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Cal defensive coordinator candidate: Tim DeRuyter

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The most conventional name in the bucket.

NCAA Football: San Diego State at Fresno State Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Note: These names are based entirely on speculation. We have no list of candidates.

As Cal gets set to hire a new defensive coordinator, there are a host of names that might make their way into the mix. We don’t really have any idea as to WHO those names might be, but one of the more logical candidates is recently fired Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter. Could he provide a quick fix to Cal’s defensive ailments?

Pedigree: DeRuyter has been the defensive coordinator at Ohio from 2002 to 2004, at Nevada from 2005 to 2006, at Air Force from 2007 to 2009, at Texas A&M from 2010 to 2011 before taking over the Fresno State coaching job. Fresno tied for first in the Mountain West his first year, and then won the conference in his second season. Then there was a steady descent to the bottom of the MWC in three years.

Stats: The biggest issue I see with DeRuyer is he has had one good defense at Fresno State—the first one, which was 38th in S&P+ as the Bulldogs went 9-4 and finished in a tie for first. Every defense since then has been in the bottom third in S&P+, with the offense being the unit that really swung the table.

The stats do seem to indicate that DeRuyter enjoyed better success in turn arounds as a defensive coordinator, but the advanced stats suggest that the improvement was a bit exaggerated. The Aggies went from the 104th to the 21st best scoring defense in DeRuyter’s first year, but in S&P+ the Aggies went from 20th to top 10 in the two years DeRuyter that year. Good improvement, but clearly the Aggies already had the talent in place.

There were more substantial turnarounds at Air Force (99th in S&P+ pre-DeRuyter, top 20 in his final season three years later), as well as at Ohio and Nevada.

DeRuyter has a history of turning college football defenses around. Before his second arrival at Ohio in 2002, the Bobcats ranked 99th nationally; upon his departure to Nevada, the Bobcats ranked 22nd. At Nevada, the Wolfpack improved from 78th to 48th under his tutelage

Scheme: Here is the rub with DeRuyter, and why he is likely to turn down a coaching offer from Cal. DeRuyter’s base scheme (the one he has enjoyed the most success with over the years) is a 3-4.

The Cal defense currently is projected to have six linebackers on the team that saw any significant snaps last season, with three to four others likely to find their way in the rotation with barely any experience. Unless Cal finds a way to start converting defensive lineman into capable 3-4 OLBs, this is is not a team ready to switch to a 3-4 anytime soon.

Recruiting: This is another glaring weakness. DeRuyter’s recruiting base throughout his coaching tenure at Fresno State has been Texas, not California, and he missed out on some good local talent from his backyard while only occasionally striking in for a big recruit at the Lone Star State. More from Mountain West Connection.

Suffice it to say, the evidence was damning despite a lot of promise. DeRuyter’s first two recruiting classes, 2013 and 2014, ranked third in the Mountain West (according to 247 Sports), and his hauls never finished below fifth in the conference. The list of touted recruits, however, reads like a future of what could have been: Zack Greenlee. Donnell Vercher and Rodney Matthews. Michael Lazarus and Xavier Ulutu. Keyan Williams and L.J. Reed and Josiah Blandin.

Given Cal’s struggles in holding down the fort in their backyard and hemorrhaging the best talent in Northern California to the bigger national powers, the Bears aren’t getting a huge recruiting upgrade. For a Cal team in need of better defensive recruiting, these are not the type of stories Cal would want to hear.

Has Cal played him? DeRuyter was the defensive coordinator for Air Force during the 2007 Armed Forces Bowl, where Kevin Riley had nearly a perfect quarterback rating in throwing for three touchdowns and 269 yards on 16-19 completions. Justin Forsett added 140 yards and two touchdowns as Cal racked up over 500 yards of offense. Cal won 42-36.

Conclusions: DeRuyter would be a very average hire. It might work, but it’s hard to see him really making things much better running a 3-4 without the personnel. On the other hand, DeRuyter switched Air Force and Texas A&M from a 4-3 to a 3-4 and saw immediate improvements. Perhaps he can improve the speed of our younger ends and get them to play more hybridized roles as outside linebackers and defensive ends who can rush and drop into coverage. The other significant issue is his lack of recruiting skill, and Cal needs recruits in the worst way.

Cal fans, your thoughts on DeRuyter?