As we noted earlier in the week, after the Veto Seto campaign reached its zenith, Coach Neuheisel took a few days off to celebrate his birthday in Cabo. He was scheduled to come back to LA today, but judging by his twitter description of a staff meeting yesterday, it looks like he made it back to Westwood a day early. While "talking ball" may have been the first thing that he shared about his return, his return also saw another interview in the now-two month search for UCLA's next defensive coordinator. According to the LA Times and the OC Register, current University of Kentucky defensive coordinator Steve Brown interviewed for our vacant position earlier in the week.
Brown's openness to leave Lexington has come about after UK coach Joker Philips demoted Brown to a co-defensive coordinator position, bringing in another defensive assistant as a co-coordinator with playcalling responsibilty. Members of our sister SBN site A Sea of Blue has some thoughts on Brown and his performance at Kentucky; a fanpost written during the past season calling for him to go, but with a number of comments defending - or at least explaining the performance of defense under Brown's tutelage. One of the site's editors shared his thoughts in this comment:
When Brown took over from Mike Archer, the UK defense was ranked right around 110th (and had been for some time) in the nation. Since Brown took over, there has been an incremental improvement in UK’s defensive ranking, reaching as high as the high-40’s, low-50’s. The last five years has seen some of UK’s best defensive teams since Claiborne was coaching.
...But, the hope lies in that this D is young,and talented, and that UK’s recruiting (last year, and so far this year) is the best it has ever been. The real problem is not UK’s secondary, but rather how out-performed both the defensive and offensive lines were. I thought both lines played pretty well against UofL, WKU, and Akron, but they had their hat handed to them Saturday. The Gators were just bigger, stronger, and faster at every line position.
Judging by those thoughts, it looks that Brown was able to turn around a very bad defense and make it into at least an average/slightly above average defense in the four years that he has run the defense (he had been Kentucky's defensive backs coach the four years previous).
Another important note regarding the situation in Lexington is that Brown is not Joker Philips' guy; he was originally brought to Lexington, and later promoted to the DC position by former coach Rich Brooks. Brooks was Brown's coach at Oregon and also was responsible for him leaving a post-football career in private business to join the St Louis Rams staff. The decision to demote Brown may be attributable as much to Joker wanting his own person running the defense as to Brown himself.The defense had some struggles this season (as noted in the fanpost and comments linked above), but overall, the defense was roughly average (45th in total defense and 72nd in scoring defense) despite having two of his expected starters academically ineligible for the season. From reading the thoughts and comments of some Kentucky followers, it seems that the coaches have done a good job in recruiting over the past couple of years, but face the familiar struggle of many young players having to see significant playing time due to attrition and/or less talented upperclassmen before they might otherwise be ready to contribute.
Before joining the Kentucky staff, Brown was an assistant coach with the St Louis Rams, joining the organization as a defensive assistant in 1995, becoming the cornerbacks coach in 1996-97, and was given responsibility for the defensive backfield by then-coach Dick Vermeil from 1998-2000, including the Rams Super Bowl season of 1999. Brown played college football at Oregon - where he was an all Pac-10 selection all four years as a defensive back and special teams performer - and played 8 seasons in the NFL, mainly with the Houston Oilers.
Update (A): Oswego flags Rick has made some moves since coming back from Cabo. He has officially brought Jim Mastro from Nevada on board while letting Tod Howard - our DL coach - go. Here is the official release on "coaching changes." Mastro is a great addition. The departure of Howard intriguing. We don't have a DC in place. The only experienced defensive coach on staff left is Tim Hundley (DBs). May be this means the hiring of a DC is imminent who already has a DL coach in mind? Or, since both Randy Shannon and Mark Carrier each have a year of DL-coaching experience (college and pro, respectively) on their resumes, could one or both of them still be in the mix?
Update x2 (M): Apparently, Foster of the LAT tweeted this little bit last night:
UCLA defensive coordinator search continues. Rick Neuheisel is expceted to interview two more candidates.
On defensive coordinator search:
Neuheisel: "I'm still working through it. I have a list of candidates, I've talked to all of them, and I've let most of them know that I'm going to make a decision by this weekend. I'm trying hard to be done. I want to be thorough because I have to be right. I understand the scrutiny and the perception. At the end of the day, none of that matters. What matters is we play well next year."
Plus, there's this little tidbit:
Neuheisel on the DC search having more than two names left:
"Won't divulge any names, but the answer to how many is yes. I wouldn't rule out one more interview."
And this one:
Neuheisel on Randy Shannon:
"I talked to randy and am impressed with Randy."
Fasten your lap-straps, folks.