- Analyzing the New Head
Coaches ... 2005
- Analyzing the New Head
Coaches ... 2006
More and more, head coaching at the college and pro levels is becoming a
young man’s domain. Gone are the days when a coach had to pay his dues
for two or three decades before landing his first solo gig. These days,
the hours needed to recruit, coach and break down film are so extensive
and so exhaustive that the 30 or 40-something with more gas in his tank
and tolerance for all-nighters appears to be a more logical fit.
Of this year’s 23 rookie head coaches alone, a whopping 17 have yet to
reach their 50th birthday and a handful, such as FIU’s Mario
Cristobal and Minnesota’s Tim Brewster, have never even held a
coordinator’s title. Youth has long been served between the lines, but
in increasing numbers, it’s beginning to dominate the sidelines as well.
Former Coach: Fisher DeBerry
Last Seen: Coaching quarterbacks and coordinating the Houston
The Skinny: By hiring the first former cadet to lead the team, Air
Force gets pulled into the 21st century by a young coach,
who’ll ditch DeBerry’s option attack, which became synonymous with the
academy, for a more balanced offense. By no means will he abandon the
running game, but gone may be the days when the Falcons pull up the rear
nationally in passing offense. Think Wake Forest, where he used to be
the Deacon offensive coordinator. A former quarterback and grad
assistant under DeBerry, Calhoun is in many ways the natural fit to take
the baton from a legendary coach that spent more than a quarter-century
in Colorado Springs.
Putting Out the Welcome Mat: WR Mark Root. Root, who averaged
nearly 20 yards on 16 receptions a year ago in a limited role, could see
his production double now that the Falcons will be throwing the ball
more than a dozen times a game.
Former Coach: Mike Shula
Coaching the Miami Dolphins
Forget for a moment how much Saban is getting paid or how his exit from
the Dolphins may have lacked tact. The bottom line is he can flat-out
coach. Saban is that rare individual that can elevate a program to
higher ground, which is precisely what the Tide was seeking once Shula
got the boot. He’s got the track record, especially in the rugged SEC,
as a defensive-minded coach that can recruit the heck out of a region.
Saban has what Alabama craves—championships. It took awhile, but ‘Bama
finally has a coach it believes can guide the Tide to a few titles of
Putting Out the Welcome Mat: AD Mal Moore. A beleaguered
punchline before finally landing Saban, the Alabama athletic director
absolutely, positively had to make this happen after fumbling the hiring
process for about a month after Shula was canned.
Having failed to reach expectations with the trendy young coach last
time on the carousel, the Sun Devils put their future in the hands of a
grizzled veteran with a proven track record. In the twilight of his
career, Erickson will attempt to put his stamp on Arizona State, much
the way he did in previous stints with Washington State, Miami and
Oregon State. At his core, he’s a Pac-10 guy, who’ll score big with
junior-college transfers, while featuring a wide-open passing attack
that fits the talent that gravitates to Tempe. Erickson has coached in
every current BCS bowl game, except the Rose Bowl. If he can awaken
this sleeping giant in the desert, that final leg of the quadruple crown
might be within reach.
Out the Welcome Mat:
QB Rudy Carpenter. After slogging through a horrible sophomore season,
the last thing Carpenter needed was a complete overhaul of the offensive
system. Erickson’s offense will differ from Koetter’s, but not so much
that the junior won’t have a chance to recapture the form that made him
a freshman star in 2005.
Head Coach: Stan
Former Coach: Bobby Ross
Coaching the Army offensive line
The Skinny: Army responded quickly to its vacancy, hiring Brock,
a long-time NFL offensive lineman and Ross disciple. Too quickly,
according to some former cadets, who are drawing parallels to the Todd
Berry debacle of eight years ago and would have liked to see a more
extensive search. Brock’s head coaching experience consists of stints
with the AFL’s Portland Forest Dragons and Los Angeles Avengers, so the
pressure to prove he’s worthy of the promotion may not go away for a
while. He’s an intense and respected individual at West Point, but has
his hands full at, by far, the weakest of the three service academies.
Putting Out the Welcome Mat: LT Brandon Cox. Cox emerged as one
of the Black Knights’ most consistent linemen a year ago, and still has
two seasons of eligibility remaining. Spending that time tapping into
Brock’s expertise will only enhance his development at tackle.
Former Coach: Tom O’Brien
Coordinating the Green Bay Packers offense
O’Brien, who dropped a bomb on Boston College last December, left the
program in far better shape than when he arrived, making him a tough act
to follow. Jagodzinski is a high-energy, emotional type with a desire
to open up the buttoned-down BC offense and not a lick of head coaching
experience. In other words, he’s the anti-O’Brien. He also was the
program’s offensive coordinator in 1997 and 1998, so there’s a degree of
familiarity on both sides. Jagodzinski inherits enough talent on both
sides of the ball to keep the good times rolling, but after a brief
honeymoon, he’ll be asked to elevate Boston College to a place where
December bowl games don’t quite cut it.
Putting Out the Welcome Mat: QB Matt Ryan. Jagodzinski is promising
to bring a dynamic, unpredictable offense to the Heights, which is sweet
music to Ryan, a gifted triggerman who’ll be positioning himself for the
2008 NFL Draft.
Former Coach: Brian Kelly
Coaching the West Virginia receivers
The Skinny: The rest of the college football world probably never
heard of Jones before a month ago, but to Central Michigan, he was an
old friend. Jones was an assistant with the Chippewas from 1998-2004,
leaving a lasting impression during his seven-year stint coaching the
offense in Mount Pleasant. His hire may seem to have come out of left
field, but in many ways, it was a natural fit. Jones has recruited the
state his entire career and was actually helped land some of the current
offensive players that helped the Chips to the 2006 MAC championship.
Now that Kelly has built Central Michigan into a winner, it’s the new
staff’s job to continue the momentum.
Putting Out the Welcome Mat: QB Dan LeFevour. Coming off a
brilliant freshman season, LeFevour gets reunited with the coach that
recruited him to Mount Pleasant two years ago. Jones is also no
stranger to a spread offense that has all the parts to hum again in
Former Coach: Mark Dantonio
Coaching Central Michigan
The Skinny: Kudos to the Cincinnati administration, which lost one
rising star of the coaching ranks and promptly replaced him with
another. Kelly is a proven winner, who last year guided an overlooked
Central Michigan team with a freshman quarterback to its first MAC title
in a dozen years. His offenses are exciting and his teams are always
competitive, which might actually resonate in a pro sports town the way
Rutgers captured New York City’s attention last fall. Dantonio helped
turn the Bearcats into winners in 2006. By hiring Kelly, the
administration ensured that trend is going to continue.
Putting Out the Welcome Mat: WR Dominick Goodman. If last year’s
International Bowl is any indication, Goodman has the size and
separation speed to blossom into an immediate star now that the
Dantonio’s conservative offense is about to be replaced by Kelly’s
Former Coach: Don Strock
Coaching the Miami offensive line
Florida International stayed true to its Miami roots, replacing a former
Dolphin quarterback with former Hurricane assistant and Miami native,
Cristobal. In becoming just the Golden Panthers’ second ever head
coach, he’ll also make history as the first Cuban-American to lead a I-A
team. FIU desperately needed the infusion of young blood at a program
that went 0-12 a year ago, averaged less than 10 points a game and was
best known for its role in a brawl with Miami. It’s going to take
plenty of time, but recruiting in talent-rich South Florida gives
Cristobal and the Panthers the potential to someday ascend to the top of
the Sun Belt.
Out the Welcome Mat:
QBs Bryan Mann and Colt Anderson. Cristobal and new offensive
coordinator James Coley will be looking to put their stamps on the
program, meaning one of these two incoming freshmen could get an early
chance to spark the feeble Panther offense.
Former Coach: Dennis Erickson
Coaching the defensive line and coordinating the Washington State
The Vandals last two coaches, Nick Holt and Dennis Erickson, bolted
Moscow for the Pac-10 long before the job was completed, so if Akey
sticks around for more than a couple of seasons, he might be hailed as a
local hero. He’s a defensive-minded coach with deep roots in the
region, however, he’ll run a single-back offense in an attempt to
recapture the glory days of Idaho, while keeping pace with the rest of
the high-powered WAC. In all three phases of the game, Akey expects his
new Vandal team to be on the offensive, rather than sitting back and
enduring the alternative.
Putting Out the Welcome Mat: DE Andre Ferguson. Akey had a knack
for developing impact pass-rushers in Pullman, and Ferguson is about to
become his next sackmaster coming off the edge. Ferguson needs to add
some muscle, but has the speed and athleticism of a Pac-10 player in a
Former Coach: Dan McCarney
Coaching linebackers and coordinating the Texas defense
One of the most coveted coordinators in the nation has finally landed
his first head coaching job. Chizik has gradually climbed the ladder,
bringing a winning attitude, a contagious energy and an attacking
defense to Central Florida, Auburn and most recently Texas. His last
two years in Austin have broadened his familiarity with the Big 12,
while his last five seasons as a coordinator have exposed him to a ton
of big game situations—the type of games the Cyclones expect to be
playing in within a couple of years now that they’ve joined forces with
one of the sport’s best defensive minds.
Putting Out the Welcome Mat: LB Alvin Bowen. Last year’s leading
tackler in the Big 12 has the range and quickness to wreak havoc behind
the line of scrimmage in Chizik’s new defensive system.
Former Coach: Jack Bicknell
Coaching the Miami Dolphins tight ends
Nick Saban’s longest-tenured assistant—seven years—has broken from his
mentor, making the improbable and meteoric rise to a head coaching
position, despite never even holding a coordinator’s title. The son of
legendary Georgia head coach Vince Dooley, he has the pedigree and the
patience, but whether he can steer Tech to becoming a poor-man’s Boise
State in the WAC will depend on whether he can attract the right players
to Ruston. If first impressions count for anything, Dooley’s off to a
nice start, compiling a solid first recruiting class that didn’t rely so
much on junior-college transfers as Bicknell did in the past.
Putting Out the Welcome Mat: WR Josh Wheeler. A former receiver
himself, Dooley has done his best work over the years tutoring
pass-catchers. He’s got a good one in the 6-4 Wheeler, who averaged 20
yards a catch his sophomore year and is poised for a promotion now that
Eric Newman and Johnathan Holland have graduated.
Former Coach: Bobby Petrino
Louisville AD Tom Jurich wasted very little time responding to Petrino’s
sudden departure to the NFL, landing one of the top young coaches at the
college level. Kragthorpe’s success at Tulsa and impeccable reputation
in coaching circles put him on just about every athletic director’s wish
list the last couple of Decembers. He’s very sharp, well-respected by
his players and capable of maintaining the Cards’ current trend toward
becoming a perennial national factor. Kragthorpe is especially adept at
coaching up quarterbacks, a real nice marriage, considering the caliber
of players Louisville historically attracts at the position.
Putting Out the Welcome Mat: RB Anthony Allen. Kragthorpe’s
hardly a prude when it comes to offense, but he’ll preach a little more
balance than Petrino did, which will accelerate Allen’s inevitable drive
toward becoming a really good Big East back.
Former Coach: Larry Coker
Coordinating the Miami defense
Miami searched far and wide for its next head man, failed to attract a
taker and ended up tabbing one of the coaches from the exiled Coker’s
staff. Shannon is eminently qualified as a defensive coordinator and
knows the high school landscape about as well as anyone in South
Florida. His defense will continue to be just fine, but if he’s going
to light a fire under a wobbling ‘Cane program, the offense absolutely
must start doing its part to restore the pride. Shannon’s first really
big decision was the hiring of Patrick Nix away from Georgia Tech to be
his offensive coordinator. If Nix can ignite Kyle Wright and the
offense, Shannon has a chance to win the ACC in his debut season on the
Putting Out the Welcome Mat: The entire Hurricane defense. This
unit is very fond of Shannon, knows his schemes inside and out and is
thrilled he got the promotion. It’ll repay the man it respects so much
by being one of the stingiest defenses of the upcoming season.
Former Coach: John L. Smith
After proving himself as a head coach in the Big East, Dantonio returns
to his Big Ten roots, where he was a former assistant with both Michigan
State and Ohio State. He’ll bring an old school philosophy to the
Spartans that includes a tough running game, an even tougher defense and
all the charm of Bill Belichick. In other words, the fullback will once
be in vogue in East Lansing. Dantonio’s teams are often disciplined,
well-coached and short on mental mistakes, which is in stark contrast to
the last few squads, which were wrought with sloppiness and penalties.
Putting Out the Welcome Mat: RBs Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick.
QB Brian Hoyer will certainly have a chance to show off his arm, but
Dantonio wants to establish a toughness between the tackles and a back
that can be a workhorse. If Ringer’s knee is healthy, his flash and
Caulcrick’s power could give Dantonio the ground attack he’s seeking.
Former Coach: Glen Mason
Coaching Denver Broncos tight ends
No experience as a head coach or as a coordinator was obviously no
problem for the Gopher administration, which pulled a shocker when it
canned Mason after last year’s Insight Bowl collapse to Texas Tech.
Brewster brings a new energy to a program that’s struggled to ascend
beyond mediocrity and a reputation in stints with North Carolina and
Texas as a crackerjack recruiter. The hiring of spread guru Mike Dunbar
should mean more offensive diversity out of Minnesota, but don’t expect
it to completely abandon a power running game, which has been a staple
of the attack for years.
Putting Out the Welcome Mat: TE Jack Simmons. Brewster’s the guy
that helped turn Antonio Gates into a star with the San Diego Chargers,
which bodes real well for Simmons, the heir apparent to Matt Spaeth and
a tight end with substantial upside.
Former Coach: John Bunting
Coaching the Cleveland Browns
Of the 23 new-hires this off-season, there’s a good chance that five
years from now, Davis will be viewed as the best pick-up of 2006. Ever
since Mack Brown left Chapel Hill for Austin, the Tar Heels have been
seeking someone that could get the most out of a school that has fine
facilities and a terrific recruiting base. Davis could be that man.
Particularly from his days with Miami, he’s earned a reputation as a
program builder and a teacher, whose teams are designed to be fast,
aggressive and especially sound on special teams. He hasn’t even
coached his first game for North Carolina, yet Davis already has a head
of steam, thanks to a killer recruiting class that has the locals
Putting Out the Welcome Mat: The entire community. Provided he
sticks around for a long-term marriage, Davis is the type of coach that
can quickly elevate the Heels to the top of a wide-open ACC, while
making football important again on Tobacco Road.
Former Coach: Chuck Amato
Coaching Boston College
For much of his seven years with the Pack, Amato was all sizzle and
little steak. During his decade at Boston College, O’Brien was no
sizzle and all steak, guiding the Eagles to six straight season of at
least eight victories and a bowl win. He’s the kind of no-nonsense
disciplinarian that can take all that talent that annually gravitates to
Raleigh, and transform it into a winning product on the field. Folks
around the program may not enjoy O’Brien’s press conferences or the pace
of his offense, but they’re going to enjoy the improved results.
Putting Out the Welcome Mat: RBs Andre Brown and Toney Brown.
O’Brien loves to establish the run, preferably with physical backs that
can move the chains between the tackles. Brown and Baker are 230-pound
horses that should flourish in the new staff’s system.
Former Coach: Darrell Dickey
Coaching Southlake Carroll (Tex.) High School
In an effort to revive a program that’s slipped badly the last few
years, the Mean Green took a rare dip into the high school ranks,
landing a legendary coach. Dodge, a former Longhorn quarterback and
North Texas offensive coordinator, won a mind-boggling 79 of his last 80
games and four state championships since 2002 behind a four-receiver,
no-huddle offense that was virtually unstoppable. Can it work in the
Sun Belt against college athletes? Time will tell, but one undeniable
fact is that Dodge is a rock star in these parts, which means recruits
are going to pay attention and boosters are going to pay whatever is
necessary to improve the program’s facilities.
Putting Out the Welcome Mat: QB Giovanni Vizza. If there’s one
thing that Dodge really knows is how to raise a quarterback. Vizza is
his first quarterback recruit, de-committing from Nevada to play “Dodge
Ball” for the Mean Green.
Former Coach: Todd Graham
Coaching Texas State
Bobby Petrino’s decision to leave Louisville for the NFL created a
domino effect that reached all the way to Houston. The Cardinals
replaced Petrino with Tulsa’s Steve Kragthorpe. The Golden Hurricane
brought Todd Graham back to Tulsa. And Rice was left without the rookie
coach that led the program to its first bowl game in 45 years. The Owls
responded by hiring Bailiff, who brought I-AA Texas State to its first
Southland Conference championship in 2005 and was 21-15 in three seasons
with the Bobcats. He’s a defensive specialist, who’ll employ a 4-2-5
look and be asked to carry on the momentum that Graham created in 2006.
Putting Out the Welcome Mat: QB Chase Clement. Bailiff and new
offensive coordinator Tom Herman plan to stay with the same one-back,
spread look that made Clement into a statistical star whenever he was
healthy during last year’s sophomore season.
Former Coach: Walt Harris
Coaching University of San Diego
With just three years of coaching experience at a I-AA school that
doesn’t offer scholarships, Harbaugh is already heading up a Pac-10
program. He brought the Toreros to unprecedented success, winning 11
games in each of the last two seasons behind a high-octane passing
attack. However, turning around a Stanford program that hit rock bottom
a year ago is going to be infinitely more challenging. Harbaugh is a
charismatic individual from a coaching family, which will help with the
Cardinal, but those rigid Stanford academic requirements have been the
downfall of far more experienced head coaches.
Putting Out the Welcome Mat: QB T.C. Ostrander. If Harbaugh can
do with Ostrander what he did with future pro Josh Johnson, he could be
in store for a huge final season on the Farm, particularly with
receivers Mark Bradford and Evan Moore back for one more year.
Former Coach: Chris Scelfo
Coaching quarterbacks and coordinating the New Mexico offense
At the age of 60, Toledo was looking for another shot to be a head
coach. Tulane afforded him that opportunity, luring him from New Mexico
after just one year with the Lobos. A very curious choice on many
levels, however, once he gets the right personnel in place, Toledo’s
passing attacks can be real fan-friendly, a plus for a program looking
to rebuild the fan base in a post-Katrina world. Best known for his
stint at UCLA from 1996-2002, he led the Bruins to a Pac-10 title in
1998, but never approached those heights in his final four disappointing
Putting Out the Welcome Mat: WR Jeremy Williams. Say one thing
about Toledo, he sure can rev up a passing game. After catching 40
passes for 484 yards as a freshman in 2006, Williams figures to be one
of the primary beneficiaries of an attack that’ll remain committed to
Former Coach: Steve Kragthorpe
Tulsa absolutely hated losing Graham to Rice a year ago, so when Steve
Kragthorpe left for Louisville, the Golden Hurricane immediately pounced
to get him back to the program. As the defensive coordinator from
2003-2005, he was an underrated, yet huge, part of the program’s
turnaround, plus the fact that he recruited and coached many current
players makes for an amazingly smooth transition. Even better, Tulsa
gets back a souped-up version of Graham, who was Conference USA Coach of
the Year in 2006 after miraculously leading the Owls to their first bowl
game since 1961.
Putting Out the Welcome Mat: The Golden Hurricane defense. Just
about every one of the players on this year’s two-deep already knows the
new head coach and his 3-3-5 odd stack defense, an unheard of luxury
when there’s a change of coaching staffs.
Former Coach: Watson Brown
Coaching the offensive line and coordinating the Georgia offense
From top to bottom, the 2007 UAB team will look nothing like the one
that sputtered to an injury-riddled 3-9 season a year ago. Along with
the entirely new staff, more than two dozen seniors have graduated,
meaning Callaway has walked right into a rebuilding project in
Birmingham. He brings a ton of big-game experience and a whopping 11
SEC championships as a coach and a former Alabama player. Callaway’s
offense will be balanced and dictated by his personnel, while the
defense will strive to bring pressure as much as is feasible possible.
Putting Out the Welcome Mat: RB Aaron Johns. Callaway isn’t done
coaching SEC kids after all. Johns, a former Alabama back