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Kerr to Direct Bruin Defense

Colorado State defensive coordinator takes UCLA job. Hire by Dorrell reunites former Northern Arizona staff.

January 11, 2003|Steve Henson | Times Staff Writer

Being out of Karl Dorrell's sight does not mean out of mind.

For the second day in a row, the new UCLA coach hired a key assistant without meeting him for an interview.

Larry Kerr, the Colorado State defensive coordinator the last 10 years, became UCLA's defensive coordinator Friday.

"I was under the radar, you'd say," Kerr said.

Kerr, 49, spoke to Dorrell on the phone a week ago, then talked to him again Thursday, three days after Texas secondary coach Duane Akina had a lengthy interview at UCLA for the position. North Texas defensive coordinator Gary DeLoach also was interviewed.

Like Steve Axman, the Bruin offensive coordinator hired Thursday, Kerr worked with Dorrell in 1990-91 at Northern Arizona. Kerr was defensive coordinator, Dorrell was offensive coordinator and Axman was head coach.

Like Axman, Kerr spent a short time at UCLA under Terry Donahue, serving as inside linebacker coach and special team coordinator in 1989. Axman was Bruin quarterback coach in 1987 and offensive line coach in 1988.

Like Axman, Kerr indicated he eventually wants to become a head coach.

"I didn't pursue this, but I am at a point in my career where I want to get on track to where I can potentially become a head coach," he said.

Kerr replaces Phil Snow, who is now co-defensive coordinator at Washington.

"This is a great opportunity to unite with Karl and Steve," Kerr said. "I talked about my vision for UCLA, and there was a lot of excitement in Karl's voice."

Dorrell was not certain Kerr would take the job until Friday because Dave Campo had Kerr in mind as a linebacker coach. Campo, fired as Dallas Cowboy coach last week, would have hired Kerr had he become Seattle Seahawk defensive coordinator. But Campo ended up with the Cleveland Browns, and Kerr said yes to Dorrell.

"As excited as I am for myself, I am even more excited knowing Larry Kerr will be defensive coordinator," Axman said.

Whether Kerr was a fallback choice is unclear. Dorrell has refused to talk to the media until his staff is complete -- and because there are two spots to fill he would not comment Friday. He did tell a UCLA spokesman that Akina was not offered the job.

However, sources in Texas indicated that interest from UCLA was strong enough for Texas Coach Mack Brown to increase Akina's salary from $126,000 to about $140,000.

Former Arizona coach Dick Tomey, a close friend of Akina who met with Dorrell at UCLA on Thursday, said Kerr is an excellent choice.

"I admire his work," Tomey said.

Tomey, 64, is interested in joining the Bruin staff, although he said a job was not discussed during his meeting with Dorrell.

"For me to jump back in, it would have to be the exact right situation," he said. "I just like working with young people."

Kerr probably will coach linebackers, so one of the two remaining openings would go to a secondary coach. The other could be a special team coach or another defensive assistant.

At Colorado State, Kerr made the most of often undersized personnel, employing an attacking 4-3 scheme that utilized zone blitzing. Sixteen Colorado State defensive players went to the NFL the last 10 years.

When the new coordinators arrive Monday, they no doubt will be struck by how far they've come from Northern Arizona, a Division I-AA program in Flagstaff. In the two seasons the three were on the staff together, the Lumberjacks were 8-14.

"My memories are fond about taking over a bottomed-out program and building it up," said Axman, who strung together five consecutive winning seasons after Dorrell and Kerr departed.

"We were trying to put together an offense with little talent and Larry was putting together a defense with even less."

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