Fresno State Football

Bulldogs’ defensive coach headed to Arizona State, but leaving ‘something real special’

Belony, Iakopo step up for Bulldogs’ defensive line

Fresno State defensive line coach Jamar Cain on the play of Patrick Belony and Keiti Iakopo the past two weeks in a rotation that was short due to injury. The Bulldogs play at Boise State for the Mountain West title Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018.
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Fresno State defensive line coach Jamar Cain on the play of Patrick Belony and Keiti Iakopo the past two weeks in a rotation that was short due to injury. The Bulldogs play at Boise State for the Mountain West title Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018.

Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford has two openings on his staff, with defensive line coach Jamar Cain leaving for Arizona State now official.

On their way out, Cain and offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer, who last week accepted a job at Indiana, had similar thoughts on their experiences the past two seasons, helping drive a program that was coming off a 1-11 season to a 22-6 record with a Mountain West championship and victories in the Hawaii and Las Vegas bowls.

“It was truly a hard decision to leave this place, just because we love it do much,” Cain said. “We as a staff feel like we built something special. It was something real special to us. I don’t want to say the (defensive line) room is in a better situation than when I got here, but I feel comfortable that whoever comes into that room will have a good group of guys, and those guys are going to be great with me or without me here.

“They’re going to be great because they’re ready to go and that winning tradition is back. Those guys are just going to take off.”

Fresno State defensive line coach Jamar Cain runs the Bulldogs through a drill in practice.

DeBoer: “This is a special place. These past two years, it has been as good as any that I’ve been a part of in coaching. I got a chance to talk to the guys (Monday) and I told them that includes 10 years at my alma mater.

“I take a lot of pride in (the past two seasons). That’s the entire staff, starting with coach Tedford, and all of the players buying in to what we’re trying to get them to do. There was never any hesitation on their end, and that’s why it happened. They were all in on everything we ever asked them to do. It’s fun to coach. It’s what motivates you even more every day when you come to work when you know you have guys that are going to bring everything they have every single day.”

Fresno State offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer, left, talks with quarterback Marcus McMaryion during a fall camp practice. DeBoer is leaving Fresno State to be the offensive coordinator at Indiana. ERIC PAUL ZAMORA

But the departures leave Tedford, who was unavailable Tuesday, with two large holes on a staff that in a short time helped turn a 1-11 season in 2016 into a distant memory.

Tedford could promote offensive line coach and run game coordinator Ryan Grubb to offensive coordinator. The Bulldogs coach is looking for a third defensive line coach – before Cain, Tedford had hired Tony Tuioti, who left for Cal before spring practices.

Under Cain, the defensive line developed into one of the best in the Mountain West.

The Fresno State Bulldogs are Mountain West Conference champions after beating the Boise State Broncos 19-16 in overtime Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. Coach Jeff Tedford with Marcus McMaryion and Mykal Walker on the podium post game.

The Bulldogs were ranked 11th of 12 in the conference against the run in 2016, but they were first in 2017 and fifth last season. The yards per carry and game progression:

2016: 5.0 ypp, 247.4 ypg.

2017: 3.4 ypp, 113.4 ypg.

2018: 3.7 ypp, 132.2 ypg.

Fresno State also went from 11th to first in sacks and from 11th to second in tackles for loss in the first season Cain worked with a defensive line that was transitioning to a multiple 4-3 front from a 3-4.

Fresno State defeats Arizona State 31-20 to win the Mitsubishi Las Vegas Bowl championship. The Bulldogs won their 12th game, the most ever in program history.

This past season defensive end Mykal Walker was a first-team All-Mountain West selection, the first Bulldogs defensive lineman to earn all-conference honors since Tyeler Davison in 2014. Jasad Haynes was an honorable mention selection, and in 2017 defensive end Tonenna Okeke was a second-team selection and tackle Malik Forrester and end Robert Stanley were honorable mentions.

“We’re still so young up front and I really wanted to coach those young guys and see Jasad in his senior year and Kevin (Atkins) get to his senior year,” Cain said. “When I had those guys they were young puppies, so you want to see the end progression with some of those guys. Then you look at an Isaiah Johnson, who is still young.

“That’s what made it difficult. We’ve already been through the growing pains with each other. I know them. They know me. There are no hidden secrets. But the hardest thing was going to coach T and telling him that I was leaving. I love that guy. I have so much respect for him, and he has made me a better coach. He challenged me in ways I’ve never been challenged before when it comes to coaching. It was tough at times, but he made me a better coach. I’m a better coach because I was here with coach Tedford.”

Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
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