February 19, 2013

Dan Hawkins named head coach

MONTREAL – Montreal Alouettes owner Bob Wetenhall and team General Manager Jim Popp announced on Tuesday that Dan Hawkins will become the club’s 20th head coach.

Hawkins arrives in Montreal following a long and successful career in the U.S. college ranks, including an impressive 112-61-1 combined record as a head coach at the college level, including stints with both Boise State and the University of Colorado.

“I am delighted to welcome Dan Hawkins to the Alouettes family as our new head coach,” said Wetenhall. “Dan comes to us with a distinguished coaching career in major US college football. Dan is especially well known in his profession for the contributions he made to the personal lives of his players as beyond just the science of football, he’s by nature a teacher and an unusually fine human being.”

“During our selection process we have had extensive interviews with many fine candidates with an emphasis on candidates from Quebec, the rest of Canada and both the professional and college coaching ranks in the US,” continued the Alouettes owner. At the end of this process, it became clear to us that Dan was the best candidate at this time in the Alouettes history. We are looking ahead to his continuing the tradition of the Alouettes’ success. Dan very well understands my three goals for the franchise, to institutionalize the Alouettes in Montreal, to make meaningful contributions to the community we serve and to win football games.

The 52-year-old got his first taste of the CFL last winter as a guest coach with the Alouettes, working with the team’s coaching staff during the offseason meetings while also getting familiarized with the Alouettes roster. He signed a three-year deal.

“We welcome Dan, his wife Misti, and their family to the Montreal Alouettes family,” said Popp. “Dan Hawkins is a successful, passionate football coach with a great ability to communicate and motivate the players, coaches, and all who are surrounding him. We welcome his talents to lead our football team in the class room, on the field, and in the community.”

Hawkins burst onto the coaching scene with Boise State where he compiled a 53-11 record (.828) over his five seasons, leading the Broncos to victories in the Humanitarian Bowl (2002) and the Fort Worth Bowl (2003).

In the process of leading Boise State to four-straight Western Athletic Conference titles from 2002 to 2005, Hawkins also guided the Broncos to an incredible 31-consecutive wins over conference opponents, while his 53 wins to start his NCAA Division 1 coaching career rank him fourth all-time in the modern era for wins by a rookie coach over their first five seasons. Known for his explosive offences, Hawkins led Boise State to three 500-plus point seasons, including one 602-point campaign.

Prior to coaching at Boise State, Hawkins led the Williamette University Bearcats to 40-11-1 record in four seasons as their head coach, bringing the team to the NCAA Division II National Championship game in 1997. Prior to that, he was defensive coordinator at Sonoma State University for one season after three years as offensive coordinator at the College of the Siskiyous. The last two seasons he served as an analyst on ESPN following five years as head coach at the University of Colorado.

Hawkins has already chosen his coaching staff for the 2013 season and the following coaches will work with him this year:


Mike Miller, Assistant Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator, Quarterbacks Coach

Mike Miller last season completed his sixth season with the Arizona Cardinals and second as the club’s offensive coordinator. The Pittsburgh, PA native spent two seasons as the passing game coordinator in 2009 and 2010 and served as wide receivers coach in 2007 and 2008, working extensively with Pro Bowlers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.

In 2008, Miller helped his receivers reach the peak of the game as Fitzgerald, Boldin and Steve Breaston became only the fifth 1,000 yard receiving trio in NFL history. This was the same season which saw the Cardinals reach Super Bowl XLIII where the passing game flourished reeling in 377 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In 1999, former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher offered Miller his first official coaching position as an offensive quality control coach. In that role, Miller worked closely with offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey until 2003. In 2004, Mularkey was named head coach for the Buffalo Bills and offered Miller a position on his staff as an assistant.

The 42-year-old came to Arizona after a brief stint with NFL Europe’s Berlin Thunder as the quarterbacks and receivers coach and as a defensive line coach at Robert Morris University.


Noel Thorpe, Defensive Coordinator and Defensive Backs Coach

Thorpe enters his first season as the Alouettes defensive coordinator after spending the last two seasons with the Université de Montréal Carabins in the CIS. In 2012, with Thorpe as the team’s first-year defensive coordinator, the Carabins finished the season with an impressive 8-1 record while boasting the top defence in the country, allowing only 102 points in nine games. He was also the head coach of the gold-medal-winning Team Canada squad IFAF U19 World Championship that same year in Austin, TX.

During his first stint with the Alouettes, the now 42-year-old was appointed special teams coordinator, a position he held from 2002 to 2007. His responsibilities also included coaching defensive backs from 2003 to 2007. While in Montreal, the Vancouver native helped the Alouettes reach the Grey Cup on four separate occasions, winning it in 2002, marking the team’s first championship since 1977.

Thorpe also honned his skills in the CFL,serving as the Edmonton Eskimos’ special teams coordinator and defensive backs coach from 2008 to 2010. During his two seasons with the Esks, he served also as the team’s assistant head coach.

Before joining the Alouettes in 2002, Thorpe helped the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds win the Vanier Cup in 1997. He held different positions with them, including defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach from 1996 to 2000. He coached the defensive backs for at Simon Fraser University in 2001.

Thorpe lives in Montreal and takes part in various coaching clinics across Canada, most recently the 2012 Football Nova Scotia Coaches Clinic.


Ray Rychleski, Special Teams Coordinator

Rychleski was the Indianapolis Colts’ special teams coordinator from 2009 to 2011, contributing to the team’s success in his first season, as the Colts began the 2009 season with 14 straight wins on their road to Super Bowl XLIV. He was also part of the coaching staff which won an NFL-record 23-straight regular season games.

In 2009, the Colts finished seventh in the NFL in average starting field position for the offence. In his three years with Indianapolis, the team maintained the third-best successful field goal percentage, in addition to blocking two punts and scoring three touchdowns on special teams.

Prior to joining the Colts, Rychleski coached in the NCAA for 28 years, most recently with the University of South Carolina Gamecocks where he was special teams coordinator and tight ends coach in 2008, helping Steve Spurrier’s squad reach the Outback Bowl. In his only season with the Gamecocks, the team finished second in the SEC conference in kickoff and punt coverage, and finished tied for the conference lead in field goals made. The team also flourished on special teams as they blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown.

The 55-year-old coach has maintained a series of 110 consecutive games without seeing his unit allow one of their punts to be blocked.

From 2001 to 2007, the Old Forge, PA native was the special teams coordinator, tight ends coach and running backs with the University of Maryland. In his seven seasons with the Terrapins, the team compiled a 56-31 record, participating in five bowl games, winning three in a row (by combined scores of 95-17, a first in school history). The team blocked 23 kicks while returning eight for touchdowns during his tenure in Maryland. In addition, the team also had five game-winning field goals in regulation or in overtime, while blocking three of the five that opponents attempted against the Terrapins. Four tight ends he has coached have been drafted in the NFL, while four others have signed with teams as free agents.

From 1993 to 2000, he held various coaching positions with Wake Forest University, including special teams coordinator in 1999 and 2000. He also recruited tight end Calvin Pace who became the first player in Demon Decons history to be drafted in the first round by an NFL team.

Rychleski began his collegiate coaching career with the Temple University Owls from 1981 to 1988 and also spent time with Northeastern University (1989-1990), Penn State University (1991) and East Stroudsburg University (1992).

He had a first contact with the CFL when he served as a guest defensive coach for the Toronto Argonauts in 1992, when the general manager was Mike McCarthy, who is currently a scout for the Montreal Alouettes.


Doug Berry, Senior Advisor to the Head Coach

Berry coached in the CFL for over a decade, spending seven seasons with the Alouettes, three seasons with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and most recently with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Berry served as the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator for the Roughriders in 2010 and 2011. During his stint with the Roughriders, he helped lead the team to a Grey Cup berth and worked closely with quarterback Darian Durant, who led the CFL in passing yards in Berry’s first season with Saskatchewan.

He entered the CFL back in 1999 when he assumed the role as the offensive line coach with the Montreal Alouettes – a position he held for four seasons. During his time in Montreal, the Alouettes appeared in four Grey Cups and captured the championship in 2002. Under his tenure, Montreal produced three players who were named the league’s outstanding linemen including Uzooma Okeke (1999), Pierre Vercheval (2000) and Bryan Chiu (2002).

Promoted to co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2003, Berry helped Anthony Calvillo pass for nearly 17,500 yards over their three seasons together. In 2006, Berry moved on to become the Bombers’ head coach. In his first season with Winnipeg, he guided the Bombers to a 9-9 record and a playoff appearance. In just his second season at the helm, the New Hampshire native improved his club’s record to 10-7-1 while leading his team to a Grey Cup appearance.

Under Berry’s guidance in 2008, Winnipeg boasted three 1,000-yard receivers, a strong running game and an offensive line that allowed the second-fewest sacks in the league.

Prior to joining the CFL, Berry spent over 20 years coaching at the U.S. College level where he served as a positional coach and coordinator.

Berry’s coaching career began in 1976 at the University of New Hampshire, his alma mater, before working with the offensive line at Penn State University in 1978. During his first year at Penn State, his team reached the National Championship game. He later spent two years coaching Boston College’s offensive line in 1979 and 1980 and 17 seasons with the University of Massachusetts Amherst serving as an assistant with the Minutemen football team from 1981 to 1997, coaching running backs, quarterbacks, and the offensive line over his tenure.

Berry also did two years of active duty with the United States Army prior to graduating from the University of New Hampshire in 1973.


Jean-Marc Edmé, Defensive Assistant/Football Operations Assistant

With the Alouettes since 2008, Jean-Marc Edmé will continue working as the team’s Defensive Assistant/Football Operations Assistant. His responsibilities include working with the defensive line and assisting the defensive staff with opponent-scouting, playbook drawing, handling scouting reports, personnel, formation tendencies, and consult with in-game situations.

This past season, the Montreal-North native helped the Alouettes’ defence finish second in both average rushing yards allowed per game (94.4) and fewest net rushing yards (1,693).

Montreal’s defence also featured a pair of CFL All-Stars in safety Kyries Hebert and linebacker Shea Emry, who led the team in tackles with 87.

During the offseason, Edmé works in the Alouettes football operations department, assisting the personnel team in evaluating prospects that are eligible in the CFL draft, potential free agents and helping organize and evaluate prospects in open tryout camps.

Edmé began his career in the CFL in 2007, serving as a football operations intern with the Tiger-Cats under former Alouettes’ Assistant General Manager Marcel Desjardins. Midway through his internship, he was promoted to the assistant coach’s position, in which he assisted head coach Charlie Taaffe with daily operations.


Frank Verducci, Offensive Line Coach

A native of Glen Ridge, NJ, Frank Verducci coached eight seasons in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns (2007-08), Buffalo Bills (2004-05), Dallas Cowboys (2002) and the Cincinnati Bengals (1999-2001). Prior to moving to professional ranks, Verducci spent 19 seasons in collegiate football at the University of Iowa (1985-1986 and 1989-1998), Northwestern University (1987-1988), Northern Illinois (1984), Maryland (1981-83) and Colorado State (1980).

Verducci served as the Cowboys’ offensive line coach which helped pave the way for legendary running back Emmitt Smith to break the all-time NFL rushing record in 2002. In Dallas, he also coached Larry Allen, who is slated to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Verducci also spent two years with Buffalo, including one season as an assistant offensive line and tight ends coach in 2004 before being promoted to offensive line coach in 2005. Under his watch, Bills running back Willis McGahee rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons in the NFL and scored 18 touchdowns over that two-year span.

In 2007 with the Browns, Verducci helped the team to its best season since 1994 as Cleveland amassed 10 wins and finished eighth in the NFL in total offense (a franchise-best since 1981). As their offensive assistant, the 55-year-old helped send four players to the Pro Bowl, including tackle Joe Thomas, who became the first Browns offensive lineman ever named to the Pro Bowl. During his stint in Cleveland, running back Jamal Lewis posted consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, becoming the first Browns tailback to do so in 27 years.

Most recently, Verducci served as the Florida Gators offensive line coach in 2011. Prior to joining Florida, he was named offensive line coach at Notre Dame under head coach Charlie Weis.


Mark Speckman, Running Backs Coach

Mark Speckman became head coach of the Menlo College Oaks last season after achieving remarkable success at both the college and high school level.  Speckman is mainly known for his achievements at Willamette University, having coached the Bearcats for 17 seasons, including 14 years as head coach. During his tenure as head coach at Willamette, he posted an overall record of 82-59 (.582) from 1998 to 2011. He also ranks third all-time at Willamette in career wins.

The Belmont, CA native led the Bearcats to NCAA Division III playoff berths in 1999, 2004 and 2008. In 2008, Willamette was 10-0 in the regular season, won the conference championship and reached the second round of the playoffs. Also in 2008, the Bearcats set school records with 498 points and 69 touchdowns.

Speckman was named NWC conference Coach of the Year in 1999 and 2008. In 2008, he also was chosen West Region Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and D3, and was a finalist for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award.


Erik Campbell, Wide Receivers Coach

Erik Campbell spent the last five seasons as receivers coach at the University of Iowa. He also coached the tight ends in his first two years at Iowa beginning in 2008.

In 2010 under his expertise, two Iowa wide receivers, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (who attended Alouettes training camp in 2012) and Marvin McNutt were both selected for All-Big Ten honours.

He joined the Iowa staff after serving as an assistant head coach and receivers coach with the Michigan Wolverines for 13 seasons from 1995 to 2007. During his tenure at Michigan, the 47-year-old groomed some of the school’s top wide receivers including future NFL first-round picks: Braylon Edwards, David Terrell and Charles Woodson, with the latter also claiming the Heisman Trophy. Campbell also oversaw the development of Amani Toomer, a second-round draft pick of the New York Giants (1996); Jason Avant, a fourth-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles (2006); Steve Breaston, a fifth-round selection of the Arizona Cardinals (2007).

His coaching background also landed him as the running back coach at the University of Syracuse in 1994 and at Ball State University from 1991 to 1993. In 1989-1990, he coached the running backs at the U.S. Naval Academy.


Keith Willis, Defensive Line Coach

Last season, Keith Willis completed his sixth season as the defensive line coach for the North Carolina State Wolfpack having been with the team from 2007 to 2012.

In 2012, the Wolfpack played in the Music City Bowl falling short to the Vanderbilt Commodores. The Newark, NJ native saw his defensive unit create havoc behind the line of scrimmage as seven players recorded a minimum of two sacks last season. In 2008, he helped guide a Wolfpack defence that ranked 20th nationally by forcing 28 turnovers.

Prior to joining North Carolina State, the 53-year-old served as the defensive line coach for the Boston College Eagles from 2001 to 2006.

Willis had a long playing career as a defensive lineman before becoming a coach, spending 12 years in the NFL and recording 59 career quarterback sacks. He played for the Pittsburgh Steelers for 10 seasons and then for the Washington Redskins and Buffalo Bills for one season each. He retired in 1993, shortly after playing in the Super Bowl with the Bills.

Willis began his coaching career as defensive line coach at Slippery Rock College in 1995.


Mark Nelson, Linebackers Coach

Mark Nelson arrives with the Alouettes with 24 years of coaching experience at the professional and collegiate ranks.

Most recently, the 56-year-old spent the 2012 season as the Edmonton Eskimos defensive coordinator and linebackers coach helping his team lead the league in interceptions (28) and for most interception return yards (445).

He spent the 2009 season with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. Prior to that, Nelson spent 12 years with a number of teams within the NCAA.

Nelson broke into professional football coaching with the Edmonton Eskimos in 1992, winning the a Grey Cup in 1993.  He left Edmonton to join the San Antonio Texans for the 1995 season before heading back North to serve as the defensive line coach with the Toronto Argonauts in 1996, where he won his second Grey Cup ring.

Nelson also enjoyed a six-year playing career in the CFL, including a stint with the Calgary Stampeders (1980-1985) and the Saskatchewan Roughriders (1986).


Ryan Dinwiddie, Offensive Quality Control Coach

Ryan Dinwiddie makes his coaching debut in 2013 where he will be reunited with Alouettes’ head coach Dan Hawkins, who coached the former standout quarterback at Boise State University from 2001 to 2003. Dinwiddie passed for 9,818 yards and 82 touchdowns with the Broncos over that span.

Dinwiddie first joined the Alouettes’ practice roster near the end of the 2005 season after spending time with the Hamburg Sea Devils in NFL Europe and taking part in the Chicago Bears’ training camp.

In 2006, he signed with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, making his first CFL start against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the 2007 Grey Cup, a narrow 23-19 loss to the Riders.

In 2010, the Sacramento, CA native was signed by Saskatchewan as the backup to starter Darian Durant, serving as the No. 2 pivot behind Durant in the 2010 Grey Cup.

The 32-year-old ended his CFL career completing 183-of-331 pass attempts for 2,531 yards including 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He also ran the ball 36 times for 177 yards.