Pac-12: Rocky Seto

Alamo was a disaster for Holt

December, 31, 2011
The general feeling after the regular season ended was Washington defensive coordinator Nick Holt was safe heading into 2012, barring, perhaps, an utter disaster in the Alamo Bowl against Baylor.

Well, giving up 67 points and 777 yards was an utter disaster for the Huskies' defense, and that made the announcement of Holt's termination Saturday not terribly surprising.

Holt and Huskies head coach Steve Sarkisian are friends who have known each other for a long time. But sentiment wasn't enough to save Holt after his third year on the job produced one of the worst defenses in program history. It didn't help that, at $650,000 annually, he was one of the nation's highest paid coordinators.

Including Holt, Sarkisian cleaned house on defense, firing linebackers coach Mike Cox and safeties coach Jeff Mills. Toss in the departure of secondary coach Demetrius Martin, and the Huskies' defensive staff will be almost completely rebuilt in 2012. Defensive line and special teams coach Johnny Nansen is the only defensive coach who will be back next season.

What -- and who -- is next for the Huskies' defense?

Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times pointed out that Sarkisian previously tried to hire former USC defensive coach Rocky Seto, who is now defensive backs coach for the Seattle Seahawks under Pete Carroll.

Rocky Seto, who is now defensive backs coach with the Seahawks. Seto also worked with Sarkisian at USC and was offered the coordinator's job at UW in a period when Holt initially turned it down before later accepting. Seto last year was offered the defensive coordinator's job at UCLA.

Sarkisian also might be wise to take a look at Utah's Kalani Sitake. Sitake, a candidate for the Hawaii head coaching job that was filled by Norm Chow, might want to spread his wings, as head coach Kyle Whittingham still receives a lot of credit for the success of the Utes' defense.

But the contract Holt signed would raise a lot of eyebrows across the country. Sarkisian certainly can go after an A-list coordinator.

Condotta also pointed out the that all three now former assistants had two-year contracts, meaning Washington will be on the hook for another year of salaries at a total of $1.025 million: "Holt's official salary at UW was $650,004, Cox's was $220,008 and Mills' was $155,004."

In other words, Sarkisian decided that improving the Huskies' defense was an urgent need.

Coaching issues not done at UCLA

February, 15, 2011
UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel admitted that his nearly two months search for a new defensive coordinator was "long and exhaustive," but even the hiring of Joe Tresey has not completely ended the coaching intrigue for his team.

For one, the Bruins still have a vacancy on the defensive side of the ball after Neuheisel fired line coach Todd Howard last week. While Neuheisel said he "probably" would be looking for a defensive line coach, he and Tresey have not decided position responsibilities for 2011. Tresey is a secondary specialist but he has also coached linebackers. Presently, Tim Hundley is the Bruins secondary coach and Clark Lea oversees linebackers.

Further, Tresey is a 4-3 coach. One of the reasons Neuheisel fired Chuck Bullough in December is a stated desire to adopt a 3-4.

During a conference call Tuesday, Neuheisel said what he most wanted was "flexibility." For his part, Tresey said that his scheme is a "multiple 4-3" and that "we have the ability to play some 3-4."

Said Neuheisel, "It became very clear listening to Joe explaining his tactics that there are a lot of different ways you could go."

It is no secret that Tresey wasn't Neuheisel's first choice. Neuheisel even said last week that he "had the guy picked three times" but things didn't work out.

Neuheisel wasn't sure of the date he first interviewed Tresey -- either late December or early January -- but he then turned his primary attention to other candidates, such as Rocky Long, Vic Fangio, Randy Shannon and Rocky Seto. Part of that, he said, was a familiarity with the other candidates that he didn't have with Tresey.

"I wanted to be thorough; I didn't know Joe," Neuheisel said. "I wanted to be right."

That included Neuheisel calling Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. Kelly, while head coach at Cincinnati, fired Tresey after the 2008 season, and one of the reasons -- at least one made public -- was Kelly's desire to switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Neuheisel noted that he needed to understand what he called a "a hiccup" on Tresey's resume.

"I wanted to get to the bottom why that happened," Neuheisel said. "I was comfortable after the conversation with both Coach Kelly and with Joe that there wasn't anything that would be of concern to me going forward with Joe as our coordinator. [The problem at Cincinnati] was a timing issue."

Tresey said that Neuheisel kept him in the loop on where he stood throughout the long and exhaustive search.

And, in the end, he got the job.

UCLA finds a defensive coordinator

February, 15, 2011
A lot of names have been attached to the UCLA vacancy at defensive coordinator, but the guy Rick Neuheisel tapped on Tuesday was not one of those names.

Joe Tresey, 52, a former defensive coordinator at Cincinnati and South Florida, has been named UCLA's defensive coordinator, ending a lengthy and winding search since Chuck Bullough was fired on Dec. 18.

“He has an aggressive style that forces turnovers and negative-yardage plays and I feel our players, especially our youngsters, will benefit greatly from his style of play," Neuheisel said in a statement. "He is a fine teacher and I can’t wait for him to get started.”

Tresey coached at South Florida in 2009 and Cincinnati -- under current Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly -- from 2007-08. Last year, he was the defensive backs coach for the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League. (Recall that Bulls coach Jim Leavitt was fired in January 2010 after a school investigation concluded he grabbed one of his players by the throat, slapped him in the face and then lied about it.)

In 2009, South Florida ranked 24th nationally in total defense (321.8 yards) and 19th in scoring defense (19.8 points) while compiling an 8-5 record. The Bulls forced 23 turnovers that season. In 2008, Cincinnati ranked 31st nationally in total defense (321.9 yards), 19th in rushing defense (115.0) and 25th in scoring defense (20.1 points).

Tresey is a secondary specialist "with a reputation for forcing turnovers and piling up sacks."

But also consider this paragraph from a Tampa Tribune story on Tresey's hire at South Florida: "Tresey was fired last month by Bearcats coach Brian Kelly, who said he had philosophical differences and was shifting to a 3-4 defense, but the move could have also been prompted by Tresey's talks with Miami."

Recall that one of the reasons Neuheisel dispatched Bullough was a desire to switch to a 3-4 scheme. Tresey is a 4-3 guy.

Here's a Q&A with Tresey, also from the Tampa Tribune.

A 1982 graduate of Ohio State, he also has coached at Central Michigan (2006), Georgia Southern (2004-05), Akron (2002-03) and VMI (1999-2001).

Before Neuheisel tapped Tresey, a multitude of coaches were touted as potential candidates, including Vic Fangio, Randy Shannon, Rocky Long, Chuck Heater, Teryl Austin, Rocky Seto, Jeff FitzGerald and Steve Brown.

Neuheisel: DC will be hired this weekend

February, 10, 2011
Coach Rick Neuheisel said he feels the pain of UCLA fans who are impatient with the belabored process of his hiring a new defensive coordinator, but he said during a teleconference Thursday that he plans to make a decision this weekend.

"I understand the scrutiny," he said. "I understand the perception and all that kind of stuff but at the end of the day, none of that matters. What matters is that we play well next year."

Chuck Bullough was fired Dec. 18, and it has appeared a number of times that Neuheisel was on the cusp of hiring a candidate, whether that was former Miami head coach Randy Shannon or Seattle Seahawks assistant Rocky Seto.

"I've had the guy picked three times now but circumstances have led the search to re-continue," he said.

Neuheisel pursued Vic Fangio, but he opted to follow Jim Harbaugh from Stanford to the San Francisco 49ers. Other reported candidates were Rocky Long, who was promoted to head coach at San Diego State upon the departure of Brady Hoke to Michigan, Chuck Heater and Teryl Austin, former co-coordinators at Florida, and Kentucky co-coordinator Steve Brown.

Reporters asked Neuheisel about Cincinnati Bengals assistant Jeff FitzGerald as well as whether Shannon was still under consideration, but Neuheisel declined to comment on specific candidates.

Questions about the defensive coordinator vacancy dominated the conference call that was arranged to talk about new tight ends and F-backs coach Jim Mastro, who also will oversee the Bruins running game under new offensive coordinator Mike Johnson, who replaced Norm Chow.

"With Mike Johnson working in that throw game and Jim helping in that run department, we're going to be able to put together an offense that we'll all get excited about," Neuheisel said.

Mastro worked 11 years at Nevada, where the pistol offense was invented by coach Chris Ault. UCLA used a pistol scheme last year, but the Bruins ended up ranking last in the Pac-10 in total offense. Neuheisel said that the Bruins won't be a pure pistol team in 2011.

"It will be a portion of our offense, not the be-all, end-all," he said.

As for Neuheisel's vacation this week to Cabo to celebrate his 50th birthday, which inspired some consternation among impatient fans, he called it a "command performance" for his wife.

"I wasn't there long enough to get a tan," he said.

Pac-12 links: Is Cal going all Stanford-y?

February, 8, 2011
I must not only punish, but punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.

UCLA staff not Seto

February, 7, 2011
UCLA still doesn't have a defensive coordinator after coach Rick Neuheisel's flirtation with former USC linebacker and Trojans assistant Rocky Seto abruptly ended.

It appeared last week that Neuheisel was on the cusp of announcing Seto's hiring, but apparently things turned sour in the eleventh hour, perhaps in part because many Bruins fans didn't want a former Trojan running their defense, particularly one without a proven track record. Seto is presently on Pete Carroll's staff with the Seattle Seahawks helping with the secondary.

Further, Nevada running backs coach Jim Mastro is still deliberating whether he will accept a position as the Bruins' running game coordinator. The Orange County Register reported that Mastro would coach tight ends and F-backs while Bruins running backs coach Wayne Moses would stay in his current position, if Mastro opts for Westwood.

Other than Seto, the L.A. Times reported that Neuheisel talked to former Stanford defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, now with the San Francisco 49ers, former Miami head coach Randy Shannon and former Florida defensive co-coordinators Teryl Austin and Chuck Heater. Heater was a Washington assistant when Neuheisel was the Huskies' coach from 1999-2002, but Heater was hired to coordinate Temple's defense.

So what now?

Well, maybe Neuheisel just moves down to the next name on his list. Or maybe he regroups and casts out a new net. It would be a bit of a surprise at this point if he pulls a rabbit out of his hat and lands an experienced, "name" defensive coordinator. And, by the way, that might not be a bad thing.

Neuheisel's stated preference for a 3-4 scheme -- or at least a hybrid of it -- suggests his best candidates are NFL assistants who are itching to call their own plays. But how committed is Neuheisel to a 3-4 if he was serious about Seto, whose mentor -- Carroll -- is a 4-3 guy?

While some might think a jump to UCLA under Neuheisel might be risky -- Neuheisel is under a lot of pressure to win in 2011 -- there's solid, young talent on the Bruins' defense. Even a single impressive season in Westwood could provide a career boost. It would certainly be a way to get on a Pac-12 coach's radar.

As it stands now, Neuheisel isn't inspiring much confidence with his constituency. A second 4-8 finish in three seasons, combined with coaching staff turmoil,and a disappointing recruiting class isn't sending the Bruins into the offseason on an uptick.

Of course, all the hullabaloo between now and September could be easily forgotten if Neuheisel simply does one thing this fall: Win.

Rocky Seto hire a 'done deal' at UCLA?

February, 2, 2011
Former USC assistant Rocky Seto is expected to be hired as UCLA defensive coordinator, according to the LA Times.

Reported the Times:

A UCLA official said Tuesday that no one had been hired, but people close to Seto who were not authorized to speak on the subject said it was a 'done deal.'

Seto, an assistant coach with the Seattle Seahawks, is expected to be offered the job once approval works its way through UCLA channels.

Seto, a former USC linebacker and assistant from 2004-2009, is working with the Seahawks' secondary under former Trojans coach Pete Carroll.

Seto UCLA's next defensive coordinator?

February, 2, 2011
Rick Neuheisel didn't have much luck with the last coordinator he hired with a USC history. Maybe things would be different with Rocky Seto running the Bruins' defense than they were with Norm Chow running the Bruins' offense?

Seto has interviewed for UCLA's vacancy at defensive coordinator. He is a former Trojans linebacker and is presently an assistant for Pete Carroll with the Seattle Seahawks, working with the secondary.

The LA Daily News reported about "10 or so" candidates have interviewed for the job, including former Miami coach Randy Shannon, who's helping out with ESPN's recruiting coverage today.

Seto was USC's defensive coordinator in 2009 after coaching the secondary from 2006 to 2008.

Report: Kiffin cuts Seto loose

January, 27, 2010
Rocky Seto, who's been a USC assistant since 1999, will not be retained by new coach Lane Kiffin, according to the Los Angeles Times, which confirmed the decision with Seto.

This appears to clear the way for Joe Barry, 39, a former USC player and graduate assistant who was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2009, to be announced as the Trojans' new linebackers coach. The football office wouldn't confirm the hiring on Tuesday, though Barry has told reporters he is headed to USC.

Earlier this week, linebacker recruit Soma Vainuku (Eureka, Calif./Eureka) told's Greg Biggins that he believed Seto would be on the new staff.

The Trojans' defensive staff appears set: coordinator Monte Kiffin, defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, secondary coach Willie Mack Garza and Barry with the linebackers.

USC coaching intrigue

January, 26, 2010
So, has USC hired a linebackers coach or not?

According to this story -- and this one -- Joe Barry thinks USC has.


Barry, 39, a former USC player and graduate assistant, told reporters that he was let out of his contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers so he could join Lane Kiffin at USC:

"It was a tough decision, especially leaving Tampa,'' Barry said. "Our family loves living here. The fans have been unbelievable. We've had some good times, obviously, with the Super Bowl year, and we've kicked a lot of (butt). Even though last year was difficult, it was still special to be able to walk out onto Raymond James every Sunday.''

"But (USC) made me an offer I couldn't refuse. I think SC couldn't have hired a better head coach to replace Pete Carroll than Lane Kiffin, and with Monte there, and the fact that I played there and my first coaching job was there, it just was the right thing for me and my family.''

A USC spokesman, however, said there would be no announcement today.

Further, Scott Wolf this afternoon wrote this on his USC blog: "Joe Barry was quoted this morning saying he was hired at USC. Lane Kiffin said about 35 minutes ago he was not hired. It's going to be interesting to see how this turns out. Does anyone think Barry would say he was hired if he was not?"

And, as we noted earlier, there are indications that USC assistant coach Rocky Seto will be retained in some capacity. Considering the Trojans already have hired a defensive coordinator (Monte Kiffin), a secondary coach (Willie Mack Garza) and defensive line coach (Ed Orgeron), there are only so many options.

Stay tuned.

Might Seto stay at USC?

January, 26, 2010
Recruits say the darnedest things, and linebacker Soma Vainuku (Eureka, Calif./Eureka) may have revealed that Rocky Seto won't be leaving USC after all.

Consider what Vainuku told's Greg Biggins:

"I was scheduled to visit Oregon State but I'm going to visit USC now," Vainuku said. "I had a home visit last week with Rocky Seto and he told me how bad they want me to play for them.

"They basically offered me, Rocky said he wants coach (Lane) Kiffin to be the one to do it so I'm just waiting for his phone call. I have a good relationship with Rocky and I'm pretty sure he'll be staying on the new staff so that's great for him and the program."

Seto was USC's defensive coordinator and secondary coach last year. When Kiffin hired Willie Mack Garza to oversee the Trojans secondary -- Kiffin's dad, Monte, was already aboard as the coordinator -- it seemed likely that Seto would by cast aside.

Not so fast.

Seto could end up replacing Ken Norton as linebackers coach. Norton followed Pete Carroll to the Seattle Seahawks.

Seto, who played linebacker for USC -- he was 1997 walk on who earned a scholarship the next season -- and he coached the position from 2004-2005.

Seto, who has coached at USC his entire career, which started in 1999, might be a valuable presence for Kiffin to keep around. He brings both continuity and a different personality to the new staff.

Looks like Kiffin might believe just that.

Garza headed to USC

January, 22, 2010
New USC coach Lane Kiffin has plucked a fourth assistant coach from his former staff at Tennessee.

Willie Mack Garza, the Volunteers secondary coach last season, will join Kiffin's staff at USC, though his specific duties won't be announced until the staff is complete.

You can read Garza's bio here.

Garza's hiring brings into question whether long-time USC assistant Rocky Seto will be retained by Kiffin. Seto was promoted to defensive coordinator last year after Nick Holt left for Washington and also oversaw the secondary.

Chris Low reports on the SEC blog that Garza's departure may have been abrupt.

Kiffin has hired his father Monte Kiffin, Ed Orgeron, James Cregg and now Garza away from Tennessee.

Pac-10 Q&A: USC defensive coordinator Rocky Seto

October, 30, 2009
Posted by's Ted Miller

USC's defense ranks 16th in the nation in scoring and total defense. That's pretty good. But two weeks ago, it ranked fourth in scoring and sixth in total defense and hadn't surrendered a touchdown pass.

Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE
Defensive coordinator Rocky Seto said mental lapses were to blame for the big plays the Trojans have given up recently.
Over the past two weeks, in wins over Notre Dame and Oregon State, the Trojans have surrendered five touchdown passes. And 849 yards and 63 points.

That's not so good.

The No. 5 Trojans visit No. 10 Oregon on Saturday in the Pac-10 game of the year. The Ducks' offense ranks 16th in the nation with 34 points a game, despite scoring just eight in their season-opening loss at Boise State.

So it seemed like a good time to check in with Trojans first-year defensive coordinator Rocky Seto.

So give me your general impression of how the defense has played so far?

Rocky Seto: Pretty well, considering all the new faces we've got in there. But we need to continue to get better. But I've been pleased and I just thank God for the type of coaches and players we have. The coaches have done an awesome job of teaching and the players have done an awesome job of learning. There have been a lot of new experiences for a lot of players, so it's been really neat to see.

You guys have given up some yards the past two weeks, particularly in the passing game. Is that a concern and what's going wrong?

RS: Certainly, we'd like to improve in that way. We've really examined it. We've played two really good quarterbacks in [Jimmy] Clausen, a really experienced guy, and [Sean] Canfield, with two excellent coaching staffs. The big thing about it is usually when the breakdowns have happened, we've made a few mental errors. We've talked to them about focusing on not giving those things up. It's been a big emphasis for us.

Who's playing particularly well right now?

RS: You know who's doing a really good job is the defensive line. It's putting pressure on the quarterback. In the linebacking corps, Mike Morgan is doing a really good job. It's been neat to see. Taylor [Mays] has done a really nice job of staying on top and taking care of the deep ball. Kevin Thomas, our left cornerback, has really come around the last couple of weeks.

Has anything surprised you about the defense, or your personnel this season?

RS: I don't know if it's a surprise or shock because we base our performance on how we practice, how we play in practice. Our offense is really talented, so we feel if we can practice really well against them we should expect to play well. In spring practice and fall camp, these guys really performed well. So I don't know if it's a surprise or not, but it's been neat to see the young guys, the new starters, perform and fit into their new roles.

How does it work between you and Pete Carroll on game days? What role do you play in terms of calling the defense?

RS: Coach [Carroll] calls the defenses and basically I add as much input as I can when he asks me. We have a conversation that keeps going on. Really, it's been pretty neat. Ever since I've been a graduate assistant with him, eight or nine years ago, he's been a mentor for me and has taken time to have conversations with me. It hasn't changed much really since we've gotten together. It's been such a blessing to me. It's a constant conversation throughout the game and throughout the week.

What's he like during a game: Is he all business or does he joke around and act like the Pete Carroll most of us see on a day-to-day basis?

RS: He's pretty much on business. However, he'll slip in his personality. He's very poised. He doesn't change too much. But he is very serious on game day, but not to the point he doesn't do much. His personality certainly shows up.

He seems to be enjoying himself during games -- a lot of coaches adopt the stone face.

RS: No doubt. He gets fired up when the offense or defense makes a nice play. It's something he demands from our players -- that they have a good time. If you watch our sidelines, our guys are pretty in tune to what's going on and get pretty fired up. It's just how we conduct ourselves -- our meetings, our practices. It's based on coach's personality.

Give me a scouting report on Oregon.

RS: These guys are an excellent running team, a spread-option team. [Quarterback Jeremiah] Masoli has done a really nice job of running the offense. He looks really poised and composed in there. And he's a fiery guy. He's really impressive. He does some really nice play-action passes where he's been able to hit his targets well, particularly the tight end and [receiver Jeff] Maehl. They do a nice job of running the ball really well and throwing the ball, all of it. A bunch of screens. They get you spread out and try the wide-receiver screen, the tight end screen to Ed Dickson. They've mixed all those concepts really well together.

Pac-10 lunch links: USC is eyeballing Jahvid Best

October, 2, 2009
Posted by's Ted Miller

Happy Friday!
  • Arizona receiver Terrell Turner operates under the radar, but that doesn't mean he's not good.
  • Arizona State might have found a running back, one who's been around for a while.
  • California is still looking for the right cornerback to play opposite Syd'Quan Thompson.
  • Meanwhile, at Oregon, there's a football game this weekend.
  • Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea is relieved to hear his family in American Samoa and Tonga are OK after the tsunami.
  • It shouldn't be a surprise that Stanford's Chris Owusu has a lot of speed.
  • Price remains right at cornerback for UCLA.
  • USC plans to turn up the heat on Cal's Jahvid best. Defensive coordinator Rocky Seto has come a long way.
  • With E.J. Savannah likely out, Washington has put the ball in another Cort at linebacker.
  • Why start true freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel this season, and does that mean Washington State is giving up?

Reload, not rebuild, for USC defense

September, 5, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

LOS ANGELES -- A no-name defense at USC? Not possible.

But that's exactly what middle linebacker Chris Whatshisname, er, Galippo believes the Trojans are this year.

"We were walking through the Trojan huddle [before the game] and people were like, 'Who are you? Who are you?'" he said. "We're starters! But no one really knows. Taylor [Mays] has a little bit of that, but for the first time in a while the front seven doesn't have a guy who is like the guy."

At least for now. If the Trojans defense keeps holding opponents to just 121 total yards as it did in a 56-3 victory over San Jose State, Mays won't be the only one with his name in lights.

The Spartans had 67 yards in the first quarter, but after that Galippo and company shut things down, giving up just nine yard rushing, forcing two fumbles and recording five sacks and 16 tackles for a loss. Galippo led the way with nine tackles, including three for a loss.

That's not the sort of effort that keeps a guy anonymous for long.

Coach Pete Carroll laughed when asked how the defense played, pointing at the stats. The Trojans have now held opponents to less than 200 yards of total offense in seven of their last nine games.

Said coordinator Rocky Seto, who was promoted from secondary coach after Nick Holt bolted for Washington, "The defense looked really fast. I was really pleased with the way they performed today."

The Trojans only welcomed back three starters from 2008's dominant crew, only one of whom -- nose tackle Christian Tupou -- played on the front seven.

With the loss of four linebackers -- both Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews were hybrid linebacker/ends -- Seto said the Trojans are more "defensive-line focused." He said the Trojans, more of a 3-4 look last year, are now look more like a true 4-3.

But that doesn't necessarily mean there will be a big step back.

"I don't think there is going to be much drop-off," Galippo said.

How does Galippo describe the new-look Trojans?

"Fast, smart and disciplined," he said. "Obviously young. But I really don't think we have a big ego."

Mays, the senior and two-time All-American, didn't think the performance was perfect, but he was already thinking ahead to the visit to Ohio State on Saturday.

"We didn't tackle well," Mays said. "A big quarterback like Terrelle Pryor can breaks some tackles."