Dorrell Goes With Axman for Offensive Coordinator

Times Staff Writer

Karl Dorrell followed through on a promise he made the day he was hired as UCLA coach, adding a former head coach to his staff.

And he may soon hire another.

Steve Axman, the assistant head coach and quarterback coach at Washington, Thursday became Bruin offensive coordinator despite not interviewing with Dorrell in person.

Dick Tomey, who has 23 years of head coaching experience at Arizona and Hawaii, interviewed with Dorrell on Thursday. Tomey’s potential role could be determined by whether Duane Akina becomes defensive coordinator.


Akina, the Texas secondary coach, is at home in Austin with his wife and five children discussing the job. One of his concerns is the expensive Los Angeles housing market.

Tomey, 64, said he is not interested in becoming Bruin defensive coordinator if it means bumping Akina, who worked under Tomey for 19 years at Hawaii and Arizona.

Tomey could become a defensive coach under Akina or assistant head coach with special teams responsibilities.

Dorrell, who is not speaking to the media until his entire staff is assembled, surprised his longtime friend Axman, 54, with a call Wednesday.

In two of Axman’s eight seasons as head coach at Northern Arizona in the 1990s, Dorrell was offensive coordinator. And Axman was quarterback coach at Washington in 1999, Dorrell’s lone season as offensive coordinator there.

Axman, who was a UCLA assistant in 1987-88, was mentioned as a potential offensive coordinator soon after Dorrell became coach Dec. 18, but Idaho Coach Tom Cable, Virginia offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and Indiana offensive coordinator Al Borges were interviewed.


It turned out that those candidates were measured against someone Dorrell not only knew well but was confident he could count on.

“Karl is a very close friend of mine,” Axman said. “We talked around Christmas and it seemed as if it was not going to work out.

“Then Karl gave me a call [Wednesday] and, indeed, it looked like it would happen very quickly.”

Axman, who will make about $180,000, has a reputation for developing quarterbacks, which should be good news for UCLA’s Drew Olson, Matt Moore and John Sciarra, all of whom will be sophomores.


UCLA defensive tackle Rodney Leisle will return for his senior season, making the decision after weighing his NFL status and listening to Dorrell and line coach Don Johnson.

Leisle was a second-team preseason All-American but was never fully sound. He began the season with a stress fracture in his right foot, and it broke in the fifth game.


He sat out the next five games and returned to play the last three.


Cornerback Ricky Manning Jr., tackle Mike Saffer and punter-kicker Nate Fikse will play in the East-West Shrine Game on Saturday in San Francisco.

Other Bruins in all-star games include tight end Mike Seidman (Senior Bowl); defensive end Rusty Williams, quarterback Cory Paus and cornerback Joe Hunter (Paradise All-Star Game); tackle Bryce Bohlander (Rotary Gridiron Classic); Manning and linebacker Marcus Reese (Hula Bowl).


Kelly Skipper, the UCLA offensive coordinator and running back coach the last five years, will be the running back coach at Washington State.