Handing Out the Coaching Diplomas
By Paul Myerberg // Jan 31, 2011
It took two weeks, give or take, but I’ve touched on every head coaching move in the F.B.S.: all 21 of them, ranging from the Sun Belt to a team only a year removed from a perfect 12-0 regular season, from the Pac-12 to the Big East and all points in between. The grades have fluctuated from an A+ — three such grades, in fact — all the way down to a C; as a once-abysmal student, I don’t have what it takes to give anything less than a satisfactory grade. Not that I couldn’t have been far harsher on Randy Edsall and Maryland, had I woken up on the wrong side of the bed on that particular morning.
Miami (Ohio) and Don Treadwell, A+
On nearly every level, this relationship works. Treadwell comes from the Big Ten. He was a key figure in Michigan State’s 11-win season. He has worked in the MAC before, both at Miami and at Ball State. Of all the coaching changes in the F.B.S. following the 2010 season, none made more sense for all parties involved.
North Texas and Dan McCarney, A+
McCarney has proven an ability to win in the most adverse of circumstances, which should come in handy at North Texas. More than anything, however, McCarney grants a measure of respect to the program: the Mean Green have been sorely lacking in this category for the better part of a decade.
Arkansas State and Hugh Freeze, A
I can find nothing wrong with this hire. Can you? Freeze can run an offense, as this past fall illustrated, and has proven himself to be an adept recruiter. Arkansas State often came close under Roberts; perhaps a new voice, particularly one with this coaching ability, will be all that A.S.U. needs to take home a Sun Belt title.
Florida and Will Muschamp, A
What’s not to like? There’s the energy, which will have these Gators flying out of the tunnel, onto the field and to the ball every Saturday. There’s the top-notch staff, which combines football acumen with several of the nation’s top recruiters. There’s Muschamp himself, who will continue to have Florida rated among the country’s best in defense on a yearly basis. Muschamp will be a hit.
Kent State and Darrell Hazell, A
Hazell’s only drawback is his lack of head coaching experience. That’s not really a viable negative, however: as mentioned, Kent State was is the market for the right coach, not necessarily a coach with that type of background. In addition, it’s not like coaches with previous head coaching experience on the F.B.S. level were clamoring for an opportunity to take on one of the more thankless jobs in the country.
Louisiana-Lafayette and Mark Hudspeth, A
Another great hire by the Sun Belt, joining Arkansas State’s addition of Hugh Freeze and North Texas with Dan McCarney. Merely based on Hudspeth’s energy, enthusiasm and experience Mississippi State, this would be a solid hire. Tired of mediocrity, U.L.L. opted for a coach who might just have what it takes to lead the Ragin’ Cajuns — are you ready — to more than six wins. Can you imagine?
Connecticut and Paul Pasqualoni, A-
Let’s be serious: Edsall was a very good coach, but far from a once-in-a-generation type of coach. Pasqualoni is talented enough to match his predecessor’s success, one would assume based on his own resume in college and the next level. Will he be able to rapidly acclimate himself to a vastly changed college game? That’s the big question. But he is a good hire.
Minnesota and Jerry Kill, A-
Kill isn’t going to wow the press. He’s not going to present the traditional image of a football coach; he doesn’t necessarily look the part. Kill’s not going to put together a flashy offense. I do think he’s going to win at Minnesota, though the program needs to address its own inflated ego in the process: don’t expect national championships, but rather consistent bowl appearances and the odd flirtation with nine wins.
Northern Illinois and Dave Doeren, A-
There’s the program’s recent track record of choosing coaches, which has been solid. Then there’s that nice background Doeren brings to the table: B.C.S. conference experience with a track record of success on college football’s lower levels. Perhaps its a testament to where the program currently stands that Doeren leaped at the opportunity to take the position rather than wait a year or two for a B.C.S. conference job, as that might have become available.
A Job Well Done
Miami (Fla.) and Al Golden, B+
This is based on two factors: one, Shannon’s often inept tenure, one that forced Miami to make a change; and two, Golden’s rising stature as one of the nation’s top young coaches. He will be an improvement, but questions about his ability to change both a losing culture and recruit with Florida and Florida State should have fans a bit concerned.
Michigan and Brady Hoke, B+
There are those Michigan ties, for starters, which have already manifested themselves as Hoke drums up support for the program. If nothing else, Hoke will be able to heal the wounds that so divided the fan base over the last three seasons. The lone drawbacks are his lack of head coaching experience on the B.C.S. conference level and the suspicion that he would not have been a candidate had he not spent seven years under Carr.
San Diego State and Rocky Long, B+
I’m not always a fan of leaning towards continuity, but it’s tough to view that as a negative in this case. Long also has his tenure at New Mexico, which will override the learning curve associated with a first-year coach. There are some danger spots to watch, but S.D.S.U. was wise to promote Long from within instead of looking elsewhere for Hoke’s replacement.
Stanford and David Shaw, B+
It’s only natural that Shaw will be compared to his predecessor. It’s also only natural that his tenure pale in comparison: it’s hard to improve upon 12-1, for starters, but also hard to define the program so fully, as Harbaugh did from his first day until his last. All things considered, Shaw was a good choice — more importantly, he was the right choice.
Pittsburgh and Todd Graham, B
Pittsburgh loses points for firing Wannstedt in the first place, though that’s not necessarily fair to hold against Graham. Further points are deducted because of the ineptitude with which Pederson addressed the original vacancy — again, not a judgement against Graham. When looking merely at the coach, the only factor that precludes this from being a great hire is the fact that the last Tulsa coach to move to the B.C.S. conference ranks failed so miserably.
Temple and Steve Addazio, B
It’s hard not to fall in love with Addazio’s energy, but after what happened over this past season, I do have some questions about his ability to lead as the face of a program. Whether he can continue Temple’s hot recruiting is not a question; nor is he ability to motivate this team, offsetting any potential awkward period — if you know what I mean — that might accompany the departure of an extremely popular coach.
Ball State and Pete Lembo, B-
Yes, I know who Lembo is. I know his resume. I know he knows football. However, I must admit: I have never seen his teams play; his name, to be honest, had never crossed my lips before it was brought up in connection with his current position. You have to start somewhere, after all, and perhaps Ball State, tired of the malaise experienced under Parrish, wanted to go in a completely different direction.
Indiana and Kevin Wilson, B-
Wilson is a far better offensive mind than Oklahoma fans would have you believe, but his relative unfamiliarity with the steps it takes to build a winner from scratch is a drawback. Will he inject life into a sleepy program? You better believe it. Does Wilson have the mental strength to see this thing through to the end? I’m not sure if one can say that any rookie coach — one without any prior experience — has what it takes to win consistently at Indiana.
Flirting With A Non-Passing Grade
Colorado and Jon Embree, C+
Let the healing begin. What remains to be seen is Embree’s ability to pilot the Buffaloes through this difficult transition period; first there’s the process of rebuilding confidence, not to mention the roster, but there’s also the impending move to the Pac-12 — this latter step will severely test Colorado’s lack of depth. . Still, I do think the program could have done better, perhaps finding a more experienced coach.
Vanderbilt and James Franklin, C+
It’s hard to get excited, particularly when one thinks what might have been: we may never know how in-depth Vanderbilt’s conversations were with Malzahn, but it does seem that the program came close but missed on Auburn’s well-regarded offensive coordinator. While there’s no way to presume that Franklin will fail at Vanderbilt, there’s also little excitement surrounding the hire.
Maryland and Randy Edsall, C
If Maryland’s goal was to provide the program with a boost, it failed. Edsall is a good coach, one who deserves praise for leading Connecticut from the periphery of the Big East to the B.C.S.; still, one can’t help but think that Maryland could have done better.
Tulsa and Bill Blankenship, C-
What of Chad Morris? I understand that Blankenship has ties in-state, and that his experience under Graham over the last four seasons certainly gave him a taste of what it takes to win at Tulsa. I still think the program should have nabbed up Morris, if for only one reason: offense has ruled the day at Tulsa over its recent hot streak. Morris would have continued the program’s offensive ways while using his relationships along the Texas high school ranks to great advantage.
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Tags: Al Golden, Bill Blankenship, Brady Hoke, Dan McCarney, Darrell Hazell, Dave Doeren, David Shaw, Don Treadwell, Hugh Freeze, James Franklin, Jerry Kill, Jon Embree, Kevin Wilson, Mark Hudspeth, Paul Pasqualoni, Pete Lembo, Randy Edsall, Rocky Long, Steve Addazio, Todd Graham, Will Muschamp
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