BERKELEY, Calif. – Sonny Dykes believes he is well on his way to completing his coaching staff by Christmas, meeting the timeline he set at his introductory press conference.
That is, if the bureaucracy of the UC system doesn’t get in the way.
Take the hiring of Wisconsin linebackers coach Andy Buh to serve as California defensive coordinator, for example. “I think Andy has been the D-coordinator going on a week now,” Dykes said only half-jokingly as the official announcement would not come until Wednesday afternoon, a few hours after meeting with reporters for an hour-long luncheon at the Simpson Student-Athlete High Performance Center.
There were background checks and other human resources hoops to jump through before Buh’s hiring went public, the kind of minutia that happens everywhere except “in the South, (where) it is different because the football program basically exists independent of the university,” Dykes said with a chuckle.
Consider it an extension of Dykes’ own process, which placed a priority on compatibility over expediency.
“I’m a big believer in fit,” Dykes said. “I don’t like to make rash decisions. I kind of like to be able to sit on things and make sure I know what I’m getting into. The process always takes a little longer, but hiring your coaching staff is the most important thing you do. I really believe that, so I am going to be incredibly deliberate, in some cases a little slow.”
Dykes hasn’t even finalized the exact makeup of his staff. With Buh set to coach linebackers in addition to his defensive coordinator duties and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin working with the quarterbacks, it creates the flexibility to bring in a second assistant for either the defensive line or secondary. Officially, Dykes has four more spots to fill, though reports Thursday have Nevada defensive line coach Barry Sacks coming to Cal in the same capacity.
To coach the offensive line, the only position that will not be filled by a member of his offensive staff from Louisiana Tech, Dykes said he has interviewed “two guys physically and probably talked to three or four others on the telephone.” He will be looking for the same sort of comfort there he found with Buh, a similarity of philosophy and traits.
“He is a guy that I have always wanted to work with,” Dykes said of Buh. “It kind of goes back to what I talk about all the time with fit. He kind of fits my personality.
“I think he is going to be candid, he is going to be open, he is going to be honest. He is going to be demanding, but at the same time, he is going to be incredibly fair.”
But Dykes admits there will be an adjustment period as he and Buh learn how to work together, while he has spent the last three years with Franklin, running backs coach Pierre Ingram, wide receivers coach Rob Likens, and special teams coordinator Mark Tommerdahl.
“Tony and I have worked together and so we know how to work together and what to expect. I know what we are getting into in that regard, but Andy and I have never worked together so there is going to be a little bit of a learning curve and feeling each other out,” Dykes said.
“Again at the end of the day I was just incredibly comfortable with him. It is a big hire just because my knowledge of defense is trying to figure out how to attack it. I certainly don’t pretend to be a great defensive football coach.”
There will be other adjustments for Dykes and his staff, fitting personnel into the new schemes. Buh will use a 4-3 base defense, inheriting a glut of linebackers but insufficient numbers on the defensive line. Dykes has plenty of tight ends and fullbacks, positions he didn’t even recruit at LA Tech, but will enlist Tommerdahl to tutor those bigger bodies.
Perhaps the biggest modification will be that Dykes will not have access to his assistants on a full-time basis until well into January. Buh will remain at Wisconsin through the Rose Bowl, while Dykes indicated others still to be named could be in similar circumstances.
“This time of year we have got a lot of work to do, a lot of work to do once we get the staff together,” Dykes said.
“It’s all starting to funnel down. It will sort itself out here pretty quickly.”
Not even paperwork and red tape can halt the work of trying to bring Cal back to its winning ways.
Dan Greenspan writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.