UCLA hires Mastro, fires Howard

UCLA has hired Jim Mastro away from Nevada as a tight ends and F-backs coach and he "will also play a key role in the continued development of the running component of UCLA’s offense that incorporates elements of the Pistol schemes," according to a release from the school.

The school also announced that defensive line coach Todd Howard has been fired, as coach Rick Neuheisel continues a deliberately paced reconfiguring of his staff that has included dismissing both coordinators from 2010, though it appears the candidacy of Steve Brown, presently at Kentucky, for the defensive coordinator vacancy is gaining some traction.

You can read more about Brown's uneasy situation at Kentucky here.

Nevada, under head coach Chris Ault, is where the pistol offense was born, and Mastro has been in Reno 11 years coaching running backs. In five of the last 10 seasons, a Wolf Pack running back has led the WAC in rushing. In the last four years, he has helped Nevada running backs produce five 1,000-yard seasons. This past season, senior Vai Taua recorded his third consecutive 1,000-yard season, finishing seventh nationally with an average of 123.9 yards per contest. As a team, Nevada ranked No. 3 nationally in rushing with an average of 292.2 yards per game. The Wolf Pack led the nation in 2009 and ranked third in 2008.

“Jim has a wealth of knowledge and experience with the Pistol and will be a great asset as we incorporate many of its run-game principles into our offense,” Neuheisel said in a statement. “He has enjoyed great success in the running game and I feel he will work well alongside Mike Johnson (offensive coordinator, wide receivers), Wayne Moses (running backs) and Bob Palcic (offensive line) to give us a very cohesive offensive staff.”

Mastro, 45, also served as Nevada’s recruiting coordinator, where his regions of focus were the Bay Area and Orange County.

Prior to coaching at Nevada, Mastro was on the staff at Idaho for two years (1998-99).

As for Howard, he has coached the Bruin defensive linemen for the past five seasons. He was retained from former coach Karl Dorrell's staff when Neuheisel was hired before the 2008 season.

Neuheisel's statement on letting Howard go, “Todd knew that this was a possibility. We discussed the situation back in December and decided to wait until after recruiting to make a final decision. I feel that it is in the best interest of our program and also in Todd’s best interest that we part ways at this time."

UCLA's offensive staff appears set. The two remaining staff vacancies are on offense: D-line and coordinator.