"Coaching Poaching" Continues...

Interesting times for Stanford Football as the college coaching carousel cranked up before the sun even set on the 2009 Brut Sun Bowl. Success breeds opportunity, but we would like to see a few more passengers boarding our ship! As painful as it is to see a well-regarded coach like D.J. Durkin depart, let's hope some confidence-building measures will be revealed in the coming days. Go Cardinal!

"Coaching Poaching" Continues...

College football coaching changes are a tricky business for independent publishers. Institutional media relations folks prefer to confirm personnel moves well after they actually happen and in general we try not to act on "unconfirmed rumors". What we can do is tell you what we currently believe to be true and current.

So for those who haven't been zealously and continuously perusing the BootBoard, there has been a lot of off-the-field action in the past couple of weeks and in the past 24 hours in particular. Hmmm...we sure had trouble creating "turnovers" in 2009, but we don't seem to be struggling with creating "turnover" in 2010. On the one hand, we appear to be losing Cardinal assistant coaches faster than the Buffalo Bills. On the other hand, losing assistant coaches can be seen as a natural byproduct of the program's success and can actually lead to improvement in the effectiveness of a coaching staff. 

But hey, wait! What happened to "Everybody wants to be a Cardinal?"

The good news is, we believe Stanford's recruits still do. Sure there will be some "wait and see" caution, but when the dust clears, expect the 2010 recruiting class to remain excellent and even add some nice names as we head down the stretch. Remember that Lance Anderson is the central coach involved in the teeth of the recruiting process. Nothing is certain, but we fully expect Anderson to stay put...unless the head man were to do something...silly. Clearly, with the coaching "flux" (as opposed to "turmoil"), Coach Harbaugh will need to put the pedal to the metal and keep his eye on the National Letter of Intent Day prize.

Yes, sure, some of our assistant coaches are moving on. That happens. That happened a lot under Pop Warner, John Ralston and Bill Walsh too. The coaching profession is infamous for mobility (upward, downward, lateral and even fugitive). In a world of uncertainty, coaches are often observed jumping around like "cats on a hot tin roof". What is "certain" is that a number of terrific opportunities are now opening up at Stanford Football. The important thing is not whom we need to replace, it is with whom we will replace each departed coach. There's the challenge. That should be the focus. Of course the fact that we the fans essentially have no real input in staff hiring decisions can be quite frustrating.  

Moving on to some specifics.... We heard back from the Associate Athletics Director (Communications) at Western Kentucky that a very recent offer was made and that there is a human resources portion of the process currently at work. Until that all gets ironed out, there can't be any "official" confirmation that defensive backs coach Clayton White will be joining Willie Taggart's Hilltoppers staff. Stanford's linebacker coach and co-defensive coordinator Andy Buh was expected to join the Hilltoppers as Defensive Coordinator and to our understanding had accepted the WKU job, but has changed course midstream and will now head to assume the defensive coordinator job at his own alma mater, the University of Nevada, where he also coached from 1997-1999. The Wolfpack, which appears to need a lot of defensive help after losing a Hawaii Bowl matchup in which they lost 45-10 to SMU, a game in which Nevada actually was favored going in! Nevada had to play that Hawaii Bowl game without defensive coordinator Nigel Burton, who resigned to become the head coach at Portland State. Former defensive coordinator Ken Wilson, who was linebackers coach the last two seasons under Burton, took over against SMU and the "virtual job interview" does not appear to have gone very well. Isn't the coaching carousel fun? Andy will have his work cut out for him as the Wolf Pack ranked just 114th in the FBS in pass efficiency defense and 119th in pass defense during the 2009 regular season, painfully allowing 284 yards per game and 31 touchdowns through the air.

As reported by www.MyValleySports.com  and subsequently confirmed to us by two separate sources, highly-regarded special teams and defensive ends coach D. J. Durkin is off to the University of Florida, where he obviously maintained close ties to Gator head coach Urban Meyer, his former head coach while serving as a defensive graduate assistant at Bowling Green, Durkin's own alma mater. Makes some sense that "leave-of-absence-taking-but-coming-back-in-2011" Meyer, who is trying to cut back on his stress levels to be able to continue coaching, would hire an accomplished young special teams coach like Durkin. Meyer has traditionally coached his special team units himself, and did so at Florida. The big question is now, who gets to rent Micek's house?

We may not be done here. This is the time of year when musical chairs are to be expected. The 2010 AFCA Convention will take place next week from January 10-13. Stay tuned. Hopefully we will have some exciting new hires to report. Coach Harbaugh likes to work his personal and family network. It looks like Notre Dame's Special Teams Coordinator Brian Polian, son of legendary Buffalo Bills general manager and current Indianapolis Colts President Bill Polian, is our new Special Teams coach. (Here's hoping ND transfer Nate Whitaker is comfortable with that one!) The younger Polian, whose brothers are all in coaching as well, was a contributing author to the AFCA book, "A Complete Guide to Special Teams." Like our offensive line coach Greg Roman, Polian attended John Carroll University! Hope we conducted in-depth due diligence. Thought to be a strong recruiter, which won't hurt.

Obviously, we are not involved in making decisions regarding coaches, but it doesn't mean that we don't have "qualified opinions" (or at least opinions as qualified as anyone else!)

Here is a simple little "redprint" of elements we hope are being taken into consideration by our head coach and his camp of resources (brother, father, etc.)

Maintain Some Continuity:

Change is fine, but always make every effort to retain the superior talent. Getting Harbaugh's extension completed was the foundation of such continuity. By most accounts and from on-field observation, offensive line coach Greg Roman is a critical keeper. David Shaw is a terrific coach and knows what he is doing. He should be given more control of game-planning and play-calling. Coach Harbaugh is obviously going to want to be heavily involved and with his background, he should be. But he has so much on his plate as a head coach and leader of the program, that he should probably delegate more of the offense than he currently does. This could lead to even better game and clock management and improve the decision-making in crunch-time. Shaw, a Stanford alum and former Cardinal player is a "Stanford Man" all the way, but other institutions and organizations, well beyond San Jose State, are going to have him on their short list as opportunities arise.

Maintain Stanford Ties:

Keep David Shaw and make him the legitimate "full-on" Offensive Coordinator, promote graduate assistant Casey Moore and Director of Player Personnel Jon Haskins to position coaches, running backs and linebackers respectfully. Anyone who has been around Stanford Football for the last few seasons, knows the contributions made by these cats. Ask the key players who they respect and want to work with in the years to come. As readers of The Bootleg are probably aware, I am so biased toward Kenny Margerum, that I don't feel I can be perceived as having any objectivity in his case. Love Kenny. Would always love having him on a Stanford staff. Probably not going to happen, but I'll throw it in there anyway! He got a raw deal coming back as receivers coach during the third and final year of the unfortunate Teevens administration.

When Appropriate, Promote From Within:

Casey Moore as at least a strong candidate for a "non-interim" running backs coaching position would be a clear signal that Stanford is more than a two- or three-year stepping stone. Already knows the landscape and personnel, can relate to players - young and hungry!

Jon Haskins as linebackers coach. The guy is more than ready. Knows DAPER, knows the players, knows the game, has played at the highest level, and has coaching experience. Superior work ethic. Thought to be a very effective talent evaluator and as a former NFL linebacker would have tremendous credibility with recruits. Cares more about Stanford's overall success and reputation than any three coaches we could hire.

There are several other hard-working young guys that we would love to see take on greater and greater challenges.

Not an exclusive strategy, but an essential element of one for maintenance of a loyal and motivated staff. Have we really seen any of this under Harbaugh? Not yet.

Be Extremely Wary of Nepotism:
We need to avoid hiring guys solely because of their genetics. (e.g. Norv Turner's nephew Chris, a mistake that didn't last a year). That doesn't mean we shouldn't consider guys from football families (e.g. David Shaw), it just can't be the primary basis for the hire. 

Keep Ron Lynn: Lynn is a wonderful guy and the one coach who has truly been around the block in the Pac-10. Not sure how long Coach Lynn wants to keep coaching, but I would love to see him work with the improving talent we have developing on defense. Young coaches benefit tremendously from having a seasoned coach in the building and on the field (or press box or whatever). May not stay. We shall see.

WildCard Picks:

Hard to convince us that 1999 Biletnikoff Award-winner Troy Walters wouldn't make an outstanding wide receivers coach (freeing up OC David Shaw to "coordinate") and double up as Assistant Special Teams coach (return game), especially important now that Durkin is leaving for Gainsville. A Stanford legend with NFL experience as a wide receiver and return specialist, Walters comes from a coaching pedigree and is a mighty fine guy. Currently Offensive Coordinator at long-suffering FCS (I-AA) Indiana State (Larry Bird's alma mater). He is coaching under ISU Head Coach Trent Miles, a former Stanford assistant under Willingham. For those of you not paying attention, former Stanford star Luke Powell is the defensive backs coach for the Sycamores. Troy would be "money"! Send that polished young gun into some living rooms!

Some food for thought anyway.

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