Clues to how Clune will fit with Andersen's Beavers
CORVALLIS -- Gary Andersen is all about relationships and cohesiveness on his Oregon State coaching staff, so his hire as the Beavers' new defensive coordinator makes perfect sense.
Andersen and Kevin Clune have known each other for nearly 20 years, dating to 1997, when Andersen was defensive tackles coach at Utah and Clune was a 23-year-old assistant at Fullerton (Calif.) College.
Clune worked the Utes' summer camps, picking the brains of defensive coordinator Kyle Whittingham and Andersen, trying to learn the game and at the same time develop an "in" with a staff he admired.
Andersen became assistant head coach in 2001 and Clune was hired as a graduate assistant. When Andersen left to become the head coach at Southern Utah in 2003, he took Clune with him as defensive coordinator. Andersen left after a year to return to Utah as D-line coach, then moved up to D-coordinator when Whittingham replaced Ron McBride as head coach in 2005.
Clune moved on to Weber State, where he served four years as D-coordinator. When Andersen was hired as head coach at Utah State, Clune came on as linebackers coach. Clune served a year as D-coordinator at Hawaii in 2014 before returning to Utah State in the same position last season.
Now, Andersen and Clune are together for a third time.
After Kalani Sitake left his post as OSU's D-coordinator to become head coach at Brigham Young last month, "I knew from the very beginning Kevin was somebody I was going to highly consider," Andersen said Friday at a press conference announcing Clune's hiring. "I like to stay close to what my beliefs are in hiring coaches. It is important to share the same beliefs and views.
"In the case of a coordinator, you have to be able to manage his players and work with the other coaches. Kevin has been with me at a number of different spots. We've watched each other grow through the process. He is a proven coordinator, and the transition (from Utah State to Oregon State) will be clean and simple."
Andersen said he wants Clune to be not only a coach of the players but a teacher of the OSU defensive coaches.
"I watched him take a defense at Southern Utah and implement things as a coordinator, and he had to teach coaches, too," Andersen said. "As a young staff, we all had to teach each other. His ability to teach coaches as well as players was proven to me at a very young age. It's done nothing but continue to grow."
The perspective Clune brings from his time at Hawaii and at Utah State under Coach Matt Wells is one Andersen welcomes, too.
"I love the fact that Kevin has been with different programs the last couple of years," Andersen said. "He got to see new places, learn new versions (of defense) and deal with new kids. The transformation for him moving forward is something he's used to.
"We want him here for a long time. He is a quality person and all the things we look for at Oregon State."
Said Clune: "I'm looking forward to looking at the things going on here last year, showing the things I learned at Utah State and Hawaii, and putting together the vision of our Oregon State defense. We have to figure out what the strengths and weaknesses of our players are. Our vision will have to mold with the players we have."
Clune considers himself a member of the "Ron McBride family tree," and a product of the defense espoused by Whittingham and Andersen.
"It is based on controlling the line of scrimmage, being tough and taking care of your guys so they can perform on Saturdays," Clune said.
Clune believes his long relationship with Andersen will help.
"I know what he's about," Clune said. "He knows what I'm about. I know about his philosophies, where he has come from and where he wants to go.
"That's the main reason why I think Oregon State is a great opportunity. The future is bright here. It's going to be exciting."
Sitake made $731,000 as D-coordinator last season. Clune's salary will be much less -- but more than $400,000, and still more than double the $203,000 he made at Utah State last season. Andersen will be able to move some of the salary to other assistants whom he believes did a yeoman job under trying conditions during their first season with the Beavers in 2014.
In his first season as Oregon State's head coach last year, Andersen had five full-time assistants on the offensive side and four on defense.
Andersen will change that this season by putting himself in charge of the defensive line, a position group he hasn't handled since 2008 at Utah.
"We need five coaches on each side of the ball," he said.
Kevin McGiven (quarterbacks) and TJ Woods (O-line) will share duties as co-offensive coordinators. Last year's O-coordinator, Dave Baldwin, will coach tight ends and H-backs. Brent Brennan (receivers) and Telly Lockette (running backs) will stay where they were a year ago.
Clune will serve as D-coordinator and also coach inside linebackers. Chad Kauha'aha'a will move from the D-line to outside linebackers and also take on the position of "associate head coach," which will add some administrative duties. Derrick Odom, the secondary coach a year ago, will coach safeties and Cory Hall -- expected to be formally added to the staff this weekend -- will coach cornerbacks.
"Having both a safeties coach and a cornerbacks coach is vitally important to us," Andersen said.
It's unusual for a head coach to also serve as a position coach at the FBS level.
"I'm sure there are some out there who do," Andersen said. "I've gone full circle. I was coordinator for a little bit (as a head coach at Utah) -- that was way too much, I learned that very quickly. I coached the outside 'backers for a time (as head coach) at Wisconsin. I've been highly involved in special teams at times, too.
"At this point in my career, it's best for the kids, and it's really good for me, too. I know now how to not make the kids feel like, 'Oh God, he's just a defensive guy.' I can split my time."
But will it take away from head coaching responsibilities?
"I don't think so," Andersen said. "I have a quality grad assistant (Grant Schadeberg), who will be a huge help (with the D-line). I don't have to be involved in the (defensive) meetings. Kevin will share with me 15 minutes before a position meeting and say, 'Here's what we want to do.' We'll speak the same language. I know exactly what he wants from the defensive front."
Though Andersen has an extensive defensive background, "It's Kevin's defense," he said.
Andersen shifted the responsibilities of Kauha'aha'a for a couple of important reasons. He will learn to coach another position, adding to his resume as he continues his career. And he'll add the administrative duties.
"My ultimate goal for Chad is to have him ready to be a coordinator very soon," Andersen said. "This will give him the opportunity to have some organizational responsibilities, and to take another step in becoming a more well-rounded coach.
"He is prepared to take that next step and do some things off the field to be able to potentially be a head coach one day. It's important for me to continue my coaches along that path."
Kauha'aha'a said the change from the D-line to outside 'backers is a subtle one.
"There are a lot of similarities to the two position groups in our system," he said. "It's a natural fit. I know how those positions operate.
"It puts a lot of pressure on me, which is what I want. I've refined my skills through Coach Andersen. And there's nobody better to take over the group I coached last season. I trust him."
Clune and Kauha'aha'a have coached together for six years -- four years at Weber State and two years at Utah State.
"Chad and I had side-by-side offices at Weber," Clune said. "We grew up together."
"Kevin understands what kind of coach I am," Kauha'aha'a said. "We know each other pretty well. I was fired up to hear Kevin was going to be our guy.
"He's a no-nonsense, all-business type of coach. Kevin is not a rah-rah guy during a game. He is tuned into scheming and getting the next play ready."
Hall, who played six years as a defensive back in the NFL, was a grad assistant at Wisconsin when Andersen was head coach and Kauha'aha'a coached the D-line in 2014.
"Cory did a great job with our secondary," Kauha'aha'a said. "He has the NFL experience and molded our young guys at Wisconsin. That was a huge plus in the development of the crew they have there now. He's an energy guy, a real up-and-coming coach who is the right fit for the job with the young corners we have now."
Clune, 42, grew up in Salinas, Calif. His two older brothers were not allowed to play football.
"My mom was a nurse," Clune said. "From her time in the emergency room, she had seen all the injuries to kids -- skateboards, motorcycles, football.
"But when I was 10 or 11, my dad and I just went down and signed me up (for youth football) without her, and she accepted it."
Clune's mother eventually embraced the sport.
"We were in the Bay Area, and it was during the time of Joe Montana and the rise of the 49ers," said Clune, a linebacker and tight end in high school who went on to play the defensive line at the University of San Diego. "She went from knowing very little about football to the point where she could tell you a few good reads for the quarterback, or how to run a good running back screen."
Andersen calls Clune, who is single, "a great recruiter." In his first 24 hours on the job, Clune connected via telephone with all but a couple of the Beavers' verbal commits among the 2016 recruiting class. He also held a meeting with the returning defensive players on Friday.
Clune said he will watch some Oregon State game video from last season, but will try not to judge players from it.
"There's a little that you want to investigate what happened in years past, but there's also (a benefit to) walking in with a clean slate and not having a prejudice about players," he said. "I don't want to make any decisions off last year. I want to make decisions off of what I see this spring."
Clune has coached some great players. At Utah State, he had Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner and Zach Vigil, a rookie linebacker with the Miami Dolphins this season. Vigil's younger brother, Nick, is a 6-2, 235-pound junior linebacker who led the Mountain West Conference with 144 tackles this season.
Utah State was 6-7 this season, losing 23-21 to Akron in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. The Aggies lost their starting nose guard, Travis Seefeldt, for the season after a preseason auto accident. His replacement, David Moala, missed 2 1/2 games midway through the season with an injury, too.
Even so, Utah State finished third in the Mountain West in total defense. The biggest win was a 52-26 blowout of Boise State in which the Aggies led 41-7 at halftime.
"The defense was the key to that," said Steve Luhm, who covered Utah State for the Salt Lake City Tribune. "Boise had eight turnovers -- seven in the first half. (The Aggies) dominated Boise's offense. When they were healthy, (the Aggies) did a good job defensively. They lost three close games they probably should have won, and the defense was very good in all of them."
This will be the fourth program in four years for Clune, who was at Utah State in 2013, at Hawaii in 2014 and back at Utah State in 2015.
"I want to buy a house in Corvallis and not have to move my junk around again," he said with a grin. "Getting back and forth to Honolulu was a lot of fun.
"But I've enjoyed my stops everywhere I've been. Football is football, no matter where you're at. And I'm really glad and excited that I'm at Oregon State."