Analyzing the New Head Coaches ... 2007
Posted Feb 15, 2007

There are 23 new head coaches going into the 2007 season. 23 big changes and programs going into new directions. Richard Cirminiello breaks down and analyzes the coaches, like Nick Saban at Alabama, and what they bring to the table.

By Richard Cirminiello 
- 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.    

Air Force
Head Coach
: Troy Calhoun
Former Coach: Fisher DeBerry
Last Seen: Coaching quarterbacks and coordinating the Houston Texans offense
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.        

Head Coach
: Nick Saban
Former Coach: Mike Shula 
Last Seen: Coaching the Miami Dolphins   
The Skinny: 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 its own.
 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.

Arizona State

Head Coach
: Dennis Erickson
Former Coach: Dirk Koetter
Last Seen: Coaching Idaho
The Skinny: 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.
Putting 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 Brock
Former Coach: Bobby Ross
Last Seen
: 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.  

Boston College
Head Coach
: Jeff Jagodzinski
Former Coach: Tom O’Brien
Last Seen: Coordinating the Green Bay Packers offense
The Skinny: 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.     

Central Michigan
Head Coach
: Butch Jones
Former Coach: Brian Kelly
Last Seen: 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 2007.


Head Coach
: Brian Kelly
Former Coach: Mark Dantonio
Last Seen: 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 spread.

Florida International
Head Coach
: Mario Cristobal
Former Coach: Don Strock
Last Seen: Coaching the Miami offensive line
The Skinny: 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.
Putting 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.

Head Coach
: Robb Akey
Former Coach: Dennis Erickson 
Last Seen: Coaching the defensive line and coordinating the Washington State defense
The Skinny: 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 WAC jersey.

Iowa State
Head Coach
: Gene Chizik
Former Coach: Dan McCarney
Last Seen: Coaching linebackers and coordinating the Texas defense
The Skinny: 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.

Louisiana Tech
Head Coach
: Derek Dooley
Former Coach: Jack Bicknell
Last Seen: Coaching the Miami Dolphins tight ends
The Skinny: 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.

Head Coach
: Steve Kragthorpe
Former Coach: Bobby Petrino
Last Seen: Coaching Tulsa
The Skinny: 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.

Head Coach
: Randy Shannon
Former Coach: Larry Coker
Last Seen: Coordinating the Miami defense
The Skinny: 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 sidelines.
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.

Michigan State
Head Coach
: Mark Dantonio
Former Coach: John L. Smith
Last Seen: Coaching Cincinnati
The Skinny: 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.

Head Coach
: Tim Brewster
Former Coach: Glen Mason
Last Seen: Coaching Denver Broncos tight ends
The Skinny: 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.

North Carolina
Head Coach
: Butch Davis
Former Coach: John Bunting
Last Seen: Coaching the Cleveland Browns
The Skinny: 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 buzzing.
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.

N.C. State
Head Coach
: Tom O’Brien
Former Coach: Chuck Amato
Last Seen: Coaching Boston College
The Skinny: 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.

North Texas
Head Coach
: Todd Dodge
Former Coach: Darrell Dickey
Last Seen: Coaching Southlake Carroll (Tex.) High School
The Skinny: 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.

Head Coach
: David Bailiff
Former Coach: Todd Graham
Last Seen: Coaching Texas State
The Skinny: 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.

Head Coach
: Jim Harbaugh
Former Coach: Walt Harris
Last Seen: Coaching University of San Diego
The Skinny: 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.

Head Coach
: Bob Toledo
Former Coach: Chris Scelfo
Last Seen: Coaching quarterbacks and coordinating the New Mexico offense
The Skinny: 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 years.
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 the air.

Head Coach
: Todd Graham
Former Coach: Steve Kragthorpe

Last Seen: Coaching Rice
The Skinny: 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.

Head Coach
: Neil Callaway
Former Coach: Watson Brown
Last Seen: Coaching the offensive line and coordinating the Georgia offense
The Skinny: 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