Blog Entry

Tuesday Top 10: Best coaching jobs of 2011

Posted on: November 29, 2011 12:04 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 12:51 pm

As we get close to the end of the regular season, it's time to get into our year-end awards. This week's Top 10: the best coaching jobs of 2011.

1. Bill Snyder, K-State: If the Wildcats beat Iowa State at home, they'll finish 10-2, which would be remarkable given there were such modest expectations for this team every place outside the KSU football complex. K-State was, after all, predicted to finish eighth in the 10-team Big 12 before the season began. Snyder's team had only two starters back on the O-line and uncertainty at QB, yet here they are in the Top 15. The Cats have had an absurd number of tight games and they've won a head-turning amount, going 7-1 in games decided by seven points or less. Before this year, the KSU program hadn't won more than seven games since 2003 when Snyder led them to an 11-3 record.

2. Les Miles, LSU: Yeah, I know his team may have more talent than any other squad in the country. But to make it through a season without a stumble, especially one with as many formidable opponents as they had is very, very impressive. Nothing seems to deter this guy or his damnfineteam. Lose the best defensive player in college football (Patrick Peterson)? No worries. Suspensions to key players? No big deal. Hostile road environments? No problem. Potential QB controversy? Who cares? The Tigers are steam-rolling their way to the BCS title game. They faced seven teams that were ranked in the top 25 when they played -- and only two of those games were in Baton Rouge -- and they won all seven with an averaging victory margin of 19 ppg.

Fans, you can voice your opinion for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year by voting HERE

3. Kevin Sumlin, Houston: This is the hottest coach in the country with a bunch of intriguing jobs coming open. Sumlin should be their first call. He has done a terrific job elevating this program. The Cougars, who only had 12 starters back, are 12-0 and in the top 10. He has made some brilliant coaching hires that are paying off in a big way on both sides of the ball. They are averaging over 53 ppg, but also are playing pretty solid defense, ranking No. 30 in scoring D and No. 3 in TFLs. The knock (because there almost always has to be some knock) is their schedule featured no ranked opponents, but the Cougars could only play who was on their schedule, and no one has been able to catch them.

4. Hugh Freeze, Arkansas State: On the eve of this season, a member of Freeze's staff predicted this team would win the Sun Belt. Bold talk for a program that went 4-8 last year and hadn't had a winning season since 1995. The Red Wolves also only returned one starting O-lineman. But the assistant, D-line coach Chris Kiffin, had that much confidence in Freeze and what he was doing there. Monte Kiffin's younger son knew what he was talking about. ASU is 9-2 and 7-0 in Sun Belt play and Freeze's name is hot. He's either going to be the next head coach at Ole Miss, Southern Miss or Memphis. This is good offensive team and also only one of two squads that kept Va. Tech's great David Wilson under 5.0 yards per carry or under the 100-yard mark this season.

5. James Franklin, Vandy: I wrote in more detail about the transformation job the first-year head coach has done in Nashville in the Big Picture Sunday. In a nutshell, here's his case: A program that had won two games each of the past two years and then loses its best player to injury before the season (Warren Norman) yet still finds a way to go 6-6 in the SEC, and came very close to going 10-2. They lost games against Arkansas, Georgia, and at Florida and at Tennessee by a combined 19 points. If the Commodores win two of those, Franklin's No. 1 on this list.

6. Brady Hoke, Michigan: The Wolverines finally beat Ohio State after almost a 3,000-day stretch, and they won 10 games this season. Hoke deserves plenty of credit, although he did inherit a good situation with an explosive offense led by a dynamic QB and an experienced O-line. The biggest change came on defense where the Wolverines were lacking. His hire of Greg Mattison as DC is why Hoke's on this list. Mattison sparked a metamorphosis in this bunch, taking a unit that was No. 108 in scoring defense last season and turning it into the No. 9 D in the nation.

7. Willie Taggart, WKU: The former Jim Harbaugh assistant has transformed arguably the worst program in FBS to a respectable one this season. WKU, which had gone 4-32 the previous three years, looked like it was headed for more misery after the first month of the 2011 season. The Hilltoppers opened 0-4, even getting blown out by an average FCS team, Indiana State. But then they got rolling, winning seven of their last eight, which included wins over ULL and FIU, a couple of 8-4 teams.

8. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State: A cult hero for his locker room speeches, Rhoads is emerging as a hot commodity, thanks in large part to his ability to contain potent offenses in big games and pull huge upsets. He was the architect behind the Pitt Panthers' stunning upset as a four-TD underdog of WVU when the Mountaineers were on the cusp of going to the BCS title game a few years ago. Earlier this month Rhoads' team did something similar by sparking the victory of another four-TD fav, Oklahoma State. In reality, it's a stunner this team is even bowl eligible if you asked Vegas experts before the season. Almost as impressive is his team's 5-0 record in games decided by six points or less.

9. Lane Kiffin, USC: At the mid-year point of this season, the people in Kiffin's corner seemed to be dwindling. The Trojans had looked shaky against some lowly opponents (Minnesota, Syracuse and Arizona) and got blown out at ASU. A road trip to Notre Dame was coming. ND played it up big. Outsiders talked about how Brian Kelly would out-coach Kiffin and the Irish would maul the Trojans. The opposite happened. Despite the shadow of the NCAA sanctions and no post-season bowl hopes, USC's been rolling ever since, picking up momentum. They ended Oregon's 21-game home winning streak, which had been the longest in the country. The Trojans finished the season hammering UCLA 50-0, meaning they beat their two archrivals by a combined score of 81-17.

10. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina: I was close to putting UVA's Mike London in this spot but opted for Spurrier, who led the school to only its second 10-win season in Gamecocks history, despite losing his most valuable player, RB Marcus Lattimore early in the season, and on top of that had issues with his starting QB Stephen Garcia.


Since: Jun 5, 2011
Posted on: November 30, 2011 2:01 pm

Actually, RR's offensive "scheme" did work...

The last three years, Rich Rod had to rebuild a roster that Lloyd Carr gutted out of spite on his way out the door.  A majority of the starters were underclassmen, producing a "boys vs men" scenario.  Despite that, Michigan's offense was very highly ranked last year.  This year, finally, Rich Rod would have had an experienced returning starter and a lineup that had a majority of upperclassmen.  
Brady Hoke has done a great job, but Rich Rod would have done the same job simply by hiring a decent DC and delegating the job to him.  Lloyd Carr led many Michigan alums to "freeze out" Rich Rod, and Mattison would never have returned to coach for Rich Rod.  So, this year, the offense would have been better, but the defense would have been worse.  Due to a down year in the Big Ten, Rich Rod still could have won ten games, but the scores would have been a lot higher.  
As for Hoke, he showed that he is a great leader.  More importantly, he showed that he is a great delegator.  He was smart enough to leave offense to the "mad scientist," Al Borges.  Borges did a great balancing act between installing his offense and leaving some spread plays in for the most dynamic returning QB in college football.  He also didn't have the luxury of Tate Forcier for a backup, and had to protect Denard Robinson.  This made Denard's stats go down, and eliminated him from any Heisman talk, but it did get the job done.  

The bottom line is that Hoke and Rich Rod are both excellent coaches.  One of these days, people might even understand that it is possible to support Brady Hoke without tearing down Rich Rod.  Sadl;y, though, intellect isn't always a strong point of ardent football fans.

Since: Dec 2, 2007
Posted on: November 30, 2011 12:42 pm

Tuesday Top 10: Best coaching jobs of 2011

Don't get me wrong I'm NOT a Rich Rodriguez fan, and I like Brady Hoke as a coach (moreso), just seems like an asterisk should go next to both Brady Hoke and Lane Kiffin on the list...  Other more deserving coaches, in my opinion, who started with less, and accomplished more...

Certainly not saying Hoke didn't do an excellent job. 

Just expected a more interesting list... To me a GREAT COACH list should be guys who took players not necessarily expected to be great, and led them to achieve above their own expectations.  Great coaches can do more with less...  Does the fact that Rich Rod's defensive scheme didn't work with the players he had make the NEXT coach who comes along "great", or just smarter about using his players and their abilities?  To me it's hard to be a "great" coach at any of the outstanding football schools...  Because these schools make your job easier when it comes to recruiting, fundraising, facilities, etc.

I accept the Les Miles spot, simply because it is SO difficult to stay on top when everyone is gunning for you-- but hey, I would not be shocked at all if this list is a little premature, and Georgia knocks him off... Even he doesn't deserve to be on the list if they don't go undefeated, in my opinion.

Just my opinion.  Everybody knows the big boys did a good job of coaching, if they won games.  But who stepped above and beyond?  Not Brady Hoke, not Lane Kiffin, and not even Les Miles really.  They did what we expected them to do.

Since: Jul 9, 2010
Posted on: November 30, 2011 12:12 pm

Tuesday Top 10: Best coaching jobs of 2011

I my opinion you left a consistent EXCELLENT Coach off of your list, and the is FRANK BEAMER of VIRGINIA TECH. This Coach is now the Dean of all BCS football coaches in the USA this year. VIRGINIA TECH is the ONLY BCS school with at least 10 wins each year for the past 8 years in a row. We'll see how the HOKIES perform in the ACC Championship game aganist Clemson on Sat. night before we tell you that you made a mistake. Coach Beamer also became the winningest active BCS coach in America this year ! 

Since: Dec 8, 2008
Posted on: November 30, 2011 12:10 pm

Tuesday Top 10: Best coaching jobs of 2011

Correction:  #6 Brady Hoke/Rich Rodriguez

Players win games.  Rich Rodriguez put those players in those uniforms.  Brady Hoke would probably say as much...

Yes, I am sure Hoke was ecstatic to see he had 8 of Rodriguez' players returning on a D that was 109th in the nation is scoring.  Iam bet he was overjoyed to have 10 of Rodriguez' players on an O that could score tons on weak teams, but really struggled to get anything going against good teams.

Rodriguez may have ptu them in uniform, but Hoke and his staff made them players, which as you say, win games. 

Since: Nov 4, 2011
Posted on: November 30, 2011 11:40 am

Tuesday Top 10: Best coaching jobs of 2011

You should have added Larry Fedora from the University of Southern Mississippi.  They have a very good team with a fantastic defense that will provide a serious challenge to a Houston team that you seem to have already crowned.  If this game were at a neutral site I would take USM straight up over Houston.  You need to re-think your choices and give Fedora credit where credit is due.

Since: Mar 11, 2010
Posted on: November 30, 2011 11:35 am

Tuesday Top 10: Best coaching jobs of 2011

No ART BRILES???????????????????????? LMFAO, this list is a joke.

Since: Nov 28, 2006
Posted on: November 30, 2011 11:29 am

Tuesday Top 10: Best coaching jobs of 2011

I'm not sure how Lane Kiffin or James Franklin make the list over the likes of Nick Saban or Mark Richt.  Lane Kiffin disgracefully left Tennessee, and now is leading a talent laden team to a 10-2 record.  Wonderful.  Does that mean he's a good coach.  Certainly.  Top 10 in the country, doubtful, considering the turnaround for Mark Richt of starting out 0-2 with a very hot seat.  10 wins in a row later Georgia is in the SEC championship (this all begs the question of why Steve Spurrior made the list as well, didn't they just have an amazing recruiting class?).

Then with Saban, I detest the fella, but once again, Alabama is ranked in the top 5 in the country.  This is not a coincidence.  All he does is win. 

Since: Mar 12, 2009
Posted on: November 30, 2011 10:29 am

Tuesday Top 10: Best coaching jobs of 2011

Georgia sucked, South Carolina sucked and Artkansas was overrated? Why? I'm not a fan of either team but Arkansas only lost 2 games - to Bama and LSU, and Georgia only lost 2 games - to Boise Stare in the 1st game of the year and South Carolina only lost 2 games and did that while losing their starting QB and one of the best backs in the nation in Marcus Lattimore.

Does anyone know a site I can go to to participate in intelligent conversation?

Since: Dec 2, 2007
Posted on: November 30, 2011 10:29 am

Tuesday Top 10: Best coaching jobs of 2011

Correction:  #6 Brady Hoke/Rich Rodriguez

Players win games.  Rich Rodriguez put those players in those uniforms.  Brady Hoke would probably say as much...

Since: Nov 14, 2006
Posted on: November 30, 2011 10:12 am

Tuesday Top 10: Best coaching jobs of 2011

Mike London has done a great job at UVA.  They were the worst team in the conference last year.  Turning that into eight wins this year has been remarkable.

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