Cozzetto named new OL coach

There's no question what the biggest news in Corvallis is right now. With Dennis Erickson leaving to take over the head coaching position with the San Francisco 49'ers, now the question that OSU fans are asking is 'Who will be the next head coach'? What they may not realize is that, even if Erickson hadn't left, they would have been looking for an assistant at the very least. Why?

Because Dan Cozzetto is now headed to Washington to take over the position vacated by Brent Myers. And that decision came down before Erickson bolted for the Bay Area.

"I've always been upfront with Dennis about my aspirations and I told him that I wanted to get back to coaching the guys up front and that eventually I want to become a head coach," Cozzetto told as he was packing up his office Wednesday afternoon. "And when Rick Neuheisel contacted me I told him that all he needed to do was call Dennis Erickson. I'm old school in that regard. I wanted to make sure it was done right. And yesterday he came by and told me that Rick talked to him and he told me that it was an opportunity I needed to do. He knows that Debbie is from there and I'm from there and he told me to go for it.

"This was all before things came down with Dennis to San Francisco. The timing was just so. I told him that when I was having dinner with Coach Neuheisel last night that I really liked it and I thanked him for the opportunity to help build Oregon State back up. "When the rumors started flying around about Neuheisel and the 49'ers, I knew Dennis had been contacted too. And he's got NFL experience and could turn that thing around down there. But at the time I was a lot more interested in Washington's job when their offensive line spot opened up. That's what I was really focused on at the time. And that's the way it was until about two days ago. Then all the stuff with Dennis became reality."

Cozzetto to Washington makes sense on so many fronts. "Washington has always been in the picture," he said. "I've always wanted to do that. I got a chance to sit down and talk with Rick Neuheisel at the coaches' convention and got to know him a lot better. When I was at Arizona State, our wide receivers coach was Karl Dorrell. And I remember when I was at Cal, the two guys at UCLA that made everything go for them were Karl Dorrell and Rick Neuheisel. And even Tim Hundley. Tim was my position coach when I was playing at Idaho. And John Pettas and Phil Snow were at Arizona State when I was there.

"I was very fortunate to be in contact with Rick Neuheisel and have been in touch with him in the last month or so. And Keith Gilbertson basically taught me everything I know when it comes to coaching up front when I got into that part of the business in 1985. He's my mentor. And he's probably my influence, along with Coach Erickson. I played for Coach Erickson at Idaho and he's the coach that recruited me. He's like my father." Dan is originally from Spokane, Washington and attended Gonzaga Prep.

Going from ASU to OSU was a hard move for Cozzetto to make, but Erickson wouldn't take no for an answer. "I always wanted to get back to being a line coach, so in 1999 when both Oregon State and Arizona State were in bowl games in Hawaii he approached me. He said, 'I want to give you a chance to turn this thing around with me at Oregon State. If you come we can do it,' and I was like, 'No problem'. So I came aboard and you know the rest of the story."

Dan talked a little bit more in-depth about his influences and why he enjoys coaching the big uglies. "Besides Gilby being my biggest influence on the offensive line, I also got the opportunity to coach with Gregg Smith, who has coached with Dennis Erickson for the past 23 years," Cozzetto said. "And really, the biggest thing is just making sure that all five guys are on the same page, working together. When that happens, it's something special. As long as things are good, no problems. But when things break down, there's a lot of fingers pointed at the guys up front and they take a lot of crap.

"Offensive linemen are a different breed. You have to be sensitive to the fact that they are a lot bigger than most and you also have to be sensitive to what they go through. They have to play with their hand down and have to play with their vision constricted. There's an incredible amount of commitment."

So what is Cozzetto's philosophy toward coaching linemen? In short, it's more about making sure the entire offense is in sync. "Well, when I was at ASU I was also the coordinator, so I could keep the quarterbacks in check," he said. "And when I came to Oregon State, I coached the running backs, so I coached Simonton, McCall and then Steven Jackson came in. And with Gregg Smith coaching the line, I came up with a whole different approach to the running backs.

"I wanted to give them total awareness as to what was going on offensively, so I taught them the blocking schemes so they knew where to be all the time and where to run so it became second-nature. And that's what I would like to see happen. Once all the other offensive players know the blocking schemes it makes things easier because then everybody is on the same page."

Neuheisel has already talked to Cozzetto a little bit about recruiting, and what he'll bring to the staff in that regard. "We talked a little bit about recruiting last night and they like how I have experience in Orange County, from Moreno Valley down to Temecula, and also Arizona," he said. "Whatever they want me to do, I'll do it.

"I can't say enough about Rick Neuheisel and the things he's done so far. Good things are going to happen at Washington again soon. It's a great coaching staff up there."

And along with new QB coach hire Pettas, Cozzetto will jump into his new position without hesitation. "Well I know the other coaches are going to have the week off next week, but I know that Coach Pettas and myself will work with Gilby on Monday," he said. "I don't know what their plan is, but when I've been a line coach I've coached the whole line. That's what Gilby taught me."

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