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: Oct 8, 2010
Posted on: November 30, 2011 9:45 am

Tuesday Top 10: Best coaching jobs of 2011

Without a doubt, Hoke deserves to be Coach of the Year.

Since: Nov 24, 2009
Posted on: November 30, 2011 9:39 am

Tuesday Top 10: Best coaching jobs of 2011

In Hoke We Trust.

Go Blue!!

Since: Apr 27, 2010
Posted on: November 30, 2011 8:40 am

Tuesday Top 10: Best coaching jobs of 2011

jdkla, I'm pretty sure that Ivscottb was replying to a specific poster rather than the "article". So it seems that reading comprehension should be your area of emphasis and not the other poster. See, when you go into smart aleck rants all half cocked you tend to look more like a dbag and far less witty than you thought. And just for clarity's sake, this is a blog not an "article". The difference is significant so it is worth pointing out.

Since: Jun 15, 2008
Posted on: November 30, 2011 8:04 am

Tuesday Top 10: Best coaching jobs of 2011

lvscottb - you seem to have a "brain block" on what you ask!!  Reread the article and come back and ask an "intelligent" question!!

Since: Nov 30, 2011
Posted on: November 30, 2011 7:46 am

Tuesday Top 10: Best coaching jobs of 2011

How can Mark Richt fromGeorgianot make this list? The Bulldogs started out 0-2 and wound up winning the SEC East. Schedule doesn’t matter. Coaching is all about keeping a team prepared and focused on winning. He did that with a team that has far less talent than most other teams in FBS. And, oh by the way, his starting tailback, Isaiah Crowell, missed the last two games of the season.

Since: Sep 7, 2010
Posted on: November 30, 2011 5:26 am

Tuesday Top 10: Best coaching jobs of 2011

Shaw the pas-12 coach of the year shaw? he had a much rougher job than LK. Bruce i have lost all respect for you since you went to the other side. Your words are not worth a penny these days.

Since: Nov 27, 2011
Posted on: November 30, 2011 1:19 am

Tuesday Top 10: Best coaching jobs of 2011

A solid list, but I think David Shaw of Stanford should get some consideration as well.  He followed a legend (even after four seasons, Harbaugh was a legend) by leading the Cardinal to an 11-1 season and likely Fiesta Bowl bid.  All the preason chatter discussed whether Shaw could maintain the attitude and level of excellence that Harbaugh brought.  By Week 3, that concern was never heard again.  He did this despite losing one of the best LB's in the country (Skov) in Game 3 for the season as well his SS, 2 TE's, best WR, and K for significan chunks of the year.  All of those guys were either all conference or will play on Sunday's.  And oh by the way, Shaw was named Pac 12 Coach of the Year yesterday as voted upon by the coaches.  Pretty impressive considering the talent on the sidelines in the conference such as Kiffin, Kelly. and Whittinham.

Since: Oct 12, 2010
Posted on: November 30, 2011 12:49 am

Tuesday Top 10: Best coaching jobs of 2011

It is rare that you see the total transformation of a team into a dominant power.  Lane Kiffin did that with the USC Trojans this year against all types of criticism.  The Kiffin haters were out in full force but the joyous celebration at the end of the unfairly shortened year is testament to his Coach of the Year performance.

Since: Oct 9, 2006
Posted on: November 30, 2011 12:36 am

Tuesday Top 10: Best coaching jobs of 2011

I know I am biased so forgive me for that during this response, but Kyle Whittingham has done an amazing job this year at Utah.

He is the ONLY coach to take a team from non-BCS status to BCS status.

This was the toughest schedule in the history of the University of Utah. The Utes are used to playing 2-3 BCS teams, this year obviously they played 10 with a bowl game to go. They also had to play in Provo and just beat the crap out of their rival 54-10.

No, the Utes didn't excel as high as expected, but they were a couple of missed field goals from playing Oregon in the PAC-12 championship game for the right to the Rose Bowl Berth. Utah did this in their first year as a BCS school.

Utah was the only team in D-1 to not return a running back with at least a few carries in a D-1 game. Yet John White is ranked in the top 10 in a sensational season which saw the Utes switch offensive styles, usually a recipe for disaster.

Utah lost it's starting QB early in the season. Not having a back up, the Utes played the majority of the season with a walk on who did not have one D-1 offer and was headed to Nebraska-Omaha before they cut the program. The kid was not even in fall camp. Yet carried the Utes on a four game winning streak to left the team to bowl eligibility.

These are unchartered waters for Kyle Whittingham and the Utes. It will be a few recruiting classes before the Utes are deep enough that injuries don't ruin the entire season. Utah suffered 12+ season ending injuries yet still managed a 7-5 record, and gave USC fits in LA when at full strength.

Kyle Whittingham should be up for the Coach of the Year award.

Since: Oct 31, 2011
Posted on: November 30, 2011 12:33 am

Tuesday Top 10: Best coaching jobs of 2011

Great list but who is going to replace Paterno?




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