Art Kaufman was interviewed by Cal Athletics upon officially accepting the position of defensive coordinator for Sonny Dykes. Below is the transcription of the Q&A from his video interview.
On coaching players
"I look for in developing an athlete …. to get his degree at a high level … and play football at the same level."
Keys for the coaching staff
"It starts with developing young players. You get young players in that have ability and a desire. And it’s a matter of learning the system that we put in and everybody coming together as a team and understanding what their role is and buy into that…"
"Keep it simple. Make sure that players understand what we need from them within our scheme and then making sure we play hard and play fast."
"We’re basically a four-man front, we’re a 4-3 system. We’re very multiple because of all the offenses you see, from empty sets to three-back sets, and you’ve got to be able to adjust to that. One thing that the 4-3 defense has withstood through time is the ability to adjust to all the things that college football has brought and changed, from the wishbone days to even now the fast-paced offenses.
The ability to play zone coverages, blitz, to be able to go from nickel to dime to big personnel. And it’s got to be something that’s flexible, and that’s the one thing that within our system we’ve developed through the years."
Improving a defense quickly
"I think the biggest thing is having a staff that’s 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 able to line up and play fast. With offenses the way they are today, you’ve got to have your calls in and lined and ready to go within eight to ten seconds after the whistle blows. Players have got to know what to do and have confidence in it. That’s the big key."
What needs improvement in Cal’s defense
"I don’t really worry a lot about what’s gone on here previously. I take what we have as we start with the players through spring ball and take it from there. I don’t gauge anybody on what they’ve done in their 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 that they were in before was there.
So I give everything a fresh slate, and start from day one and work from there. I take guys and develop what they have and take it from there."
On experience being a defensive coordinator
"I think it makes a lot of difference. One of the things about college football, you have to do during practice, during the season, and during the game is you’ve got to have the ability to adjust. The one thing is there’s a lot of things that I’ve seen, I’m able to recognize a lot quicker than I was maybe 15 or 20 years ago. I’m able to see those things a lot faster now and have the answers already developed. ‘Here’s what we’ve got to go to make the adjustment.’"
First order of business
"Probably to get to know these players that are on this current team. I’ve not had a chance to meet anyone as far as the players. I’m looking forward to meeting those guys and developing relationships and getting into this recruiting class of 2014."
"You know I’m kind of an outdoors guy. I like golf, hunting, fishing. Anything that’s really outdoors. And then being able to come to California will be new for me, being able to explore all the things there are to see."
"I’ve heard a lot about this region, and the thing is, to explore this area … the weather, it’s unbelievable for me, especially from all the places I’ve lived. So I’m looking forward to enjoying that. Just to enjoy the area and all the cultural things that are available here and being able to explore a new world for me."
On being a player's coach.
"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."
On Kaufman's thoughtful meticulousness
"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."
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