2012 Coaching Analysis
The 5-Year Plan, Bottom 24
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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
101. Doug Marrone, Syracuse
Marrone will begin the 2012 season in coaching purgatory. Yeah, he’s the guy who led the Orange to a 2010 bowl game, its first in six years, but has also gone 1-6 in Big East play in his other two seasons on the job. Last year was a particularly big disappointment, with the program slipping beneath the .500 mark just when it looked as if it was going to turn the corner. Marrone is a no-nonsense type leader who demands responsibility and accountability from his players. When hired in 2008, he was exactly what Syracuse needed to begin purging the Greg Robinson era from its system. He is never, however, going to be the most charismatic guy in the room, which could be having a negative impact on his ability to recruit.
102. Carl Pelini, Florida Atlantic
The Florida Atlantic program was built and created from scratch by Howard Schnellenberger, and now it’s about to get another dose of fire and brimstone from Pelini, a defensive whiz who helped turn Nebraska back around. He has no head coaching experience at the collegiate level, but he’s a proven top assistant who’s extremely smart and potentially mobile. If all goes well, he revives the FAU program and makes it a player again in the Sun Belt by ramping up the recruiting and getting more out of an awful offense. Turning 47 this summer, he’s young, driven, and should be just what the program needs. The only question is experience; can he run his own show?
103. Curtis Johnson, Tulane
Johnson is quintessential Big Easy, a New Orleans native and former Saints assistant, so he was a natural fit for the struggling Green Wave. His appeal outside of the region, though, might not be nearly as high, especially since he’s never even held a coordinator’s job, let alone a head coach’s position. The upshot of Johnson is that he’ll bring youthful energy to a campus, even at the age of 50, and has a history of excelling at recruiting from his days with the Miami Hurricanes. At a failing school, such as Tulane, he might be just one winning season away from a promotion. Breathing life into a squad that hasn’t been over .500 since 2002 would be like catnip for ADs.
104. Chris Ault, Nevada
Already in the College Football Hall of Fame, there’s no questioning Chris Ault’s credentials. He’s also shown that his system works and keeps on working no matter who he brings in; the Wolf Pack running game is always impressive. His teams are in the hunt for the conference title on a regular basis, and a bowl bid is always a sure thing. Yeah, he’s 2-7 in bowls, but the 226 career wins offset that and the 13-1 2009 season stands out in Nevada football history. So why is he so low? He’ll turn 66 during the football season, and while he’s not showing any signs of slowing down, he already retired once after 1995 and isn’t likely to still be the head man five years from now.
105. David Cutcliffe, Duke
Right man. Wrong school. Over the past half-century, only one Blue Devils head coach—Steve Spurrier—left Durham with a winning record, testament to how tough it is to thrive here. Cutcliffe is a terrific teacher, especially of young quarterbacks, but in a decade as the head man at Ole Miss and Duke, his career mark is still below .500. And while he’s clearly had a positive impact on the Blue Devils since arriving in 2008, it’s often been in areas that don’t show up in the standings. It would have been nice to see what Cut was capable of achieving when not handling one of the toughest jobs in the SEC or ACC, but that opportunity may never come.
106. Kyle Flood, Rutgers
As is often the case when an assistant gets promoted from within, no one really knows what to expect from Flood now that he’s a head coach for the first time. Just 41 years old, his resume is somewhat limited, with the bulk of his experience coming as an offensive line coach. Oddly enough, this is an area where the Scarlet Knights have struggled in recent years. That said, there’s no denying that he’s been instrumental in the unprecedented success of the program—on and off the field—since arriving seven years ago. Flood is from the New York metropolitan area, and has a great relationship with the tri-state’s high school coaches. He’s a natural fit to succeed Schiano, but he wouldn’t translate well at this point outside of Rutgers.
107. Frank Spaziani, Boston College
There are countless examples of crackerjack coordinators who don’t translate when promoted. Coach Spaz appears to be one of them. Boston College may not be a great place to attract talent or build a fan base, but Spaziani inherited a program with a very solid foundation. It’s also a program that he’d been working at for more than a decade, so there were few surprises on the Heights. In three years helming the Eagles, the coach is just a game over .500, and is clinging to his job entering the 2012 season. A year ago, he became the first BC head man since 1998 to fail to lead the program to the postseason.
108. Dan McCarney, North Texas
Brought in to steady a North Texas program that fell off the map after being the Sun Belt’s top program for several years, his first season was a major positive going 5-7 and turning things back around. The needle is pointing up, even though there’s still a lot of work to do with the pass rush while also finding more of a scoring punch. More than anything else, though, he has to be healthy after suffering a stroke. He’s still recovering, but he has a good team returning and has more of a positive attitude than ever. If nothing else, North Texas is past the Todd Dodge era and is improving.
109. Ruffin McNeill, East Carolina
After just two seasons in Greenville, McNeill is on the verge of fumbling his first opportunity to be a head coach. The longtime Texas Tech assistant inherited a Pirates program that had won nine games and a Conference USA title in back-to-back years under Skip Holtz, yet quickly navigated it back below the .500 mark. East Carolina has gone 11-14 under the new staff, with McNeill’s trademark defense absorbing a lot of the blame for the middling results. Scoring points and navigating the airways has been far less of an issue at ECU, which is why the precocious offensive coordinator, Lincoln Riley, is more appealing to athletic directors than the head coach.
110. Ellis Johnson, Southern Miss
Now 60 years old, Johnson gets his third—and probably final—chance to be a head coach. The first two stints at the helm of I-AA programs didn’t go all that well, resulting in four non-winning seasons. He regrouped professionally to become one of the game’s better defensive coaches while at Mississippi State and South Carolina. He’d be best suited at a southern program, where he knows the terrain intimately, that needs a spark on D. However, improving his marketability outside of Hattiesburg will require proof that he can be more than just an ace coordinator. Since Southern Miss is fresh off a conference championship season, Johnson won’t get any attaboys for simply the Golden Eagles in the hunt for mid-tier bowl games.
111. Norm Chow, Hawaii
This is where the argument and the debate kicks in. Do you hire a coach who’s going to be 66 years old when the season starts to rebuild the program? If it’s Norm Chow going home to Hawaii, yeah. Will he be around as the head coach for the next five years? That might not matter as long as he can crank up the offense for a few seasons. He’s a legendary offensive coordinator and quarterback guru, but the bloom is off the rose a bit after struggling at UCLA under Rick Neuheisel and not doing too much with Utah last year. However, now that he’s finally a head coach – a long overdue move – he should turn it loose with the perfect program to fit his talents.
112. Larry Blakeney, Troy
Blakeney’s 163 career wins puts him among the top coaches nationally, and he was named the Sun Belt’s 10th anniversary Most Outstanding Coach, but he’ll turn 65 this football season and is coming off an awful year. Is he slipping? Troy was one of the rocks of the Sun Belt since joining the league in 2004, but his defenses have gone bye-bye over the last few seasons and the 3-9 2011 was disastrous. Giving up a ton of yards and points wasn’t a problem when the offense was rolling, but last year the attack fell flat in the shockingly bad year.
113. Charlie Weis, Kansas
Notre Dame might have an overinflated opinion of itself and what it can be as a power program, but still, there was no excuse to lose to Navy and the 3-9 2007 season was an all-timer of a disaster. If that wasn’t bad enough, he was given a host of four and five-star talents as the Florida offensive coordinator and did nothing with them. Kansas wanted him, though, and is hoping he’ll be able to bring a decided schematic advantage to Lawrence to turn things back around after the Turner Gill disaster.
Can he recruit? He was able to get one or two stars to South Bend, but his overall classes were a bit lacking. Can he press the flesh and get out there to be a good spokesman for the program? He won’t have to do it nearly as much as he did at Notre Dame. At 56 he’s still a relatively young coach, and he’ll get time to try to turn things around, but he has to prove he can run a program and be more than just a great coordinator.
114. Rocky Long, San Diego State
Long did a great job of making New Mexico relevant, but his era ran stale. However, by stale that means a 4-8 season after winning six or more games seven years in a row. Now he’s taking what Brady Hoke did at San Diego State and is keeping it going with a nice 8-5 season. His running games always work, and he’s good at cranking out productive defenses without a ton of talent to work with. The knock might be that he has never taken a program to another level after making it good, but he’s a solid coach who produces competitive teams. He has only been with the Aztecs for one season so far, but he’s still going strong at 62.
115. Larry Coker, UTSA
Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops, Les Miles, Gene Chizik, Steve Spurrier, Mack Brown … and Larry Coker. There are only eight current FBS head coaches with a national title on the résumé, and while Coker might be the least celebrated or respected of the bunch, he’s a pass interference call away from joining Saban and Meyer among the multiple national title winners. He’s trying to take UTSA into the big-time, taking over the gig after a 60-15 record at Miami, but is he going to want to be around long enough to see the process through? Turning 64 this year, he might build things up just in time for someone else to reap the rewards.
116. Bobby Hauck, UNLV
Alright, so this isn’t fair. He’s young, turning 48 this year, and he was wildly successful at Montana going 47-6 with three national championships and seven D-IAA playoff appearances and seven Big Sky titles. He can coach, and he knows how to crank out good teams, but he left Montana to try to make a step up in his career, and after a controversy over charges against several players for various alleged crimes. Now he’s in the abyss of the UNLV program where no one seems able to come up with any sort of success. He had to completely tear down the Rebels to try to build it back up, and the results haven’t been positive going 4-21 in his two years, and there’s not too much hope on the horizon.
117. Robb Akey, Idaho
Akey’s teams always give full effort and he never has a problem motivating his teams. However, as a former top defensive coordinator he hasn’t been able to get a lick of defensive production out of his Vandals. In a shocker, he took Idaho to an 8-5 2009 campaign finishing off with a thrilling bowl win, and followed it up with a decent 6-7 year. However, going 2-10 last year was a big step back making this a make-or-break season. Eventually, he’ll likely be a whale of a defensive coordinator before getting another chance at a head coaching gig. At just 46 when the season starts, his career is still young.
118. Bill Snyder, Kansas State
Age shouldn’t play a factor in this since Snyder managed to pull off another rebuilding job at 72, but will he be the Kansas State legend still be the head man at 77? The second act to his career has been nothing short of amazing, and while he started from a better place than he had to deal with in 1989, he proved he could still get it done. Now, the Wildcats could quickly go to 5-7 if they don’t win all the close games they managed to win in 2011, but it doesn’t matter; his legacy has been rebuilt after struggling in 2004 and 2005.
He’s still not able to bring in the top-shelf recruits with Kansas State always recruiting to a type, and whoever follows in his footsteps needs to be stronger than Ron Prince, but for now, Snyder is still going strong and he has the nucleus back to have another great season.
119. Dan Enos, Central Michigan
A nice quarterback for Michigan State, he hasn’t been able to build on what Brian Kelly and Butch Jones put together. While a rebuilding job needed to be done, the program has slipped over the last two years with two 3-9 campaigns and a shockingly bad 2011. The defense hasn’t done anything, but Enos is an offensive head man. His passing game was fine, but the Chippewas are having problems scoring.
120. Jeff Quinn, Buffalo
The Turner Gill era had everything come together in one perfect storm of a season, but it was an aberration. Buffalo is still a relatively young program and it doesn't have any sort of history of success, and now it's up to Gill to try to turn things back around on his own. At this point, 2008 is a long, long time ago. Quinn came in to Amherst as a top offensive coordinator, helping Cincinnati to some big seasons and rocking with the rise of Central Michigan. It's Year Three and he only has five wins in his two campaigns, but again, Buffalo it's going to be a fight to make UB a consistent winner.
121. Todd Berry, ULM
Known as a strong offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Berry hasn’t been able to translate his strengths to his jobs as a head coach. He’s only 51, he’s innovative, and he’s fearless when it comes to changing programs around to do what he wants. However, he’s not all that successful. In his ten seasons as a head man he has just two winning seasons – going 11-3 with Illinois State in 1999 and 9-4 in 1998. He was a disaster at Army, and seven years later got another chance at ULM where he’s been okay, but hasn’t gotten the program over the hump going just 7-9 in his two seasons for a 38-74 career record.
122. Frank Solich, Ohio
The only issue is age. He’ll turn 68 at the start of the football season and isn’t likely to be the type of coach to build things around for the next five years. Even so, he has found a second life in Athens after being booted out of his Nebraska job where he won 58 games in five years with three Big 12 North title, a conference championship, and a national title appearance. He has made Ohio the MAC’s most consistent power with three East titles and four bowl appearances in seven years, but he can’t bring home a conference championship. Even so his teams have been sound, solid, and productive.
123. Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut
Pasqualoni to Storrs looked like an odd fit when it happened a year ago. Today, it doesn’t look any better. The coach inherited a team that won the Big East, and returned enough to at least bowl, but instead went 5-7. Not only will he be 63 once the upcoming season begins, but his last winning season came 11 years ago while at Syracuse. Although he certainly crafted a solid run in Upstate New York, that period feels like a long time ago because it was a long time ago. Now, he might reverse course with the Huskies and get the team back into postseason contention, but Pasqualoni has very limited appeal outside of his home state of Connecticut.
124. Mike Price, UTEP
Oh, how the once-mighty have fallen. When he was hired back in 2004, Price was to UTEP what June Jones is to SMU these days. Heck, he’d led teams to the Rose Bowl, and was briefly given the reigns at Alabama before squandering that opportunity. After a fast start in El Paso, the curtain has been pulled back on the coach, who has somehow survived despite stringing together six straight losing seasons. More of a showman than an actual producer these days, Price has lost a lot off his fastball. And at the age of 66, the Miners are likely to be the final stop of a rollercoaster career that’s been steadily going south for far too long.
2012 5-Year Plan Coaching Rankings
- The Top 20 |
- Part 3 - 51-75 |
- Part 5 - The bottom 24