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Times reporter Bob Condotta keeps the news coming about the Montlake Dawgs.

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December 29, 2007 8:28 PM

More on Neuheisel

Posted by Bob Condotta

Lots of interesting reaction out there on the hiring of Rick Neuheisel at UCLA has already surfaced so thought I'd pass some of that along, as well as some of my own thoughts.

First, here's a news story from the Orange County Register that notes that DeWayne Walker also has interest from LSU and Texas. So it may not be as simple as UCLA or UW for Walker. This story from the LA Times focuses solely on the Neuheisel-Walker angle and points out that keeping Walker will also be key to keeping UCLA's recruiting class intact.

Michael Ventre of MSNBC.com says that UCLA will eventually regret the hiring of Neuheisel while Tom Dienhart of The Sporting News says hiring Neuheisel may not matter much for UCLA if the school doesn't decide to pay its assistants more as well as loosening academic standards. Pete Fiutak of Fox Sports says Neuheisel is "a proven winner,'' a point some of you might debate.

A couple of thoughts of my own:

--- First, I haven't heard anything from this end on Walker other than a general consensus that no one will be surprised if he stays at UCLA. His job security is probably better doing that than anywhere else he could go, which could be pivotal given his son's status as an incoming freshman.

--- The Neuheisel hire could also impact UW's search for a running backs coach. Dino Babers, a member of the UCLA staff under Karl Dorrell, has been rumored as a favorite for the spot even though he said last week he has had no contact. But his preference is probably to stay at UCLA and he has a previous relationship with Neuheisel, who tried to hire him at UW on at least one occassion (that was the one assistant position during Neuheisel's UW tenure that changed quite a bit). Another name I've heard for that spot is Kelly Skipper, who was WSU's RB coach for a few years under Bill Doba and is now with the Oakland Raiders.

--- Hard to imagine a time when the lineup of coaches in the Pac-10 has been more interesting --- Pete Carroll, Dennis Erickson, Neuheisel, Mike Bellotti and Tyrone Willingham have all coached teams to BCS bowls (all but Willingham on that list have won one) and then throw in Jeff Tedford, Mike Riley and promising newcomer Jim Harbaugh, and it's hard to imagine a time when it's seemed more interesting top to bottom.

--- Some of you have already pointed out that Neuheisel went 3-0 against Willingham while at UW. Those were some of the most memorable games of Neuheisel's UW career, as well. In 1999, UW beat Stanford 35-30 when Marques Tuiasosopo had his 300-200 game, and in 2000 UW came back to win the game when Curtis Williams was tragically injured. The 2001 game was interesting, as well. Stanford went 9-2 in the regular season that year, losing only to Washington State at home and at UW, a 42-28 Husky win that's closer than the final score indicates --- the Huskies scored a clinching TD with 10 seconds left.

--- Neuheisel was 33-16 at UW but what many close to the program think is more relevant is that he was 8-9 in his last 17 games. That was the period when the Huskies began not to be able to run the ball well --- they never topped 200 yards rushing in any of his last 23 games as UW's coach; and began to give up points in bunches --- UW gave up 30 or more points in eight of those games. One person close to the UW program once told me that they thought the best thing that ever happened to Neuheisel's coaching reputation was that he was fired in the manner he was, his theory being Neuheisel might have been fired in a year or two for on-field performance. Being fired for something else --- and at the time he was --- allowed him to merely point to his overall record of 66-30 as evidence of his coaching acumen instead of the fact that both UW and Colorado began to lose more the longer he was in control. Certainly, you can wonder forever what would have happened at UW had he stayed. The question I've always had is how much different the QB situation in 2004 --- the biggest factor in that team's going 1-10 --- could possibly have been? Neuheisel recruited all of those guys (Isaiah Stanback, Casey Paus and Carl Bonnell) and it was under Neuheisel's watch that Stanback was first moved to receiver. This isn't to be positive or negative about Neuheisel, merely to wonder what it was that he would have been able to do to make those guys succeed where Keith Gilbertson couldn't.

--- I recently talked to someone close to the UW program who told me that Neuheisel told him after the 2002 season that he (Neuheisel) knew he had to get tougher, acknowledging that discipline was an issue. That's why he went out and hired Phil Snow as co-defensive coordinator and Dan Cozzetto as offensive line coach, each tough, no-nonsense type of coaches who weren't the prototype "Neuheisel'' guys. Snow is now with the Detroit Lions, Cozzetto back with Erickson at Arizona State. Neuheisel was fired before UW fans got the chance to see how that mix would have worked. But it will be interesting to see what kind of staff Neuheisel puts together at UCLA.


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