Preview 2013 - Coaches Needing Big Years
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz
Preview 2013 - Coaches Needing Big Years. The coaches who need to come through really, really big in 2013.
Coaches Needing Big Years
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Capturing a tailwind in August is not the sole domain of the athletes at this time of year. In fact, a swath of head coaches who’ve endured recent adversity or missed opportunities are just as eager to put last season behind them, while gathering up a much-needed head of steam for the 2013 campaign. Now, that’s certainly not to suggest that all are facing must-win situations. Frank Beamer and Bo Pelini, for example, are safe at Virginia Tech and Nebraska, respectively, even if they don’t win 10 games in the fall. However, that doesn’t quell the necessity to exceed last season’s missing-the-mark results on the field.
For coaches and players alike, flushing out the old and ushering in a new mindset began in the spring ... and is continuing with a greater sense of urgency now that live action is just a few weeks away. For the following 15 head men, raising the bar higher in 2013 has become a top priority that will surely affect their future job security.
15. Al Golden, Miami
As much as any head coach at the FBS level, Golden sure could use a silver lining or two before the start of his third season in Miami.
Without any warning, Golden walked into a mess with the Hurricanes, the result of alleged NCAA wrongdoings long before the coach ever left Temple. An investigation has hung above the program ever since, negatively impacting recruiting, while forcing the ‘Canes to self-impose bowl bans in consecutive years. Is the worst now behind Golden? No one knows with any certainty, which is at the crux of the seemingly never-ending problem. The coach and his staff need to be able to put the sins of their predecessors behind them as soon as possible, so they can go about the business of rebuilding a program’s confidence. The 2013 squad could be Golden's best yet, but who knows what it'll mean to the team's postseason.
14. Tony Levine, Houston
Change is in the air in Houston. Levine plans to do all he can to not become a part of the overhaul.
It’s an exciting time to be a Cougar, with a new stadium and a new league, the American, set to become a part of the future. However, as ground is broken on a state-of-the-art home, the team will be undergoing renovations of its own. Houston was a major disappointment in Levine’s first year as a head coach, following up a momentous 13-1 campaign by completely missing the postseason last fall. The administration really likes its young head coach, but with expectations about to start rising like scaffolding, Levine is eager to prove he’s the guy who's capable of ushering Houston into a new era of football.
13. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech
Beamer won’t be leaving Blacksburg until he decides it’s time to go. But, after losing six games for the first time in two decades, the coach is determined to make 2012 look like an aberration as quickly as possible.
The Hokies were uncharacteristically weak last fall, snapping an impressive eight-year streak of 10-win seasons. Chalk it up to a blip that happens to every program one time or another. Still, Beamer realizes that the declines of a team and its coach can begin with absolute subtlety. It starts with a 7-6 record, and before you know it, an ACC championship is no longer the standard by which seasons are judged. The upcoming year is an important one for Beamer and Virginia Tech. The coach is hungry to get back to the high level of play that’s typified his Hall of Fame career as a Hokie.
12. Bo Pelini, Nebraska
1999. Yup, it's been an unusually long stretch between conference titles in Lincoln.
Pelini is only responsible for what happened at Nebraska since 2008, when he replaced Bill Callahan on the sidelines. And he's largely done a solid job, amassing a 48-20 record, while perennially contending for league crowns. The problem is that the Huskers haven't broken through to actually wear a crown under Pelini. They've been consistent, almost to a fault, yet unable to get to the other side. Big Red, for instance, won 10 games in 2012, but everyone will remember the blowout losses to Ohio State on Oct. 6 and Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game. Pelini isn't going anywhere. Still, he sure could quiet some unimpressed critics with a January bowl game.
11. Steve Sarkisian, Washington
Sark has been a game-changer on Montlake. But it's time for him to start building upon his own success.
Sarkisian inherited in 2009 a program in disrepair, one that had gone winless the year before he arrived. Since then, the Huskies have been to three consecutive bowl games, consistently improving the overall talent level on the roster. However, three straight 7-6 seasons have emitted a troubling feeling that the Huskies have become stagnant in Seattle. At the same time, Pac-12 foes Oregon and Stanford have evolved into fixtures on the BCS bowl scene. Sark used a ton of underclassmen in 2012. With so many key players back in the fold, the coach must rise above the same old plateau by winning eight or nine regular-season games. Anything less might place the entire staff on probation for 2014.
10. Paul Johnson< Georgia Tech
Did the Yellow Jackets crest under Johnson back in 2009? It’s a concern that’s begun to buzz increasingly louder around the Flats.
Johnson was the talk of the town after his first two seasons in Atlanta, winning 20 games and an ACC championship. Since the start of 2010, though, he’s gone a middling 21-19. Overall, Johnson, well-liked as he may be in the area, is still just 1-4 in the postseason, and 1-4 versus rival Georgia. The latter ought to be bolded for its importance to Tech. While the rest of the league hasn’t exactly caught up to the coach’s option-based attack, big plays have been missing from the passing game, and the D is a perennial problem. Johnson may be safe, but the bloom is clearly off his rose.
9. Charlie Weis, Kansas
One measurement of the desperation level of a coach is the number of junior-college athletes he signs in February. Of the 26 new Jayhawks inked by Weis, a whopping 18 were JUCO transfers.
Weis walked into an undeniably difficult situation in Lawrence, inheriting a team that lacked the talent to effectively compete in the Big 12. After claiming just one victim, South Dakota State, and seeing their conference losing streak balloon to 21 games, the Jayhawks can’t help but be better in 2013. Although it’s hard to imagine Weis’ job being in jeopardy after two years, he still needs to show tangible progress this fall. The coach certainly didn't ingratiate himself to leery fans in Lawrence with his infamous "pile of crap" diatribe at Big 12 Media Days in July.
8. Tim Beckman, Illinois
In the high-stakes game of college coaching, it’s becoming increasingly common for underachievers to get pink slipped after just two years. That’s potentially troubling news for Beckman.
The Illini were a disaster in 2012, slogging through a 2-10 campaign that included no Big Ten wins. There was far better talent at the staff’s disposal than the results indicated, heaping pressure on Beckman and his assistants to initiate an immediate about-face this fall. The necrotic offense is now in the hands of former Western Michigan head coach Bill Cubit, who’ll have to wait until 2014 to get his hands on QB Wes Lunt, the ballyhooed Oklahoma State transfer Beckman landed in June. AD Mike Thomas felt compelled to dispatch public support for Beckman last December, a troubling development for a coach in just the first year of his tenure.
7. Jim Grobe, Wake Forest
Grobe has done some remarkable things over the span of a dozen seasons in Winston-Salem. But what exactly is the expiration date on a successful three-year run at a school short on football resources and tradition?
The coach peaked by winning 28 games between 2006-08, bringing an improbable ACC championship to the Demon Deacons. However, he’s just 19-30 over the past four seasons, looking as if the magic has left the program for good. It’s now been seven years since that glorious run to the Orange Bowl and school-first 11-win season, led by Grobe and QB Riley Skinner. With Duke beginning to perk up in Durham for David Cutcliffe, Wake Forest might be facing an upheaval if it fails to avoid a fifth losing season in a row.
6. Gary Pinkel, Missouri
Can Mizzou bounce back after its worst campaign in eight years? Failing to do so could put Pinkel in a precarious position once the season comes to an end.
Pinkel has generally done a solid job over the past dozen years in Columbia, but he’s no longer trending north. In 2011, not only did his Tigers finish in fifth place in the Big 12, but he was arrested on a DUI charge and suspended for a game. And last fall’s ballyhooed shift to the SEC ended with a thud. Missouri went 5-7, including 2-6 in its new league. Making matters worse for Pinkel, the SEC’s other import, Texas A&M, blossomed into one of the country’s most exciting teams. If Missouri once again looks out of place in the game’s premier conference, the administration could be in the market for a new leader by December.
5. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Ferentz has become an institution in Iowa City since arriving in 1999. But even institutions don’t last forever.
The Hawkeyes, as much as any program in the FBS, pride themselves on stability within the coaching staff. However, it’s become obvious that Iowa is in need of a major jolt after going 19-19 over the last three seasons. The 2012 edition went 4-8, the school’s worst mark since Ferentz’s second year. The staff better have a few motivational tricks up their sleeves, because Iowa is thin on slam-dunk talent, and the Legends Division is deep. Ferentz's best tool for remaining the dean among Big Ten coaches is his air-tight contract, which guarantees him approximately $3,000,000 annually if he's let go between now and 2020. The buyout is so cost-prohibitive that a change at the top is extremely unlikely for at least the next few seasons.
4. Randy Edsall, Maryland
Ralph Friedgen was booted by his alma mater after going 9-4 in 2010, and 75-50 over the course of a decade. Regardless of the circumstances, Edsall’s 6-18 mark over two seasons will eventually cause myriad problems for the coach.
The Terrapins showed progress in 2012, despite using a slew of rookies and being besieged by injuries. Still, if Edsall can’t produce six wins and a bowl berth, he could have a hard time returning next year. After devolving into an infirmary, the quarterback situation figures to be far more stable, and all of those wide-eyed kids are now a year older. Edsall has had two years to weed through the roster, bring in his own kids and change the culture in College Park. Now it’s time to start producing, especially with the much-anticipated move to the Big Ten on the horizon in 2014.
3. Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut
Fans scratched their heads after Pasqualoni was brought back to the Big East to succeed Randy Edsall. After back-to-back 5-7 seasons, those same fans are ready to pull their hair out.
Pasqualoni inherited a team that had just played in the Fiesta Bowl, garnering all kinds of national attention, and has promptly steered it in reverse. The Huskies finished in sixth place in the league in each of the new regime’s two years, failing to pull out the close games. Pasqualoni turns 64 this summer. If he can’t turn things around in a hurry, Connecticut would be delusional to bring back for a fourth year a coach whose peak in the profession more than a decade ago is getting smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror.
2. Mack Brown, Texas
How much longer will the Longhorns accept the relative mediocrity that’s gripped the program since the 2005 BCS National Championship win over USC?
Yeah, most other schools would beg, borrow and steal for Texas’ on-field production. But Texas is not most other schools. Over the last seven years, the well-heeled ‘Horns have won just a single Big 12 championship, which doesn’t cut it; nor does a 22-16 mark and back-to-back December bowl games over the last three seasons. Add in consecutive losses to rival Oklahoma by a combined score of 118-38, and you've got 40 acres worth of anxiety brewing in Austin. While Brown is very well-liked, especially by AD DeLoss Dodds, patience is running predictably thin. The coach will be 62 when the new season ensues, and suggestions that the game is passing him by will amplify if he can’t guide UT back up to the Big 12 mountaintop with a team welcoming back 19 starters.
1. Lane Kiffin, USC
From the opening kickoff later this month in Honolulu, Kiffin will firmly reside beneath college football’s microscope, the result of last year’s disastrous 7-6 campaign.
Yeah, AD Pat Haden dispatched a well-orchestrated video vote of confidence in July. Still, when you’re the head coach of the only program to ever descend from preseason AP No. 1 to unranked, job insecurity will follow you like a foul odor. Not only did Kiffin fail to capitalize on the return of QB Matt Barkley in 2012, but the spiraling trend at Troy continued on National Signing Day. Still smarting from scholarship reductions, the Trojans will need to find strength from somewhere, possibly new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast. Kiffin has the unmistakable look of a lame duck leader, which could make for some entertaining moments from one of the game’s quirkier characters.