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 the past three years, with a reputation for forcing turnovers and piling up sacks.
It's unclear whether Tresey will coach USF's linebackers or defensive backs, and Leavitt still could assign a coordinator role to another defensive assistant, still to be hired. Tresey, who was strongly considered for Miami's defensive coordinator job last month, 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 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 coach Brian Kelly, who said he had philosophical differences and was shifting to a 3-4 defense, but the move could have 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 year. USF quarterback Matt Grothe has thrown one touchdown and seven interceptions in two games against Tresey's Cincinnati teams.
Tresey, a 1982 Ohio State graduate, has worked as a coordinator since 2002, with stops at Akron, Georgia Southern, Central Michigan and Cincinnati.
Leavitt met with Tresey days after Burnham resigned last month but has since interviewed a parade of candidates. 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 turned down offers.