Published March 20, 2012
Ten thoughts on YSU's new defensive coordinator.
1. Defensive coordinator Rick Kravitz's departure in February was painted as a mutual decision -- especially since Kravitz's family still lives in Florida -- but Kravitz wanted to stay and YSU coach Eric Wolford had a tough time making the move, which is understandable. Their relationship goes back 20 years from when both were at South Florida and Kravitz is a good guy.
2. One of the criticisms of former head coach Jon Heacock was that he was too loyal to underachieving assistants, which is why it was so important that Wolford make a move. In his first year, the wide receivers (outside of Dominique Barnes) underachieved, so Wolford replaced WR coach Phil Longo. Over the last two years, the defense, particularly the cornerbacks (outside of Brandian Ross in 2010) were a weak spot. So, Wolford brought in Joe Tresey to replace Kravitz and Glenn Davis to replace cornerbacks coach Rollen Smith. (Smith will be an assistant strength and conditioning coach.) Obviously, the coaches aren't the only ones to blame, but they're the ones ultimately responsible.
3. After Heacock left (it was announced as a resignation but he was still paid for the 2010 season), Penguin athletic director Ron Strollo told me he briefly considered Tresey for the head coaching job because Tresey is such a good recruiter, particularly in Florida. That's one of the reasons Wolford hired him as Kravitz's replacement. The other thing Tresey brings is Wolford-type passion. Kravitz wasn't a yeller and Tresey will be. You need guys like that, particularly since, as the head coach, Wolford can't always take that role.
4. The knock on Tresey is that he's moved around — a lot. This is Tresey's eighth different stop over the past decade and his fifth in as many years. But when you retrace the steps, it makes more sense. Tresey was Brian Kelly's defensive coordinator at Central Michigan (2006) and Cincinnati (2007-08). Kelly (who was hired at Notre Dame in 2010) fired him after the 2008 season when Tresey interviewed for the defensive coordinator job at Miami without telling Kelly. From there, Tresey went to South Florida in 2009 to work for Jim Leavitt, who was the only coach in program history from 1997 until he was fired in January of 2010 for allegedly striking a player. When Skip Holtz was hired as Leavitt's replacement a week later, Tresey was out of a job. Tresey then spent a year with the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League before being hired at UCLA in 2011 under Rick Neuheisel in 2011, who was fired after going 6-7 last fall.
5. The point is, like a lot of college assistants, he's at the mercy of the head coach. Usually, when a head coach leaves or gets fired, the assistants end up changing schools. Tresey told me on Tuesday that he (and, especially, his wife) wants to stick around.
6. What can also go unnoticed is the fact that YSU was able to hire UCLA's former defensive coordinator, which speaks well of the Penguins' program. Yes, Tresey is a local guy (he graduated from Warren JFK) but it takes more than geography to draw BCS conference coaches to FCS Youngstown State.
7. Prior to Kravitz, YSU's defensive coordinators were:
2009: Jon Heacock (who also served as head coach)
2007-08: Jeff Mills (who came from FBS Idaho and Nevada)
2004-2006: Mike Kolakowski (co-defensive coordinator in 2004-05)
2004-05: Dana Chambers (co-defensive coordinator, mostly D-II or FCS)
2001-2003: Pete Rekstis (FCS)
8. Mills had an FBS background with Idaho and Nevada. Kolakowski spent a year as co-defensive coordinator at Cincinnati in 2003 but was better known as a longtime Division II head coach. Chambers had a FCS background. Rekstis came from Austin Peay and the Coast Guard Academy. None of them had a resume that compares with Tresey.
9. Bottom line? I have no idea whether Tresey is the answer but YSU should have more talent this year, so the defense should be better. And the defense should be more multiple (in formations, stunts, etc.) and more creative.
10. As for Davis, he's a fairly young coach but was one of South Florida's first players, so he's known Wolford for 20 years. Davis spent the past two years at USF as a defensive quality control coach. YSU has more depth and experience at corner than the previous two years, so Wolford will count on Davis to make sure that unit is much improved this fall.