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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

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The Bottom 10′s Common Traits

It’s not a good place to be, not that it means anything to be thought of as one of the 10 worst teams in the country. Games are played on the field in September, not on paper in May, and as we saw just last season in the cases of Miami (Ohio) and Florida International, it’s possible for a non-B.C.S. conference program to rise from rock bottom to the penthouse in the span of a single season. By and large, however, teams that are down stay down, often for longer than just a year or two – Kent State has been down for decades, as has New Mexico State. So now that the bottom 10 are in the books, what can we say these specific teams have in common?

Eight have an unsettled quarterback situation. Two don’t: Central Michigan will go with Ryan Radcliffe, a junior, and Tulane with Ryan Griffin, though he’s currently sidelined with an injury. New Mexico State knows which way it’s leaning with Andrew Manley, but he’s completely unproven. Memphis doesn’t have a clue, now that Ryan Williams has left the program; Akron, Louisiana-Lafayette and Buffalo are auditioning a pair; and New Mexico and U.N.L.V. are looking at any healthy body they can get a hand on.

None can run the ball. There was a time when Louisiana-Lafayette ran the ball as well as any non-B.C.S. conference team in the country. Those days are gone, though the program hopes for a resurgence under Mark Hudpseth. Buffalo’s lead back averaged less than 3.0 yards per carry last fall. New Mexico State hasn’t run the ball efficiently in a generation, give or take. Memphis has only one back with any game experience. Tulane and U.N.L.V. come in to save the day, albeit to a very slight degree: Orleans Darkwa was a revelation down the stretch for the Green Wave in 2010, though he’ll need to continue that type of production over a 12-game season.

Nine young coaches. Bob Toledo’s the elder statesman, though his time at U.C.L.A. has meant nothing to a Tulane program knee-deep in the worst stretch in its history. DeWayne Walker and Mike Locksley are entering year three at their respective stops, but the seven remaining teams among the bottom 10 are led by first- or second-year coaches: Jeff Quinn, Darrell Hazell, Dan Enos, Bobby Hauck, Hudspeth, Rob Ianello and Larry Porter. Judging by how the nine younger coaches have begun their careers, you begin to see why Tulane hired a Toledo; it hasn’t done anything for the Green Wave, but you can see why his experience was intriguing.

Five coaches hired for recruiting. At least three were tabbed for their ability to hit the recruiting trail – five if we count Hazell, though his Ohio ties were just as important as his recruiting acumen, and Enos, of whom the same can be said of his ties to Michigan. The three, Porter, Ianello and Locksley, have won four games over four combined seasons. Coaching trumps recruiting on the non-B.C.S. conference level: Jerry Kill at Northern Illinois is a very recent example.

A losing culture. New Mexico State, Tulane, Kent State and U.N.L.V. certainly fall into this category; winning seasons are few and far between for this group, and competitiveness only a slightly more frequent event. New Mexico has won in the recent past under Rocky Long but has taken a nosedive under Locksley. Likewise with Memphis, somewhat less so with Akron, and Buffalo has that one winning season sandwiched by years of ineptitude. This is the most difficult hurdle for a coach at these stops to overcome, and one that cannot occur overnight. The foundation can be laid overnight, however, though it’s difficult to tell whether an Enos or Ianello have what it takes to lead their programs back into conference competition.

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  1. jjtiller says:

    “We signed some amazing talent, some guys we feel fit our program,” Hudspeth said. “We recently signed the number one running back in the nation, Qyen Griffin. He’s a great one. The reason we got him is because nobody thought he was going to be eligible. Oklahoma, Ole Miss and Alabama backed off because they felt he wasn’t going to make it. We stuck with him and found a way and he just popped a 25 on his ACT.”

    Go Cajuns! :)

  2. Xenocide23 says:

    Looks like the next one up is Eastern Michigan University.

  3. Ezra says:

    New Mexico and UNLV are “looking at any healthy body they can get a hand on” for quarterbacks”? I guess hyperbole has arrived at PSR…

  4. [...] The Bottom 10s Common Traits | No. 108: Eastern Michigan [...]

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