Changes for 2005
look at the major head coaching moves that will surely affect
the national picture. A total of 23 head coaches were hired
during this offseason, markedly more than the 14 from 2004.
When kids are recruited by one coach (often going to a school
specifically to work with/for that person) only to then/eventually
play for another, they get their first real taste for what
the NFL is like – constant personnel changes that have
to be downplayed so the players can remain focused on winning,
regardless of who is in charge. Moreover, since most never
get to play on Sunday, a player needs to see the bigger picture
and make sure any coaching change(s) don’t detract him
from getting a degree, the ultimate goal for any student-athlete.
football isn’t the ends, but a means by which one can
attain true human achievement through learning about one’s
self and the world. Graduating is the ultimate goal. Anyone
who doesn’t understand this has yet to learn about the
scholastic standards set by the late, great Woody Hayes, and
why he was a “man amongst men” whom many remember
beyond his unfortunate demise as one who truly taught his
players everything – personally and football-wise –
that they needed to know in life.
though learning to lose may be more important in life than
learning to win, never having to learn to lose is an achievement
for which is, in itself, worth the strife. Coaches can teach
that, too. Anyway, here are the major changes worth noting…
shuffle that sent ex-Gator Ron Zook to Illinois and brought
Urban Meyer to Florida seems to be of major interest there
in Gainesville. All of the local clamor was for former-coach
Steve Spurrier to return, for his ability to get their boys
to those past glory days of the ‘90s is still fresh
in most UF minds. Well, trust us - they made a much better
move in acquiring Meyer. With Spurrier, it would have been
more ‘give and take’, whereas with Meyer, UF
fans and alumni are facilitating the meteoric rise of the
nation’s hottest college coach. Steve
Spurrier had something to prove his first
time on University Avenue, but would be chasing
his own tail/legacy upon any return. Spurrier
lands appropriately in South Carolina, where he will have
the wiggle room to make the Gamecocks into a contender.
Spurrier likes rebuilding projects, and the Gamecock faithful
deserve another quality big name after Holtz buoyed USC
only to then fizzle the last three campaigns.
of course, is surging and has been hoping to land at a major
program with so many successes (at Bowling Green and Utah)
in recruiting and overall program development. Meyer does
what Spurrier never did – he stays on top of his entire
team to make sure all off-field facets
commune with what his football goals aim to accomplish,
winning. And with a scheming mind just as intricate and
viable football-wise as Spurrier’s, it will only be
a matter of time until junior QB phenom Chris Leak is surging
past BGU ‘s Omar Jacob’s (a Meyer recruit) and
Alex Smith’s levels as Meyer’s greatest student
Zook just has to prove that Illinois can
win after only finishing over .500 twice in the past decade.
A defensive specialist, Zook has his work cut out with the
Illini’s weak lines on both sides of the action. Zook
never deserved the crap he took at UF, but suffice to say
that the realistic expectations at Illinois are a much better
fit for Ron – there won’t likely be a www.FireRonZook.com
site popping back up anytime soon.
Whittingham takes over for Meyer out in
Utah, and no one deserved the spot more. Whittingham was
the “Dan Mullen” of the D, formulating tricky
schemes that secured the Utes their place as the first BCS-buster.
Whittingham will be challenged to put together an offense
even close to one as efficient as what left. Meyer had the
Utes ranked 4th by his departure, a superlative not likely
to be repeated. But Kyle has the receivers and decently
sized/disciplined lines to make a run at the MWC title.
Whittingham, serving as co-head coach with Urban after Meyer
had already been signed by Florida, dismantled Pittsburgh
in their 35-7 Fiesta Bowl win to galvanize his pick as the
20th Utah head coach. With this being his first
assignment as a team’s head coach,
expect little (due to a new QB) and be surprised if/when
Whittingham succeeds, for his team has the bulls-eye of
revenge on its back after winning 16 in a row. The MWC pendulum
of power swings, but will it just go right back to Salt
Charlie Weis has
his hands full as the next target for alums at Notre Dame.
Nothing short of another national championship will satisfy
their insatiable hunger in South Bend, and anticipation/impatience
increases with each candidate they inspect-then-reject.
But since Weis is the first ND graduate to earn their head
coaching spot in 40-plus years, he is likely to be given
a bit more wiggle room that Ty Willingham was never afforded.
Well, four Super Bowl rings will get you some breaks. Many
don’t realize that Weis was a defensive specialist
before these last 14 years (of being an offensive coach/coordinator),
which will come in handy with the marginal D the Irish seem
to have. Our advice: Weis should patiently work with what
he has and not let the “drama
queen” alums take his focus off of
the incremental steps needed to return ND to prominence.
If Weis gets caught up in any hype and/or premature national
title talk, he will reflect eerily similar results as his
past few predecessors. Their schedule remains relentless,
so any steps achieved (under Ty) were easily balanced out
as the struggling Irish rarely gained consistency this decade.
With fans like Regis Philbin (who believe the world stops
when the Irish lose), genuine incremental steps made by
ND’s student-athletes are too often lost behind the
disappointment of fans who fail to understand that important
growth can still come out of a loss. A deep breath and one
step at a time for the nation’s largest independent…and,
by the way, when will ND burst its “bubble of pride”
and fill that 12th Big Ten spot which has been calling their
name for over a decade now? $$$
Willingham lands with the dismal Washington
Huskies, a better fit for his disciplined approach - they
need him and he needs them after both have struggled as
of late. And yes, we have the “Ty
Bowl” on September 24th circled –
it’s a game the Irish (alums) expect to win, and since
Ty has little to work with up there in Seattle, the Huskies
have their work cut out. But, oh, those intangible motivating
factors…get ‘em, Ty.
Wannstedt is facing a similar plight as
Weis with his return to Pittsburgh. A graduate student alum
from their bicentennial national
championship team, Wannstedt did a double-take
before accepting, but, unlike with Weis, no one in the Steel
City has second-guessed his intentions and/or integrity.
Will Dave and another alum, former-QB Matt Cavanaugh (offensive
coordinator), be able to return the Panthers to their old
form? Instilling a solid, consistent, smash-mouth running
attack is their first step, a good one to take with the
ample size afforded to their RB unit, something ex-head
coach Walt Harris could never quite utilize optimally. Pitt
really cleaned house after not showing up in their Fiesta
Bowl debacle, and has as much to prove to itself as it does
to its embarrassed Big East partners. Under the sharp eye
of Wannstedt, the performance of Pitt’s young-but-accomplished
secondary, along with that of Tyler Palko, will go a long
way toward redeeming the Panthers. Watch, too, for LB H.B.
Blades to have an even better year than he did in 2004.
also changed head coaches, but these moves seemingly flew
under most national press/radar(s). Greg Robinson slides
in after he led his Texas defense (as co-coordinator) to
a stellar campaign (11-1) and a Rose Bowl win over a tough
Michigan squad. Now-departed Paul Pasqualoni was a great
leader of student-athletes, but could never get Syracuse
to that next level in his 14 seasons as top Orangeman. A
fine learning institution, Syracuse football was obviously
sick of muddling around in the mundane
mire that has become known
as the Big East. An (almost) entirely new
staff reboots expectations. There is no reason why Syracuse
cannot challenge Louisville and Pitt as the league favorites,
so don’t be surprised if/when college football in
upstate New York begins to heat up come November.
is another place where a head coaching shuffle has reshaped
both the Baton Rouge landscape and fans’ expectations.
Les Miles takes over for the former hottest coach, but with
Nick Saban in the NFL now dealing with Ricky Williams and
the Dolphins, Miles is handed the reigns. Miles was the
only coach in Oklahoma State history to beat Oklahoma and
Nebraska in the same campaign, and is the only coach in
the last four years to beat the surging Sooners twice. Will
Miles keep the run-heavy schemes he championed in Stillwater,
or embrace the diverse receiver talent offered within the
deep coffers of four- and five-star recruits Saban amassed?
Look for passing to be prominently displayed as there are
just too many NFL-level receivers
on this ’05 squad. Lots of squads will get beaten
by the Bayou Bengals, but with such unpredictable results
prior to Saban’s tenure, keep an eye on Death Valley.
Just ask Jerry DiNardo what happens when expectations are
high way down yonder in “Red Stick”…