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2008 Spring Preview - The New Star Coaches
Boston College head coach Jeff Jagodzinski
Boston College head coach Jeff Jagodzinski
Posted Mar 4, 2008

Who are the coaches on the verge of stardom? Which five non-BCS head men are about to go big-time? Which five BCS coaches are about to become superstars? Along with Boston College's Jeff Jagodzinski, these are college football's new wave of top guns.


Spring Preview 2008

The 20 Big Questions - No. 10

By Pete Fiutak 

- The 2008 Big Spring Questions  
No. 20 - Top 40 Non-Conference Games
No. 16-19 - BCS Busters, Rule Changes & More
No. 15 - Ranking the Conferences
No. 14 - Who Could Be This Year's Kansas?
(breaking through big after a bad year)
No. 13 - 5 Teams That Could Tumble

No. 12 - Who Could Be This Year's Missouri?
(going from good to special)
No. 11 - Ten Coaches Who Need Big Seasons

10. Ten coaches on the verge of being superstars

Five Non-BCS Head Coaches Who Will Soon Be Off To Bigger Things

5. Todd Dodge, North Texas
A Texas high school coaching legend, or at least as much of one as a coach can be after being at a place for six years and winning a few national titles, the former Southlake Carroll head man and Texas quarterback is about to make North Texas explode. Oh sure, his first season wasn't exactly productive, leading North Texas to a 2-10 record complete with a loss to lowly Florida International, but the seeds were planted for what should be one of the most exciting passing attacks in the country. He's the ultimate quarterback coach with three of his Carroll passers, including Missouri's Chase Daniel, ranking among the six most productive quarterbacks in Texas high school history, and he's about to do the same for the Mean Green. It'll take two more years in Denton before he's ready to move on.
The Next Logical Step: Oklahoma offensive coordinator

4. Al Golden, Temple
Golden is doing the impossible in taking Temple from non-existence to respectability in just two years. Talk all you want about what Greg Schiano did at Rutgers as a top east coast reclamation project, but he had a Big East team to recruit for. Golden took over a program coming off a winless season and booted by the Big East, a conference that had a hard time hanging on to its star teams. All he's done is come up with two straight excellent recruiting classes to put the Owls on the verge of being a real, live MAC power. Turning 39 this summer, he might need one more head coaching gig at a mid-level BCS program, sort of like Brian Kelly going from Central Michigan to Cincinnati, before getting his shot at a big-time gig. However, considering where he played his college ball as a tight end ...
The Next Logical Step: Penn State assistant coach with the succession plan making him the head man when Joe Paterno retires in 2010

3. Troy Calhoun, Air Force
Remember when Air Force was just an also-ran of a football program? After going stale under Fisher DeBerry, it seemed like the time had come and gone when the Falcons could run their quirky offense and scare the heck out of everyone. Recruiting limitations appeared to have caught up to the program, as DeBerry pointed out so tastelessly, and then came Calhoun and his breakthrough 9-4 season. With his NFL background, the meteoric rise isn't going to end in Colorado Springs. An Air Force graduate, he'll be sure to stick around for a few more seasons, but you don't rise as quickly as he did without planning for something big coming just around the corner. He won't leave for an assistant NFL job at this point, and with a few more good seasons, he'll have his choice of decent BCS jobs.
The Next Logical Step: A mid-level ACC program, like Virginia

2. Todd Graham, Tulsa
The former defensive back started out as a hot defensive assistant, including two years at West Virginia, and now, strangely enough, his teams have struggled defensively and been unstoppable offensively. After one year at Rice, he bailed to take over the Tulsa job from Steve Kragthorpe, who left for Louisville, and helped the Golden Hurricane finish first in the nation in total offense. Fine, so offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and QB Paul Smith had a lot to do with that, but that doesn't mean Graham isn't growing into a hot name.
The Next Logical Step: West Virginia head coach in two years ... with Malzahn along for the ride

1. Bronco Mendenhall, BYU
There's a chance he might stick around Provo and not be off elsewhere, he's a true believer in the BYU program, but if he keeps up what he's been doing over the past few years, he might get an offer he can't refuse. He was all about restoring the pride to the program, and he's done that and then some going 28-10 with two straight 11-2, Mountain West-title seasons. A former Oregon State defensive back, would taking over for Mike Riley be a big enough move coming from BYU? Probably not, but for a coach who's fantastic at respecting traditions and making one-time powerhouses great again, he might be a natural for a name Pac 10 program like ...
The Next Logical Step: Washington head football coach

Five BCS Coaches Who Are About To Be Really, Really Big

5. Jim Harbaugh, Stanford
No offense to one of the nation's best and most beautiful universities, but if you're a relatively young head football coach (44), you don't stick around Stanford any longer than you have to. It's just too tough to be a consistent winner there. He cut his teeth at the University of San Diego leading the Toreros to two straight 11-1 seasons and a 29-6 record overall, and then he went off to The Farm where he went 4-8, but beat USC at USC. It seemed like he would've been a natural to take over for Lloyd Carr at Michigan, but he dogged the school's academic requirements when it came to football players and that ended that. There might be too much potential for controversy surrounding him for some schools, but not for a maverick football team. The guy can coach, so considering JaMarcus Russell needs a mentor ...
The Next Logical Step: Oakland Raiders head football coach

4. Will Muschamp, defensive coordinator, Texas
Think Bret Bielema with a track record. Don't get used to the new Texas defensive coordinator; he's just a rental. One of the hottest young names in coaching, Muschamp moved from Auburn to Austin to improve a defense that's been full of talent, but short on production, especially in the secondary. With a national title on his résumé as LSU's defensive coordinator in 2003, if he can be the difference maker for a talented Longhorn team looking to break Oklahoma's two season Big 12 title streak, he'll be off to someone's head coach unless Texas can come up with a succession plan.
The Next Logical Step: Tennessee head football coach

3. Brian Kelly, Cincinnati
Steve Kragthrorpe's hiring at Louisville made most of the Big East headlines, while Brian Kelly's move from Central Michigan to Cincinnati barely registered a blip. Who cared about the Bearcats when the Cardinals were coming off an Orange Bowl win? As it turns out, Kelly is a special offensive mind leading UC to a 10-3 record with an attack that averaged 36.31 points per game. Really, how many out there really thought Ben Mauk was going to be a dominant quarterback? Credit Kelly for that, and for taking Mark Dantonio's team to another level. Now, if he can keep the momentum going for another year or so, the bigger names will come calling. But first, he'll probably make Cincinnati the new Louisville.
The Next Logical Step: Penn State head football coach

2. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
After helping make the Ohio State defense rock and turning around Cincinnati, the former South Carolina Gamecock did the near impossible and took the flake out of Michigan State. He still has plenty of work to do, and he has to recruit well enough to get the Spartans over the hump and into Big Ten title contention, but if his first season was any indication, this will be a program to be feared. He has already established a nasty running game and a decent defense, and if he can take his team from 7-6 to, say, nine wins with a victory over Michigan, he'll quickly become a college football household name.
The Next Logical Step: Staying at Michigan State and making it a consistent power, but the South Carolina job could be interesting in a few years

1. Jeff Jagodzinski, Boston College
A player's coach who can actually coach, Coach Jags has had a strong two seasons to put on the résumé as the Green Bay Packer offensive coordinator in 2006 before becoming the coach who helped cement Matt Ryan as a top NFL prospect in a tremendous 11-3 campaign. With his NFL experience, he might seem like a natural to bolt to the big league at the first possible opportunity, but he might take a cue from Pete Carroll and realize that his style of coaching might be better suited for the college ranks. If he can keep cranking out ten-win seasons, is Boston College going to be big enough for him? Considering he has five kids and might not want to move them, he'll probably want to stick around for a while. In a big market like Boston, and with the personality that TV will eat up, he can become a large college football presence in a big hurry.
The Next Logical Step: Boston College head football coach for the next ten years