Sep 30

2009 First Year Coaches

Posted By:Brett Haynes - Greenville, SC  Tags:

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Photo: Douglas Jones, USPresswire

Each year there are a gracious handful of new coaches to make their debuts at schools across NCAA football. This year is certainly no different. A year ago we were brought names such as Houston Nutt at Ole Miss, Bobby Petrino at Arkansas, Bo Pelini at Nebraska, Rich Rodriquez at Michigan and Art Briles at Baylor. Now we have another new batch of greenhorn coaches to begin to evaluate. Yes, it is a little too early maybe. But after five weekends of ball, you start to get a good idea about what these guys might do at their respective schools.

Lane Kiffin, Tennessee (2-2, 0-1 SEC) - Tennessee has had its ups and downs in Kiffin's short stay so far. After a very big opening win (63-7 over Western Kentucky), the Vols slipped to UCLA at home (under Bruins' second year coach Rick Neuheisel, who is 2-0 now against UT) and then lost in Gainesville to the hated Gators. To Tennessee's credit, the Vols played Florida tough after what many thought would be a massacre. All of the fun smack talk by Kiffin has blown away into the wind, and now it is time to see if he can play some x's and o's football and win in some tough SEC environments. Next up is a key 7:45 ESPN game at home with Auburn, and their fist year Head Coach Gene Chizik.
Gene Chizik, Auburn (4-0, 1-0 SEC) - He still hasn't faced a real tough team (WVU wasn't bad and had the Tigers down early), but regardless, you have to give Coach Chizik some credit for getting his college head coaching start off to a 4-0 mark. I know at a place like Auburn, he was treated with class upon his arrival by those people that actually matter. But it is still hard to forget the idiots booing him when he first arrived at Auburn-Opelika airport. A few wins have probably shut those morons up, and given the real fans even more reason to support him. Again, he is fairly untested, but he gets high marks so far. That could change when he takes his team in front of 107,000 plus in Knoxville Saturday night for an intriguing game between two first-year coaches.
Dan Mullen, Mississippi State (1-2, 2-2 SEC) - It is just plain tough to win in Starkville. Take away a few decent years under Jackie Sherrill in the late 1990's, and there just is not much to talk about. The latest head coach, Dan Mullen, seems to quickly be settling nicely into the school's pattern of mediocrity. While it is way too early to really tell, a 2-2 start isn't the most promising thing ever. But I will give him credit for the positive things he has done. He beat Vanderbilt on the road, so he already has a SEC road victory. He also played LSU to within four points in Baton Rouge.
Danny Hope, Purdue (1-3, 0-0 Big-10) - After a win over Toledo on opening day, the Boilermakers have lost three in a row. All three however have been extremely close games, so this team has some promise. I haven't gotten to see Purdue play too much.The schedule ahead is pretty tricky, so they better learn how to close some people out. Coaching garaveyards are littered with guys that couldnt find ways to win the close ones.
Paul Rhoades, Iowa State (3-1, 0-0 Big-12) - Ya know, wins over Kent State, Army and North Dakota State really don't tell you a whole heck of a lot. The lone loss was a drubbing to Iowa, 35-3. Coming up is a slate of much better teams, so let's talk about Iowa State in about a month and a half. Four road games remain on the schedule.
Dabo Swinney, Clemson (2-2, 1-1 ACC) - I know, I know, I know, he was the interim last year. But that was a clouded, messed up situation, and I am counting 2009 as his first season. Swinney is real close to getting high marks, but just like his predecessor Tommy Bowden, his teams have let big-wins slip through their fingers. A 2-2 start is extremely frustrating when 4-0 was there for the taking. Still, until Clemson figures out you do not get seven points at the 20-yard line, but rather at the goal line, they will continue to lose contests. Still in fine position to battle for the ACC Atlantic crown and a trip to Tampa, Swinney's team must figure out how to get 7's and not 3's. If they can figure that out, the defense is good enough to keep them in the game with anyone.
Frank Spaziani, Boston College (3-1, 1-1 ACC) - Spaziani has been on the BC staff for twelve years, so the look and feel of the team would not be that much different. Still when you lose nine starters, the team is going to have to do some adapting. The Eagles aren't terrible, but are definetly hurting on offense. The game I attended (Clemson-BC), the Eagles had just 55 yards of offense for the entire game. They are big and strong and fundamental, but they do not have a single playmaker on offense. Somehow though, just like in previous years, BC finds ways to win. A road win in OT against Wake Forest last weekend is a very positive sign for this team.
Chip Kelly, Oregon (3-1, 1-0 Pac-10) - The Ducks have rampaged back into the national picture after Kelly's Oregon career couldn't have gotten off to a worse start on the road in Idaho. They have won three in a row now, and have looked good doing it. The latest win was an absoulte dismantling of Pac-10 opponent Cal, 42-3. With USC (at home October 31st) already suffering a loss, Oregon could be thinking big. This is a team to keep your eye on. It is way too early in the year to say they control their destiny, but really they do. Oregon is the best Pac-10 team left without a loss, so if they take it one week at a time Kelly could easily be a national coach of the year candidate as a rookie.
Steve Sarkisian, Washington (2-2, 1-1 Pac-10) - I know right now it is hard to imagine the Huskies as a force. But trust me, these boys have been playing football for a while, just see the 1991 national title (shared with Miami, and one of three), and 30 bowl appearances. 2009 has been ok so far, but nothing like it could be. After giving LSU a scare, and then beating Southern California, the Huskies appeared to be pretty dadgum good. But then they turned around and lost by 20 to Stanford. They play at Notre Dame this Saturday.
Doug Maronne, Syracuse (2-2, 0-0 Big East) - The Orangemen have a decent history, as well, but it sure as hell hasn't been the last few seasons. It is arguable that they were the worst team in a BCS conference the last four or five years. In need of a change, Syracuse went to Marrone. While the Orange have yet to get smeared, they have still lost two of their first four. A 28-7 loss at Penn State isn't terrible, but Syracuse has a ways to go. The wins were against Maine and Northwestern.
Also, here are eleven more head coaches embarking on their first season. These teams are no less important, but I do not know enough about them to give a fair assessement.
Brady Hoke, San Diego State (1-3, 0-1 MWC)
Dave Christensen, Wyoming (2-2, 1-0 MWC)
Mike Locksley, New Mexico (0-4, 0-1 MWC)
Gary Andersen, Utah State - (1-2, 0-0 WAC)
DeWayne Walker, New Mexico State (2-2, 0-1 WAC)
Rich Ellerson, Army (2-2 IND)
Tim Beckman, Toledo (2-2, 0-0 MAC)
Stan Parrish, Ball State (0-4, 0-0 MAC)
Ron English, Eastern Michigan (0-3, 0-0 MAC)
Dave Clawson, Bowling Green (1-3, 0-0 MAC)
Mike Haywood, Miami, OH (0-4, 0-2 MAC)

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