Star football players rarely become coaches.
Why bother? Anybody that good at football would have had a long, lucrative career, so money isn’t the issue. And who wants to mess around with recruiting anyway?
Want to stay connected to the game? Move to an NFL front office. Become a pitchman. Give speeches. Better yet, get a TV job.
There are those, however, who hear the call. Heed the call. Some high-profile players-to-coaches have put on the coaching whistle with the same gusto as they put on the shoulder pads … and the Pac-12 is home to some of those.
We clicked on 120 coaching bios in the league — 12 head coaches and nine full-time assistants per team — to put together our All-Coaches Team, to find out which Pac-12 coaches played the game the best in college and the pros.
Here are the results:
By far, this is the toughest position to pick just one player. We can narrow it down to five:
– Scott Frost (Oregon receivers coach): Led Nebraska to a 13-0 record and a split national title in 1997, when he became the 10th player in history to run and pass for more than 1,000 yards in the same season.
– Brian Johnson (Utah offensive coordinator): Went 26-7 as a starter at Utah, was the 2008 MWC Offensive Player of the Year and led the Utes to a 13-0 record and Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama that season. Threw for 7,853 career yards.
– Tee Martin (USC receivers coach): Led Tennessee to the national championship in 1998 and earned first-team All-SEC honors a year later.
– Steve Sarkisian (Washington head coach): BYU’s starter in 1995 and 1996, he completed 66.9 percent of his 789 passes for 7,464 yards with 53 touchdowns and 26 interceptions. Was a second-team All-American in 2006.
– Marques Tuiasosopo (UCLA “Y” receivers coach): Passed for 5,879 yards and ran for 1,495 while starting 27 games for Washington and taking the Huskies to the 2000 Pac-10 title. Was the league’s Offensive Player of the Year that season.
My choice: There is no bad pick. You can go with the guys who won national titles. Johnson was underappreciated. Sarkisian had great two-year stats. My personal preference is for Tuiasosopo, whose dual-threat skills could be unstoppable. (You can vote in our poll above.)
– Eric Bienemy (Colorado offensive coordinator, running backs coach): He is the Buffs’ career leader in rushing (3,940 yards) and touchdowns (42), finished third in the 1990 Heisman voting and went on to a nine-year pro career.
– Steve Broussard (UCLA running backs coach): A standout runner and pass-catcher, Broussard finished his Washington State career with 4,635 all-purpose yards and was a first-round pick in the 1990 draft, beginning a nine-year pro career.
– Wes Chandler (Cal receivers coach): He was selected to four Pro Bowl teams during an NFL career that spanned 11 seasons and included 559 catches for 8,966 yards and 56 touchdowns. He was the No. 3 pick in the 1978 draft after his career at Florida.
– Eric Yarber (UCLA receivers coach): Earned Big Sky MVP honors as a senior, when he caught 75 passes for 1,103 yards at Idaho. A 1986 12th-round pick of Washington, he won a Super Bowl ring with the Redskins a season later, when he returned 37 punts for 273 yards.
– Jon Embree (Colorado head coach): Was an All-Big-8 performer who had 51 catches for 680 yards as a sophomore in 1984 before the Buffs moved to a wishbone offense.
– Adrian Klemm (UCLA running game coordinator, offensive line coach): The Hawaii standout was the 46th overall pick in the 2000 draft and played in 42 NFL games.
– Robert Anae (Arizona offensive line coach): As a guard, he earned second-team All-WAC honors for the 1984 BYU team that went undefeated and won the national championship.
– Jim Michalczik (Cal offensive coordinator, offensive line coach): The Washington State guard earned honorable mention All-America honors from the Sporting News as a senior in 1988.
– Randy Hart (Stanford defensive line coach): A three-year letterwinner under Woody Hayes and part of Ohio State’s 1968 national championship team.
– Dan Finn (Utah offensive line coach): A first-team All-American for Northern Arizona in 1996 and 1997, Finn had a couple of cups of coffee in the pro ranks.
(Not enough defensive linemen, too many linebackers. We’re going with a 3-4 look.)
– Joe Salave’a (Washington State defensive line coach): An All-Pac-10 player at Arizona who recorded 43.5 tackles for loss, including 21.5 sacks, as an interior linemen before playing in eight NFL seasons.
– Monte Kiffin (USC defensive coordinator): He was a two-way tackle at Nebraska from 1959 to 1963, as rugged and fiery then as he still is now.
– Tosh Lupoi (Washington defensive line coach): A rising coaching star now, he was a fixture on Cal’s defensive line early last decade, playing in 40 games and making 68 tackles, including five sacks.
– Brian Cabral (Colorado linebackers coach): Made 297 tackles in his Colorado career and went on to play nine seasons in the NFL, winning a Super Bowl with the Chicago Bears in 1985.
– Kanavis McGhee (Colorado defensive line coach): He was an All-American at Colorado, helping the Buffs win the 1990 national championship. Had 38 career tackles for loss, including 15 sacks, at CU before being a second-round pick and playing five NFL seasons.
– Jeff Ulbrich (UCLA special teams coordinator/linebackers coach): He was first team All-WAC in 1999, when he set a Hawaii school record with 169 tackles. Ulbrich went on to play 10 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, starting 75 of the 120 games in which he played.
– Kyle Whittingham (Utah head coach): At BYU, he earned WAC Defensive Player of the Year honors in 1981. He was Defensive MVP of the Holiday Bowl that year as BYU defeated Washington State.
(Apologies to Cal defensive line coach Todd Howard and Washington linebackers coach Peter Sirmon … two more former standouts at the position.)
– Ashley Ambrose (Cal defensive backs coach): Ambrose, a graduate of Mississippi Valley State, played 13 seasons in the NFL, earning All-Pro honors with the Cincinnati Bengals in 1996. He played in 192 NFL games, starting 141.
– Rod Perry (Oregon State defensive backs coach): The former Colorado Buffalo was a two-time Pro Bowl cornerback with the Los Angeles Rams during a 10-year NFL career.
– Morgan Scalley (Utah safeties coach): He was the MWC co-Defensive player of the year and a second-team AP All-American in 2004, when he was the captain of a Utah team that went 12-0.
– Justin Wilcox (Washington defensive coordinator): Could have also gone with Oregon State assistant Jay Locey (All-Pac-8 in 1976) or UCLA assistant Demetrice Martin (all-conference at Michigan State), but our memories are strongest with Wilcox, a heady safety/cornerback for Oregon who was second-team All-Pac-10 in 1999.