10 coaches worth rooting for in 2012
Coaches are doubted, second-guessed, sometimes harshly criticized. It's the nature of the profession. But along the way, many coaches fight through their own career adversity. This season, certain coaches have their first unique opportunity in a coordinator's role. Coaches like Curtis Johnson, Gus Malzahn, Jim McElwain, and Jim Mora Jr. have their first opportunity to serve as a college head coach. Other coaches like Lane Kiffin have an opportunity to prove his critics wrong.
Here's my list of ten coaches worth rooting for this season:
Greg Davis: After sitting out the 2011 season, Greg Davis re-enters the coaching profession as the Iowa offensive coordinator / quarterbacks coach. Davis received harsh criticism from Texas fans during a 5-7 season in 2010 in which the Longhorns offense finished 88th nationally in scoring offense and 58th nationally in total offense while committing close to thirty turnovers. The negative buzz sadly has labeled Davis in fashion not reflective of his great accomplishments including the 2005 Broyles Award, a national championship, versatility as a play-caller, and the fact that Texas won at least 9 games in Davis' twelve previous seasons as the Longhorns offensive coordinator. I'd like to see the Iowa offense flourish under Davis. For those of you thinking that you'll see the Texas offense, think again. Davis already stated, "We're not here to run the Texas offense."
Curtis Johnson: CJ is a unique guy. For Tulane fans, his enthusiasm and recruiting approach have been a breath of fresh air since the departure of Bob Toledo. Recently, Johnson talked about his plan to create an offensive identity similar to the New Orleans Saints. If he's able to do just that, the city of New Orleans will eventually rally in support of the Tulane football program. Hopefully, the New Orleans city council will allow Tulane to proceed with their new on-campus stadium.
Gus Malzahn: In December, Malzahn left many scratching their head. As the offensive coordinator at Auburn, not to mention the highest- paid coordinator in the country at $1.3 million annually, why would Malzahn accept a Sun Belt Conference head coaching job earning a reported $850,000 annually? Say to yourself, "I am the head coach at Arkansas State University. We play in the Sun Belt Conference, a competitive and underrated league. I make over $800,000 and have a great house in my home state, where I met my wife. I can hire a number of guys that I believe in wholeheartedly. I have a ton of support from all angles. I have a chance to recruit as well as anyone that could have taken this job and there is no doubt that I'm going to have fun." Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?
Brent Venables: Venables lived under criticism a year ago in Norman. While he denied that his role would have been reduced due to the addition of Mike Stoops, at the least, outsiders were skeptical. Because of Bob Stoops' defensive background, Venables may never receive the credit he deserves for the consistent production of the Oklahoma defense from 1999 - 2011. At Clemson, he'll have the opportunity to step away from Stoops and create a new legacy. Most importantly, here's what I wonder.
Dan Werner: During his tenure at Miami (FL) from 2001-2005, Werner joined the topic of conversation for various head coaching positions. After the 2005 season, Werner and Art Kehoe joined the Ole Miss staff under Ed Orgeron. When Orgeron was dismissed after the 2007 season, Werner landed at Northwestern State. Less than a month on the job, his wife suddenly passed away in February of 2009, so Werner resigned his position in order to take care of his young children. He took the head coaching job at North Delta HS (Batesville, MS), while continuing to live in Oxford, MS. Now, he's back in the college game, serving as the co-offensive coordinator / quarterbacks coach under Hugh Freeze. Unfortunately, he's 1 of 6 quarterback coaches that's definitely got his work cut-out during August camp.
Jeff Tedford: After playing home games at AT&T Park in San Francisco in 2011, Jeff Tedford is looking forward to returning to a renovated Memorial Stadium (LIVE camera). In the off-season, defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi and wide receivers / passing game coordinator Eric Keisau departed for Washington. While both coaches brought a lot to the program, especially Lupoi as a recruiter, the media attention surrounding the moves must have fueled Tedford, who knows his program is bigger than any two assistant coaches. Something tells me Tedford wants a couple of signature win badly this season. He'll have an opportunity at Ohio State, at USC, and against Washington during a Friday night game that will undoubtedly receive a national telecast. Don't be surprised if this guy #21 shows up big. Here's what the renovated stadium will look like.
Billy Gonzales: Gonzales is 1 of 12 coaches set to call plays for the first time in their career in 2012. Having coached under Urban Meyer and Les Miles, it will be interesting to see the scheme and philosophy of the Illinois offense.
Lane Kiffin: I was bashed heavily three years ago, probably by you, for calling USC "brilliant" for hiring Lane Kiffin. It made total sense. At least it did to me. In just his third year, Kiffin can prove all doubters wrong by leading USC through the adversity of NCAA sanctions to a BCS bowl game. If the defense continues its improvement, the Trojans could battle for the national championship.
Jim McElwain: After helping Alabama win two national championships in his four seasons as the offensive coordinator under Nick Saban, McElwain (50) landed at a place that seemingly fits his personality. Working for Saban isn't easy. You sacrifice a lot, as does your family, so don't you have to root for someone after sacrificing so much?
Jim Mora Jr: College football will be better when UCLA becomes relevant again. How great would it be if the USC-UCLA game had the same kind of implications as the LSU-Arkansas game always seems to have? Hopefully, Mora can have a signature win or two in his first season, which will help the Bruins recruiting. And Mora's starting to loosen up, which could make him another interesting personality amongst college coaches.
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