Feb. 13 -- Here are the coaches we've heard mentioned as candidates for the open UCLA defensive coordinator position...
The program has been pretty tight-lipped about the potential candidates for the open defensive coordinator position.
BRO reported all of these names originally, so now that it's leaking out we thought it'd probably be a good idea to put their names all in one story.
We think there's a good chance the new DC will come from this list but there's a possibility it's someone else.
We've been told by numerous sources that the hire and announcement should be happening fairly soon.
The current defensive backs coach with the Chicago Bears, Donatell, 58, was the defensive coordinator of the Falcons when Mora was head coach. Like the other candidates on this list, Donatell is an NFL lifer, except for short stints in college. He’s one of Mora’s closest friends and advisors, and that’s a plus for Mora, who likes to have familiarity with his coaching staff, especially the defensive coordinator. He was a college DC for one season, with the Washington Huskies during their dismal year of 2008, but that isn’t an indication of Donatell’s coaching abilities. Like with the others on this list, tapping Donatell would clearly be a commitment to using the NFL-experience angle in college, which Mora believes has served him very well up to this point. Like Haslett, being older it would probably be Donatell’s last coaching stop.
By process of elimination, Donatell looks like the most likely candidate at this point. Since Mora has been looking for a defensive coordinator, the 49ers announced the signing of Pendergast and the Seahawks announed a promotion for Seto.
As BRO reported, we’ve heard Haslett’s name the most in relation to the UCLA DC job. Coached with the Washington Redskins as their defensive coordinator for the last five seasons before leaving by "mutual agreement" in December. Mora knows Haslett, 59, from their time spent as assistants in New Orleans in the 1990s, coaching under Mora's father, Jim E. Mora. Haslett was then the head coach of the Saints in 2000-2005. He's a long-time NFL veteran who, besides being a DC, is a linebackers coach. He runs a 3-4 scheme, and is one of the sort-of pioneers of it in the NFL. It would be Mora opting for a couple of things: 1) Someone he knows well and trusts, and 2) the NFL background angle. It’s worked well for Mora in his three years at UCLA, with the NFL experience really helping to sell high school prospects, and Haslett has a ton of NFL experience and reputation to sell. At 59, it would probably be his last stop and he more than likely wouldn’t want to jump back to the NFL. The downside, or maybe we should call it the unknown, would be how good a life-long NFL coach would be as a college recruiter.
Pendergast was the first name we’ve heard and has been a consistent one. It’s known he was on campus for an interview. It makes sense, and he’s a good fit. Pendergast, 47, was reportedly just hired as the linebackers coach with the San Francisco 49ers but the hiring was never final or announced publicly. He took the last year off after being let go from USC as its defensive coordinator when Steve Sarkisian was hired. Previous to that, Pendergast was the defensive coordinator at California for two seasons, from 2010 to 2012, and then had a long history in the NFL as a coordinator and linebackers coach, primarily with the Kansas City Chiefs and Arizona Cardinals. He was a candidate for the Washington Redskins DC job and reportedly was the first choice as the DC for Utah but turned down the position. Pendergast is known for being a very good defensive mind who fields defenses that emphasize an attacking style. The one knock on him, probably, was that he’s known as not liking recruiting. A recent article that discussed why Pendergast was going to return the NFL cited his lack of interest in recruiting.
The 49ers announced Pendergast's signing as their linebackers coach after he interviewed for the UCLA DC job, so that leads you to believe he's out of consideration.
Aranda would be an exception to the primary theme of the rest of this list, that is, a college guy without NFL experience. He’s young at 38, too, which would also be a departure. He’s considered one of the best young defensive minds in college football, and is another 3-4 expert specializing in aggressive pressure. He’s considered a head-coach-in-waiting, with the Xs-and-Os chops and the personality and decorum to be a future head coach. He’s from California originally, born in Redlands, but went to college at Cal Lutheran in Thousand Oaks, so he wouldn’t be a Midwestern fish out of water in the west.
Seto, 38, is the current Defensive Passing Game Coordinator with the Seattle Seahawks, even though it’s believed he’ll be moved into a real assistant position before next season. He was the defensive coordinator at USC for one year under Pete Carroll, and was a positional assistant with USC for six years before that. He’s very much of the Pete Carroll coaching tree. If you remember, there was some talk he’d be the UCLA Defensive Coordinator under Rick Neuheisel, but it fell through. He’s definitely the under-experienced coach in this group. We heard he interviewed for the job, and was on campus the night of National Signing Day. We think he’s a purely fall-back option, and could be a consideration for an assistant’s position.
We know Seto interviewed but we were told he was never a top candidate for the position. Since, he was named assistant head coach/defense for the Seahawks.