2012 Coaching Analysis
The 5-Year Plan, Part 3
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Coaching Analysis & Breakdowns By Conference
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2012 Hot Seat Status
Pressure - Can Afford Two Bad Years
Real Worries. - Can Afford A Clunker
To Win, Or The Pressure Is On
Clunk In 2012, Worry In 2013
Pressure Cooker. The REAL Hot Seat
It's simple: you have to hire a coach for your
program with a five-year plan to build it up. Who'd
be the best coach to take? No, this isn't a
ranking of the best coaches in college
football right now; this is a ranking of who'd be
best to take over and be in for the relative long
That's why age plays a huge factor - it's not a lock
that a coach will still want to do this in his 70s -
but it's mostly about who can get the job done. The
younger, though, the better.
2012 5-Year Plan Coaching Rankings
- The Top 20 |
- Part 3 - 51-75 |
- Part 5 - The bottom 24
51. Dabo Swinney, Clemson
There are mixed feelings regarding Swinney at Clemson. On the one hand, he’s the head coach of the reigning ACC champs, and an outstanding procurer of talent. On the other, he’s just 29-19 overall in three-plus seasons, and he’s not among the league’s best in-game managers. Oh, and then there’s the issue of last year’s finish, a 2-4 close capped by the 70-33 Orange Bowl debacle. The youthful energy that Swinney brings to Clemson is somewhat offset by concerns within the fan base that he might be in over his head at a big-time program. To his credit, he’s surrounded himself with two solid coordinators, Chad Morris and Brent Venables, who can make a coach look better.
52. Tim Beckman, Illinois
Illinois needed to make a big splash. There’s no real football buzz at the basketball school – with the flubblng of the search for a hoops coach taking center stage – and getting Beckman didn’t exactly move the needle. He’s not Mike Leach, and even one of the hotter prospects out there, like a Kevin Sumlin, wasn’t really in the picture. Beckman struggled early on to round out his coaching staff, and he didn’t exactly win the initial press conference, but all that’ll matter is whether or not he’s able to come up with wins.
He turned around Toledo and made it a winner again, tying for the West title last year and getting to two straight bowl games. However, he’s a defensive coach – working as a defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State and Bowling Green – whose Toledo teams struggled defensively. However, the offenses were outstanding, and if he can bring a high-powered attack to Champaign, he’ll win the crowd and the fan base.
53. Gus Malzahn, Arkansas State
It was a strange career move. Malzahn was on everyone’s list for open midrange BCS-league jobs, but instead he chose to take over at Arkansas State for Hugh Freeze, who was one-and-done after a great season. Not only did Malzahn take a job that might not quite be the step up many thought he’d take, but he has to fill the shoes of a guy who took the program to a dominant 10-3 season and a Sun Belt title. A quarterback guru who helped take a good prospect in Cam Newton and make him special, the pressure is on to be magical from the start.
54. Tom O’Brien, NC State
O’Brien is a terrific coach to keep a program on the tracks, but if raising the bar is the goal, looking elsewhere would be recommended. Over the past 15 years, 10 at Boston College and five at NC State, his teams have qualified for 11 postseason games, but have yet to play in a major bowl game or post a 10-win season. Ever. You’d think that at least once, O’Brien would put it all together and deliver a breakout campaign. The ex-Marine is a stern disciplinarian and an honorable face of a program, but he can also be a little too conservative offensively. Plus, at the age of 63, Raleigh might be the last stop of his coaching career.
55. Steve Addazio, Temple
So far, so good for Addazio who took what Al Golden built at Temple and bumped it up a notch with last year’s 9-4 campaign. Only time will tell how he’ll manage once Golden’s recruits and fingerprints can no longer be found on campus. Addazio is an energetic, fiery leader who brings passion and boundless energy to a program. He’s the type of individual kids want to play for—and play harder for—which is why he was such an exceptional recruiter while at Florida. Although he won’t enjoy the same hook he did in the Swamp, the coach is going to energize a locker room and a fan base no matter where he winds up. Addazio is still just 52, and has a proven track record in various regions of the country.
56. David Shaw, Stanford
There are reasons to be cautious about Shaw at this early stage of his head coaching career, but there is also lots of justification to want to jump on board while his stock is still somewhat low. Yeah, he’s only been on the job for one season, and a lot of last fall’s success can be attributed to Andrew Luck and the foundation building completed by predecessor Jim Harbaugh. However, it would be woefully shortsighted to dismiss Shaw’s role in the resurgence of Cardinal football since he came aboard in 2007. One of the game’s budding offensive tacticians, he’s done an underrated job of devising a balanced offense that had enough variations to compensate for fluctuations in skill position talent. Best of all, he’s only 39, and bound to get much better at his craft with each passing year of experience.
57. Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana
How is he still in Lafayette? One more year like 2011 and he’ll be one of the hottest names for a stepping-stone gig. Only 43, he’s young, talented, and did wonders in his first season taking the program over the hump to a 9-4 season and a thrilling New Orleans Bowl win over San Diego State. A phenomenal high school coach going 25-1, he worked his way up the assistant ranks before taking over at North Alabama where he went 66-21 with four playoff appearances. His offense was terrific and the defense was just good enough in one of the program’s best seasons ever.
58. Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh
After spending the past few seasons as one of the nation’s hottest assistant coaches, Chryst gets his first opportunity to showcase what the fuss was all about. He’s coming off a stellar stint as the offensive coordinator at Wisconsin, crafting a balanced, physical attack that would translate nicely to plenty of campus across the country. Still just 46 years old, he’s in his coaching prime, with a chance to quickly evolve into something special. While he won’t be outworked in the film room or on the practice field, he’s not the kind of head coach who’s going to captivate a local community with his colorful stories or entertaining press conferences. He’s a football coach, period, which is fine for most schools, but not ideal for those requiring their face of the program to be a glad-hander or crowd-worker.
59. Steve Sarkisian, Washington
Hiccups with his defense aside, Sarkisian has gotten off to a very nice start as a head coach, taking the Huskies to back-to-back bowl games. While 7-6 campaigns wouldn’t cut it for most in the profession, it’s important to remember the depths U-Dub had reached before the coaching change was made. Sark is exactly what many programs are looking for these days. He’s young, innovative on the offensive side of the ball and able to connect with some of the game’s elite high school recruits. He has a very high ceiling on the sidelines, generating excitement over where he might be two or three years from now. Sarkisian has done a lot more than master the X’s and O’s in Seattle; he’s spurred a culture shift, which is the true measure of an effective head coach.
60. Todd Graham, Arizona State
Four jobs in seven years could mean two very different things to two different people. Graham is either talented enough to be coveted by numerous schools, or is a perpetual job-hopper, a real no-no for future employers. While the coach peaked at Tulsa with three 10-win seasons in four years, he hurt his brand during last year’s cup-o-coffee at Pitt. Far worse than his 6-6 record was the way he left the school, abruptly notifying his players of the move by text. Now that he’s landed at his “dream job” in Tempe, Graham has some work to do in order to restore his reputation. Not only must he prove he can win at a major conference program, but he also needs to show that he isn’t chronically in the market for the next opportunity.
61. Dave Christensen, Wyoming
With two winning seasons in his first three campaigns at Wyoming, Christensen is proving to be a miracle-worker of sorts. Last year’s team had no business making any noise in the Mountain West, but instead it went 8-5 and got to a bowl game. Now the needle is pointed up with a terrific young quarterback in Brett Smith and just enough experience to get by. However, he used a little bit of smoke and a lot of mirrors to get it done with no run defense and a passing game that was mediocre at best. While the Cowboys were terrific in the WAC in the 1990s, it’s a new world in the tougher Mountain West. However, if Christensen can come up with a winner last year, going forward won’t be so tough.
62. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech
Would Beamer’s success in Blacksburg translate to another campus? We’ll never know. At Virginia Tech, though, he’s been nothing short of legendary, leading his Hokies to 19 consecutive bowl games, four ACC crowns and six BCS bowl appearances. A model of incredible consistency, his alma mater has won more games since 1995 than any other FBS program. He’s been overlooked and underrated throughout his career, yet always delivers results with a well-coached and fundamentally sound team. Hands down, he’s the ACC’s premier coach. For this exercise, though, age—66—and tenure with one program—a quarter-century—would be drawbacks when searching for a guy to lead a school for the next five years.
63. Larry Fedora, North Carolina
The curtain is about to be pulled back on Fedora, who’ll be facing the stiffest challenge of his coaching career. He was modestly successful in four years at Southern Miss, parlaying last year’s 12-2 mark and Conference USA championship into a significant promotion to the ACC. One of the games bright young offensive minds brings to Chapel Hill the most innovative playbook that the locals have ever seen. Excitement follows Fedora wherever he lands. Heavily-sanctioned Carolina, though, will be his decisive assignment. Piling up the numbers and playing in mediocre bowl games won’t cut it. No, he was hired to bring a league title to a school that hasn’t captured one since 1980.
64. Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State
Defense, defense, defense. DeRuyter is a defensive coach with an Air Force playing background and a great résumé of attacking, aggressive defenses that always got to the quarterback. His Aggie defense led the nation in sacks even after the loss of Von Miller to the NFL, and while the secondary got torched and didn’t come up with enough key stops, that was life in the Big 12. Only 49, this is his first head coaching gig – not counting the bowl win over Northwestern after taking over for Mike Sherman – and he should make the Fresno State defense shine from Day One.
65. James Franklin, Vanderbilt
If nothing else, Franklin has taken the pitch-perfect attitude to the Vanderbilt job. It’s Vanderbilt. There won’t ever be any SEC titles, and it’ll take most of the East to get hit by NCAA sanctions to be within ten miles of going to the title game, but Franklin won’t have any of it. He won’t listen to any excuses and won’t accept any barriers or past gripes; he’s going to win and he’s going to do it at Vanderbilt. He has a good offensive mind and he has the youthful energy of a 40-year-old head coach, but will it all work? He might be a better fit at a bigger program in need of an attitude adjustment, like Illinois or UCLA, but he was able to take the Commodores to a bowl in his first season and he’ll be tireless in his efforts to produce a winner.
66. Jerry Kill, Minnesota
Kill is a proven winner with a proven track record of revamping and reviving programs. He took over a miserable Southern Illinois team and went 1-10 in his first year. Two seasons later he went 10-2 and win the first of three straight Gateway Conference titles and finished up his seven year run going 12-2. He rebuilt Northern Illinois and set the foundation for a MAC champion. But Minnesota is a tough task with no one able to make the program into a Big Ten title contender.
Kill is great at generating big-time running games, but he still needs a few years and a few good recruiting classes to get the pieces he needs to get the offense moving. Throw in the lack of in-state talent and the steps back taken by the Tim Brewster era, and Kill has an uphill battle. However, he has the personality and the talent to be the right fit for the job, but patience will be a must.
67. Mike Riley, Oregon State
Two years ago, Riley would have been much higher on this ranking, but back-to-back losing seasons is cause for concern. Nearing 60, has he started to lose some of the magic that helped make him become such a popular figure around Corvallis. He’s still popular, thanks to a penchant for exceeding expectations and coaching up marginal high school recruits to unexpected levels. Riley is also very well-liked by his players and their parents, one of the truly decent individuals in the profession. When you hire him, you know exactly what you’re getting, a seasoned pro who’s going to represent the university with maximum class. You’ve got to at least begin to wonder, though, if his best seasons are now in the rear view mirror.
68. Joker Phillips, Kentucky
Phillips has the unenviable task of trying to keep the program relevant at a place where the basketball program is as strong as ever and in a conference with few layups. A good offensive coach, he has done what he can over the last two seasons, but things fell off the map last year after needing a slew of replacements in key spots. Still, he took the Cats to a bowl game in his first season and last year was a rebuilding campaign, so his tenure is still too young to make a proper judgment. A key part of the program as a coach since 2003 and as a receiver in the early 1980s, he knows the program. Turning 49 this year, he’s still young enough to make a big impact.
69. Jim McElwain, Colorado State
Here’s the big question; can McElwain produce a strong offense without a slew of NFL talent? A success as Alabama’s offensive coordinator, he was helped by having Trent Richardson, Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, and several NFL-caliber linemen to play around with. More importantly, his offenses didn’t have to do much thanks to a defense that allowed big plays as often as Nick Saban smiles. He was able to parlay the team’s success over the last few years into the Colorado State gig and a huge salary to go along with it, but now he has to try to restore the glory after Steve Fairchild couldn’t turn the corner.
70. Derek Dooley, Tennessee
It’s not working. He’s in a tough spot, and while there are several viable excuses, he simply isn’t getting the wins. To be fair, the Vols had some big injuries last year, and he was left a bit of a mess after Lane Kiffin skipped town for USC, but he hasn’t come up with anything special in his first two years. Can he get down and dirty enough to survive the brutal SEC recruiting wars? He’s a good guy and a straight arrow, but, sadly, those aren’t necessarily positives. Tennessee should be one of the nation’s premier programs, and it was a superpower among superpowers in the 1990s, but Dooley has gone 11-14 in his first two years and there’s not a lot of hope for a big turnaround in the near future.
71. Randy Edsall, Maryland
Will the real Randy Edsall please up? To Connecticut fans, he was a savior, the architect of the program’s rise out of I-AA obscurity and into the Big East Conference. He was nothing short of a miracle worker in Storrs, winning at least eight games in six of his final eight years, capped by a Fiesta Bowl appearance in 2010. At a basketball school with limited history in football. On a more granular level, Edsall and his staff perennially did a brilliant job of coaching up marginal recruits, helping make them NFL-ready. To Terps fans, though, he’s a pariah. Skeptical from the outset, they became downright surly after Maryland went 2-10 in 2011, while losing a spate of players to transfers. As is often the case, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. One rough year can’t possibly erase all of the good that the coach did for the Huskies.
72. Tony Levine, Houston
While the Cougars were sad to see Kevin Sumlin go to Texas A&M in December, the silver lining was Levine, a 35-year-old coach that the university believes will be a household name in a few years. Although his experience is limited, current and former players rave about his ability to lead with character, maximize his players’ potential and connect with future recruits. He’s well-liked, but also well-respected, gaining the trust and buy-in from those around him. Ahead of Levine will be a huge responsibility. Houston has not only won at least eight games in five of the past six seasons, but it’s set to join the Big East in 2013, a move that’ll bring much more publicity and opportunity to the school.
73. Jim Grobe, Wake Forest
Vastly underrated, Grobe has done the improbable over the past decade, putting the Demon Deacons on the map in football. At a tiny, private school with a modest history in the sport, he’s the school’s first coach in more than six decades to fashion a winning career record. Under his guidance, Wake Forest has been to four bowl games in the past six years, capturing the 2006 ACC championship. Grobe simply does things right, eschewing shortcuts for a time-tested method to player development. He preaches discipline, fundamentals and a no-excuses approach to meeting individual and team goals. He basically builds from the bottom up in order to overcome a serious gap in recruiting advantages compared to the balance of the conference.
74. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State
Rhoads is doing far more with the Cyclones than Gene Chizik did. The Auburn head coach famously parlayed a 5-19 run in Ames into a big-time, national-title gig, and Rhoads might soon be on his way to bigger and better things if he can keep on doing good things with Iowa State. Even though he doesn’t have the talent to work with of some of the other Big 12 teams, he’s been able to come up with some nice seasons and some shocking upsets like last year’s season-changer against Oklahoma State. At just 45, he’s just getting started.
Two losing seasons in three years might not be anything to get excited about, but he has gone to two bowl games and the 5-7 2010 wasn’t all that bad, barley missing out on going bowling with a late loss to Nebraska. He’s great at getting his teams to always play hard, motivation is never a problem, and he manages to do a lot with less. However, it would be interesting to see what he could do with a bigger program and some top-shelf recruits.
75. Danny Hope, Purdue
Few head coaches have had the poor luck with injuries and personnel that Hope has had to endure over his first few seasons. He’s never going to get the four and five-star recruits to come to West Lafayette, and he has to recruit to a type, but Purdue is still a good football school with a great legacy and decent expectations. In many ways it’s the Quarterback U. of the Big Ten with explosive and innovative offenses, but Hope’s Boilermakers haven’t been able to find their groove yet. Hope is starting to turn things back around after the slide at the end of the Joe Tiller era, but it’s been slow going.
Hope’s issue is that his teams have always been just above mediocre. He had five straight winning seasons at Eastern Kentucky, parlaying a strong 2007 into the Purdue job in the transition from Tiller, but he hasn’t been able to come up with a big statement campaign. After going 7-6 last season and with a win over Ohio State, the needle might be pointing up.
2012 5-Year Plan Coaching Rankings
- The Top 20 |
- Part 3 - 51-75 |
- Part 5 - The bottom 24