Gold: Grading the Pac-12 coaching carousel, Pt. 2
Once again, the Pac-12 is in a state of flux. With 3 new head coaches — and with them, 3 almost entirely new coaching staffs — plus a bevy of other coaching changes, the league once more will look almost anew in 2023.
Monday, I graded half of the league’s coaching changes, and Colorado, Oregon and Oregon State passed with flying colors, while Arizona, Arizona State and Cal barely eked by.
Some schools below weren’t quite so lucky.
Here’s a look at the final half of the league, and how their coaching changes bode for 2023.
2022 record: 3-9 overall (1-8 conference)
2022 offensive rankings: Passing (7th, 254.25 ypg); Rushing (10th, 107.33 ypg); Total (10th, 361.58 ypg)
2022 defensive rankings: Passing (1st, 209.67 ypg); Rushing (11th, 224.42 ypg); Total (10th, 434.08 ypg)
Incoming coaches: Troy Taylor (head coach); Bobby April (defensive coordinator/linebackers); Bob Gregory (special teams coordinator/safeties); Klayton Adams (offensive line/run game coordinator); Malcolm Agnew (running backs); Nate Byham (tight ends); Mark D’Onofrio (inside linebackers); Ross Kolodziej (defensive line); Tyler Osborne (wide receivers); Paul Williams (cornerbacks)
Outgoing coaches: David Shaw (head coach); Lance Anderson (defensive coordinator); Pete Alamar (special teams coordinator); Duane Akina (defensive backs); Ron Gould (running backs); Terry Heffernan (offensive line); Bobby Kennedy (wide receivers); Diron Reynolds (defensive line); Eric Sanders (inside linebackers); Morgan Turner (tight ends)
Turnover grade: B
2023 Prospectus: Troy Taylor could end up being Stanford’s 3rd straight home-run hire, or he could continue the Cardinal’s descent back into the dark ages.
Stanford fans have to admit they got a little spoiled after a sustained run of success unmatched in the annals of the 132-year-old program. The Cardinal won 102 games in the 10-year stretch between 2010-18, after needing the previous 22 years to reach 100 wins.
That is to say: Stanford’s performance past 3 full seasons — 4 wins in 2019, 3 wins in 2021, 3 wins in 2022 — is not a total collapse so much as a regression to the mean, and I fear it could continue under Taylor. The former Utah offensive coordinator and Sacramento State head coach, who lead the Hornets to a 30-8 record in 3 season and a 12-1 mark last year, is a fine coach, but Stanford is a beast unto itself. Winning in Palo Alto takes the absolute best set of circumstances, and Taylor does not have that.
In the NIL era, which requires a certain amount of splash and style, Taylor hired 2 coordinators in April and Gregory who average 64 years old. Some of his other coaches skew younger, including offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tavita Pritchard, the former Stanford QB himself, who was the lone holdover from the previous staff.
But I’m not sold this is going to be the group to restore the Cardinal to prominence.
2022 record: 9-4 overall (6-3 conference)
2022 offensive rankings: Passing (6th, 264.77 ypg); Rushing (1st, 238.15 ypg); Total (3rd, 502.92 ypg)
2022 defensive rankings: Passing (11th, 273.15 ypg); Rushing (5th, 129.92 ypg); Total (6th, 403.08 ypg)
Incoming coaches: Kodi Whitfield (cornerbacks)
Outgoing coaches: Chad Kauha’aha’a (defensive line)
Turnover grade: C-
2023 Prospectus: More should have been done to address a pass defense that continues to labor.
For the 4th consecutive season, the Bruins finished in the bottom 2 in the conference in pass defense. Chip Kelly likes to point to the pass defense efficiency stats that mask some of UCLA’s issues, but the simple fact is that the Bruins failed to stop potent offenses when it mattered and collapsed down the stretch.
UCLA’s 1-3 finish had fans clamoring for additional changes, but Kelly avoided a mass overhaul for a second straight year. That may be fine on the offensive side, where the Bruins appear to have a decent enough succession plan for Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Zach Charbonnet, but defensively, it’s clear there is need for more adjustment.
UCLA’s sack numbers stayed static, it allowed more yards per game in 2022 than 2021 (403.08 after allowing 384.42), including more pass yardage per game and slightly more rushing yards, and more than 2 additional points per game (26.75 to 29.0).
By those measures, it was a wasted opportunity with all that additional talent defensively and one of the best offenses in program history.
2022 record: 11-3 overall (8-1 conference)
2022 offensive rankings: Passing (2nd, 335.43 ypg); Rushing (5th, 171.14 ypg); Total (2nd, 506.57 ypg)
2022 defensive rankings: Passing (8th, 264.14 ypg); Rushing (8th, 159.79 ypg); Total (8th, 423.93 ypg)
Incoming coaches: None
Outgoing coaches: None
Turnover grade: D
2023 Prospectus: It’s a bit worrisome that Lincoln Riley didn’t take a good long look in the mirror and deem Alex Grinch’s 2022 defensive performance as unacceptable.
It would’ve been one thing had USC been fundamentally sound but just not big enough, good enough or strong enough to fend off opposing offenses. But the Trojans were a brutal combination of weak-willed, weak-minded and overly selfish. The fact that there’s enough talent to register 28 takeaways but not be able to tackle worth a damn speaks volumes.
This felt like an opportunity for USC to swing for the fences with one of the top defensive minds in the game. Instead, Riley stayed loyal to Grinch and vowed that they will find a way to turn things around.
It didn’t work in Oklahoma; I’m not sure why Riley thinks things will change now.
2022 record: 10-4 overall (7-2 conference)
2022 offensive rankings: Passing (10th, 249.21 ypg); Rushing (2nd, 217.64 ypg); Total (5th, 466.86 ypg)
2022 defensive rankings: Passing (2nd, 222.64 ypg); Rushing (2nd, 111.43 ypg); Total (2nd, 334.07 ypg)
Incoming coaches: None
Outgoing coaches: None
Turnover grade: A
2023 Prospectus: Utah’s continuity is probably the single biggest factor in their years of success.
Since 2018, the Utes have only seen 3 positions turned over — 8 coaches, including offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig and defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley, have stayed the same. That means for at least 8 positions, an entire recruiting cycle worth of Utes has heard the same messaging, language, emphasis and leadership. Are we surprised the Utes continue to get better, year after year?
It’s no big surprise, either, that Utah’s high school recruiting continues to improve. Let the USC’s of the world poach transfer portal talent — the Utes are happy building the program from within.
Kyle Whittingham noted several times this season: Getting to the Rose Bowl once is nice. Getting there back-to-back truly says something about a program.
2022 record: 11-2 overall (7-2 conference)
2022 offensive rankings: Passing (1st, 369.77 ypg); Rushing (6th, 146.0 ypg); Total (1st, 515.77 ypg)
2022 defensive rankings: Passing (5th, 251.46 ypg); Rushing (3rd, 121.23 ypg); Total (3rd, 372.69 ypg)
Incoming coaches: None
Outgoing coaches: None
Turnover grade: A+
2023 Prospectus: After the season that was, I halfway expected half the coaching staff to get poached by bigger blue-bloods than Washington. And the Huskies have a pretty impressive history.
But that’s just how good Kalen DeBoer’s staff was in Year 1. Producing a 7-win turnaround, winning 11 games in Year 1, having the best passing offense in a league packed with thrilling passing games? Convincing not just Michael Penix Jr., but also Bralen Trice and Rome Odunze to run it back? It doesn’t get much better than that.
Washington better be preparing itself for the inevitable goodbye to Ryan Grubb, though. He’s clearly one of the most impressive offensive coordinators in the game, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a Pac-12 gig one of these days.
Washington State Cougars
2022 record: 7-6 overall (4-5 conference)
2022 offensive rankings: Passing (8th, 253.85 ypg); Rushing (11th, 106.85 ypg); Total (11th, 360.39 ypg)
2022 defensive rankings: Passing (10th, 267.69 ypg); Rushing (6th, 134.62 ypg); Total (5th, 402.31 ypg)
Incoming coaches: Ben Arbuckle (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks); Jeff Schmedding (defensive coordinator/linebackers); Frank Maile (edges)
Outgoing coaches: Eric Morris (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks); Brian Ward (defensive coordinator/linebackers); AJ Cooper (edges)
Turnover grade: B-
2023 Prospectus: Losing your offensive and defensive coordinators, and just one year into the gig, is a tough pill to swallow. Jake Dickert has to be sweating right about now.
I spoke extensively with him at Pac-12 media day about the interesting makeup of his staff, which was full of coaches with extensive FCS, D-II and D-III experience and very little time within the Pac-12. That runs counter to many conference staffs, and he continued the trend with Arbuckle, Schmedding, Maile. None of the 3 has any Pac-12 experience, either.
After a sound defensive performance in his debut full season at the helm, the Cougars need to add some juice to their offense to get out of the middle of the pack.