Musical coaching chairs

The coaching carousel affects every program eventually, but some schools emerge far better off than others. Last year, Stanford saw the tough side of the business, after Jim Harbaugh bolted for San Francisco and took a good chunk of the Cardinal brain trust with him. This offseason, the staff David Shaw built largely survived intact, but the few changes that did occur could impact 2012 and beyond.

Two Stanford coaches to leave this year were co-defensive coordinator Jason Tarver and special teams coordinator Brian Polian.

Tarver heads to the pros: No offense to Polian, but Tarver's departure will leave a bigger mark on the program. As co-defensive coordinator with Derek Mason last season, Tarver was a major architect of the defense that was second in the Pac-12 in total defense and scoring defense and first in the conference in rushing defense (84.4 rush yards per game). His influence was especially apparent among the linebackers, as he was the position coach for the inside linebackers group. Tarver's coaching acumen was a factor when the Cardinal lost Shayne Skov early in the season, as he helped Jarek Lancaster and A.J. Tarpley fill the void with solid play for the rest of the season. Heading into this season, linebacker is easily the team's deepest position, with a strong rotation of players that Tarver recruited and developed. Another measure of Tarver's coaching success is the job he's leaving the Farm to take: defensive coordinator with the Oakland Raiders in the NFL.

Tarver's replacement on the coaching staff is David Kotulski, who takes over coaching the inside linebackers position group. Though Kotulski has been coaching at the college level for over 30 years, his coaching pedigree is somewhat underwhelming. Prior to joining Shaw's staff, Kotulski spent six years as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Lehigh University, an FCS school. The most prominent program he has coached at is Utah in the 1980s, when the school was outside of the power conferences. It's hard to assess what Kotulski's impact on recruiting will be, but his ties to the Northeast will fit well into Stanford's nationwide recruiting strategy. Meanwhile, Derek Mason will take over as the sole defensive coordinator.

Polian shifts to SEC: The second change on the coaching staff is the departure of Polian, the special teams coordinator who left to take the same position on Kevin Sumlin's staff at Texas A&M. Polian's main value to Stanford was not in his special teams acumen but rather in his skills as a recruiter, especially as the Cardinal's recruiting coordinator for the past two seasons. However, no recruits from the Class of 2012 decommitted after Polian's departure in January, right before Signing Day, so perhaps his departure won't be a huge detriment to Stanford's recruiting efforts.

Polian's replacement as recruiting coordinator is running backs coach Mike Sanford, while Pete Alamar joins the staff from Fresno State as the special teams coordinator. Both appointments should prove to be valuable changes to the Cardinal staff. Sanford is already one of the team's better recruiters, while Alamar brings a lot of college coaching and special teams experience to the team. Before working as the special teams coordinator at Fresno State, Alamar held the same position from 2003 to 2009 at California and spent five seasons in the late 1990s on the staff at Arizona.


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