Sometimes, hiring a new coach is kind of like getting back into the dating scene after getting out of a longtime relationship.
In this case, Sonny Dykes is like that date who’s saying all the right things in the first week. You know, things like, “I hate the ballet! Let’s go watch football!” or “Would you like another beer, sweetie?” Seriously, if what Dykes (and his staff for that matter) have been saying since taking the job is any indication, then fans should be stoked.
Of course, as we all know, a date can appear to be Mr/Ms perfect in the weeks 2 and 3 and turn out to be a complete nightmare. We all know a true relationship isn’t evaluated by what the person says but what they do, in good times and in bad. Dykes could say all the right things now, but it won’t mean a thing until we see how this team looks once they hit the field in September.
Still, it’s hard not to be impressed with what most are hearing and reading so far. Let’s get into some of the choice bits.
Preventing Player Entitlement
"After every practice, we rank every player. Jerry Rice said 'that every single day I was afraid of losing my job.' If it's good enough for Jerry…"
"Sometimes, "they (student-athletes) think this is all about them. It's not theirs, it's not mine, it's the Cal fans'.
I got to say, I love this quote from Dykes. It’s not really the competition bit that strikes a chord with me, though I love the idea of building competition in every level of the team. Rather, I love the mentality that the entire program, from the players to the coaches are working to represent the university. It’s not about what the players can get out of it and how much media or NFL scout attention they get, but rather what they can do to represent Cal athletics. Dykes seems to give every indication that the players who “get it” and “buy in” are going to be the ones who will most contribute, and thereby reap the most rewards. It may sound simple to most, but I don’t know if I’ve heard a Cal coach phrase it this way, and it sure sounds a whole heck of a lot like a bit of a paradigm shift. I’m all for it.
"We'll open the gates and come on in. We don't have any secrets. People can watch our film; they can rewind it, fast-forward it. This is not my program. This is Cal's program."
Again, Dykes is emphasizing that no one coach or player has ownership over the Cal team. But c’mon, the news that Cal’s practices will be open is huge. Clearly, as a fan, this is uber-exciting as it seems like fans are welcome to stroll in and watch practices any time. No more getting caught in the bushes and being chased away by portly security guards. This does so much for building a connection between the team and the fans. You have to think this also only help to build more media interest in the football team as well.
But more than that, Dykes seems to almost challenge skeptics by inviting them to observe and film practices. I can’t begin to tell you how much this statement simple exudes confidence in what Dykes believes his team can do if they prepare and execute.
I’m not going to turn this post into an anti-Tedford rant, because that’d be like (going back to the new date analogy) having your date go on and on about how much of a loser their ex-boyfriend was. No need for that here. But remember when Tedford got pissed about a few Cal reporters documenting and reporting on the formations and plays they observed in practice? I understand that you don’t want to divulge any information that’s going to give opponents any competitive advantage. But I always felt that it was no coincidence that increased security and privacy around a team’s practices always seemed to go hand-in-hand with increased insecurities in a team’s ability.
It’s just refreshing to hear a coach essentially say, “Gee, great, now you know we’ll bring our Z receiver in motion to the opposite side, fake the screen before handing it off to our back. Now try and do something about it.” The best teams aren’t the best because they are continually outsmarting or tricking their opponents. They’re outworking them. I’m not saying Cal is anywhere close to that right now, but it’s encouraging to hear a coach have that mentality that they have to shroud everything in mystery in order to be successful.
Recruiting has been great. We've added five new commits since we got hired, so that's been exciting. The response has been great. Kids are interested in Cal. The university sells itself. If we do a good job of presenting a unified message, then I think the recruiting part of it is going to be great. To me, we have a chance to have one of the top recruiting classes in the country at Cal.
This is less about what he’s saying and more about what he’s done. Despite the coaching change, Cal hasn’t had a single decommitment (though things are shaky with Cameron Hunt), and they’ve actually received 5 new commitments (1 OL, 1 WR, 2 DE, 1 WR). They’ve moved up into the Top 25 rankings in the nation according to Rivals’ recruiting site, and are pretty close in ESPN. This isn’t a staff that’s taken a wait-and-see approach. Almost all the new coaches have hit the recruiting road as soon as they signed on to Cal. We’re talking aboutlLiving out of suitcases, spending more time on planes and in recruit’s homes than in their own hotel rooms, etc. It’s been really impressive.
Residing in Berkeley:
"I think you need to live in the community if you can. It's important for people to see you in restaurants and shopping and we need to be involved in the schools. I think that's important. For me, I like to have my kids at practice, my wife at practice, hang around and get to know the players. It's important ... we create a family environment." This isn’t a huge a point, but it does speak to Dykes’ emphasis on continuing the Cal tradition of having a family and “home” culture at Cal. Tedford did this pretty well, but Dykes does take it an extra step further in residing in Berkeley. Good moves Coach. The hills are gorgeous. Just be sure not to hang out too much south of the Jack in the Box on Telegraph past 9 PM.
On the Use and Recruitment of Tight Ends:
"Six scholarship tight ends is a little out of whack…There's not enough running back depth and we have 10 scholarship offensive linemen; that number needs to be 16-18."
The above quote I think has been immediately misconstrued by many. Some are adding it to their “Dykes is anti-TE” though stockpile. Of course, I could be reading it wrong, but I don’t necessarily see it that way. Dykes has clearly stated that he’ll utilize the best players. I’m paraphrasing Tony Franklin when he said the reason Louisiana Tech didn’t play any tight ends last year was because they didn’t have any. Or at least none that warranted playing over their playmaking WRs. If Cal’s tight ends can play, I have a lot of confidence that Dykes and Franklin will find a way to incorporate them into the offense.
Also, I think Dykes touches upon a real important point in that our offensive line and RB recruiting in recent years have most certainly been out of whack. Football is won in the trenches, and when you consider that the offensive line makes up 5 out of your 12 players on the field at any given moment, it’s hard not to agree with the notion that 10 scholarship offensive linemen is a bit of a killer. Fortunately, the previously coaching regime had a very solid recruiting class with this corps last year, but it’ll be up to the new one to bring in another haul of about 4-5 big uglies.
So what do you guys think? Any thoughts on Coach Dykes’ early comments?
Read the rest of the post and comments here >>
Thursday, December 20, 2012
Sometimes, hiring a new coach is kind of like getting back into the dating scene after getting out of a longtime relationship.
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
New head coach Sonny Dykes has begun assembling his new team in what everyone hopes will be the staff to lead the Bears to the Rose Bowl in the near future. A couple of hires have become public, while a few are agreed to in principle, and a few remaining coaching positions are still being decided.
I wanted to share just a few thoughts on each hire, but let me start off by saying this: it's a bit ridiculous that some people are already jumping off the cliff in regards to a few hires. People are way too obsessed with sexy picks and I find it funny that some people are disappointed they Dykes has chosen not to bring on certain candidates, even though most didn't know who they were a few weeks ago. I understand the desire to bring on big name coaches, but I actually believe in Coach Dykes when he maintains that it's all about fit, and who he thinks is going to work best with the players and other coaches. It's that chemistry that's been missing for a while in the latter years of Tedford's tenure, and I for one am ready to believe Dykes when he says he's looking for the coaches who will best instill that chemistry in the team.
And if anything, let's wait until these coaches have actually gone through a full season before we jump to any conclusions, yeah?
Defensive Coordinator - Andy Buh
Defensive Coordinator was by far going to be the biggest hire for Sonny Dykes, with Louisiana Tech handicapped last year by a defense that couldn't seem to keep any team from scoring points (see LT surrendering 55 points to Texas...State.)
If you're measuring this hire strictly by the ability to make a big splash, then the hire is a bit of a head scratcher. Buh coached the linebackers at Wisconsin this past season, after having served as Stanford's co-defensive coordinator from 2007-2010 and Nevada's D-coordinator from 2010-2012.
On paper, the results don't necessarily jump out at you.
Scoring Defense 2009: 28.5 ppg (86th nationally)
Total Defense 2009: 409.3 ypg (96th nationally)
Turnovers 2009: 18 (89th nationally)
Scoring Defense 2010: 21.4 ppg (31st nationally)
Scoring Defense 2011: 25.2 ppg (58th nationally)
Total Defense 2010: 363.6 (54th nationally)
Total Defense 2011: 369.2 (52nd nationally
Turnovers 2010: 24 (45th nationally)
Turnovers 2011: 25 (39th nationally)
Pretty admirable job. Buh took a pretty atrocious Wolfpack defense and turned it into a respectable one fairly quickly. Nevada's defense wasn't quite elite which is probably why Buh didn't get more props, but it's clear he had a pretty immediate effect as defensive coordinator.
His job at Stanford wasn't quite as respectable, as we all remember Stanford's inability to deal with the speed of the Pac-10 during Harbaugh's early years. It's also difficult to determine who to attribute much of the responsibility to with Buh having acted as co-defensive coordinator. It is highly plausible that he had a large part in bringing in the talent to turn Stanford into the elite defensive squad it is now.
This leads us to at least one reason to be excited about Buh. He's reportedly a solid recruiter and has been described by more than one recruit as a "player's coach" in that he has the ability to connect with players on a personal level. I know that Gabe King should be excited about that.
In short, it's not a sexy pick by any stretch of the imagination. Buh isn't a big-name coordinator who has a long track-record of coaching elite defenses. But he's a young name in the coaching world who has done a pretty good job at Nevada, recruits well, and is at the very least a heck of a linebackers coach. The question will be of course how that will translate at Cal.
I can't honestly say that I'm impressed with the hire, but I'm certainly willing to give it a shot. There's nothing at this point for anyone to determine that this won't end up being a solid pick up. I want to see how the players respond before I go and end up declaring the move a failure. It's a bit preposterous to do otherwise.
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
After Jeff Tedford was relieved of his duties as head coach back in Novemeber, four of Cal's assistant coaches were released (defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, linebackers coach Kenwick Thompson, special teams coach Jeff Genyk and defensive line coach Todd Howard) while five remained to deal with the head coach transition and with recruiting in the interim.
Well, it looks like those remaining coaches have been shown the door. Offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Jim Michalczik, QB Coach Marcus Arroyo, RB Coach Ron Gould, Secondary Coach Ashley Ambrose, and WR coach Wes Chandler have all been notified that they will not be retained under Coach Sonny Dykes' new regime according to Jeff Faraudo.
There were some whispers that a few assistants might be retained, most notably RB Coach Ron Gould who has coached at Cal for 16 years, well before the Tedford era even starter.
But alas, it looks like Dykes will start fresh with a staff he knows and trusts.
[Edit: Geez, ok, so despite my last correction, it turns out the original report is true. All the previous assistant coaches have been released. MoragaBear at theBearInsider as the semi-definitive word:
Just in case there's still confusion about Coach M - Today, 04:45 PM
He'll be moving on with the rest of the holdover coaches.
My tweet from today was: Despite information floating around to the contrary, #Cal will not be retaining any of their holdover coaches. Best of luck to all of them.
My tweet from last night was: Look for a completely new coaching staff at #Cal under new HC Sonny Dykes.
That's still the case, despite info out there to the contrary.
Best wishes to a group of men that have given a lot of blood, sweat and tears to the Cal cause. ]
A few more thoughts on the moves after the jump.
First off, it's completely understandable that Dykes wants to bring on a new staff. It's far from uncommon for a new coach to bring in people he trusts and has worked with before. There's far too much room for egos and personalities to clash when there are coaching holdovers from a previous regime.
Dykes has been emphasizing "fits" in all of his public statements about his vision for the team and the staff in that he wants people who are going to work best together. He appears to place a premium on the ability to work cohesively to turn out an end product rather than simply looking at what a coach has done individually.
Keep in mind, most of the assistant coaches that Dykes has worked with has seemed to work pretty well for him thus far, and he sees little reason to change what has worked.
Still, I'm probably the most bummed about seeing Ron Gould go. He's been one of the best ambassadors for Cal for the past 16 years, and he's said himself that he bleeds blue and gold. He's easily one of the best at what he does, and for anyone to try and argue otherwise at this point is a bit ridiculous. I for one, would have liked to have seen him stick around, but again, I understand why Dykes has chosen to go in a different direction.
In a somewhat interesting side note, WR Coach Wes Chandler seems to be a bit irked that he wasn't told from Dykes himself that he was no longer needed:
“I understand it. He wants to have his own guys,” said Chandler, who said he was only unhappy that he didn’t get a direct answer from Dykes. “He could have said, `Hey, I don’t have a place for you.’"
Fair enough. But again, I'm not sure if Dykes was obligated to. But I understand the frustration. But like all of us, we probably should have seen that there was little chance of any of the staff sticking around from the beginning.
That's what happens when your team goes 3-9.
And finally, for what it's worth, many might be somewhat celebrating a complete overhaul of the staff now, but the true gauge of reactions will come at the end of next season. Should the runningbacks be ultra productive next year, most undergraduates may not even remember the name Ron Gould. Should we see any units falter, we might be longing for Jeff Genyk again.
Well maybe not that one.
Friday, December 7, 2012
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Thursday, December 6, 2012
So I've had a chance to digest the news that Sonny Dykes will be the new head coach for our sturdy Golden Bears.
Like I said before, I can't say that I began doing backflips upon hearing the news, but this was far from the worst possible hire. Again, I'm cautiously optimistic here. There's a whole lot to like, and there's plenty of reason to think this could end up being a home-run hire. And honestly, though I'm not fully fired up yet, I have a hard time seeing this turning out as terribly as it might have been had we gone with some other potential candidates.
Here are some of my thoughts as I waver between optimism and concern.
(1) Say Hello to the #1 Offense in the Country
And thank goodness. Of all the units on this year's team, it was clear that the offense was the one in most need of an overhaul and you couldn't have asked for a better set of offensive minds to do that than Sonny Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin.
What they've done at at Louisiana Tech is nothing short of astonishing. The Bulldogs were the top scoring offense in all of FBS football last season, averaging 51.5 points per game. They averaged 577.9 yards per game, in a ridiculously balanced offensive attack: 227.17 ypg on the ground and 350.8 ypg through the air. Their uptempo offense averages 88.6 plays per game which is second in the country. To provide some context, Oregon (5th nationally) averages 84.2 ppg, while the Bears averaged 71.5 plays per game (74th nationally). They scored TDs on 75% of their trips in the red zone. Contrast that to the Bears' dismal 47.37% red zone TD efficiency last season.
Just staggering numbers all around. And what does this mean? The Bears become immediately more competitive in each game. No deficit seems insurmountable. Hell, the Bulldogs were down 27-0 against Texas A&M last season before staging a near miraculous comeback in a 57-59 loss.
Does this mean this will all translate to offensive success in Berkeley? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe not immediately. But I'm dying to find out what he'll do with some of the offensive playmakers we have currently. With this receiving corps, Bigelow and Lasco, and a potential star QB in either Zach Kline or Austin Hinder, this could be an explosive offense. And at the very worst, at least it'll be fun to watch.
I'm always hesitant with coaches who supposedly are great leaders but don't have the record to back it up. It's why I knew coaches like Derek Dooley and Gene Chizik were questionable hires and why coaches like Urban Meyer, and Brian Kelly are bound to do big things: they win wherever they go.
Dykes' young track record speaks for itself so far: Before Dykes joined Arizona as offensive coordinator in 2005, the Wildcats were ranked 115th nationally in total offense and 105th in scoring offense. By 2008, Arizona was ranked 16th in scoring and 33rd in total offense. Arizona's offense wasn't the same after Dykes left until Rich Rod finally took over this past year.
Then you look at what Dykes has done at Louisiana Tech as head coach. After a mediocre 5-7 start in his first year, the Bulldogs improved to 8-5 the following season including a close bowl loss to #18th ranked TCU. This past year, LT was a potential BCS buster before two close losses to Utah State (in overtime) and SJSU left them at 9-3 on the season.
Those numbers might not be mighty impressive in the SEC, but when you consider the sheer lack of resources at Louisiana Tech, it's hard not to be impressed. This was a program who hadn't enjoyed that type of success in nearly 20 years.
You have to think that there's a huge opportunity here with Cal providing seemingly infinite more resources than what Dykes had in Louisiana. It's hard not to envision a bright future.
(3) Recruiting Prowess
This is more hearsay than anything, but Dykes is reported to be a very solid recruiter. Not necessarily all-star, but he's a socially likeable guy, and is said to be very good at closing the deal with recruits when it counts.
His time in Arizona has given him some experience recruiting California, but his experience also gives him some key inroads to Texas and the Southeast.
Again, Dykes didn't have nearly the level of firepower he now has at Cal to recruit. If he can bring on some top notch assistants, I'm interested to see how he closes with recruits.
(4) Aggressive Offense
One of the biggest knocks on Tedford was his conservative approach in each game. Not really so with Sonny Dykes. Dykes' team had a whopping 29 4th down attempts last year, and he converted on nearly 69% of them, which was the 16th best in the country.
This is a guy who's confident in what his offense can do, and is willing to roll the dice to move the chains.
For as prolific as Sonny Dykes' offense has been, his defense has been that terrible. Just...awful. We're talking one of the worst in the country. Check these numbers out:
Scoring Defense: 38.5 ppg (119th in the country)
Total Defense: 526.1 yards per game (last!)
Opponent 3rd Down Conversions: 46.32 (108th)
Opponent Red Zone Conversions: 88.24 (109th)
There's no other way to spin this one guys. LT's defense was atrocious last year. Hell, they gave up 55 points to Texas State. I know it was a road game and all, but still...
So here's the bright side with this: Dykes is fully aware of the need to get it right on that side of the ball, and he understands the pressing need to get an all-star defensive coordinator to instill some confidence that we're not going to be regularly engaging in 63-57 shootouts with FCS schools.
Word has it that Dykes plans on bringing in New Mexico State's DeWayne Walker. That sounded great 4 years ago, but opinions of Walker have ranged since NMSU has struggled at 10-40 with him as their head coach. Fortunately we're not talking about Walker as a head coach here.
Walker was more than solid as UCLA's defensive coordinator from 2006-2008, and you have to wonder how much better those UCLA units would have been statistically had they had some competent offenses. For now, I will say that I'd be happy with the Walker, and he seems to be a more than suitable candidate to manage that side of the ball with Dykes and Franklin focusing solely on the offense. Walker's reportedly been a solid recruiter and his SoCal recruiting connections should pay some immediate dividends as well.
And honestly, there's less pressure here simply because the defense was in far better shape than the offense by the end of the season. I actually thought Cal's defense played decently with all things considered, but I'm intrigued to see what Walker can do to instill some much needed toughness back into the trenches and discipline in a young, but talented secondary.
(2) Wins Against Top 25 Teams
That is, there are none. In Dykes' three years as a head coach, he doesn't have a signature win over a Top 25 team under his belt. You'd like to see a coach come in who has a record of having taken down a few big dogs.
With all that said, in Dykes' defense, Louisiana Tech isn't exactly in a position to get many opportunities against Top 25 competition being in the WAC and all. It is particularly worth noting that the Bulldogs have actually shown up pretty well against Top 25 teams: a 24-31 loss to TCU, a 57-59 loss to Texas A&M, and a 43-52 loss to San Jose State.
You can't say that his teams don't make it a game. And the more you think about it, you have to think it's a credit to Dykes that he's been able to get his teams to be so competitive against more talented teams.
(3) Sloppy Undiscipline? Undisciplined Sloppiness?
I was truly hoping that whoever Cal's next head coach was would be a no-nonsense authority figure who would hold his team accountable for mental mistakes and shooting the team in the foot.
Dykes doesn't strike me as having that type of demeanor, but it's not his demeanor that worries me. It's the fact that Louisiana Tech was 121st in the nation in penalty yardage this past season, and 118th in penalties. That's just marginally (and a slim margin at that) better than Cal's horrendous year.
This knock is the one that bugs me a bit simply because I do believe it's a symptom of coaching, and of the team's mindset. It's one of the few categories that isn't easily biased and skewed because of a team's opposition, or what conference they play in. Undisicplined football is undisciplined football. I can't tell you what was the issue with LT last year, but I do hope that Dykes is able to instill a culture of smart, disciplined football in Berkeley, unlike that which is existed in Louisiana.
On the flip side, Dykes' team was very good about not turning the ball over as well, which is usually a sign of smart, disciplined ball. In fact, the Bulldogs turned the ball over just 13 times all year last season, which was tied for 10th in the nation.
New, exciting offense is fun and all, but the bottom line question on the minds of many Cal fans is, "Can Dykes lead us to the Rose Bowl?"
I'm not going to lie: I don't immediately see it. I'm not saying it won't happen by any means, but I don't instantly think Dykes = Rose Bowl.
But Dykes' track record has been impressive so far. Given what he's been handed, you can't argue that the guy has not made the most of every opportunity. And you can clearly tell he looks at coaching the Bears as a dream job of sorts, and is going to hit the ground running at full speed. This is not a guy who's going to take a "wait and see approach here." He plans on giving it his all, and that in itself is pretty darned exciting.
You're going to see the phrase, "cautiously optimistic" thrown out a lot. And it's the best choice of words here. A lot of people who know better have been very high on Dykes, so I'm feeling pretty good that we got a solid hire. But we all know that the bottom line will be whether he can lead the Golden Bears to the promised land in Pasadena. And if Dykes doesn't know that yet, he will very soon.
Welcome to Bear Territory Coach Dykes. We're happy to have you.
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Nothing has been announced officially, but multiple sources are reporting that Louisiana Tech's Sonny Dykes will be the next head coach for Cal.
I can't go into my full thoughts at this very instant, but I'll hopefully have a post up within the next few hours going to some more detail.
For now, I'm cautiously optimistic. It doesn't jump off the page to you as a home run hire, but there's a lot to like here. A lot of it depends on the coordinators he brings on, which if the rumors are true, would make this hire a whole lot more appealing.
Again, will be back with more in a bit.
Monday, December 3, 2012
Back from my mini-break. It was a draining season for various reasons, and it's been an emotional last couple of weeks with the dismissal of long time head coach Jeff Tedford and the prospect of having a new leader for the Cal program for the first time in over a decade. In the world of college football fandom, this is unfamiliar territory for a lot of folks.
There's been a lot of names for replacements floating around the webisphere the past month, and while some have been flat out ridiculous, some have been far more realistic and intriguing.
I've heard whispers of a semi-official list of coaching candidates who have been interviewed, and I must say there are some encouraging and not-so-encouraging names on the list. I'll run through my thoughts on a few of them, as well as a few others who have been mentioned though aren't in the official running, just to throw off the hounds.
In order of preference from least to most coveted...
Look, I understand that the charismatic Jackson could inject some energy into the team, but please, just...no. Jackson's name has been thrown around quite a bit, and he's been quoted to saying something to the effect that he'd take the Cal job in a heartbeat. But the guy hasn't been consistently successful at any coaching position at any level. He's bounced around from job to job, and hasn't stayed at any position for longer than three years. Look at the offenses he's run as the OC. None of them impress you. His one year as the head coach of the Raiders? 8-8. And we're supposed to buy that he was a great coach because the Raiders are back to being terrible and not just mediocre? That's one of the weakest arguments possible for a coach. And it's not like teams were lining up for Jackson's services after he was relieved of his duties in Oakland. He's currently the assistant to Special Teams and assistant to Defensive Backs for the Cincinnatti Bengals. That's right. He's not even the assistant defensive backs coach, he's the assistant to the defensive backs coach.
That's cool...if you're Dwight Schrute.
As an all-time great Cal linebacker, Rivera's built up a repuation as a stud defensive coordinator. As a head coach? Not so much. The Panthers are 8-18 under Rivera, and he's likely to be dismissed at the end of this year with the Panthers' ownership growing impatient with Rivera. We all know well that the lack of success at the NFL level doesn't necessarily mean an individual won't succeed at the college level: see Nick Saban, Pete Carroll, Bobby Petrino, etc. But here's the problem: Rivera hasn't been a head coach at the college level. I'm not sure his personality translates well to overseeing a collegiate program either. I have no doubt the guy knows his Xs and Os, and will instill a tough, defensive-minded culture on the team, but I don't have a great deal of optimism right off the bat either.
Hazell is an interesting name because I doubt many people know who he even is. That's because Kent State has gone from laughing stock to playing in the MAC championship game with a 11-2 record pretty quickly. It's an impressive turnaround for sure, but there's little to indicate that Hazell can do it consistently in the Pac-12. Prior to being the head coach at Kent State, Hazell served as the wide receivers coach for five years at Ohio State. Not quite the resume that jumps out at you. I'd like to see what Hazell can do for several more years at Kent State before handing him the keys to the Cal program.
Calhoun's a familiar name as many will remember the Bears facing off against his Air Force Squad in the 2007 Armed Forces Bowl. Remember Longshore and Riley, and that comeback? And all that? Yeah, him. Anyway, it's still an odd choice simply because Calhoun's been firmly entrenched in the Air Force program for a while now. And though he's coached the Falcons to some nice seasons (47-30 in his tenure), he's never finished better than 2nd in the Mountain West. His teams are 2-3 in bowl games. His record looks eerily like Tedford's first 6 years at Cal, except he's doing it in the Mountain West. And then there's the question of what type of offense he'd run at Cal, as he surely can't expect to run the triple option in Berkeley. I don't know, it's an odd choice and though I don't think Calhoun is a bad coach by any means, I don't see him as the type to win with the Bears.
This guy's the wild card because he's the only collegiate candidate on the list without any head coaching experience. Why's he on the list? Because his defense is playing Alabama in the national championship game. That's why. But if you look at what he's done with Brian Kelly at both Cincinnati and Notre Dame, his body of work speaks for itself. He was a semifinalist for the 2011 Broyles Award, presented annually to college football's top assistant coach. He's turned an awful Fighting Irish defense to one of the best in the country, ranking in the top 25 in most statistical categories. And Cincy's defense was in pretty good shape when he left it. Don't know what the Bearcats are up to now, but they were good.
It's an impressive resume. I have no doubt in my mind that this guy is going to be a head coach within the next few years. He's young, the ladies swoon over him, and he's got charisma. This might be a reach, but he does strike me as having a bit of a Harbaugh personality though. That is, he can be kinda...weird. Enigmatic is probably a better word, but he can be a bit awkward with the media at times. But all is forgivable if you win. That he does, but it's still a gamble to hire someone who's never been a head coach before. With the pressure to win now, I'm not sure if the Bears can afford to hire Diaco. Really intriguing, but risky.
MacIntyre is a name that has risen up my list the past few weeks. The first time I heard the name, my honest reaction was, "the guy at San Jose State? No thank you." But the more I've looked into what he's done at SJSU, and how he's done it, I'll admit, I'm impressed. This was a terrible Spartan program that was limited in scholarships, and a pushover in the WAC. After a 1-10 start, the Spartans improved to 5-7 in his second season, and 10-2 this year with the only losses being a close 3 point loss to Stanford and to Utah State. That loss to Stanford looks a whole lot better now given what we know about the Cardinal.
If the team's transformation wasn't enough, he's gotten grad rates up, and most impressively, he never seemed to lament the limitations in taking over the program. Since SJSU couldn't hold their own recruiting camps, he and his staff hit the road, setting up regional camps to attract attention SJSU. He could have easily gone the JC route, but has been setting on building a program and not looking for short-term solutions. It's a strategy that has paid off.
It's not a sexy pick, and there's certainly no guarantee that MacIntyre could do the same at Cal. But it's hard not to look at the work that he's done there and wonder what he might be able to do with the resources and talent on this Cal team.
For a while, Sonny Dykes was a bit of my default pick. I wasn't completely sold on him, but I didn't think there'd be any other stronger candidates who we had a realistic shot at.
Let's make it clear, there's a lot to like about Sonny Dykes. How's this for starters: the opportunity to have the best offense in the country. That's what Dykes has accomplished at Louisiana Tech with the Bulldogs leading the country with a whopping 51.5 points per game. The idea of Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin working with some of Cal's explosive playmakers next year is appetizing indeed.
But there are plenty of question marks. Louisiana Tech's defense is about as awful as their offense has been prolific. Of course, this would be of less a concern if Dykes could bring on an all-star defensive coordinator.
Then you've got the issue of a lack of any signature wins under Dykes' belt. Really, getting the Bulldogs to 9-3 is really impressive given how awful LT has been for so long, but their opponents haven't been anything close to world beaters. They've been pretty bad actually. So you really have to wonder how he'll do against Top 25 teams on a regular basis.
My biggest fear? Upside. Specifically, I don't know what it is with Dykes. Best case: I can see his team putting up a whole lot of points, but I do wonder how much better they'd fare than 8 or 9 wins a season.
But all in all, I can see Dykes coming in and immediately getting this team to become competitive week after week. But I know I speak for many when I say that we didn't fire the winningest coach in Cal history to be satisfied with 7 or 8 wins a season.
Now we're talking. Let me state that I think we have very little shot at pulling Strong out to Berkeley. With that said, I'd be thrilled with Strong for obvious reasons. The former defensive coordinator for Florida has done an amazing job in pulling Louisville out of the ashes of Steve Kragthorpe's smoldering mess.
I simply really admire a lot of Strong's qualities. He's got a strong defensive mindset, instills a hard-nosed mindset in his football team, and shows an amazing ability to get the most out of his team. The loss to Syracuse was mind-boggling, but all in all, I'd be doing backflips if Strong were hired.
I end the list with my absolute top choice for the head coaching position. Here's what I wrote about him in Pacific Takes' roundtable on dream coaching candidates.
"If we’re talking about our top choices regardless of how realistic it’d be to get them to come to Berkeley, I’d be ecstatic with Chris Petersen. I know some may scoff at coaches from mid-major conferences, but I love the way he runs his football teams. They play smart, disciplined football, and he seems to be able to extract every last ounce of talent from his players. Imagine what he could do with some of the personnel on this team. The guy’s a winner and has proven it, even against the big boys. Would love to see him in Blue and Gold."
With Peterson, I see just two drawbacks: First, his flashy 82-8 record is very much the result of beating up on WAC opponents during his tenure, and a lot of teams could build up some gaudy numbers facing off against Wyoming year in and year out. With that said, it's not like Boise St. has shrunken under the spotlight. Think about the teams they've beaten in the last six years: Oklahoma, TCU, Oregon (twice), Virginia Tech, Georgia, etc. They've shown they can not only play with the big boys, but whup their asses as well. His teams never get blown out, as their rare losses are always by less than one score (the number of one or two point losses under Peterson is astounding). He gets his team ready to play. I don't care what conference you're in: that's impressive to do under seven seasons as a head coach.
The second hesitation is that he's already an established coach who may not be as hungry as a young up-and-comer who's looking to make his mark in the coaching world. Personally, I don't buy that for a second. You don't think Peterson is aware that his coaching legacy is attached with the "yeah he's a good coach, but he coaches in the WAC/MWC"? He's as driven as the next guy (any successful head coach is) and understands that he's going to need to prove it in one of the automatic qualifying conferences. I have a hard time buying that he'll come into the Pac-12 and kick up his feet. I think he'll be just as hungry, and just as driven to prove himself.
I will say this: this is an absolutely critical time. The athletic department and AD Sandy Barbour can't afford to screw this up. They know this. They understand the pressure surrounding the program, and it's clear they've got a clear set of criteria for their new coach.
And personally, I can't wait.