Pac-12: Vic Fangio
In a 17-14 overtime victory, the Cardinal held the Ducks 157.6 yards below their season average, 127 yards below their season rushing average and, most important, 40.5 points below their season scoring average.
The Cardinal was disruptive. It didn't let Oregon's speed get around the edges. It controlled and filled gaps. It forced the zone-blocking Ducks' offensive line backwards. It tackled well, not allowing yards after contact or catch. It didn't let up for 60 minutes, as so many seemingly strong defensive performances against Oregon tend to. And when Oregon busted its one explosion play on the evening, backup safety Devon Carrington made sure it was a 77-yard Marcus Mariota run to the Stanford 15-yard line and not a 92-yard TD scamper that might have changed the game.
What was the secret to the Cardinal solving the Ducks?
"We worked extremely hard at making sure we were going to be who we were," Mason said.
That's not as simple as it sounds, particularly against the Ducks, but it's something the Stanford players cited after the game as well.
"We took a greater focus on ourselves this time," linebacker Shayne Skov said after the Oregon game. "We didn't try to make too many adaptations to our own system. We were going to do what we do."
Yet what Stanford does has changed through the years. Significantly.
In 2009 -- Jim Harbaugh's third season -- the Cardinal was a plodding unit that ran a 4-3 and gave up 27 points a game. Enter Vic Fangio, who installed a 3-4. That same year, Mason took over the Cardinal secondary.
When Harbaugh and Fangio bolted for the San Francisco 49ers, new coach David Shaw handed the defense to Mason, who shared coordinator duties in 2011 with Jason Tarver, who is now running the Oakland Raiders' defense.
Let's just say Stanford's defense now looks sort of like its own thing, Mason's thing.
Explained Mason, "It's sort of morphed into something that is a little more …" Mason didn't finish the thought -- he started talking about defending spread offenses -- but we will: Funky, unorthodox, flexible. And effective.
Stanford's defense is talented, particularly its front seven, where a handful of guys have a chance to play on Sundays. It's notoriously physical, certainly the Pac-12's most smashmouth unit. And it's sound and disciplined. It doesn't blow a lot of assignments. That's very Stanford-y.
Yet Mason also hasn't been afraid to show some "what the heck is that?" looks to an offense, looks that seem to befuddle even experienced quarterbacks such as USC's Matt Barkley.
The results is this: Stanford is No. 1 in the nation in run defense (71.3 yards per game), sacks (4.42 yards per game) and tackles for a loss (9.25 yards per game). It's also 11th in the nation in scoring defense (16.92 ppg), despite playing a number of the nation's best offenses, something that can't be said for a number of other highly rated defenses. It's eighth in third down defense (29.53 percent).
"It's a containment run defense predicated on making offenses left handed and earning the right to rush the passer," Mason said.
In other words, the Cardinal stops the run, sacks your quarterback and gets off the field.
That's what happened last weekend against UCLA in Stanford's 35-17 win. The Cardinal held the Bruins to 73 yards rushing and recorded seven sacks and nine tackles for a loss.
It was textbook Stanford, which has held eight of 12 opponents below 100 yards rushing this season.
Yet Mason isn't completely believing what he saw in Game 1 with the Bruins. He said he thinks Game 2 on Friday in the Pac-12 championship game will feature a lot more offensive wrinkles from UCLA coordinator Noel Mazzone.
"There are some things they didn't show," Mason said. "It was obvious. I see it as a totally different game."
Mason specifically cited the quarterback run. Redshirt freshman Brett Hundley has rushed for 282 yards and eight TDs this season. His legs are weapons, and the Bruins didn't showcase them last weekend.
While UCLA and Stanford's potential first Rose Bowl since after the 1999 season are the immediate motivations and goals, Mason is aware that his name is bouncing around as a potential head coach. While it's clearly a future goal, he doesn't seem to be in too much of a hurry to race out of Palo Alto in order to chase the first opportunity that comes his way.
"I'm so in love with what is happening here with our players," he said. "I truly believe I am where I'm supposed to be."
Mason seems to like things on the Farm, where he's been growing a West Coast defensive power.
BERKELEY, Calf. -- California's defense needs to replace both starting defensive ends from 2011. And both safeties. And both inside linebackers, including Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Mychal Kendricks.
Looks like the Bears won't have much of a chance to lead the conference in total defense a third consecutive season, right?
Looks, however, can be deceiving. And, in fact, looks are also a good reason to suspect the Bears are going to be pretty salty on defense this fall. During a scrimmage-heavy and rare open practice last weekend, they looked big up front, fast in the back half and athletic everywhere. This is a young but fairly experienced unit with plenty of upside. It would be surprising if it doesn't rank near the top of the Pac-12 in most categories in 2012.
"I see us playing faster and faster every practice," coordinator Clancy Pendergast said.
Young? Based on conversations with Pendergast and head coach Jeff Tedford, the Pac-12 blog has calculated that about 28 guys are in line for action next fall. Six are seniors and 17 are sophomores or younger.
Experienced? Eight of those youngsters saw significant action in 2011. Five started games.
"The biggest thing to me is this is the third year in the system," Pendergast said. "These guys know a lot more about this system than they did two years ago and even a year ago. We've got it built here now where as guys come up through the program, they are learning the defense, and when it's their time, they understand what they are supposed to do by learning from guys ahead of them."
Start up front, where Pendergast and Tedford are practically giddy over the maturation of 6-foot-5, 311-pound end Deandre Coleman. Said Tedford: "He may be one of the best that we've ever had." Keep in mind that Bears have produced two first-round NFL draft choices at end -- Tyson Alualu and Cameron Jordan -- over the past three seasons.
At the other end is true sophomore Mustafa Jalil, who surged late last season. Kendrick Payne and 347-pound sophomore Viliami Moala give the Bears a good combo at noseguard, while 2011 noseguard starter Aaron Tipoti is playing nose and end.
While this line might not have a dominant edge pass-rusher, it's deep with guys who will be difficult to account for with just one blocker, which should make things much easier for the linebackers.
As for replacing Kendricks and D.J. Holt at inside linebackers, veterans Robert Mullins and J.P. Hurrell, both seniors, are battling to hold off a youth movement that includes David Wilkerson, Nick Forbes, Jalen Jefferson and Jason Gibson, who are all sophomores or younger. This is the most competitive spot on the defense.
"It's not really like the well is empty there, but it's which guy or two is going to step up," Tedford said.
At outside linebacker, Chris McCain had six tackles for loss as a six-game starter in 2011. Returning starter Dan Camporeale holds down the opposite side, but true sophomore Brennan Scarlett could make a move when he returns in the fall from a knee injury. Scarlett's potential as a pass-rusher should get him on the field, and the same can be said for Cecil Whiteside, who started three games in 2011 and recorded three sacks.
There are three experienced, top-flight corners in Marc Anthony, Steve Williams and Stefan McClure, who is sitting out spring practices with a knee injury.
Of all these guys, only Payne, Tipoti, Hurrell, Mullens, Anthony and Hill are seniors. So the future looks perhaps even brighter than the intriguing 2012 present. For one, Coleman, Moala and Jalil across the defensive front look like a troika of potential All-Pac-12 performers in 2013, if Coleman opts to return for his senior season.
This depth and veterans vs. youth dynamic can be constructive, too. The fluidity of the depth chart ensures players take competition seriously this spring and into fall camp. Serious competition means quality reps in practice, which means you have a two-deep full of guys who are ready to play because they were forced to practice hard in order to stay in the mix.
Or as Sebastian, a true sophomore, explained it: "We want to come out and be better than the people who are in front of us. We want to take their spots. That's our mentality."
In 2010, Pendergast and then-Stanford defensive coordinator Vic Fangio brought 3-4 schemes from the NFL to the Pac-12 when everyone else was running a 4-3. It's meaningful that six conference teams will be base 3-4 in 2012 (including Arizona with its 3-3-5) and a couple of others will extensively use odd-front looks. The 3-4 seems to work well against the proliferation of spread teams in the conference, and it's easier on the West Coast to find linebacker recruits than defensive tackles.
But no matter how many teams adopt the scheme, it's reasonable to project that this Cal defense will remain atop the conference pecking order.
Three hires have been confirmed: Adrian Klemm (offensive line, formerly at SMU), Demetrice Martin (defensive backs, formerly at Washington) and Steve Broussard (running backs, formerly at Arizona State).
The LA Daily news has reported two others: Noel Mazzone (offensive coordinator, formerly at Arizona State) and Marques Tuiasosopo (tight ends, formerly an intern at UCLA who is presently serving as QBs coach).
Simply put: These are five extremely strong hires, both in terms of recruiting and coaching. And they each are college guys, though Klemm, Broussard and Tuiasosopo had solid NFL careers in the not-too-distant past. Mazzone also has coached in the NFL. Mora, an NFL lifer, will benefit from having staff members who know college football and the Pac-12.
Four of five, notably, are on offense. How Mora handles the defense will be interesting. He's a defensive guy, so he'll know a lot of NFL defensive coaches. But, as has been frequently noted, there are lot more funky offenses in college than in the NFL. Veteran NFL defensive coaches won't know as much about the no-huddle, up-tempo, spread and spread-option attacks that area all over college football and the Pac-12.
You'd think Mora would want a good mix of NFL and college guys on defense. That said, good defensive coaches can adapt -- see Clancy Pendergast at California and Vic Fangio at Stanford before he followed Jim Harbaugh back to the NFL. In fact, it seemed that USC's Monte Kiffin had a far better grasp of things in year two than year one.
Stanford in a sentence
- There's not much a team can do to improve on a 12-1 finish and No. 4 final ranking -- perhaps the best season in program history -- but the return of quarterback Andrew Luck and nice talent throughout the depth chart has folks whispering about possibilities even loftier than the Rose Bowl.
- There are holes to fill on the offensive line, but the chief worries are at receiver and the defensive line.
- Luck is back, but coach Jim Harbaugh is gone, and he took key members of his staff with him: defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, associate head coach Greg Roman and offensive line coach Tim Drevno. David Shaw was promoted from offensive coordinator to replace Harbaugh, while Pep Hamilton moved up from receivers coach to offensive coordinator. Derek Mason was promoted from secondary coach to co-defensive coordinator with linebackers coach Jason Tarver (Mason will call plays). Mike Bloomgren is the new run-game coordinator/offensive line coach, while Mike Sanford is the new running backs coach. Ron Crook will coach tight ends and offensive tackles.
- The Cardinal was ranked sixth in the preseason coaches poll, its highest preseason ranking in program history.
- Receiver is a key question: The returning wideouts combined for just 49 receptions and four touchdowns. The key player is Chris Owusu, a speedster who missed six game due to injury last season.
- Stanford is, however, stacked at tight end. It will be interesting to see how the depth sorts itself out. Levine Toilolo won the starting job last preseason but then suffered a season-ending knee injury. Coby Fleener ended up winning second-team All-Pac-10 honors, but some thought that Zach Ertz was the best tight end this spring.
- The Cardinal's final No. 4 ranking was its highest since 1940, when it finished No. 2 after a 10-0 season.
- While five starters are gone on defense, the top four tacklers are back: linebacker Shayne Skov, outside linebacker Chase Thomas, free safety Michael Thomas and strong safety Delano Howell.
- Stanford plays seven home games this season -- including a visit from Oregon on Nov. 12 -- and just four conference games on the road. It does not play Utah or Arizona State. So, yes, this is a favorable schedule.
"Vic [Fangio] brought in a sense of accomplishment, stability and experience," said Mason of the coordinator who followed former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh to the San Francisco 49ers. "Guys bought in to what he was selling."
Considering how much better the Stanford secondary was in 2010, Mason certainly deserves his share of credit. The pass efficiency defense improved from 98th in the nation to 16th in one year with Mason.
Mason believes there's no reason for regression in 2011, even though Fangio and five key starters are gone, including nose tackle Sione Fua, who made the Cardinal's new 3-4 look work by anchoring the middle of the line and keeping the linebackers free to roam in space.
"The biggest component was confidence," Mason said. "When you have some success, it starts to breed confidence."
Some notes from our chat:
- The general gist from Mason: There's good depth at linebacker, good competition in the secondary and maybe some concerns up front. Replacing Fua -- perhaps the most underrated player in the Pac-10 last year -- isn't going to be easy. "We're going to do it by committee," Mason said. "There is no player right now that we can say, he's the guy."
- As for that D-line, Matt Masifilo is back at one end. Ben Gardner probably is tops at the other end. Terrence Stephens, David Parry and Henry Anderson are options inside at nose tackle. Mason also mentioned Eddie Plantaric as an option. Mason called Anderson, a redshirt freshman, a "swing guy" who could play inside our outside: "When we look at who has come the furthest in the shortest amount of time, it's Henry Anderson."
- Mason also admitted -- after a certain sports writer whined about the multiplicity of looks from the Stanford D -- that the the Cardinal defense is more of a hybrid 3-4 than a pure 3-4. There were plenty of times last fall when four defenders put their hands on the ground in a 4-3 look. It's about matchups, he said. And if it's clear there's more talent at linebacker, which appears to be the case, "We could take a defensive end out and put another linebacker in. We're going to get the best athletes in."
- Mason repeatedly talked about incoming freshman, particularly linebacker James Vaughters, who by most accounts will be too good to redshirt, as well as a defensive backs Wayne Lyons, Ra'Chard Pippens and Ronnie Harris. "We're not afraid to play true freshmen," he said.
- Inside linebacker Shayne Skov and outside linebacker Chase Thomas are All-Pac-12 talents. As for the two vacancies at linebacker, two sophomores, Blake Lueders and Trent Murphy, are battling outside and senior Max Bergen and sophomore Jarek Lancaster are competing inside. Alex Debniak also is in the mix outside -- Mason included him with Lancaster and Lueders when he said, "Those three guys have probably come the furthest in the shortest period of time." And Vaughters, well, he's got great high school video and could help inside or out.
- Linebacker? "We are a very athletic group across the board," Mason gushed.
- As for the secondary, the question is not only Richard Sherman's former sport at cornerback. Said Mason, "Richard's spot is up for grabs. Both corners are up for grabs. I'll say this. There's not a position in the secondary that isn't up for grabs." That includes both returning starters at safety, Mike Thomas and Delano Howell (here's a guess Mason was mostly making a point about competition -- "We're always going to keep pushing the envelope" -- Thomas and Howell are almost certain to start). At corner, Barry Browning, Johnson Bademosi and sophomore Terrence Brown are in the mix. Sophomore safety Devon Carrington also has caught Mason's eye.
- Interesting quote from Mason: "We probably played as much man coverage as any team in the country [in 2010]."
- The Stanford defense finished ranked in the nation's top 1o in scoring, which is more remarkable when you consider it gave up 52 points at Oregon. That ill-fated trip is something that Mason seems to recall as vividly and often as the fancy, positive stats. It's clear he has -- and likely his staff and players have -- spent plenty of time thinking about the Ducks, who handed Stanford its only loss. Said Mason, "The team we have to go get is the Oregon Ducks. Oregon is king of the hill."
Next up is Stanford (we're skipping Oregon State for now because its lone vacancy at running backs coach has yet to be filled). The Cardinal saw head coach Jim Harbaugh bolt for the San Francisco 49ers and the promotion of offensive coordinator David Shaw to Harbaugh's former post.
Team in parenthesis is where the departing coach ended up.
Jim Harbaugh, head coach (San Francisco 49ers)
David Shaw, head coach (formerly Cardinal offensive coordinator)
Greg Roman, associate head coach (San Francisco 49ers)
Shaw, offensive coordinator/running backs
Pep Hamilton, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks/receivers
Mike Sanford, running backs
Vic Fangio, defensive coordinator (San Francisco 49ers)
Derek Mason, associate head coach/co-defensive coordinator
Jason Tarver, co-defensive coordinator/inside linebackers
Tim Drevno, offensive line (San Francisco 49ers)
Mike Bloomgren, offensive line/running game coordinator
Reaction: Stanford still has a vacancy at tight ends coach. Defensive line coach Randy Hart, special teams coordinator Brian Polian and OLBs coach/recruiting coordinator Lance Anderson also were retained from Harbaugh's 2010 staff. Hamilton and Mason were promoted from within; Hamilton was receivers coach last season, while Mason coached the secondary. Sanford, Tarver and Bloomgren were outside hires. They came from Western Kentucky, the 49ers and the New York Jets. By promoting from within, Shaw ensured continuity from a highly successful 2010 season. His outside hires have an NFL flavor, which players tend to respect. Sanford, a former Cardinal offensive assistant in 2007 and 2008, was quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator at Western Kentucky last season. The loss of Harbaugh, who rebuilt the program from the ground-up, shook Stanford fans, but the departures of Roman, a creative offensive mind, particularly in the running game, and Fangio, who adopted a highly effective 3-4-hyrbid scheme, are nearly as big. Can the Cardinal maintain and even build on their recent momentum? That's the big question for Shaw and his staff.
Ergo: Desperate hire by Bruins coach Rick Neuheisel, right?
Not really. The devil is in the details. As for the numbers from coordinating defenses, Tresey's are solid.
2007 at Cincinnati: The Bearcats led the nation in turnover gained (42) and interceptions (26). They ranked eight in sacks per game (3.23). What about points? They were 13th in the nation: 18.77.
2008 at Cincinnati: The Bearcats ranked 31st nationally in total defense (321.9 yards), 19th in rushing defense (115.0) and 25th in scoring defense (20.1 points). They were ninth in the nation with 2.86 sacks per game. Didn't force as many turnovers, though: Just 22. Of course, that's four more than UCLA forced last year and would have been tied for fourth in the Pac-10 in 2010.
2009 at South Florida: The Bulls ranked 24th nationally in total defense (321.8 yards) and 19th (tied) in scoring defense (19.8 points). They forced 23 turnovers that season.
So what about those details? Well, recall that cryptic "timing issue" that Neuheisel alluded to Tuesday as to why then-Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly, now at Notre Dame, fired Tresey? Well, that's mostly what it was.
Following the 2008 season, Tresey thought he had been hired as Miami's defensive coordinator, so much so that he told Kelly that he was leaving. But then Tresey and Shannon couldn't finalize a deal -- it apparently was over what position Tresey would coach -- and Shannon left Tresey at the altar. That interview, combined with Kelly's desire to switch to a 3-4 from Tresey's 4-3, drove a wedge into the relationship, and Kelly then made plans to move on with Bob Diaco, who's now with Kelly at Notre Dame. So Tresey was out of a job.
It's meaningful then that Tresey quickly landed on his feet as the defensive coordinator of a Cincinnati foe in the Big East: South Florida. It's not easy to get a job after national signing day, but Bulls coach Jim Leavitt wanted Tresey.
So why did Tresey last just one year at South Florida? Wasn't his fault. Leavitt was fired in January of 2009 after a school investigation concluded he grabbed one of his players by the throat, slapped him in the face and then lied about it.
Incoming coach Skip Holtz brought in his own guy to coach the Bulls' defense: Mark Snyder. So, in mid-January, Tresey was out of work, though he was a good soldier for the Bulls until he got pink-slipped, which Holtz even acknowledged.
That is how he ended up coaching in the UFL.
Is Tresey a spectacular hire? No. Bruins fans would have been more juiced to get Vic Fangio or Rocky Long, Neuheisel's first two choices.
But considering how the nearly two-month search played out in the media -- it didn't seem pretty, did it? -- Neuheisel landed a solid, experienced candidate who figures to bring an attacking, aggressive scheme, which the Bruins didn't have last fall.
And, by the way, it's not like Neuheisel isn't invested in this decision. He's fully aware that 2011 is a win-or-else season for him in Westwood.
Some more stories on the Tresey hire here and here and here.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
Hey, why are there 12 teams here? Hey, it's because the Pac-10, the conference we've known since 1978, is now the Pac-12, with two new teams -- Utah and Colorado -- and North and South divisions and a conference championship game. It will take some getting used to. For one, goodbye nine-game, round-robin schedule; hello conference misses. And hello this debate: "The North rules!" "No way, man, the South is where it's at!" In any event, the dynamic will be different, and you can count on coaches thinking about how it will be -- in recruiting and on the field -- over the coming months.
Solving the QB intrigue: Arizona, Oregon, Oregon State, USC, Utah and Washington State are set at quarterback. Oh, and Stanford, too. But five schools have varying degrees of intrigue (and even Arizona needs to figure out what to do with capable backup Matt Scott). Arizona State needs to establish a pecking order between Brock Osweiler and Steven Threet. At Colorado, Tyler Hansen returns from an injury and will try to fight off a challenge from junior college transfer Brent Burnette this spring. California has a wide-open competition with a bunch of names and no clear favorite (transfer Zach Maynard?). Is true freshman Brett Hundley ready to take over at UCLA, or are Kevin Prince or Richard Brehaut going to prevail? (And will Prince be ready to compete this spring after knee surgery?). And Washington is a battle between Keith Price and Nick Montana.
Tending to the hot seats: No Pac-10 coach was fired this year, though newcomer Colorado dispatched Dan Hawkins. But that might not be the case after the 2011 season, seeing that a couple of seats range from steamy to warm. Topping the hot-seat list are UCLA's Rick Neuheisel and Washington State's Paul Wulff. Both need to win this season to survive. Neuheisel, coming off his second 4-8 season in three years, probably needs seven or eight wins. Wulff probably needs to get his team to a bowl game. Arizona State is expected to be a top-25 team. If it's not, Dennis Erickson could be in trouble. Arizona coach Mike Stoops and California coach Jeff Tedford might not be on hot seats, per se, but their seats aren't as comfortably chilled as they once were.
Hello, my name is Coach New Guy: Two Pac-12 teams welcome new coaches: Jon Embree at Colorado and David Shaw at Stanford. Shaw will need no introduction to his players; he was the Cardinal's offensive coordinator under Jim Harbaugh, who bolted to the San Francisco 49ers. (I'm concerned I will suffer some sort of Harbaugh withdrawal this spring.) But he's rebuilding an outstanding coaching staff that suffered a major brain drain on both sides of the ball, including Greg Roman (offense) and Vic Fangio (defense). Embree has stocked his staff with plenty of familiar names and faces and lots of impressive NFL pedigree, which will appeal to recruits. Still, both are first-time head coaches so it will be interesting to see how they adjust to their big corner offices.
Where's the beef? Most Pac-12 teams take significant hits on their offensive or defensive lines -- or both, in the case of Arizona, Oregon and Stanford. Colorado loses just one lineman, but that's left tackle Nate Solder, a likely first-round NFL draft pick. Arizona, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA and USC must replace at least three offensive line starters. Arizona, Arizona State, California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, Utah and Washington State need to replace at least two on the D-line. If you watched the conference's two BCS bowls -- Stanford in the Discover Orange and Oregon in the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game -- you saw what happened when you win the battle in the trenches.
Let's start with this: "Two years of good football is not enough," said Shaw, a former Stanford player.
A dominant victory in the Discover Orange Bowl over Virginia Tech? Old news.
"We're going to put it in a box, we're going to put a ribbon around it, and we're going to put it up on a shelf for everybody to admire," he said. "But we're going to get back to work. We're going to let everyone else admire and talk about how great it was. Our goals are not done. ... We did not win our conference. Oregon did that."
Why did athletic director Bob Bowlsby hire Shaw, Stanford's offensive coordinator since 2007, over the other three members of the Cardinal staff he interviewed (associate head coach Greg Roman, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and special teams coordinator Brian Polian)?
Bowlsby said Shaw's hiring was "logical" and a "perfect fit." Among Shaw's strengths, Bowlsby listed recruiting, experience at the NFL and college levels, an understanding of Stanford's academics, organizational skills, continuity from Harbaugh's tenure, high character, the support of the locker room, and good motivational skills.
There's also this: Shaw was adamant that this is his dream job. Stanford won't be a coaching stepping stone for him, he said.
"Since the day I started coaching, this is the job I always knew I wanted," he said, then added later. "I wanted this to be my last head coaching interview ever."
But Shaw wouldn't talk about his staff or assistants. Fangio and Roman are going to leave. It is unclear which members of the current staff stick around, though a handful almost certainly will.
As for as what he wants to continue from the Harbaugh Era, Shaw mentioned being aggressive and physical on both sides of the ball. Shaw also might have said the words "compete" and "competitive" 20 times. That's very Harbaughian.
He said the schemes won't change. And then again they will. "We're going to push the envelope with scheme," he said. Also a Harbaugh trademark.
Shaw's hiring will be popular with the current players. Just after Harbaugh's departure was announced, receiver Doug Baldwin told the San Jose Mercury News that, "All the players want David Shaw as the head coach."
Shaw said he doesn't "plan on disappointing them" when he was asked about this, but he also added something that very much sounded like a grumpy, veteran head coach.
"I was not happy it was in the paper," he said.
Shaw has a lot on his plate, starting with a big recruiting weekend, when he must keep an outstanding recruiting class on board. Next, he must fill out his staff. Then, once the boxes are unpacked and he turns his attention to X's and O's, he will be freighted with the high expectations that come with a likely preseason top-10 ranking.
It won't be easy to replace a larger-than-life -- and slightly eccentric -- personality such as Harbaugh, particularly after the Cardinal's success this year. But Shaw's first day on the job was impressive.
A news conference is scheduled today for 4:30 p.m. ET.
Hiring Shaw won't generate much national sizzle, particularly after Harbaugh, who bolted for the San Francisco 49ers, became a skyrocketing national figure over the past two seasons. But it will be a popular choice among Stanford players, administrators and top boosters.
Further, it insures continuity for a team that is likely to be ranked in the preseason top 10, largely because of the return of quarterback Andrew Luck.
“David Shaw is exactly the right person to lead our football program at this time,” athletic director Bob Bowlsby said in a statement. “David has the experience, intellect, coaching skills and organizational abilities to be a tremendous head coach. He understands and embraces the combination of world class academics and world class athletics that is required at Stanford.
“David has made a substantial contribution to the recent success of our program and our team has great confidence in him. I could not be more excited to work with David and to assist him and his staff in leading our football program to high achievement in the years ahead.”
Shaw, 38, played receiver at Stanford from 1991-94 and is the son of a former Cardinal assistant, Willie Shaw. He was picked over two other members of Harbaugh's former staff: associate head coach Greg Roman and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
Stanford also interviewed Yale coach Tom Williams, a former Stanford linebacker, and pursued Boise State coach Chris Petersen, who opted to stay in Boise.
The first big question for today: Which members of Harbaugh's staff will remain and coach under Shaw? Roman and Fangio will not return, ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel has learned. They will have numerous opportunities elsewhere, particularly in the NFL. Either or both could follow Harbaugh to the 49ers. So who does Shaw have in mind to fill the considerable voids left behind? Both Roman and Fangio did brilliant jobs this past season.
Of immediate concern for Shaw is a major on-campus recruiting weekend. Stanford's class is ranked 17th by ESPN recruiting, and Shaw must reassure previously committed players and get the class signed intact on Feb. 2, national signing day.
Shaw has extensive NFL and college experience. He coached with Harbaugh at San Diego in 2006, but from 1997-2005 he served stints with the Philadelphia Eagles, Oakland Raiders and Baltimore Ravens.
In 2006, Stanford's offense stank: It ranked 118th in the nation -- second to last -- in both scoring (10.6 ppg) and total offense (232 yards per game).
The past two seasons, Stanford's offense has been outstanding. It ranked first in the Pac-10 in 2009 in total offense (427.6 ypg) and second in scoring (35.5 ppg). This year, despite the loss of running back Toby Gerhart, the 2009 Heisman Trophy runner up, it ranked 14th in the nation in total offense (472.5 ypg) and ninth in scoring (40.3 ppg).
Of course, deciding who deserves credit for that is difficult. Harbaugh officially called plays, but the scuttlebutt around the program was that Roman was the architect of many creative formations and blocking schemes the Cardinal used over the past two seasons. Harbaugh was always intentionally vague about how the offensive coaching functioned.
Beyond sophisticated X's and O's, Harbaugh established a tough-guy, blue-collar culture. Shaw was a part of that and surely will try to retain that culture. His first task, other than recruiting, is surrounding himself with a staff that connects with the current players.
Shaw's hiring won't reverberate nationally. The leading response will be, "Who?" Heading into the first season of the Pac-12, the general reaction from other teams is likely this: "Yahoo! No more Harbaugh!" More than a few folks will wonder if a safe, internal promotion won't lead Stanford back down in the conference pecking order.
Shaw's marching orders, therefore, are simple: Maintain the program's growth and make sure that the 12-1 finish this year does not become a one-and-done historical anomaly.
His two conclusions:
1. Stanford likely makes a move Thursday and the school will host a bunch of recruits this weekend.
2. The best odds are on an internal candidate: associate head coach Greg Roman, offensive coordinator David Shaw and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
The Cardinal made inquiries with Boise State's Chris Petersen, and he said no thanks. It appears there were feelers with Oregon State coach Mike Riley, but that didn't get very far. And Yale coach Tom Williams also interviewed. Of course, there also may be a guy we don't see coming. There are no indications that athletic director Bob Bowlsby has a super-secret guy he's going to spring on us, but you never know.
Wilner, because he is covering the story, doesn't provide an opinion on whom he believes Stanford should or will pick to replace Jim Harbaugh. San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami goes with Shaw.
Early comments from outgoing senior receiver Doug Baldwin indicated a lot of players wanted Shaw, a former Stanford player with deep ties to the Farm. What Wilner writes here echoes my take:
The most important thing to everyone in the locker room, by far — and it has been lost amid the reaction to Baldwin’s comment — is that one of the three internal candidates gets the job.
The notion that the majority of players would be unhappy with Roman or Fangio in charge is ridiculous.
Here's an issue with Shaw: It's unlikely that Shaw would be able to retain Roman or Fangio, both of whom will have a number of NFL opportunities if they don't get the head job, starting with following Harbaugh to the 49ers. Shaw is much more likely to stick around and work for Roman or Fangio.
Then there's this on Roman, from Wilner:
If you were impressed with Stanford’s run/pass balance, with its use of tight ends, its endless array of formations, its protection schemes and overall creativity, everything about the offense, really — well, that was Roman.
If you were impressed? Not to gush about Roman, but the single most impressive thing in college football this season -- scheme-wise -- was the Cardinal's offensive creativity. Oh, the guy playing QB, he was OK, too.
If continuity from what Harbaugh built matters, Roman is likely the guy. If Stanford ties matter most, Shaw is likely the guy.
And, of course, there are a variety of other issues: Recruiting acumen; whether one is viewed as a climber who will leave when a bigger offer comes around; an ability to get along with boosters and administrators; and an ability to hire an good coaching staff.
It appears the suspense is about to end. So stay tuned.