So much for being in limbo. Huh?
Just when things were slowing down a little waiting for New Year's Day games to be over, things get interesting again.
First of all let us say none of us care about having any inside connections to Morgan Center. Sure we have some plugged in friends here and there but when it comes to coaching search, we have taken the route of writing/analyzing/speculating based on the information (both from traditional and new media) that have been out there in public. So imagine the (pleasant) surprise when I see the Mike Riley name popping up in this discussion the very morning I listed him as a "maybe" on BN. FWIW the Corvallis Gazette-Times is disputing Rich Perelman's post about DG pursuing Mike Riley as of right now (HT to DumpDorell.com). But let's assume for a moment Riley is in the picture. I have to tell you I agree with observations turs12 posted in our comment thread:
After going only 20-16 in his first two seasons, the Beavers have gone a combined 19-8 in the last two seasons, finishing third in the Pac-10 both times showing that his teams are getting progressively better as he is around longer to instill good coaching into his players(whereas we seemed to only get worse every season under Dorrell).
DeWayne Who? OSU was #2 in the entire NATION in run defense giving up a minuscule 74.9 yards per game! You want to talk about defense, that's how you shut down the running game and those numbers don't lie because it entails games covering an entire season(UCLA by comparison was 17th in the nation in rush defense giving up 109.2 yards per game and '$C was 4th allowing 79.2). Oregon State was also 12th in the nation in total defense giving up 313 yards per game. And who is in charger of the defense up there? You guessed it, Riley.
He is 16-7 in games played in the month of November and beyond showing that he knows he to improve his team as the season progresses and not make sure that his players regress. I don't have the exact numbers about Dorrell but I know his record after October was quite bad.
He is 3-2 against archrival Oregon, showing he has what it takes to win the big game. Heck, he even beat U$C before we did.
His players have done well. In 2005 Alexis Serna won the Lou Groza Award for best place kicker and Mike Hass won the Fred Biletnikoff Award for best wide receiver. He also coached QB Derek Anderson who has been tearing it up with the Cleveland Browns this season and Yvenson Bernard finished tonight as the 6th highest all-time rusher in the Pac-10. Other than Marcades Lewis winning the Mackey Award and Maurice Jones-Drew doing well(in spite of Dorrell, which I'm sure is why he left early) there is not much to show for at the next level.
I don't think UCLA fans realize how much we missed out by not hiring Riley(mostly because we've had OSU's number the last 5 years) but I think he would have been setting us up to take a big step forward next year and things are looking good now at OSU with him at the helm. I also feel like we have a lot of egg on our face for not hiring him the first time and could only imagine the embarrassment that Dan Guerrero feels going to interview Riley for a second time and having to admit that he was wrong and messed up the first time.
Also wrt to Riley's accomplishments turs12 pointed out how he has done a great job in his second stint at Corvallis. To me Riley's most impressive accomplishment took place when he came into Corvallis in 1997 and took over what amounted to Temple Owls of the Pac-10. Riley took over a program from Jerry Pettibone that was 13-52 in previous 6 years. And the coaches before Pettibone didn't do any better. [See CFB Date Warehouse] Riley took over the program in 1997 and within two years made them relevant in the Pac-10 and set up the foundation for a program that went all the way to Fiesta Bowl under Dennis Erickson. And he did this at a place that really had noting to offer in terms of facilities, was getting dominated in its own backyard by a well-financed Oregon program. In some ways the situation Riley found himself at Oregon State is similar to where UCLA is today, the distinction being we have an incredible recruiting base that will make it easier for him to establish a solid program in LA.
Now I am writing all this not to advocate Riley as my number 1 choice. I think it is important to recognize Riley as more than a credible option (if he responds to DG's reported overture) just like we have one in Rick Neuheisel. That said I will be surprised if Riley decides to come down here. My gut tells me stays up at Corvallis. But I could be wrong.
Speaking of credible options that brings me to John Fox and I will highlight another excellent observation in our comment thread (keep these coming folks) by Bruin7982:
Fox seems to meet Guerrero's criteria as he has extensive head coaching experience, has NFL experience and also is from the West Coast (he went to San Diego State). His background is defense, same as Cheatey Petey, which in the end wins championships. He would certainly have credibility on the recruiting trail and from what I recall of his t.v. interviews, he seems to have a good personality. He might do well as a college coach.
I understand that he is friends with Donahue. I don't view that as positive, but I don't think that disqualifies him. He would still represent a break from the incestuous hiring practices of UCLA.
Would he be a risk because he hasn't coached in college for a number of years and has never been a college head coach? Sure, but it seems that all of the named candidates present risks.
Now guys if you want to read between the lines check out the common denominator between Riley's program at Corvallis and John Fox's calling card as an NFL head coach. That's right. It's their DEFENSE.
And that brings me to the 3rd name that re-surfaced last night: John Harbaugh. Guess what? John Harbaugh is the defensive backs coach for the Philadelphia Eagles. What was the DyNoMite doing before Dorrell brought him in as the DC at UCLA? Yeap, he was the defensive backs coach of Washington Redskins.
That's right guys. Brian Dohn's dreamy candidate, the bestest, most awesomest defensive coordinator in the country aced his interview so much that the three names that surfaced following his second interview all earned their stripes with their DEFENSE.
If DyNoMite and his cronies want to take the hint, this would be it. It is time for their boy wonder to head off to Northwest.
As for rest of us we are going to see this play out and I am starting to like what I am hearing. Even Donahue has now come out in support for Neuheisel. And despite that support I believe Rick Neuheisel will ironically represent a clear break from the Donahue era, given how he left UCLA.
I also think there might be something to the effect that DG is talking to Harbaugh again (perhaps on behalf of RN who is waiting for the Ravens season to come to an end) to gauge his interest as a DC. And then I think it may not be totally out of the box to speculate a scenario in which Fox (not Mrs. Fox!) comes in as the head coach teaming up with RN as the OC? So lots of interesting scenarios to speculate here.
But all in all I like some of the stories that are coming out. If I am reading between the lines correctly I think it is more than a coincidence we are seeing names with defensive background popping up, just days after we get subjected to the Walker PR machine.
May be DG knows how to play this game after all?