Canzano: Ducks, Beavers set up Uiagalelei family reunion
Plus, thoughts on WSU, ASU and Oregon's search for a punter.
As matchmaking goes, Oregon State and DJ Uiagalelei makes a lot of sense.
One of them is a promising program that won 10 games last season without a proven commodity at quarterback. The other is the former No. 2 overall prospect in 2020 class, who left Clemson and desperately needs a fresh setting.
So, are you ready for Big Dave?
Dave Uiagalelei is DJ’s father. I’m fascinated by the guy. He is 6-foot-4 and 370 pounds and worked in Hollywood in private security. He was a body guard for Rihanna, Chris Brown, Meek Mill, Nick Cannon and DJ Khaled, among others. He and his wife Tausha also raised two sons and trained them in life and football.
Matayo is a five-star edge rusher who signed with the University of Oregon this week. Ducks fans are excited to see him suit up. DJ, his older brother, is reportedly set to transfer to Corvallis and become the most promising quarterback of Jonathan Smith’s tenure.
The rival campuses are 44 miles apart. I’m thinking Big Dave and his wife may rent a place in the middle and become honorary Oregonians.
A few thoughts:
• Oregon State thrust itself into the DJ Uiagalelei sweepstakes by winning games and demonstrating that it can compete at the top of the Pac-12 Conference. Smith’s good culture is no longer a secret. It’s one thing for Beavers’ fans to declare Corvallis a destination for quarterbacks, but another thing to see the most talented one in the portal pick OSU. This is a breakthrough, engineered with sweat.
• DJ Uiagalelei was thrown into the fray at Clemson as a freshman. He threw for more than 5,600 yards in three seasons. He lost his starting job this season. I have to think DJ and family noted the success Bo Nix had in transferring from Auburn to Oregon and Michael Penix Jr. had in going from Indiana to Washington. There’s a blueprint developing. I find it interesting.
• Pac-12 quarterbacks next season will include Nix (Oregon), Caleb Williams (USC), Penix Jr. (Washington), Cam Ward (WSU), Dante Moore (UCLA), Jayden de Laura (Arizona) and Shedeur Sanders (Colorado), among others. DJ Uiagalelei will be in good company if he lands at Oregon State. Is it possible Utah will get Cam Rising to come back for another season? Is there a better top-to-bottom stable of QBs in any other conference?
• Smith hasn’t had a star quarterback to work with. DJ Uiagalelei becomes his first high-profile opportunity. His record as a starter at Clemson: 22-6. OSU runs the ball extremely well. Beavers two-way star Jack Colletto told me earlier this season that OSU watches a lot of 49ers film. The run and pass-game concepts between the NFL and Pac-12 team have glaring creative similarities.
It’s interesting to me that both of those operations have still had success without consistent play at QB. I’m excited to see what Uiagalelei might do with an offense that won’t ask him to carry the entire operation.
Big Dave is a good dad. I’ve read about him and listened to him talk. You can tell how much he cares about his children. One of the mantras he gave his sons growing up was: “Make friends with everyone.”
I also recently heard Big Dave tell the story of DJ’s first experience playing quarterback. He was in Pop Warner, as a third-grader playing with kids three years older than him because he was so large. The first game was a disaster. The offense was disorganized. The game was moving too fast and the quarterback reads were complex.
After the first game, DJ had tears running down his cheeks. When dad asked him how he was doing, his son straightened up, and said, “I’m fine.”
Later, DJ confessed he wanted to quit.
His dad told him: “I used to do that a lot. I used to quit when it got tough. I was the best at it. Stay the course.”
That course now appears to have led him to Oregon State.
WASHINGTON STATE won three of four football games to close the regular season. Jake Dickert’s team (7-5) then promptly lost its offensive and defensive coordinators and got beat by Fresno State in the LA Bowl.
The Cougars knew that offensive coordinator Eric Morris would likely bolt for a head coaching job, per sources. I don’t think he was a great fit with Dickert in Pullman. North Texas hired Morris away.
Defensive coordinator Brian Ward is an Arizona native. He left for the same job at Arizona State. We all know it’s Dickert’s defense at WSU. Ward apparently wanted to shape and call his own scheme. But what I find interesting are the financials.
Ward was making $650,000 a year in salary at Washington State. He got a significant annual salary bump ($950,000) to go to Tempe. ASU also paid Ward’s $450,000 buyout to Washington State. The Cougars offered Ward a raise, per a source, but he left anyway. I think he coveted the autonomy he’d enjoy paired with an offensive-minded head coach at ASU vs. a defensive one in Pullman.
Another Washington State assistant, AJ Cooper, left with Ward to become ASU’s linebackers coach. He was born and raised in the Phoenix area and played at Glendale Community College. That one makes sense, too.
WSU’s assistant coach salary pool was $4,010,000 last season. That ranks the Cougars No. 7 among Pac-12 schools. By comparison, Oregon spent more than $7 million on assistant coaches last season. But the Ducks lose coordinators, too. (Utah spent $5.85 million and Washington spent $5.74 million, in case you wondered.)
Is there a salary-pool issue at WSU?
I’ll say — no, for now. (I think the Cougars will expand the pool in this hiring cycle.) But I think other factors caused the unusual churn this offseason.
I don’t think there was anything Dickert and Washington State AD Pat Chun could have done to retain Morris. He wanted to be a head coach. There was some friction between he and Dickert. And Ward not only received a 32 percent raise, but gets to run his own defense. Nothing really for WSU to do there, either.
Dickert had never been a head coach before Washington State. Keep that in mind. I think it’s incredibly difficult to build a coaching staff that has cohesion, trust and synergy from scratch. Remember, Dickert was thrown into head coaching duty two seasons ago when Nick Rolovich was fired, midseason.
Dickert built his first staff on the fly, and inherited some holdovers. Then, just before his first full season, he hired Morris and Ward. They’re both gone. Dickert is starving for some continuity right now.
ARIZONA STATE is building a staff that is as close to local farm-to-table as it gets in college football. Kenny Dillingham said he wanted to recruit the Phoenix area and he’s added the kind of assistants you’d need to do just that.
I’m interviewing Dillingham 1-on-1 next week, so I’ll ask him about his hiring strategy. (Also, I want to know where his head was in the final few games of Oregon’s regular season.)
Think on this, while we wait — he hired Jason Mohns as his tight ends coach. Mohns coached Saguaro (Scottsdale, Ariz.) High School to seven state titles. Charlie Ragle, Dillingham’s high school coach at Chaparral (Scottsdale, Ariz.) High, was hired as special teams coach. And ASU’s defensive line coach, Vince Amey, has local high school and college ties, too.
Dillingham poached two Arizona natives from Washington State (Brian Ward and AJ Cooper). He also hired Beau Baldwin, the former Eastern Washington head coach, to be his offensive coordinator. I like that the 32-year-old Dillingham appears to have a well-designed plan. Let’s see if it works.
OREGON football coach Dan Lanning got some big wins in recruiting this week. I wrote about the Ducks early signing period haul this week. You may be interested in the four and five-star skill players UO signed, but it’s a punter I find myself most curious about.
Luke Dunne is from Australia. He doesn’t have a recruiting profile on any of the databases. He has a Twitter account, but it only has three tweets. This is like the great Sidd Finch signing with the New York Mets.
Except, it’s no April Fool’s joke.
Oregon needed a punter. Desperately, so. It apparently found one that is off the grid. Dunne kicked for ProKick Australia, which trained six Ray Guy Award winners. I’m told Dunne trained six days a week.
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