Devils Den Blog

The Magic of Pac-12 Coaching

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The 2011 Arizona State Football post season coaching rumor carousel went around and around:

Kevin Sumlin, Jim Mora Jr, Mike Martz, June Jones, Kevin Sumlin again, Larry Fedora, Jim Leavitt, Noel Mazzone, Justin Wilcox.  Then out of nowhere, magically in the middle of the night, POOF, we had our guy, Todd Graham, who had just finished his first season at Pitt.  Graham, the previous off-season’s Sumlin or Fedora, coached at a smaller school, Tulsa University, and brought them into a Top 25 year ending program with a major upset at Notre Dame.  Graham has a decent resume, but he is still one of the least recognizably known names in the Pac12.

UofA made an old name reappear which has Tucson smiling like little kids who just had a quarter appear behind their ear.  UofA brought Rich Rodriguez down to resurrect the program.  Then Rich-Rod brought down Jeff Casteel as his defensive coordinator.  Casteel was the 2010 Rivals.com Defensive Coordinator of the Year, and he just shut down the dynamic Clemson offense in the 2012 Orange Bowl.  Don’t forget that before the rough patch at Michigan, Rich-Rod brought West Virginia to two BCS bowl games in three years.

Bill Moos, the AD at Wazzou, pulled a rabbit out of his hat by going out and getting Mike Leach to join him in Pullman, Washington.  Leach was the #1 choice, yet Leach was also the guy who has been available for any school the past few years.  Leach is one of the biggest name coaches who had major conference success at a small school located in the middle of nowhere.  Texas Tech was the doormat of the Big12 and Leach took them to a perennial top 25 program.  Whenever somebody thinks of dynamic college football offenses, Mike Leach is one of the first names that pops to mind.

UCLA shuffled the cards several times, and they ended up finding a card that may have been already played by their cross-town rival.  The Bruins ended up selecting former NFL coach Jim Mora Jr. in their attempt of a Division 1 college bringing an unsuccessful .500 defensive minded pro coach to college.  Mora Jr. quickly realized that recruiting is key and he assembled an army of assistant coaches who are huge on the recruiting trail:  Aaron Klemm from SMU, Demetrice Martin from Washington, Steve Broussard, and Noel Mazzone from ASU.  Mora Jr and his assistants have instant name recognition, and they are quickly scooping up recruits.

In the biggest news of the off-season, University of Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian fired his entire defensive staff and brought in some fresh and sexy assistants.  First, Sarkisian selected Justin Wilcox, one of the hottest young Defensive Coordinators in the nation.  Wilcox brought along his closest assistant and strong recruiter, Peter Sirmon, to coach Linebackers.  Then, Wilcox and Sarkisian were able to steal Tosh Lupoi, the DL coach, away from Cal.  Lupoi was one of the best recruiters in the West, and Cal’s highly rated class of 2012 will take a hit.   Wilcox, Sirom, and Tosh bring youthful energy that recruits instantly connect with.

As the Pac12 coaching staffs get rounded out in preparation for Signing Day (February 1, 2012) and Spring Practice in March, the level of coaching (and recruiting) in the conference has improved greatly with several new tricks in new locations.  The Sun Devils and Todd Graham are way behind in name recognition, reputation, and show.  So what can be done?

Todd Graham continually talks about building relationships and working hard.  So Graham and his assistants will have to walk that walk and out work every other school while building better relationships.  Graham will have to direct the thoughts of perspective recruits and their families away from the glitz and glamour from the other Pac12 coaches.  Graham will have to use his strong public speaking skills to influence their minds in order to show them that great magic can be created in Tempe for 2012 and many more years to come.

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