Search is over: Tresey will coach USF defense
TAMPA -- After two weeks of searching, USF coach Jim Leavitt has a new right-hand man on defense: Former Cincinnati defensive coordinator Joe Tresey, who has confounded USF the past two seasons, has accepted an offer to join the Bulls as a defensive coordinator.
Tresey, 50, came to Tampa on Tuesday for a second interview with Leavitt and accepted an offer to join the Bulls, replacing Wally Burnham, who resigned two weeks ago to take the same job at Iowa State. Tresey's defenses have helped Central Michigan and Cincinnati to conference championships in the past three years, with a reputation for forcing turnovers and piling up sacks.
It's still unclear whether Tresey will coach USF's linebackers or defensive backs, and Leavitt still could assign some kind of coordinator role to another defensive assistant, still to be hired. Tresey was strongly considered for Miami's defensive coordinator job last month, and gives the Bulls a defensive mind with ample knowledge of the rest of the conference.
"He's a very good coach who helped us win the Big East," former Cincinnati cornerback Mike Mickens, a two-time first-team All-Big East selection while under Tresey, said Tuesday night. "He's a player's coach, someone who relates to his players real well. His focus is on forcing a lot of turnovers and making plays on the ball."
Tresey was fired last month by Bearcats coach Brian Kelly, who said he had philosophical differences and was shifting to a 3-4 defense, but the move could have also been prompted by Tresey's talks with Miami.
Cincinnati tied USF for the national lead in takeaways in 2007, forcing 42, and led the nation with 26 interceptions that same year. The Bearcats ranked 25th nationally in scoring defense and 31st nationally in total defense last season. Some of Tresey's best games have come against the Bulls -- USF quarterback Matt Grothe has thrown one touchdown and seven interceptions in two games against his Cincinnati teams.
Tresey, a 1982 Ohio State graduate, spent 10 years as a high school coach at Ohio and seven years at Otterbein College and Virginia Military. He has worked as a coordinator since 2002, with stops at Akron, Georgia Southern, Central Michigan and Cincinnati.
"He's a fantastic coach. Well-prepared, well-organized, and did a good job in recruiting as well," said Mike Sewak, his head coach at Georgia Southern and now an assistant at Georgia Tech. "He puts his players in position to make plays. He got a bunch of sacks and a lot of turnovers by putting a lot of pressure on the quarterback."
Leavitt met with Tresey just days after Burnham resigned last month, but has since interviewed a parade of candidates for his defensive openings. At least four -- Illinois co-defensive coordinator Dan Disch, Colorado secondary coach Greg Brown, Georgia linebackers coach Jon Jancek and Iowa State secondary coach Chris Ash -- said they had turned down offers to join Leavitt's staff.
Leavitt and Tresey could not be reached for comment late Tuesday night. Tresey will have to hit the ground running, as USF opens a month of spring practice on Monday afternoon. USF's spring game is set for April 11 at Raymond James Stadium.