Posted on: November 22, 2011 10:11 am
Edited on: November 22, 2011 10:45 am
As we reported Monday afternoon with the report about Rich Rodriguez getting the Arizona job, tis the season for coaching changes. Expect a lot more vacancies to spring up in the next few weeks. A few of them will get filled by first-time head coaches. This week's Top 10 list examines some of the best up-and-comers to keep an eye on:
1. Gus Malzahn, Auburn, OC: The former Arkansas high school coach's rep sky-rocketed last season as Auburn rode Cam Newton to the BCS title. Things have been much, much tougher this year without Newton or most of last year's offensive line. The offense that was fifth nationally in scoring and sixth in total offense has plummeted to 78th and 93rd, respectively. But things should get a lot better next year as almost all of their key guys figure to be back. But will Malzahn? He is paid very, very well at Auburn, getting a reported $1.3 mil per year, and won't leave for just any coaching job, but word is that UNC's vacancy could be tempting.
2. Kirby Smart, Alabama, DC: Nick Saban's program has spawned a handful of future head coaches (FSU's Jimbo Fisher, UF's Will Muschamp and Tennessee's Derek Dooley among them), and Smart figures to be the next one up. Then again, Bama OC Jim McElwain, who could've also been on this list, will likely get some looks this winter too. Bama's defensive prowess will be quite a selling point for Smart. The Tide leads the nation in: rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, total defense and scoring defense. That's quite a mouthful. The one downside for the former Georgia DB is that Saban is so hands-on with Alabama's defense it's perceived that the head coach is more responsible for the unit's success than most head coaches.
3. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin, OC: One of the more anonymous "top" assistants in college football, the 46-year-old Chryst, a former Mike Riley assistant, has done a terrific job for the Badgers for years. This season, he's put together an offense that has produced two Heisman candidates in QB Russell Wilson and RB Montee Ball. The Badgers are fifth in the country in scoring and 10th in rushing under the former Wisconsin QB.
4. Manny Diaz, Texas, DC: A first-year UT assistant, Diaz has proven to be the most effective of all of Mack Brown's new on-field coaches, turning a defense that had to replace most of the secondary into one that is 11th in pass efficiency D and 26th in scoring D. Last year, the Horns were 46th and 49th in both of those categories. Texas also has jumped from 31st against the run all the way up to No. 8. Diaz provided a similar boost at his previous stop, Mississippi State in 2010. The Miami native would be even higher on this list if his team was doing better than a 6-4 mark. But don't blame the defense. It's only a matter of time before Diaz is running his own program.
5. Chad Morris, Clemson, OC: Like Malzahn, Morris is a former high school coach who is cashing in on an up-tempo offense that has pumped life into a big, previously underachieving college program. As I detailed in a Stats That Matter a few weeks back, Morris learned a lot from Malzahn and has done wonders for young QB Tajh Boyd. Morris also has done wonders for Dabo Swinney's job security. The Tigers are 12th in the nation in passing, 18th in total offense and 21st in scoring. A year ago, before Morris arrived, they were 78th, 88th and 86th in those carries. With a handful of openings likely to come this winter in his native state of Texas, expect Morris' phone to be ringing.
6. Garrick McGee, Ark. OC: The Hogs are hot, having scored at least 44 points in their past three SEC games. McGee, a former OU QB, has learned well under Bobby Petrino, one of the game's sharpest offensive minds. Arkansas is No. 3 in the nation led by its potent offense, which had to deal with the loss of record-setting QB Ryan Mallett, a great tight end D.J. Williams and then, on the eve of the season, RB Knile Davis yet the Hogs still pile up the points. If McGee and the Hogs can light up the vaunted LSU defense on Friday, the young coach's stock will really rise.
7. Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State, DC: Yet another Youngstown guy making it big in college coaching. Narduzzi and his boss Mark Dantonio have done another great job producing a ferocious defense. MSU is No. 3 in the country in total defense; No. 5 in scoring; No. 5 in pass efficiency defense and No. 10 against the run. Impressive? No doubt. But what really is amazing is that coming into this season, the Spartans lost four of their top five tackles from last year, including star LB Greg Jones.
8. Bud Foster, Va. Tech, DC: The Hokies again have a top-10 defense. Yawn. Foster seems to do this on an annual basis. This season, Tech has had to overcome a bunch of injuries to key guys in its front seven, but regardless of that, the Hokies are 10-1 and leaning on Foster's stifling defense. Trouble is, for all of Foster's success and the respect he has, the 52-year-old has been passed over many times for head coaching jobs and you have to wonder if he'll ever get his shot to run his own program.
9. Tony Levine, Houston, Special Teams Coordinator: Even though most head coaches get hired after being offensive or defensive coordinators, keep an eye on the 39-year-old Levine, a former wideout at Minnesota, who has proven to be one of the country's best special teams coaches and has learned under Kevin Sumlin, John Fox, Bobby Petrino and Tommy Tuberville in his time in college and the NFL. Since he got to UH in 2008, his teams have returned eight kickoffs for TDs and blocked 18 kicks. That's fourth-most in the country in that time. He's also been Sumlin's assistant head coach for what has become a very hot program these days. Having also been UH's inside receivers coach for the Cougars' record-breaking offense the past four seasons or exhibiting the organizational experience of being a director of football operation (Louisville) also won't hurt his cause either.
10. (tie) Frank Wilson, LSU, RB coach/recruiting coordinator: A New Orleans native, Wilson has emerged as arguably the nation's top recruiter. He has found and reeled in studs at Ole Miss, Southern Miss, Tennessee and now at LSU, but the guy has proven to be a lot more than just a recruiter. No assistant may be more respected by his players. And he has proven he knows how to run a program and be a leader. Back when he was 27, he took over a downtrodden high school program in New Orleans and turned the place upside down. In one year, the team GPA jumped from 1.5 to 2.5 and his team knocked off Louisiana powerhouse John Curtis HS with its first district loss in 25 years. By Wilson's third season at the school, they were playing in the state title game.
10. (tie) Tom Herman, Iowa State, OC: The Mensa guy I wrote about last week had a big Friday night helping lead the Cyclones to the biggest win in school history, upsetting No. 2 Oklahoma State in double-overtime, 37-31 boosting ISU to 6-4. Iowa State's numbers on offense this season are far from head-turning: 44th in total offense and 75th in scoring, but remember this is a guy who produced top 10 offenses at Rice just a few years back and helped that program get to its first bowl game in over a half-century. Like Morris and Levine, if he gets a long look when a few of these jobs in the Southwest open up.
Posted on: September 16, 2011 11:48 am
Edited on: September 16, 2011 3:35 pm
This weekend will separate some of the pretenders from the contenders. One of those teams I'm most curious about are the young Tennessee Vols, who have piled up points in their first two games, albeit against suspect competition. On Saturday, they face another intriguing team that has polished off some inferior opponents, Florida and the Vols will enter very hostile territory in The Swamp.
I spoke to Vols OC Jim Chaney on Wednesday to get a better sense of UT. Chaney, who has helped groom several NFL QBs from his days at Purdue, said about a month ago sophomore QB Tyler Bray seemed to get locked in. Something clicked with Bray, where he understood "I need to get totally invested." "Up till then, he was playing quarterback and now he gets that there's more to it than just saying 'set - hike'," Chaney explained. "He understands the position."
While Bray may not quite have the same arm strength, Chaney compares the young QB's laid-back demeanor to former Purdue standout Kyle Orton. Bray also has really good football instincts, Chaney said. On top of that the 6-6 Californian has the luxury of playing with two outstanding young WRs, Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers.
Chaney admitted he is concerned about the Vols ground game ("We can't run the ball") and how his still-green O-line will do against a pretty fierce group of Gator defensive linemen on the road. "Whenever something changes in front of them (the Vols sophomore-dominated OL), it's like the whole world changes," he said. Obviously, expect UF to do a lot of that shifting and disguise to try and confuse an inexperienced bunch. Also, keep in mind Bray's two road starts were at Memphis and Vandy. This is a whole different deal
Asked what he's most curious to find out Saturday Chaney said: "I want to see how they handle things when the lights come on--are they gonna be able to slow down and think?" Then again, the Gators have a lot of inexperience too. Will Muschamp's got a young secondary trying to cope with the UT passing attack, but he has a pretty good answer, writes Rachel George.
"We need to get pressure with four guys rushing," the Gators' coach said this week. "That's the best pass defense in America."
*I was impressed by LSU Thursday night handling Miss State on the road. I don't know how you couldn't be wowed by this LSU D. They completely short-circuited a dangerous Oregon offense in the opener, keeping the Ducks from having a single 20-yard play the whole night. Against, MSU, they completely bottled up a very talented back in Vick Ballard and suffocated a good running team.
The Tigers may not have Patrick Peterson or Drake Nevis, but they come at you in waves. They just don't have 11 guys. They have about 20 that come after you, and it almost looks like all 20 are out there on the field at the same time. They had a whopping 15 TFLs. Bennie Logan had 3.5. Michael Brockers had three. Freshman stud Anthony Johnson had two. Kiki Mingo had one. Tyrann Mathieu had one And so on.
Jarrett Lee was solid on the road and did a lot more good than bad. Aside from one late pick, he was very sharp and efficient. They can compete for a BCS title with that kind of performance, especially since Spencer Ware and Michael Ford run so hard. *With six straight games now scoring under 30 points (counting Arizona, Oregon State, Notre Dame and UCLA to finish last season), USC is approaching the record of eight games in a row under 30 points last chalked up in the 1984-85 seasons under Ted Tollner for teams that finished 9-3 and 6-6, writes Dan Weber of USCFootball.com.
*UCF and FIU have more at stake than undefeated records when the two up-and-coming teams clash Saturday night in Miami, writes Brendan Sonnone. Namely recruiting pull.
"FIU is in the same place UCF was a couple years ago," Miami Central coach Telly Lockette said. "They're starting to get the marquee guys now in Dade and Broward counties. It won't be long until they're a household name."
*One program has a coach on the hot seat. The other program, the one the blue-chipper is committed to, has a coach dealing with a huge NCAA investigation. Will UGA be able to flip the commitment of Miami LB recruit Raphael Kirby, Michael Carvell asks.
The 6-foot, 210-pound linebacker from Stephenson High School will make an unofficial visit to UGA for Saturday’s game against Coastal Carolina.*Kirk Cousins is one the real class acts in college sports. He really is as impressive as they come whenever he speaks, to either a group of people, his peers or the media, as you get a sense of in this take, via Joe Rexrode when he talks about embattled Notre Dame CB Gary Gray, who Michigan State faces Saturday.
“I view them as the first three quarters," Kirk Cousins said. "I don’t pay a lot of attention to the fourth quarter. I think a couple of those balls, if No. 4 turns his back around it’s an interception. So it’s great for Michigan to win the game but I don’t view it a whole lot as their defense is terrible and Michigan’s offense is amazing. I view it as, if that guy turns around, the game’s over long ago. So I expect them to be a very, very tough defense.”