Pac-12: Arizona Cardinals

Helfrich's Oregon staff complete

February, 1, 2013
With the hiring of Ron Aiken as defensive line coach and the promotion of Scott Frost to offensive coordinator, Oregon has completed the post-Chip Kelly coaching staff under Mark Helfrich.

Good hires. And both coaches inherit loaded decks.

Frost gets eight starters back from the nation's best offense, including a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback. Aiken gets an experienced crew that goes seven deep.

Frost, of course, will be on the spot, and we mean that in a good way.

While Oregon's staff under Kelly was known for its notable continuity, Frost has long been viewed as an up-and-comer. He's had opportunities to leave Oregon, but he seemed content in Eugene, at least until someone handed him his own offense.

It was just a matter of time before he'd get one. In fact, if Kelly had stuck around, I'd rate the chances of Frost being at Oregon in 2014 at less than 50 percent.

Frost, 38, brings a compelling resume. Not only has he been working under Kelly and Helfrich -- a dynamic mentoring duo -- as receivers coach for four seasons, he knows both sides of the ball as a player and coach.

After starting his college career at Stanford, he won a national championship as Nebraska's quarterback in 1997. He then played safety in the NFL. Before he came to Oregon, he was the defensive coordinator at Northern Iowa.

As the Ducks' new quarterbacks coach, he'll bring plenty of perspective to the position he'll oversee.

He's played for Stanford’s Bill Walsh and Nebraska’s Tom Osborne as well as the New York Jets’ Bill Parcels in the NFL. Toss in his needing no get-to-know-you period at Oregon, and you see there are plenty of reasons to have faith in his taking the keys to the Ducks' offense.

All Frost needs to do is make sure Oregon continues to average 50 points and 540 yards per game. No problemo?

As for Aiken, he's spent the past six season coaching defensive line with the Arizona Cardinals. NFL experience will give him immediate credibility with his players. He also knows college football, as he coached the defensive line at Iowa for eight season (1999-2006). He's also had stints at San Diego State, Texas, Vanderbilt and New Mexico.

He's also filling big shoes, though.

Jerry Azzinaro, the lone full-time assistant who followed Kelly to the Philadelphia Eagles, was a critical part of the Ducks' staff. For one, he brought an emotional intensity to practices and games that will be hard to replace. He also played a key role in the changes -- improvements -- over the past couple of years, including the adoption of a base 3-4 look, which Kelly ridiculously acted like hadn't happened.

Still, you'd have to say Helfrich has deftly handled the first decisions following his elevation to head coach.

Kelly's decision to leave surely inspired some handwringing among Ducks fans. These staff moves should ease those initial concerns.

Stanford's recent success just about Andrew Luck? That's just silly talk.

If ESPN NFL draft guru Todd McShay is on target with his mock 2012 NFL draft, plenty of evidence to the contrary will be produced on draft day. Insider
McShay projects that Luck will be the No. 1 overall pick, of course, but he also projects that Luck will be joined by three teammates in the first round.

How many other teams will produce that many first-round picks? One: National champion Alabama.

The Pac-12 has seven first-round picks in McShay's mock draft.

Here's how McShay sees things, with some comments included.

1. Andrew Luck, QB Stanford (Indianapolis Colts)

2. Matt Kalil, OT, USC (St. Louis Rams)

13. David DeCastro, OG, Stanford (Arizona Cardinals)
This might seem a bit high for a guard, but DeCastro was the most dominant interior offensive lineman in the nation in 2011 and has a chance to develop into one of the elite NFL players at his position. Offensive tackle is also a need area, but DeCastro is a much better overall player than the top available tackle. Cornerback could also be a consideration, but both Janoris Jenkins (North Alabama) and Dre Kirkpatrick (Alabama) carry off-field baggage.

18. Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford (San Diego Chargers)

20. Nick Perry, DE, USC (Tennessee Titans)
The Titans have three defensive ends set to become free agents and need a dynamic pass-rusher to complement Derrick Morgan. While Perry is raw, he has good initial burst and natural pass-rush skills. Cornerback, safety and offensive line are also need areas, but Perry makes the most sense in this situation.

26. Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford (Houston Texans)
The Texans would rather get a wideout here to complement Andre Johnson, but Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu and South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery would be reaches at this point. A difference-maker at tight end would help, though, and Fleener is a reliable target with toughness, a competitive nature and underrated speed/athleticism. He could draw some attention to the middle away from Johnson, and with a deep wideout class Houston could find a quality receiver in the next couple of rounds.

29. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State (Baltimore Ravens)
Burfict is a physical freak with tremendous athleticism and explosive power. He's a top-20 talent, but questions about his discipline on and off the field are hurting his stock. However, Burfict could contribute immediately and would benefit greatly from the leadership and guidance of Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis. And you have to wonder whether the Ravens would press their luck and take another player with character flags after bringing cornerback Jimmy Smith into the fold last year.

Here's McShay's player rankings. Insider

Here's Kiper's Big Board. Insider

And here's Kiper's top-five by position, Insider which is chock full of Pac-12 players.

Most interesting: Kiper ranks former Arizona State's Brock Osweiler No. 3 among the quarterbacks, ahead of former Arizona's Nick Foles, who is fifth. Luck, of course, is No. 1 and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III is No. 2.

If Osweiler ends up getting picked on the first day -- first two rounds -- it certainly will validate his surprising decision to enter the NFL draft.

Lunch links: Scott raises conference's profile

June, 24, 2010
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts.

Q&A: Cal defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast

April, 16, 2010
California expected to be good on defense last year. It wasn't. The Bears gave up 28 points per game vs. Pac-10 foes, which ranked ninth in the conference.

While the official word is long-time coordinator Bob Gregory voluntarily left for Boise State -- and there's been no indication that coach Jeff Tedford or Gregory himself have been spinning for public consumption a forced separation -- it was clear at season's end that some things had to change. Tedford, in fact, repeatedly said as much, emphasizing a need to better pressure opposing quarterbacks in 2010.

After Gregory bolted, Tedford brought longtime NFL coach Clancy Pendergast, former coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals and Kansas City Chiefs, aboard to rejuvenate a crew that often seemed to underachieve in 2009.

With the Bears well into spring practices, it seemed like a good time to check in and see how the defense had responded to their new coach.

So, you're a long-time NFL coach: Why jump to the college ranks now?

Clancy Pendergast: It was an opportunity to be a coordinator again. That was very intriguing to me. And to get an opportunity to work in the Pac-10. There's a lot of NFL influence in the Pac-10 with some of the schemes and coaches coming from NFL backgrounds. I looked at is as a challenge.

You're most of the way through spring practices, what's your first impression of what the differences are between coaching in college and the NFL?

CP: There needs to be teaching done at every level of football. I find myself teaching here just as much as I did in the NFL. The players are very receptive and have been real attentive. The more you give them the more they sort of thrive on it. It's been great.

What about recruiting, that's got to be a new skill set.

CP: It's just a matter of evaluating talent and how they are going to fit into the system that you run and really just building relationships. In football in general you have to have relationships with your players. You create that relationship early on in the process. In the NFL, we spend a lot of time preparing for the draft and combines, visiting with players at schools. You end up drafting some guys and some guys you don't draft but you build a relationship through that process that leads up into the draft before you actually get them into your building. I look at that as very similar to recruiting, trying to build relationship and finding guys who not only have the skill set to play at the level of competition you play in but also the type of person they are and how they fit into your program. It's a lot of the same things we do in the NFL in terms of identifying players that fit within your organization.

When you watched Cal's defense from 2009 on film, what seemed to go wrong?

CP: To be honest with you, I didn't watch a whole lot to see what they were doing. There were a few players that I wanted to look at from a skill set standpoint and wanted to see what they were asked to do and how they responded in certain schemes. That's all I really looked at. I didn't look at what they did or how they did it or what the score was or what their record was. We're starting out with a clean slate in a brand new system. I didn't pay any attention to what they did scheme-wise [last year].

(Read full post)

Pac-10 lunch links: A Cal safety goes down

March, 19, 2010
O, that way madness lies; let me shun that; No more of that.

Report: Cal hires new defensive coordinator

February, 19, 2010
California wouldn't confirm a report from the National Football Post that coach Jeff Tedford has hired Clancy Pendergast to replace Bob Gregory as the Bears defensive coordinator.

Pendergast was hired by the Oakland Raiders just last week. He was the Arizona Cardinals' defensive coordinator for five years before serving in the same post with the Kansas City Chiefs last year.



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