50 Thoughts on 50 Coaches, Part 2
Michigan head coach Brady Hoke
Michigan head coach Brady Hoke
Posted Aug 6, 2011

Part 2 of the thoughts on 50 of the most interesting coaching situations and top storylines going into the season.

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50 Thoughts on the Coaches

By Richard Cirminiello
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We believe ...

25. … Dana Holgorsen has a unique opportunity to springboard into the coaching stratosphere while at West Virginia. He has the right offensive attack and the right venue to get the Mountaineers back into the national vernacular in a short period of time.

24. … Mike Sherman will never win big at Texas A&M if he doesn't do it this season. The Aggies boast their best team in over a decade, a loaded group missing just three starters from last year's breakout 9-4 squad. There are no excuses for not contending for a BCS bid, and the staff knows it.

23. … Kyle Whittingham is about to get the bigger spotlight that he richly deserves. Now that Utah has joined the Pac-12, a much bigger chunk of the nation gets a chance to take in the work of a winner who's done more with less than any coach in America over the past six seasons.

22. … Boise State's Chris Petersen ought to keep pictures of Dirk Koetter and Dan Hawkins on his nightstand as a reminder that the grass isn't always greener on the other side. Koetter and Hawkins both used the Broncos as a career launch site, only to implode at Arizona State and Colorado, respectively. Petersen has a good thing in Idaho, and he recognizes it.

21. … Rick Neuheisel has made a lot of people look foolish with his three-year performance at UCLA. It looked like a great hire at the time in order to inject some much-needed life into the Bruins. However, he's 15-22 while failing to oversee an offense that ranked in the top 100 nationally in passing efficiency. The latter is a severe indictment, particularly for a former quarterback.

20. … that, fair or not, Frank Beamer will remain underrated nationally as long he fails to lead Virginia Tech to a National Championship. While he's been remarkably consistent in Blacksburg, winning at least 10 in seven consecutive years, joining the upper tier of head coaches requires more than just ACC hardware.

19. … Gary Pinkel doesn't get nearly enough credit. Steadily consistent over the past decade, he's led Mizzou to its first six-year streak of winning seasons in almost 30 years. His kids also graduate and excel in the classroom, making the coach a sleeper candidate for the annual Joe Paterno Award.

18. … Dan Mullen might be the hottest young head coach in America by December. Winning nine games in Starkville, including defeats of Georgia, Florida and Michigan, is no small chore. Doing it in back-to-back seasons will make Mullen's agent a very busy man once the regular season comes to an end.

17. … Luke Fickell has a legitimate shot of coaching Ohio State beyond 2011. The program thinks highly of its young interim coach, who will approach the upcoming season as a year-long audition for his dream job. He might be just what the Buckeyes need to bring some stability and normalcy in the aftermath of the Jim Tressel saga.

16. … Al Golden will be a significant upgrade from Randy Shannon at Miami. Still, it's going to be interesting to see how and his staff reacts to mentoring elite four and five-star prospects after thriving on rags-to-riches athletes for five seasons at Temple.

15. … Bret Bielema is really, really close to being special, but he has to prove he can put it all together. He and his staff blew it in the Rose Bowl, and while the Wisconsin program is big, bad, and bruising, it needs to show it can close like it did under Barry Alvarez.

14. … Oklahoma State enjoys an optimal situation on the sidelines. Its young and successful alum, Mike Gundy, is continuously honing his craft while showing no desire to use it anywhere but in Stillwater.

13. … Brady Hoke will wind up being the answer for Michigan before too long. The anti-Rich Rod in many ways, his no-nonsense approach and quest for physicality will be welcome developments in Ann Arbor. For those who forgot, this is the same guy who turned Ball State and San Diego State into winners.

12. … Bobby Petrino has been well worth the risk for Arkansas. The Hogs played in last year's Sugar Bowl, and are ranked No. 14 in the preseason Coaches' Poll. Plus, Petrino has assembled a high-powered attack that'll continue attracting gifted young quarterbacks and skill players. Sure, you always worry about his career path, but whenever he leaves, the program should be in better shape than when he arrived.

11. … Chip Kelly is fortunate to have won 22 games and two Pac-10 championships in his first two seasons as the Oregon head man. An eight-win-a-year Sun Bowl coach might not have survived back-to-back tumultuous offseasons as swimmingly as the Ducks coach has thus far.

10. … Les Miles will be staying put after all. Having remained at LSU following two Michigan coaching changes, he's back in Baton Rouge for Year No. 7 and beyond. Raise your hand if you seriously saw that degree of longevity from a man who always seemed interested in returning to his alma mater.

9. … it's going to be a treat watching Will Muschamp coach all of that young defensive talent currently bucking for playing time in Gainesville. Urban Meyer left Florida with a slew of former four and five-star recruits, the kinds of elite recruits Muschamp has spent most of his career mentoring.

8. … Jimbo Fisher should have been the Florida State head coach three years ago. By defeating Miami, Florida and Steve Spurrier-led South Carolina in a 10-4 debut, Fisher dispersed the shrinking crowd who felt Bobby Bowden was ushered out indelicately. And the best is still to come for the ‘Noles now that the torch was mercifully passed.

7. … Mark Richt won't be out of work very long if he fails to survive beyond his 11th season in Athens. While the past few years have been unmistakably mediocre enough to put Richt on the ropes, the guy can coach, and his overall approach to his kids ought to be the blueprint. Everyone involved in the Georgia program wins if the he can get back to a January bowl game.

6. ... everyone else dwells on Joe Paterno's exit strategy far more than the coach does. Still going strong at the age of 84, he's going to be on the sidelines as long as his health permits it. Rather than pondering his future, it'd be wise to just sit back and marvel at the timeless work of a true American icon. It can't last forever.

5. … it's a matter of when, not if Brian Kelly transforms Notre Dame back into a national power. Sure, South Bend is an entirely different challenge, but what he achieved at Cincinnati was remarkable. His staff already has the defense trending north, and solving quarterback quandaries has never been a problem for Kelly. Give him time and he'll deliver … maybe as early as 2011.

4. … Lane Kiffin will severely test the patience of AD Pat Haden if he fails to energize USC this fall. Kiffin is safe - for now - but Haden's vision for Troy is unbending. If the Trojans can't rise above last season's 8-5 mediocrity, Year 3 will be uncomfortable for the staff, especially if QB Matt Barkley is already cashing NFL paychecks.

3. … there's been an overreaction to Mack Brown's first losing season in Austin. While no one could have imagined Texas at 5-7, the debacle did snap an impressive streak of 12 straight seasons with at least nine wins. He's become an institution for the ‘Horns, and will be fine both in the short and long-term.

2. … Nick Saban would approach the legendary status of Bear Bryant at Alabama if longevity wasn't a roadblock to immortality. At 43-11, with one national championship, Saban is off to as fast a start as any coach in Crimson Tide history. Of course, he has a long way to go before approaching the Bear's quarter-century in Tuscaloosa or six national championships.

1. … beating Connecticut in January's Fiesta Bowl did little to get the postseason monkey off the back of Bob Stoops. While no doubt near the top of the pantheon of today's coaches, those five straight BCS bowls losses before last year remain an albatross. The Sooners are well-positioned to give Stoops a crack at a prized bowl game again this winter.

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