Saturday, December 8, 2012

Good Hire/Bad Hire? Breaking Down the Major College Football Coaching Hirings

by John Huffstetler

Tennessee Volunteers- Butch Jones from Cincinnati- Bad Hire- The main problem with Butch Jones is that he has never proven he can effectively recruit at Central Michigan or Cincinnati. In both of his previous stops, he followed Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, who was widely regarded as a fantastic recruiter. Kelly sent the likes of WR Antonio Brown, DE Dan Bazuin, OT Joe Staley, DE Conner Barwin, RB Isiah Pead, WR Mardy Gilyard to the NFL during his tenures at Central Michigan and Cincinnati. While Jones enjoyed success at both of his stops following Kelly, he left a dearth of talent at Central Michigan after he left because of his lack of recruiting (and most likely will at Cincinnati as well). The proof? Central Michigan is 12-24 since Jones left. Some might argue that this proves Jones was such a GREAT coach that his team could not survive his absence, but what this truly shows is how poorly he recruited and how little talent he left at the institution. Now, he must recruit players against the likes of Alabama, South Carolina, LSU, Georgia, Florida, etc. and there is absolutely ZERO proof he can get the players he needs to put Tennessee back in the elite realm. There were better candidates out there (like former OC David Cutcliffe) and Tennessee failed here.

Auburn Tigers- Gus Malzahn from Arkansas St.- Great Hire- The former offensive coordinator from the 2010 National Championship team returns as the head coach here at Auburn. Malzahn's innovative, up-tempo offense and the dynamic play of QB Cam Newton are widely credited as the main reasons for the Tigers title...not Gene Chizik. After Malzahn and Newton left, Chizik inexplicably switched offenses from Malzahn's up-tempo system and the new offense floundered over the next two seasons before his rapid firing following the disgraceful performance against Bama to end this season. With Malzahn back and coaching many of his former players, the offensive will immediately be more dynamic. Additionally, Auburn fans and boosters love Malzahn for his role in the 2010 title and will throw their support behind someone they view as an "Auburn" guy.

Arkansas Razorbacks- Bret Bielema from Wisconsin- Bad Hire- There is absolutely nothing wrong with Bielema as a coach. He's proven his ability to build national caliber offensive lines and establish strong rushing attacks, which are important characteristics of SEC football. You must run the ball and stop the run in the SEC; however, Bielema is not an "SEC' guy. He is an outsider. This hire reminds me of the ill-fated Rich Rodriguez experiment at Michigan. He was never a Michigan guy, and he was never embraced by the community. Bielema has been quoted within the past year bashing the SEC when talking about Urban Meyer at Ohio State. Referring to the SEC's recruiting tactics, Bielema said, "I can tell you this, we at the Big Ten don't want to be like the SEC in any way, shape, or form." How can you hire a man who openly criticizes the recruiting tactics in your conference?! This hiring boggles my mind. He is an absolute outsider and may never be anything more. This is just a bad fit.

Cal Golden Bears- Sonny Dykes from Louisiana Tech- Great Hire- Just a perfect fit here for both sides on this one. Dykes, like Gus Malzahn or Kevin Sumlin, has shown an innate ability to run up-tempo spread offenses with great success. An institution like Cal, which is currently struggling in recruiting compared to Pac-12 rivals USC, UCLA, Stanford, and Oregon, needs to have a hook to pitch to recruits. Potential talented recruits that are slightly off the radar of the big recruiting powerhouses will relish the opportunity to play in a system where they can expect to score 30+ points a game almost immediately. The question, of course, will be defensively. If Dykes can get enough athletes on defense and a solid coordinator, they could almost immediately compete in a Pac-12 South that is incredibly soft right now (remember when USC was AP #1 to start the season? Great job, AP).

Kentucky Wildcats- Mark Stoops from Florida St. (DC)- Great Hire- Although not as highly respected as the previous 4 jobs, Kentucky deserves acknowledgment for landing a highly respected Defensive Coordinator from a prestigious football family. Unlike fellow middling major conference programs in Purdue, NC St., and Boston College who hired unestablished mid-major coaches with little to no resumes, Kentucky actually made the right decision. My main question here is why Stoops, a highly respected coordinator, would accept a job that almost seems beneath him. The only rational reason is the "Cutcliffe" theory. When David Cutcliffe accepted the Duke job, he was a highly respected OC from Tennessee (wait, why didn't Tennessee hire him instead of Jones?). Because he had such low expectations at Duke, he was given extra time to build the program, and now, a 6-6 finish and a bowl game appearance makes him a hero. Stoops will similarly be given several years to put a program together and try to succeed. Unlike BC, NC St., and Purdue, who did nothing in their hirings to demonstrate the potential for improvement, Kentucky landed a great coach and they have a chance to flourish under his leadership.

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