6/4 Roundtable - Who Does Most With The Least
Navy LB Clint Sovie
Navy LB Clint Sovie
Posted Jun 3, 2009

Which program perennially does the most with less? It's the Thursday topic in the CFN Daily Roundtable Discussion.

CFN Daily Roundtables

June 4

Which Program Does The Most With The Least?

Over the next several weeks, as part of the CFN 2009 Preview, we'll examine some of the key questions going into the year with a daily discussion of the big topics.

Past Roundtables
June 3 The star players of September
June 2 The star teams of September
June 1 The coach you'd want for one game
May 28 Should the Big Ten expand, and if so, then what team should be added?
May 27 Should the Pac 10 expand? If so, then what two teams should be added?
May 26 Chizik, Kiffin or Mullen?
May 25 Heisman race sleepers 
May 22 2009's most interesting teams

May 21 Is Tebow the best QB ever?
May 20 When should preseason polls come out?
May 19 Does 2008 Utah have a beef?
May 18 No BCS, No Weis?

Pete Fiutak, CFN

Yes, I'm part of the problem. You can check me out at twitter.com/CFN_Fiu and find out future roundtable topics and other random musings.

Q: Which program perennially does the most with less?

And it's not even close. No one, no one, comes close to doing more with less than Navy and Air Force. Army has struggled, so it doesn't get thrown under the umbrella of military teams.

It takes a different type of player to go to those schools and play for those teams, and because discipline is part of the being at Air Force or Navy, running the style of offenses they run is possible with less talented players. The defenses tend to get by on want-to and motor. When have you ever seen a game played by one of the service academies when there wasn't 100% all-out effort?

Because of the military precision involved in running the Air Force and Navy attacks over and over and over again, it's almost impossible for most teams to adequately come up with the right simulation in practice to prepare for them. But talent-wise, if you put these players in another system or on another team with a different style, they'd struggle.

Air Force tends to get a higher caliber of player than Navy, but it's not like the NFL is waiting for the Falcon players to get through their commitments. Overall, these two teams don't have a ton of players who'd start for most non-BCS teams and they're picking from such a narrow field of recruit that it's impossible to bring in players like other teams do. Even so, they go to bowls year after year after year.

As far as the non-military teams, Boise State does the most with the least among of talent among the non-BCS schools, but that's changing. Now the program is sending players off to the NFL on a regular basis, but that's a very recent development. Mostly, the program, coaching, and system has been so strong that it's been a model environment for others to follow. Among the BCS teams, West Virginia has done big-time things without a lot of big-time talent. Of course there have been a few guys here and there, like Pat White, Steve Slaton, and Pacman Jones, who have next-level ability, but for the most part, the Mountaineers do a great job of developing players for the system and get the most out of them. Do you see West Virginia in the top ten in the recruiting rankings? Right.

Others I'd throw in the mix of doing the most with the least are Hawaii, Oregon State, Wake Forest, and Tulsa.

Richard Cirminiello, CFN

Q: Which program perennially does the most with less?

I’m going to cheat a little and mention three schools because they deserve all of the attention that we can heap on them. Success in college football—or any amateur sport—is all about player development, and no one does a better job of turning average high school players into NFL-caliber stock than the staffs of these programs.

3. Wake Forest – Plain and simple, Jim Grobe is a genius. Most people don’t know that because he coaches at an ACC basketball school. He inherited a sinking ship, and after a few years, has produced a string of bowl games, a league championship, and the best three-year stretch of wins and NFL Draft picks in school history. The Demon Deacons are not attracting killer classes, but it sure seems that way when Aaron Curry and Alphonso Smith are two of the first 37 players selected in April.

2. Connecticut – Connecticut in football? Really? Over the last decade, Randy Edsall has turned dust into gold in Storrs, taking a lower-division program and making it competitive in the Big East. Despite having one of the worst recruiting bases in the FCS, the Huskies have won 17 games over the last two years, while becoming an improbable pipeline to the NFL. A few years back, there was only modest interest in players, like Cody Brown, Will Beatty, Donald Brown, and Darius Butler. Today, they’re all first-day NFL picks, a product of the teaching being done by Edsall and his underrated assistants.

1. Oregon State – Dennis Erickson may have started the fire earlier in the decade, but Mike Riley has kept it going, and even made it burn hotter. Although we’ve gotten used to it, the Beavers have no business going to six bowl games in seven years, but that’s exactly what they’ve done. UCLA, Arizona State, and Washington attract better talent out of high school, yet haven’t been able to match that level of consistency because they haven’t been nearly as successful in player development. Over the last five years, the Beavs’ recruiting classes have been largely mediocre, yet the final product always seems to exceed expectations..

Matthew Zemek, CFN

Q: Which program perennially does the most with less?

Tie, Texas Tech and Navy.

Mike Leach routinely cobbles together nine-win seasons (more or less) with many recruits ignored by Texas and Oklahoma. In a certain sense, it was unfortunate that it took last year's (unfairly) BCS-deprived squad to give the Red Raiders true national notice. Tech will have a hard time overcoming Mr. McCoy and Mr. Bradford this season, but that shouldn't (and won't) take away from anything the '09 Red Raiders achieve between the white lines. Navy isn't competing for Big 12 South titles or BCS bowls, but within their own sphere of competition, the Midshipmen have been simply remarkable ever since Paul Johnson came to Annapolis at the beginning of this decade, with Ken Niumatalolo maintaining a winning tradition last year in his rookie go-round as head coach. With guile and style, will and skill, smarts and hearts, and those other brothers called pluck and luck (every overachieving program needs those ingredients as well), Navy football has maxed out for six years running. It's an amazing stretch of excellence for a once-moribund program that has owned the Commander-in-Chief Trophy in acutely authoritative fashion.

Jon Miller, Publisher, HawkeyeNation.com

Q: Which program perennially does the most with less?

Perennial is a slippery word in this context, because it’s going to come down to how an individual defines it. Five years? Ten years? I will go the last five to ten years and one school jumps out at me right away; I like what Texas Tech has done in the Mike Leach era, competing for players in a state where they are at least fourth fiddle, as Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma are going to get the best of the best players year in and year out. Yet, there are a lot of football players in that state. Leach has done a fantastic job of getting to the post season, and then you had the dream regular season of 2008. They have had the 17th best winning percentage in college football since 2001, and most of the teams ranked higher than them in this category are blue bloods of the college game or teams outside of BCS leagues.

I would also throw Boston College into this mix; they have the 13th best winning percentage in college football during the same time frame. In fact, if I had to pick just one school during this time frame, the numbers say it would be Boston College. Their recruiting classes are ranked lower than Texas Tech’s. I would also add Louisville, Iowa (two Big Ten titles since 2002), Wisconsin and Maryland to this mix, during the same time frame. None of these schools has a year in, year out, Top 25 recruiting class.

Hunter Ansley, Publisher, DraftZoo.com

Q: Which program perennially does the most with less?

Wake Forest and Jim Grobe definitely get a nice nod in the category, and it’s hard to find fault with what he’s been able to do in Winston-Salem. But even though Grobe owns a conference title, the Demon Deacons haven’t been as consistent as Oregon State. Corvallis is not a recruiting Mecca. And while people will point to Jacquizz Rodgers’ success as evidence of solid talent evaluation, he wasn’t exactly a big time name coming out of high school. Mike Riley has beaten USC the last two times the Trojans have visited – something no other team can claim. And if you don’t believe that there’s a huge talent gap between the two programs, then you ought to book an appointment with Dr. Phil. Oregon State has become the poster child for beating “better” opponents. Even during Riley’s three-year hiatus, the Beavers proved their mettle. Their woodshedding of Notre Dame in the 2001 Fiesta Bowl was apparently a sign of things to come. Over the last three seasons they’ve beaten third-ranked USC, 18th-ranked Oregon and a top ranked Trojans team last year. Not bad for the guys who suffered through 28 consecutive losing seasons .