BERKELEY – One of the things Cal football coach Sonny Dykes likes about new defensive coordinator Art Kaufman is that he thinks things through and is measured about his actions.
Ironically, it’s those traits that get Kaufman results in a hurry.
Kaufman, who was named to lead the Bears’ defense Wednesday, is a 32-year coaching veteran with a reputation of doing fast work. The best example of this came in 2012 when he took over Texas Tech’s defense and improved the Red Raiders from 114th nationally to No. 38 in total defense in one season. Dykes, of course, paid a little extra attention to that achievement since Texas Tech is his alma mater and a place where he once was offensive coordinator himself.
“He’s someone who likes to think about things,” Dykes said. “He doesn’t jump in until he’s completely sure it’s something he wants to do, then it’s full speed ahead. He’s very measured. I think we’re similar in that regard. When you have important decisions to make, you want to make sure you do your research on it and do it in a timely manner.”
Dykes said one of the appealing traits about Kaufman is his ability to improve a defense quickly, something he acknowledged is paramount moving forward. Kaufman comes to Cal from Cincinnati, where last season the Bearcats ranked in the top-10 nationally in both total defense and rushing defense.
“The biggest thing at the end of the day was to get our defense playing well in a hurry,” Dykes said. “He has a nice track record of doing that in the past. The one that really stuck out to me was how much he improved Texas Tech when he took over there. I started calling people that I knew in Lubbock and everybody had the same thing to say – he’s a great person, great coach and just a classy guy.”
Kaufman has served as defensive coordinator at four stops – Cincinnati, Texas Tech, North Carolina and Mississippi. In 2011 and 2012, he was nominated for the prestigious Broyles Award, given annually to college football’s top assistant coach.
“The biggest thing is having a staff that is all on the same page – everyone knowing what we’re going to do, what we’re trying to get done and making sure that the players understand the schemes and are able to line up and play fast,” Kaufman said. “With offenses the way they are today, you have to have your calls in line and ready to go within eight to ten seconds after the whistle blows. The players have to know what to do and have confidence in what they are doing.”
A native of Dermott, Arkansas, this is Kaufman’s first coaching stop in the West. He said he is looking forward to getting to know Berkeley and the surrounding area.
“I’ve heard a lot about this region,” Kaufman said. “The weather, it’s unbelievable – especially from all the places that I’ve lived. I’m looking forward to enjoying that. Just enjoying the area with all the cultural things that are available here to explore – and learn about a new world for me.”
Dykes talked to former players of Kaufman, former coaches that worked with and against him, and others during his search.
“The interesting thing when I started looking at people to hire and his name came up, I talked to a lot of former players about him and every one of them said the same thing – I loved playing for my school, but I really loved playing for Coach Kaufman,” Dykes said. “That was the thing that kept coming up – how much they liked him personally and how much they cared about him, and what a great teacher and mentor he was. It kept coming up over and over again.
“When you talk to 100 people, typically 10 percent of the people are going to have something negative to say. But I didn’t hear anybody say one negative thing about Art.”
Kaufman said his first order of business is to meet his new players and get in on recruiting for the class of 2014. Then it will be time to wipe the slate clean and start writing a new chapter for Cal’s defense.
“I don’t really worry about what’s gone on here previously,” Kaufman said. “I take what we have and take it from there. I don’t judge anyone on what they’ve done in the past, because for me to say a guy was right or wrong – I don’t know what he was asked to do, don’t know what he was told, don’t know what the system called for him. I give everything a fresh slate, start from Day 1 and work from there.”