The first-year coach at San Jose State took over the program on Dec. 17 after former head coach Mike MacIntyre accepted the same position at Colorado. Since then, Caragher has gone through the paces of all new hires: He brought in his staff and signed a recruiting class. But on Tuesday he opened spring practice before any other program in the country -- a mere eight weeks removed from the team winning the Military Bowl.
The rebuilding of San Jose State into a respectable football program took time for MacIntyre, and maintaining that level of play on the field and in recruiting meant Caragher wanted to jump in with both feet.
"We had to hit the ground running when we were brought in, and right now we have a lot of momentum with the program so I wanted that to continue," Caragher said.
"We had to be in full swing with recruiting right out of the gates in December, and I really feel like we did a good job beefing up our line with this class. After getting a staff in place and that class signed, we are moving into Phase Three."
Phase Three, according to Caragher, is to get the team onto the field so that he can see what the staff will need to target for the class of 2014.
With the late start and an unfamiliar roster, the 46-year-old coach said he took the mentality with the 2013 signing class of targeting the best available players and adding size in the trenches.
"We have to get bigger on the line," Caragher said. "I believe it all starts up front, and we were very active in getting guys into the program in those positions. To create movement on offense and put pressure on your opponent on defense, you need to start with recruiting players on the line.
"We had some players targeted there, and then we went and got some athletes that we think we can use."
Of his 18 players signed, 13 were offensive or defensive linemen. The remaining five consisted of three receivers, one running back and one listed as an athlete.
The defensive linemen averaged 6-foot-4 and 264 pounds.
The offensive linemen averaged 6-foot-4 and 277 pounds.
Going forward, replacing players who are leaving will be less the focus than bringing in the players Caragher wants.
"We were compressed and had a small window to get our job done," he said. "We knew we needed defensive ends and offensive linemen just because of graduation. I think that, once we start seeing the guys we have, we can start putting a plan together for how to improve that."
And with that, the plan to open spring practice at the earliest date in 30 years was hatched.
Phase Three is very important to Caragher.
"It isn't something that I just came up with out of the blue," he said. "This gets our guys on the field earlier and will get them out of practice before our spring break so we can go straight through. It means that if someone gets nicked or injured they will have more time to heal up before August. And it means that we can get onto our spring recruiting earlier as well."
For Caragher, recruiting means digging into the local community -- a place he is familiar with.
He played high school football at nearby San Jose (Calif.) Bellarmine Prep before earning a scholarship to UCLA, where he was the backup quarterback to Troy Aikman.
Caragher said being back in his home area -- after spending the last six seasons at the University of San Diego -- is a wonderful feeling. He also said his ties from tip to tail of California will help his recruiting efforts.
"We will stay locally as best we can," he said. "I feel like there are a lot of good players in the Bay Area. The West Bay and the East Bay have players. We can go to Sacramento for players, and we can go right down the coast through Fresno to the Inland Empire, Los Angeles and San Diego. We may have to touch Arizona, Oregon or Washington, but for the most part we can stay right here and win."
His sales pitch will be based on those maxims.
"We have had successful coaches here in the past -- Bill Walsh, Dick Vermeil among them -- and we have had NFL players come through this place," Caragher said. "We are successful right now, and we have a lot of things going for us.
"We will play sound football, and we will continue to push this program. There is nothing holding us back, and we can't rest on what has been successful. We have to keep moving in the right direction."