Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Steve Hagen: New Offensive Coordinator

The announcement will come later on today when Pat Hill makes the hiring of Steve Hagen official, but according to Channel 47 all sources point to Hagen being named the next Bulldog offensive coordinator. Hagen last stint was as the quarterback coach for the Cleveland Browns from 2001-04. He was fired after the '04 season along with much of Butch Davis' staff after Davis was fired during mid-season.

Hagen began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Illinois and Kansas before landing his first full-time assignment at Northern Arizona where he was the WR/TE coach from 1987-88. He then joined Lou Holtz's Notre Dame staff as a graduate assistant for two seasons('89-'90).

Hagen has been an offensive coordinator at numerous West Coast schools: Nevada, UNLV, San Jose State and Cal. He spent one year as quarterback coach at Kent State in '91, but became the offensive coordinator and QB coach for Nevada under Chris Ault in 1992 and '93. His '92 Wolf Pack offense led the nation in total offense (569.1 ypg) and passing offense (397.5 ypg).

However, that was Hagen's high point of his career. It has been less than stellar since. In 1996 he was the head coach at Division III Wartburg College in Iowa. He resigned after one year to become the QB coach/offensive coordinator under Dave Baldwin at San Jose State. His offenses ranked in the bottom half of the NCAA, unlike his high-flying days at Nevada and UNLV. His 1997 offense averaged 339.82 ypg, the 1998 offense averaged 335 ypg. After his departure, the 1999 offense jumped up to 368.40 ypg. He left SJSU after 98 to become Cal's OC.

His offenses slipped even further. An argument can be made that the Cal situation was not the best. Due to injuries and depth, the Bears had to start and rely on two true freshman for their offense, tailback Joe Igber and QB Kyle Boller. Although, they were true freshman both were very highly touted coming out of high school. The 1999 Cal offense under Hagen averaged an abysmal 250.82 ypg. That was less than half of what his 1992 Nevada offense averaged. His second year at Cal saw some improvement but not much. With a year of experience from Boller and Igber much was expected from the 2000 Bear offense. Hagen's offense that year averaged a very disappointing 317.45 ypg game. Hagen left for the NFL's Browns after the 2000 season.

Hill is very good at finding the right coaches for his program, but was Hagen his first choice? Based on Hagen's, 44, coaching history he does not stay at one place to long. Will Fresno State just be a spring board for something bigger? I personally didn't care for Hill's hiring of Andy Ludwig in 1998 after Jeff Tedford left for Oregon. Ludwig's offense relied to much on the dink and dunk basketball on grass quick passes and jailbreak screens. I was also not a fan of the two WR pattern on obvious passing downs. Ludwig left for Oregon after 01 and was let go by the Ducks three years later for having a lacking offensive scheme.

I was not a big fan of Frank Cignetti's offense either, but it is hard to tell how good his scheme was. Ludwig had the luxury of working with Billy Volek and David Carr. Cignetti had Jeff Grady and Paul Pinegar. Still Cignetti's offense lacked imagination. When the running game was working the offense moved the ball and scored, but that is true for most offensive schemes. What I did not like about Cignetti's offense was the constant run on first down or third-and-short. As well, the halfback screen was over used in passing situations.

An argument can be made that Hagen has not had the talent to succeed since his days at Nevada and UNLV. But he did have talent at Cal, although it was very young and inexperienced. At Fresno State he will get the best of both worlds. The Bulldogs have the talent level of the bottom half of the Pac 10 schools, and the schedule is similar to that of Nevada and UNLV in the early 90s. Will Hill let Hagen open up the passing game like he did for the Wolfpack? Of will Hagen be forced to run a ground oriented attack? I favored the ground attack with Pinegar as the quarterback because I believed Pinegar could not win a game with his arm alone. However, in 2001 David Carr could, but Carr lacked a power running game to compliment his arm.

If defensive coordinator Dan Brown does not shore up his defense this year, it does not matter what type of offense Hagen runs. The Bulldogs could be playing catch-up all year against the better teams on its schedule. Hagen is an interesting hire, and I can't wait for the spring game to see any new wrinkles in the scheme. I do not know why I am getting my hopes up, its has always been Pat Hill's way, right? Run, run, pass, punt!

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