Talk about hot college football coaches, they don’t burn much warmer these days than the two whose teams will gnaw on each other Friday night in the Pacific-12 Conference championship game.
Mike MacIntyre of Colorado was named the Pac-12’s Coach of the Year on Tuesday. Things like that happen when you take a last-place team to the top of its division as MacIntyre did in in his fourth year on the Front Range of the Rockies, which should not come as a surprise. He did the same thing in the third year of his previous gig at San Jose State, where he transformed a 1-12 team into an 11-2 squad that finished the 2012 season ranked 21st in The Associated Press poll. It was only the second time in the school’s history the Spartans made such as listing.
Chris Petersen took the Washington job two years ago. The Huskies’ program wasn’t in the throes of dormancy like the ones MacIntyre inherited in Boulder and Silicon Valley, but nobody was talking about Washington becoming a national championship contender when Petersen took over in Seattle, either. Now the Huskies are in the middle of the conversation. And Petersen, who drew polite applause from the gallery for his work at Boise State, likely will have Washington in the College Football Playoff if the Huskies beat Colorado at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.
I think Sacramento is a really, really unique place, high school football-wise, because it’s one of the last places where the public schools are best at football.
Klayton Adams, Colorado offensive-line coach
For insight on the two coaches, a call was made to a Sacramento guy with strong connections to both men.
Klayton Adams coaches the offensive line at Colorado under MacIntyre, for whom he has worked for the past seven seasons in Boulder and San Jose. A Sacramento native who played at Sheldon High School and American River College, Adams also went to Boise State, where he made the 2004 All-Western Athletic Conference second team at center. As a Bronco, Adams came under the influence of Petersen, who coordinated the offense before taking over as head coach when Dan Hawkins left Boise State for Colorado after the 2005 season. In the circle of college football life, Hawkins returned this week to his alma mater, UC Davis, after being fired at Colorado and making several other stops along the way.
Adams, meanwhile, stuck around as a graduate assistant in Boise, and in the 2006 season, Petersen shocked the college football world with all those crazy plays in the Fiesta Bowl to beat Oklahoma and leave the Sooners in need of a padded cell. From there, it was on to Western Washington and Sacramento State before Adams joined MacIntyre in San Jose.
Adams describes MacIntyre as a coach who shows genuine care for his players and who stubbornly refuses to budge from a disciplinary pattern he laid out for everybody. With Petersen, he learned from a creative genius and a coach whom he described as a good and honest man, confident in his principles but willing to adapt to changes in the world around him. These are traits that Adams says Petersen shares with the coach who will stand across the field from him Friday.
“That’s probably the biggest parallel between Chris Petersen and Mike MacIntyre – both of them are genuinely good people,” Adams said. “It’s really helped me grow as a person, as a father, as a coach and as a husband being around two great men like that.”
Along with coaching the offensive line, Adams is Colorado’s chief recruiter for the Sacramento area. This year’s roster features six players from the region whom Adams turned into Buffaloes, including All-Pac-12 second-team defensive back Ahkello Witherspoon of Christian Brothers High School and Sacramento City College, and honorable mention defensive end Jordan Carrell of Roseville High and American River College. Witherspoon is the grandson of the late Jimmy Witherspoon, one of America’s all-time great blues singers.
Adams, who also is in charge of recruiting in Texas and Hawaii, sees Sacramento as one of America’s high school football hot spots.
“I think Sacramento is a really, really unique place, high school football-wise, because it’s one of the last places where the public schools are best at football,” Adams said. “A lot of that is because the community supports public schools, and there’s a lot of coaches who work on campuses – you go to a lot of towns where the high school coach doesn’t work on campus. There’s a lot of high schools in Sacramento where you have three or four or five coaches working on campus. You’re able to go to study hall with the student athletes, you’re more organized, you do a better job. I think the Sacramento coaches do a really good job of developing and coaching their players. When you put some of those kids on your roster, you get kids who understand what the process is going to be like a little more when he gets to college.”
That’s probably the biggest parallel between Chris Petersen and Mike MacIntyre – both of them are genuinely good people. It’s really helped me grow as a person, as a father, as a coach and as a husband being around two great men like that.
Adams, 33, missed out on signing one very hot Sacramento-area prospect – Jake Browning. Adams made the offer, but the quarterback out of Folsom High chose Washington. Now, Colorado will have to contend with Browning, the Pac-12’s Offensive Player of the Year.
“I thought we had a heckuva shot at him,” Adams said.
Looking at Friday night, Adams foresees “a heavyweight fight” between two highly disciplined teams. Both teams can run and throw and stop the other guys from doing either, and both will have one of the best in their corners pushing them forward to try to knock the other guy out.