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The New Coaching Hires - Part 2
Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer
The expectations and predictions for each new head coach, Part 2
The Coaching Changes
The Expectations - Part 2
- Coaching Changes &
Expectations, Part 1
Out With The Old … Butch Davis
… In With The New: Larry Fedora
Expectations: Here’s the problem; even with all the sins committed under Butch Davis, the program was still just this this close to rocking at an elite level. Yeah, if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, but if the Tar Heels didn’t lose so many star players to suspension last year, they would’ve been considered true national title contenders. Even with the NCAA issues still to deal with, Fedora has to recruit at a high level and he has to produce more than he did at Southern Miss. North Carolina is a basketball school, but Davis was right; it can also be tremendous at football, too.
Prediction: Three years. Fedora will be good, but North Carolina is looking for great. Remember, it’s not like Fedora did much with Southern Miss until this year, and while the hope is that he’ll rebuild the program to a high level, the Coastal is improving and it’ll be tough to make a quick move up.
Out With The Old … Luke Fickell
… In With The New: Urban Meyer
Expectations: National title or bust. Meyer is one of the premier coaches in all of sports in one of the premier jobs in all of sports. Because of his résumé, and because Ohio State – NCAA issues and all – is used to being in the BCS championship chase on a yearly basis, Meyer’s tenure will be a failure if he doesn’t hold up at least one crystal football. It might not seem fair, and it might not seem right, but a place like Ohio State doesn’t get a coach like Meyer to consistently win the Leaders division.
Prediction: Ohio State will play for the national title twice under Meyer – and lose. Don’t assume the Big Ten title is a foregone conclusion with Michigan starting to explode under Brady Hoke and with Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Nebraska not going away. However, Meyer will get everyone he wants on the recruiting trail and his teams will do enough to get to the big game a few times.
Out With The Old … Houston Nutt
… In With The New: Hugh Freeze
Expectations: > Primarily known as Michael Oher’s high school coach, Freeze proved to be more than was shown in “The Blind Side” by taking Arkansas State to a special season. The former offensive coordinator was the right man for the ASU job, and now Ole Miss is hoping it has the next big coaching star. The program wants to be among the big boys – it doesn’t have a bunch of patience for mediocrity - but it’s in the same division as Alabama, LSU, Auburn, and Arkansas and isn’t going to beat all four of those teams on a regular basis. The Ole Miss head coach can’t lose to Mississippi State and he has to occasionally beat the big boys. It’s a tough situation to walk into, but Freeze has the offensive mind and the enthusiasm to give it a good run.
Prediction: Four years. There’s only so much anyone can do in a division with Nick Saban, Les Miles, Bobby Petrino, and Gene Chizik. Ask Dan Mullen at Mississippi State what life is like being a smart, talented head coach trying to go against the SEC West mountain.
Out With The Old … Joe Paterno
… In With The New: JOB STILL OPEN
Expectations: Surprisingly, some still think it’s business as usual for the program. Considering the FBI, the Department of Education, and every top cop in Pennsylvania is on the task – to go along with almost certain NCAA and Big Ten sanctions – no one with any sort of a big name or decent résumé will want anything to do with the job until he knows what the status is. Unless it’s someone who wants to take on the impossible task and has an impeccable name – like a Tony Dungy-type – Penn State will have to take what it can get. In terms of public perception, starting from scratch with someone without any ties to Joe Paterno in any way would be a positive.
Out With The Old … Larry Fedora
… In With The New: JOB STILL OPEN
Expectations: Win the Conference USA title. Defections are starting to gut the league, and Southern Miss is a good enough program to get looks from bigger, better conferences with a few more big seasons. The new head coach will be expected to keep up the team’s winning tradition by combining the defensive production under Jeff Bower with the offensive performances under Larry Fedora. Anything less than a winning season at USM is a disaster, and anyone who steps in will have to win right away, and big.
Out With The Old … Mike Sherman
… In With The New: Kevin Sumlin
Expectations: Sumlin might seem like the right fit after serving as an assistant with the Aggies a decade ago, and he might have been one of the hot names in the mix, but he hasn’t exactly won anything. His teams put up huge numbers and the offenses were fantastic, but the Cougars should’ve won the 2009 Conference USA title, and didn’t, and they blew their chance at the BCS with a home loss to Southern Miss in this year’s championship game. Texas A&M is known for being the program that can’t get from Point B to Point C, and now it has a coach who hasn’t proven he can get a team over the top. A&M might be the biggest name program that can’t achieve powerhouse status, and Aggie fans aren’t going to accept anything less than being one of the stars of the SEC.
Prediction: Three years. Texas A&M isn’t going to be better than Alabama, LSU, Arkansas, or Auburn in the SEC West over the next three seasons, and while it might be possible to come up with a big season and finish in the division’s top three, it’s going to be a fight. The patience isn’t going to be there.
Out With The Old … Tim Beckman
… In With The New: Matt Campbell
Expectations: Beckman turned the Rockets back around. Toledo had gone from being a MAC powerhouse to an also-ran by the end of the Tom Amstutz career, and Beckman came in and stopped the slide with a terrific offense and a fun team. This is a stepping-stone job that should be attractive to any coordinator looking to make a big move up the ladder in a hurry, but he has to produce. At Toledo, the MAC title game is always the reasonable goal.
Prediction: Business as usual. Campbell was the main man who helped make the Toledo offense fly. Wanted by Beckman to run the Illini attack, Toledo locked its man up early. Just 32, Campbell is upwardly mobile.
Out With The Old … Bob Toledo
… In With The New: Curtis Johnson
Expectations: Before Hurricane Katrina, Tulane had a solid Conference USA program, but football was one of the last things the school has been focused on in the rebuilding project the city is still undergoing. Bob Toledo was supposed to bring in a big-time offense, but it never happened and the Green Wave is now on an eight-season losing streak. The expectations aren’t exactly sky-high for Tulane, but starting to put together a winning season isn’t asking for the world.
Prediction: Mild success. The hope is for Johnson to do for Tulane what he was able to come up with for the New Orleans Saints’ receiving corps, but Green Wave fans were hoping for big things from Toledo, too. Tulane will be more entertaining and more competitive, but the jury is out on whether a first-time head coach like Johnson can perform a miracle in a tough spot.
Out With The Old … Neil Callaway
… In With The New: Garrick McGee
Expectations: Relatively high. McGee is a rising star after a successful run as the Arkansas offensive coordinator, and while no one’s expecting miracles at UAB, McGee has the respect and the recommendations to expect to shine right away. It’s all relative, and if the Blazers can suddenly get the offense moving under McGee’s reign, and if he can come up with the first winning season since 2004, he’ll have succeeded.
Prediction: Three years. He’ll make the offense work, UAB will have one great year, and then he’ll be off to a bigger-name gig.
Out With The Old … Rick Neuheisel
… In With The New: Jim Mora, Jr.
Expectations: Tempered. There was talk about Mora being the third or even fourth choice for the job, but he has the NFL experience, the youthful energy, and the fire to show the world that he shouldn’t have been canned at Atlanta. UCLA is hoping to get the next Pete Carroll – another enthusiastic pro coach who was better suited to the college game – but remember, USC fans weren’t exactly jumping for joy when Carroll was first hired. Mora isn’t an out-of-the-box choice, and he’s saying all the right “sleeping giant” type of things every UCLA head man has to say, but he needs to win immediately. Rick Neuheisel brought in just enough decent recruits to form a decent base, and if Mora has any success whatsoever – meaning an offense that consistently works and more than six wins in his first year – the excitement will be through the roof.
Prediction: It’ll be a home run if given a little bit of time. The negative recruiting against Mora will be easy – some will say he’s looking to make a big run to get a shot at going back to the NFL. But Mora is looking to make a program his to own, and this might be it. He has the right personality, the talent, and the ability to grow into a whale of a college coach, and while he isn’t going to be Carroll – no one can be – and USC will still rule the roost in the South, the program will be far stronger in two years.
Out With The Old … Paul Wulff
… In With The New: Mike Leach
Expectations: Get ready for the fireworks. Washington State might not ever win the Pac-12 North – Texas Tech never played for a Big 12 title under Leach’s reign – and it might not be able to get by Oregon every year, but here come the fireworks. There’s an opening for a No. 2 team in the division, and Wazzu might be it if Leach can immediately work his magic and restore the Mike Price/Dennis Erickson tradition of high-octane offenses. Along the way, Leach will ruffle more than a few feathers and his arrival will make the Cougars a must-watch on a weekly basis.
Prediction: Three years. The turnaround will start immediately, things will start to rock in Year Two, Wazzu will contend for the Pac-12 title in Year Three, and then it’ll be off to a bigger job that can handle Leach’s ego and offensive coaching talent.
- Coaching Changes &
Expectations, Part 1