FRESNO, Calif. - As the Bulldog football team enters the final month before the start of spring drills, head coach Pat Hill announced a restructuring of his coaching staff, including the addition of three new coaches.
The changes were necessary when the Dogs lost both their offensive and defensive coordinators after the 2008 season.
Long-time defensive coordinator Dan Brown is retiring to concentrate on his health and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier left for a similar position at the University of Washington.
Brown had been Fresno State's defensive coordinator for the last seven seasons and was an original member of Hill's coaching staff. The Dogs also lost defensive line coach Kerry Locklin, a nine-year member of the staff, who has taken a position with the NFL's New York Jets.
Prior to hiring the three newest members of the staff, Hill promoted secondary coach Randy Stewart to defensive coordinator and running backs coach Tim Skipper to the title defensive run-game coordinator.
Stewart begins his eighth year on the coaching staff and will coordinate the defensive passing game and will make the defensive calls during games. In addition to serving at Fresno State, Stewart has coached at Cal, Cal Poly, Nevada and Boise State.
Skipper, who will coordinate Fresno State's run defensive packages, moves to the defensive side of the ball to coach the linebackers. He earned All-WAC honors for the Dogs as a linebacker (1997-2000). Skipper is a former defensive coordinator at Sacramento State and Western New Mexico.
The other move on the defense has Will Plemons moving from linebackers to defensive line. Plemons' experience on the defensive line includes serving a graduate assistant coach at Fresno State, and coaching at Cal Lutheran, Idaho State and Sacramento State.
"The defensive changes will help us in several ways," said Hill. "First of all, we have guys who work well together as coaches and respect each other. In Randy Stewart we have an experienced secondary coach who's seen just about anything an offense can throw at you. He's done a great job developing our players and his track record of secondary guys who have moved on to the NFL speaks for itself. Tim Skipper is a linebacker at heart and chomping at the bit to get back to coaching on defense. He's been a defensive coordinator at two schools and brings that experience."
Hill will add one assistant coach on defense with the addition of Micah Alba, who comes to Fresno State from BYU. The last two seasons, Alba was a defensive graduate assistant coach for the Cougars. He played cornerback and was a return specialist at BYU from 2000-2004, lettering his final three seasons. He led the team in interceptions his senior season.
"Micah is an excellent teacher and played Division I football at a high level," said Hill. "He will be a good addition to our staff and will work primarily with our cornerbacks. He has the skills to help them grow and develop."
On offense, Hill is moving Jeff Grady from tight ends coach to quarterbacks coaches and passing game coordinator. Grady will call the offensive plays during games. Grady is a former Bulldog quarterback who has worked under some of Fresno State's top offensive minds. He played for former coordinator Andy Ludwig, and served as a graduate assistant coach working with the quarterbacks under Frank Cignetti. The last two years, he's been coaching the tight ends under former offensive coordinators Jim McElwain and Doug Nussmeier.
"This is a great progression and opportunity for Jeff," said Hill. "He worked with the tight ends the last couple years, which gives him a better technical knowledge of the blocking schemes up front. He's a smart guy and as a former quarterback, will have a great feel for the game."
Grady will work with offensive line coach Derek Frazier, who will coordinator the running game for Fresno State as co-offensive coordinator.
Associate head coach John Baxter will move from coaching the receivers on offense to coaching the tight ends. He will continue to coach special teams and head up Fresno State's Academic GamePlan program. Baxter was Fresno State's tight end coach from 1997-2001, and for the 2003 season.
"John Baxter has been with me the entire time at Fresno State and his experience and leadership with the offense is invaluable," said Hill. "He will serve as a quality control supervisor of our offense."
Hill adds two new assistants on offense, running backs coach Joe Wade and receivers coach Keith Williams.
Wade comes to Fresno State from Eastern Washington, where he was the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach during the 2008 season. Prior to that, he served as the running backs/receivers coach for eight years at EWU. He coached the top two running backs in school history. He also served as the running back coach a Montana State in 1999. Wade was college quarterback at Linfield College, where he guided his team to a 1986 NAIA national championship.
Williams, a former professional receiver, spent last year as offensive coordinator and receivers coach at San Jose City College. Williams was a talented receiver for San Diego State (1991-93), where one of his most memorable moments was scoring on a 73-yard touchdown pass against Fresno State. He was a standout on the SDSU track and field team and ran a 10.31 in the 100-meters. After his career, he signed a free agent contract with the Washington Redskins and played professionally in the World League of American Football. He was the receivers coach at San Jose State under head coach Fitz Hill from 2001-04 before moving on to San Jose City College.
While with the Spartans in five seasons he tutored four players who ranked in the top 16 of the SJSU record books for most career receiving yards, including Edell Shepherd, who in 2001 set single season Spartan's records for most receiving yards (1,500) and touchdowns (14). He also was the receivers coach at Solano College in 2000.
"Joe and Keith bring great experience at a variety of levels," said Hill. "They have both been offensive coordinators and are excellent teachers and recruiters. I'm very excited to add them to the staff. I know our players will benefit from their enthusiasm and experience. I was impressive with Keith from his time at San Jose State. Joe has worked with some high-powered offenses in the Big Sky Conference."
The new coaches have begun their duties and will work with Hill on preparations for Spring drills.