Examining CU's Top New Assistants
By Alex Schultz
Most college-football fans have heard Mike MacIntyre’s story by now.
MacIntyre left Duke in December 2009 to become San Jose State’s head coach. MacIntyre inherited a rotten Spartans program and, in just three years, transformed it into a nationally-ranked contender. MacIntyre leaves San Jose State in December 2012 to become Colorado’s head coach. Many wonder if what MacIntyre accomplished on the West Coast can be done in the Rocky Mountains.
And so the story goes.
The 48-year-old MacIntyre is a quality coach, no question. But he is just that — one coach in a sport where each team has more than a dozen of them.
Sure, MacIntyre is the Buffs’ main man and has the final say in matters, but the offensive linemen still need to be coached individually, the defensive linemen still need to be coached individually, the cornerbacks still need to be coached individually ... You get the idea.
While MacIntyre has received most of the attention and made most of the headlines since taking over at CU, there are plenty of assistant coaches below him who offer intriguing storylines.
This piece will analyze the next two men in charge under MacIntyre — offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Brian Lindgren and defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Kent Baer — and offer up some pros and question marks for each.
As San Jose State’s offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach last season, Lindgren’s Spartans snapped 27 of the university’s offensive records. They averaged 34.8 points a game (28th in the nation) and 446.2 yards a game (30th).
More impressive were the individual statistics of Spartans junior signal caller David Fales, whose 170.76 quarterback rating ranked third in the nation behind only Alabama’s AJ McCarron and Georgia’s Aaron Murray, and 322.5 passing yards per game, seventh in the country.
Prior to his short stint at San Jose State, Lindgren coached in various capacities at Northern Arizona (2006-11) and Redlands (2005), both of which enjoyed plenty of success.
The takeaway: When Lindgren has called the shots on offense, good things have happened.
Lindgren: Question Marks
Lindgren is young — 32 to be exact. He’s nine years removed from his undergraduate education at Idaho and has one year of coaching experience at the FBS level.
San Jose State’s record-breaking year and Fales’ videogame-like statistics in 2012 shouldn’t go unnoticed, but neither should the Spartans’ opponents: Texas State, Texas-San Antonio and New Mexico State, just to name a few.
Now Lindgren will be directing his charges to move the ball and score points against the likes of Oregon, UCLA and USC of the Pac-12. That’s a Pikes Peak-sized climb in competition.
The question here is, will Lindgren’s successes at D-III Redlands, FCS Northern Arizona and the Western Athletic Conference’s San Jose State translate? Or is he too young and too inexperienced to head up an offense in a major conference?
Baer brings a ton of coaching experience to Boulder. Not including CU, he has been a defensive coordinator for 28 combined seasons at eight D-I universities, including four current Pac-12 schools in Arizona State, Cal, Stanford and Washington. He was also Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator from 2002-04.
The Spartans were just as good on defense as they were on offense last year, ranking 24th in both total defense (344.7 yards per game) and scoring defense (21.3 points per game). San Jose State was especially good at stopping the run, yielding an average of 122.2 rushing yards per game for the nation’s No. 18 spot.
In his first season as Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator, the Irish ranked ninth in scoring defense, 10th in rushing defense and 13th in total defense.
Without question, Baer has proven that he can stall offenses and make points a hard thing to come by.
Baer: Question Marks
Baer is old enough to be Lindgren’s father. He’s 61 and has worked for a lot of head coaches on a lot of teams.
The game has changed a lot since the ’80s and ’90s, when Baer bounced from Cal to Arizona State to Stanford. Three yards and a cloud of dust is out for most Pac-12 teams; misdirection, speed and eight guys chasing after an elusive running back as he weaves for a 20-yard gain is in.
Baer’s storyline is similar to Lindgren’s. San Jose State’s defense was stellar in 2012, but much quicker, speedier and more-talented players await him in the Pac-12.
The question here is, can Baer keep up with the times and match wits with clever offensive coordinators? Or will zone-read, spread-option offenses prove to be the end times for him as a defensive coordinator?