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Joe Tresey to run UCLA defense

UCLA has hired Joe Tresey as defensive coordinator, ending a search that lasted nearly two months.

Tresey, the defensive coordinator at South Florida in 2009 and at Cincinnati in 2007-08, spent last season as the defensive backs coach for the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League.

In a statement released by the school, coach Rick Neuheisel expressed confidence that Tresey could replicate his success at Cincinnati and South Florida at UCLA.

"He has an aggressive style that forces turnovers and negative-yardage plays and I feel our players, especially our youngsters, will benefit greatly from his style of play," Neuheisel said. "He is a fine teacher and I can't wait for him to get started."

Neuheisel's lengthy search to replace Chuck Bullough, fired Dec. 18 after UCLA went 4-8 last season, has taken several twists and turns.

Neuheisel said last week that he "had the guy picked three times" but for various reasons, those candidates fell through.

Those candidates are believed to be Rocky Long, who accepted a promotion from defensive coordinator to coach at San Diego State; Vic Fangio, who followed former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh to the San Francisco 49ers; and Rocky Seto, a former USC defensive coordinator who was removed as a candidate at the 11th hour for unspecified reasons.

Tresey, 52, was a surprise candidate. Most reports had Kentucky defensive coordinator Steve Brown and former Miami coach Randy Shannon as the leading contenders, but Neuheisel said last week that he planned on interviewing one more candidate.

At South Florida, Tresey's defense was ranked 24th nationally in total defense (321.8 yards per game) and 19th in scoring defense (19.8 points per game).

At Cincinnati, where he worked for current Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, Tresey's defense led the nation in turnovers gained (42) and interceptions (26) in 2007, while finishing 13th in scoring defense (18.8 ppg).

The following year, Cincinnati ranked 31st nationally in total defense (321.9 ypg), 19th in rushing defense (115 ypg) and 25th in scoring defense (20.1 ppg).

Peter Yoon covers UCLA sports for ESPNLosAngeles.com.