UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel made more changes to his coaching staff on Thursday. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
A volatile off-season for UCLA's football program took more twists and turns Thursday, with Coach Rick Neuheisel continuing to reshape his staff in the wake of a 4-8 season.
Jim Mastro was hired as an assistant coach for the offense. Todd Howard was fired as defensive line coach. Kentucky assistant Steve Brown emerged as a candidate for the defensive coordinator job.
Neuheisel said he hoped to have a decision on a defensive coordinator by the weekend. Former Miami Coach Randy Shannon is also under consideration, and Neuheisel didn't rule out interviewing one more candidate in a process that began when Chuck Bullough was fired Dec. 18.
"I had a guy picked three times now and circumstances led to the search continuing," Neuheisel said.
Brown met with Neuheisel on Tuesday night. He spent the last four seasons as Kentucky's defensive coordinator but was demoted in December when Rick Minter was hired as coordinator. Kentucky ranked 45th in total defense and 72nd in scoring defense among 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the 2010 season.
Howard spent five seasons as UCLA's defensive line coach and was the last remaining member of former coach Karl Dorrell's staff.
Neuheisel said when he fired Bullough that he was done with changes on defense. On Thursday, he said he had told Howard then that "maybe he needed to be ready to make the next move."
Howard was hired by Washington State on Thursday afternoon.
Mastro, who spent 11 seasons as a Nevada assistant, agreed to a deal that pays him $235,000 a season and runs through June 2013, according to a person close to the negotiations who was not authorized to speak on the subject. He will coach the tight ends and F-backs and coordinate the running game. He has extensive knowledge on Nevada's "pistol" offense, which UCLA adopted last season.
Mike Johnson, who was hired as offensive coordinator and wide receiver coach last month, will handle the passing game with Neuheisel, who will coach the quarterbacks.
"Jim and I talked about the need to use what he knows about the pistol and formations," Neuheisel said. "With Mike Johnson working the throw game and Jim working on the run game, we can put together an offense that's exciting."
UCLA will open spring practice March 31.