Passing The Written Exam: UCLA's New DC Joe Tresey A Solid Pick On Paper

As we discussed yesterday, CRN ended the almost-60-day march in the hiring desert by selecting Joe Tresey as our new defensive coordinator.  Although Tresey somehow managed to be the ONLY candidate out there to not end up on the  laundry-list of DC candidates, it looks like CRN made a solid choice to run the D on paper.  The ultimate results won't be known until the 2011 season is under way, but at a minimum, we have good reason to feel better about this position than we did the past 59 days. 

So, running down the list of inevitable questions for this way-under-the-radar selection:

(1)   Is he qualified?

Um, yeah.  As stated yesterday, Tresey was the defensive coordinator at the University of South Florida (2009 season) and at Cincinnati (2007 and 2008 seasons).  However, Tresey was also a DC at other schools before then.  Per the official site (emphasis added):

Tresey, 52, joined Kelly's staff at Central Michigan [as defensive coordinator] in 2006 and quickly implemented a style that forced 29 turnovers and 31 sacks in 14 games. His MAC Championship defense registered four players with all-league plaudits.

For two seasons (2004-05) prior to joining the CMU staff, Tresey was defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Georgia Southern. The Eagles' defense ranked fourth nationally in total defense in 2004. While in Statesboro, Tresey helped lead the Eagles to back-to-back NCAA Division I-AA Playoff appearances. He also mentored a pair of all-Southern Conference linebackers.

Tresey coordinated the defense and coached defensive backs at Akron during the 2002-03 seasons. He served the previous three years (1999- 2001) as defensive secondary coach at Virginia Military Institute. Tresey began his college coaching career as the defensive coordinator at Otterbein in 1995.

According to this info, and Tresey’s previous bio at both the Cincinnati website and the  USF website, Tresey has been a DC at one college level or another for TWELVE (12) years.   That’ll work.  More after the jump.

(2)  If he’s so good, why was his last job as the DB coach for the Omaha Nighthawks in the UFL?

This was a doozy.  In an uncanny bit of irony, we got this guy this February precisely because he was stuck looking for a job last February.

The WWL's college football blog breaks the situation down pretty well.   Per the WWL's own report on January 8, 2010, then-USF-head coach Jim Leavitt was fired after an investigation concluded that Leavitt struck one of his players and lied about it.  Not long thereafter, USF hired Skip Holtz as Leavitt’s replacement. 

Back in May 2010, (as also referenced by WWL) broke it down like this (emphasis added):

Leavitt was the only coach dismissed on Jan. 8. His assistants all remained employed by USF, and they recruited for the Bulls during the week the program didn't have a coach. When Holtz arrived, he asked all nine assistants to stay and help him recruit the high schoolers who would visit that weekend. Most of the players visiting had already committed to sign with USF. Committed to sign with Leavitt's staff, more accurately. Holtz was unsure if they'd still want to play for him.

Leavitt's assistants all stayed for that first weekend. Several, including offensive coordinator Mike Canales and defensive coordinator Joe Tresey, knew they would be fired as soon as the weekend ended. Holtz knew it, too. "They were thrown into a situation through no fault of their own," Holtz said. "All they did was go to five bowls in five years."

Most of the players who had committed to the previous staff still wanted to play for Holtz. The former Leavitt assistants on the verge of losing their jobs assured recruits they could thrive under Holtz and whatever assistants he hired. That Sunday, after the recruits went home, the ax fell. ...

The soon-to-be-fired assistants' loyalty to the program made it even harder for Holtz to break the bad news. "The professionalism of the way they handled themselves was unbelievable," Holtz said. "It touched me. They did a phenomenal job."

Before 2011, no one had ever heard of a BCS-conference school actually hiring a new coordinator -- let alone two of them like USF did -- so late in the off-season.  Since neither UCLA nor Maryland was shopping for a DC at this time last year, Tresey became a Nighthawk.  In this economy, can’t blame a guy for taking the first available job and going to the Nighthawks.

(3)  So is he a 4-3 guy or a 3-4 guy?

He’s looking like a 4-3 guy, but our new DC explained it in his own words yesterday:

It’s a multiple 4-3 and within the package, we have the ability to play a 3-4. We’re going to play a match-up defense, maybe a nickel, with five DBs, or a dime. At the end of the day, it’s all about playing fast, and fundamentally, you have to be very sound. You have to be able to attack protections. You have to keep the ball in front of the defense and inside the defense. You have to be able to put your kids in a position to be successful, understand your strengths and accentuate them, and diminish your weaknesses.

Well… I have no idea what all that coach-speak means.  Still, it looks the like the new DC is willing to mix up his sets.  So far, so good.

(4)  Yeah, but is he going to be more aggressive than his predecessor? 

Sounds like a "yes" there, people.  We already went over his impressive forced turnover and defensive yardage stats from Cincinnati and USF.  

We also found this little tidbit from a lengthy conference call at the time of his March 2009 (yep, MARCH) hire at USF:

On what he wanted his defenses at Cincinnati to be known for...
I think being able to play fast. Be known as a very fundamentally sound team. You don’t have alignment problems. You’re [sic] kids are good at meeting and defeating blocks and trying to create turnovers. You throw third down in there and red-zone, scoring defense. We want people to watch us and see a team that played very fast. We were physical and good fundamentally.

If that means we won’t be running in subs while our opponent is finishing up their freaking snap counts, then I’m all for it.

(5)    What in the world took so long?

As CRN explained it in yesterday's conference call:

Neuheisel on why he didn’t hire Tresey earlier:
I wanted to be thorough. I didn’t know Joe. There were other guys I didn’t know. I wanted to be right. I was trying to do as much due diligence as I could."

Neuheisel on tabbing at least three other candidates to be the DC before ending up with Tresey:
There were some guys I waited on through the bowl season. There were some guys that I knew. There is a comfort zone in hiring someone you know. That’s why the process took longer.

OK, we still don’t know how to answer that one.  CRN worked with Fangio in Baltimore, and boosters and fans remembered Long from the late 90s… but CRN REALLY took his sweet time on this one.

(6)  How did we NOT hear about this until it was a done deal?

Well, given that the LA Times’ so-called UCLA beat writer, Chris Foster, was such an uncanny source of breaking information on the tumultuous situation regarding our possible hire of a former U$C assistant via his Twitter account, made the effort to alert the aforementioned assistant about the Daily Trogan’s report on the subject, and indirectly led to the Daily Trogan taking down the infamous text by said assistant, then we thought it only fair that we look at what Mr. Foster had to say about this outside-the-box, yet proven choice for coordinator on his Twitter page as of 12:00 a.m. this morning, February 16:

Yesterday's UCLA staff changes:,0,6337353.story

7:17 AM Feb 11th via web

Hmph.  Maybe his well-placed UCLA sources at the Daily Trogan are still working on it.

On paper, we think Tresey is a solid hire.  Tresey brings a considerable record of experience, aggressiveness, and effectiveness to the DC position.  

However, paper is no proxy for performance.  Tresey looks good on paper, but the written exam is only part of the overall grade.  We’ll keep our fingers crossed for the coming season.  Tresey may not have been the first choice, but he might turn out to be the best choice.  

Welcome aboard, Coach Tresey!  


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