With most of the Cal offensive staff rounding into form, the next big hire for Sonny Dykes will be who he picks out for defensive coordinator. As good as his Louisiana Tech offense was, his defense was downright bad in 2012, and they had to pour on the points to push the Bulldogs to a 9-3 record. So a good hire would go a long way toward making a good impression on the Cal fanbase that Dykes has the clout to get units that will perform well on both sides of the ball.
Two candidates have emerged so far: New Mexico State head coach DeWayne Walker and Utah State defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. Walker is the only candidate Dykes has mentioned by name so far in this process.
Walker obviously hasn't had a lot of success coaching in one of the least desirable spots in America to coach major college football. Walker has gone 10-40 in his four seasons in Las Cruces. However, he does have extensive experience in coaching the Pac-12 and particularly California, where he has spent time at Cal, USC and UCLA in various capacities. He coached at Cal for two seasons in 1996-1997, found his way onto Pete Carroll's 2001 staff that made it to the Orange Bowl, and has had some decent defensive coordinating moments with UCLA from 2006-2008. Walker does have good recruiting roots in Los Angeles, which will be crucial for any coaching hire at Cal.
Walker denies having talked with anyone about the position. He's also considered a potential candidate at USC, who also has a vacancy available with the departure of Monte Kiffin. It might be a little complicated with Walker, since he is still technically under contract.
Aranda's name has also circulated a little bit. He is considered one of the bright young defensive coaches on the up-and-up, and was a nominee for the Broyles award given to the top assistant coach.
If you're looking for a defense that seems to match up well with what Dykes is trying to do on offense, Aranda might possess the type of aggressive approach that works well. His teams have been good at getting pressure on the quarterback. Utah State was a TOP FIVE defense with regards to yards per play, so it's hard not to see how he isn't qualified. Aranda's teams have been 32nd, 15th and 8th at Hawaii and Utah State the last three seasons when he's served as defensive coordinator. Additionally, Aranda was a graduate assistant at Texas Tech when Dykes was on the coaching staff.
Interestingly, these two candidates arguably played Louisiana Tech the toughest on defense this year. Walker's New Mexico State squad surrendered only 28 points throughout the course of the game against the number one scoring offense in the country; they lost by the relatively normal score of 28-14. Arinda's Utah State team had Dykes's offense on lock down through much of the game, giving up only three points through nearly two-and-a-half quarters before the voodoo in the Ruston swamp air kicked in and Louisiana Tech poured on 38 points in the second half to send it into overtime.
Utah State's season concludes this Saturday in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Don't be surprised if Dykes is waiting for potential candidates to finish up their seasons before deciding to give them an interview.
Do not expect Clancy Pendergast to audition for the Cal DC position again. He is not considered a serious contender.