also didn’t have the luxury of watching half a season from the sidelines.

“It was the best case scenario for him as a quarterback to watch Josh and get a sense of what our identity was an offense before he became the starter and understand how important it is for our quarterback to be able to manage the offense,” Hamilton said.

When the quarterback competition started, there were five in the mix. When spring ball ended, head coach David Shaw had declared that Nunes and Brett Nottingham had separated themselves from the pack. And when he announced Nunes as the starter in the fall, there was also a bit of “look out for this Hogan kid.”

The tools were there. The concepts weren’t.

“I think my knowledge of the playbook held me back,” Hogan said. “It’s challenging. The coaches knew I wasn’t ready at the time. Just throughout the season, studying it more and more and knowing what I needed to focus on really helped.”

And now he’s had an additional month to get more familiar with the playbook, the process and the overall concepts. No player in college football may have benefited more from the time off between the end of the season and the bowl game than Hogan.

“It’s been big,” Hogan said. “It’s really allowed me more time to study film and be a better manger of the game.”

Stanford and Shaw: A good marriage

December, 19, 2012
12/19/12
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Second-year head coach David Shaw has repeatedly said he views Stanford as his destination job. After he signed what was termed a "long-term contract extension" Wednesday, perhaps more folks will believe him.

Of course, Stanford didn't provide any details about just what "long-term" means, or about how much Shaw is being paid, because it is a private school that likes keeping secrets. If it were a 10-year deal worth, say, $30 million we could conclude both parties -- Shaw and institution -- are fully invested in each other.

But even without the details, this feels like a reasonably solid gesture of mutual affection.

Shaw played for Stanford. He loves the place. He's also a family guy who's living in a great place to raise one (if you can afford it). He's got a good thing going, both on the field and with recruiting.

On the field? Stanford finished 11-2, won the Pac-12 title and is preparing for its first Rose Bowl in 13 years. It's won 11 games for the third consecutive season, which it has never done before. Stanford is one of just four teams from AQ conferences to win 34 or more games over the last three seasons, joining Oregon (35), LSU (34) and Alabama (34) in an exclusive club, though Stanford's SAT averages are a bit higher than that troika.

The Cardinal’s .872 winning percentage since 2010 is tied for third-best among FBS teams during that stretch.

Not too shabby, which is why Shaw, the two-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year, is a finalist for the Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year Award.

When Jim Harbaugh left for the San Francisco 49ers after the 2010 season, some wondered if Shaw could maintain the Cardinal's unexpected rise in the Pac-12. Whereas Harbaugh was edgy and eccentric, Shaw was polished and articulate. And, perhaps, some might have fretted, a bit too mellow.

Yep, Shaw is a smooth dude. But he's 4-2 against USC, Notre Dame and Oregon and playing in another BCS bowl game with a team that appears to have a bright future.

Again, not too shabby.

We will humbly offer up a suggestion to both Shaw and Stanford, though we suspect Shaw is well ahead of us here: Take care of the Cardinal's nine assistant coaches. These guys deserve raises, too.

We've repeatedly lauded defensive coordinator Derek Mason and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton. Both are strong head coaching candidates. But the entire staff, from veterans such as defensive line coach Randy Hart to youngsters like running backs coach Mike Sanford, have participated in creating an outstanding team culture.

And by "team culture," what we really mean is a team that is on the cusp of a third consecutive final top-10 ranking.

 

Cal coaching search begins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doing this right ain't going to be cheap.

Still, there's plenty to sell California.

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

So now we trot out a list.

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

Head coaches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coordinators

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NFL

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

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

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

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