The defensive coaching staff for San Jose State appears to be complete, with FootballScoop reporting that former Eastern Michigan head coach Ron English (pictured) has been hired as defensive coordinator.
With head coach Ron Caragher entering his fourth year, every defensive coaching position has been replaced following the 2015 Cure Bowl championship season. Greg Robinson retired after two years as defensive coordinator. Three days after the Cure Bowl, Caragher chose not to retain defensive line coach James Jones and outside linebackers coach Joe Staab, both of whom were on his inaugural staff in 2013. Then on Jan. 17, defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator Donte Williams resigned to take a similar position at Arizona and became the last of the original Caragher defensive assistants to leave.
With the run defense persistently giving up over 5.0 yards per rushing attempt throughout the Caragher era, coaching changes became necessary on the defensive side of the ball, especially the lineman positions. Who are the Spartans’ new defensive coaches, and what backgrounds do they bring as the team looks to return to a bowl game in 2016?
Defensive coordinator: Ron English
Hometown: Pomona, Calif.
Education: University of California, Berkeley (bachelor’s, social sciences); Arizona State University (master’s, education administration)
Playing experience: Cal, safety, 1987-90.
Coaching experience: 22 years.
He worked for... Lloyd Carr (at Michigan), Steve Kragthrope (Louisville), Bruce Snyder (Arizona State)
Coaching highlights: Arizona State made three bowls (Aloha Classic in 1999 and 2000; Holiday Bowl in 2002). He also coached Michigan in three Rose Bowls (2003, 2004, and 2006 postseasons) and in the Capital One Bowl victory in the 2007 postseason. As Michigan defensive coordinator, English oversaw a run defense that allowed just 1.9 yards per rush in 2006. That defensive unit at Michigan featured Brandon Graham, Leon Hall, LaMarr Woodley, all of whom are now starters in the NFL.
Coaching lowlights: Who can forget that Michigan opened the 2007 season by losing to Appalachian State? The run defense also regressed to giving up 4.0 yards per rush that season. Also, English had an 11-46 record as head coach at Eastern Michigan. After a 1-8 start, English was fired in November 2013 after an audio recording surfaced of English making a profanity-laced tirade at players during a team meeting. English later stated to the Associated Press: “...I lost my poise, got upset, and used language that was inappropriate, particularly as it pertains to homosexual slurs. I regret that.”
Connections to SJSU: Interim San Jose State president Susan Martin was president at Eastern Michigan University when it hired English as head football coach. It is unknown to which degree if any, if Martin influenced the hiring of English at San Jose State.
Defensive backs coach: Will Harris
Hometown: Covina, Calif.
Education: University of Southern California (bachelor’s, American studies)
Playing experience: USC, safety, 2005-09; Edmonton Eskimos, 2010; Seattle Seahawks, 2010, (practice squad)
Playing highlights: Two-time CFL Player of the Week while with the Eskimos.
Coaching experience: Four years.
Coaching highlights: In 2014, Humboldt State's total defense ranked 10th in NCAA Division II and the pass defense 19th. Harris also was an assistant coach for Snoop Dogg’s youth football league in the spring of 2013.
Coaching lowlights: Dixie State only went 3-7 in 2015. This is also Harris’s first Division I position. He may show some flaws along the way, but at least he will be surrounded with people like Caragher and English who have been in D-I longer.
Linebackers coach: Arnold Ale
Hometown: Carson, Calif.
Education: University of California, Los Angeles (bachelor’s, sociology); University of Central Missouri (master’s, kinesiology)
Playing experience: Notre Dame, linebacker, 1988; UCLA, linebacker, 1990-92; New England Patriots (practice squad) and Seattle Seahawks (practice squad), 1993; Kansas City Chiefs, 1994-95; Scottish Claymores (of the old World League of American Football that later became NFL Europe) and San Diego Chargers, 1996.
Playing highlights: Started four games on the 1988 consensus national champion Notre Dame team. MVP of the 1991 John Hancock Bowl (now Sun Bowl) while with UCLA.
Coaching experience: 17 years.
Coaching highlights: LBCC went 19-4 in Ale’s last two seasons as defensive coordinator.
Connections to SJSU: Ale redshirted at UCLA in 1989, Ron Caragher’s senior season. Ale also played under head coach Terry Donahue, under whom Caragher was a quarterback and assistant coach at UCLA. At Bishop Montgomery, Ale coached wide receiver Chandler Jones, who would rise from walk-on to starter at San Jose State and is now playing for the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes. Ale also coached on the 2014 LBCC team with current Spartan quarterback Kenny Potter.
How do you pronounce “Ale”? A check of a YouTube video of CBS’s broadcast of the 1991 Hancock Bowl shows the then-UCLA linebacker’s last name pronounced “Ali” as in the boxer. The 2016 media guide will provide the most authoritative answer, but for now the best answer is from the aforementioned video, as opposed to guessing that his name sounds like the drink or the rapper.
Defensive line coach: Barry Sacks
Hometown: Ephrata, Wash.
Education: University of Montana (bachelor’s, health education and physical education)
Playing experience: Montana, linebacker, 1976-79.
Coaching experience: 30 years.
He worked for… Chris Ault (Nevada), Bob Davie (New Mexico), Sonny Dykes (Cal)
Coaching highlights: With Sacks as co-defensive coordinator at Nevada (2004-06), the run defense improved every season, from 4.9 yards/rush in 2004 to 4.3 yards/rush in 2005 and finally 4.0 yards/rush in 2006. Nevada allowed only 19.2 points per game in 2006, compared to 34.4 in 2004. Sacks also recruited Colin Kaepernick to Nevada; Kaepernick would go on to become the San Francisco 49ers’ starting quarterback. In 2014, with Sacks as defensive line coach, New Mexico improved the number of sacks (clears throat) from 16 to 24.
Coaching lowlights: It is a mystery why Sacks was demoted from defensive coordinator to defensive line coach after 2006.
Connections to SJSU: Sacks previously coached the D-line at San Jose State from 1998 to 2000 under Dave Baldwin.