Football head coaches get all the glory, but top
assistants can be extremely important in a team’s success or failure. Offensive
and defensive coordinators have great influence on game plans and a unit’s
effectiveness. Notre Dame overachieved and made a bowl the last two seasons
under coach Brian Kelly.
Assistants are often the NFL star head coaches
of tomorrow, as well. A former defensive assistant, Lovie Smith, took the Bears
to the Super Bowl. Bill Parcells lost one of his top assistants six years ago,
Sean Payton, who went to New Orleans and helped lead the Saints Super Bowl title
Competent football assistants can be huge assets. Buddy Ryan
was the principle architect of the Bears’ 46 defense that led the way to the
1986 Super Bowl. He left the team after that victory and the Bears were never as
dominant defensively. Let’s look at some key coaching changes in the college and
Ohio State: Urban Meyer has been the best college football
coach the last ten years with Utah and Florida. After a one-year hiatus he
returns as Coach of Ohio State. While at Florida he went 65-15, winning 2 BCS
titles. Meyer has a career record of 104-23 to Columbus (7-1 in bowls). Oddly,
the only bowl loss was to Michigan in the 2007 Capital One Bowl, not that he’ll
need any motivation every November against the Wolverines now!
inherits sophomore QB Braxton Miller (13 TDs, 4 INTs) who led the Buckeyes in
rushing with 715 yards, a good fit for Meyer’s Triple Option attack. However,
this is still a rebuilding year on the offensive line and at the skill position.
The good news is the defense was very strong (21 ppg), returns 9 starters and
should be a powerhouse in the Big 10. The bad news is the Buckeyes are
ineligible to play for the Big Ten title or a bowl game in 2012 – so Michigan
will be their bowl, at home November 24.
Penn State: Joe Paterno is out
so Bill O’Brien is the new coach, the former New England Patriots offensive
coordinator. He has a good piece to building his spread offense around in junior
RB Silas Redd (1,241 yards), but the QB spot is wide open. Matt McGloin and
Robert Bolden return but aren’t really suited for the pass-happy attack, so they
may lean on top recruit QB Paul Jones.
The defense was one of the best
in the nation last season allowing 16.8 ppg (fifth) and has a deep and talented
linebacking corps. However, the secondary must replace all four starters. Penn
State is 3-15 SU/ATS its last 18 as a dog, and 19-11 SU, 15-13-1 ATS its last 31
on the road. Of course, at home the Lions are 44-8 SU, 23-22 ATS their last 52!
Pitt: The Panthers have been running through coaches the last year, from
Dave Wannstedt, to Todd Graham and now Paul Chryst takes over. Chryst has a
version of the spread offense he ran at Wisconsin, which was wide open and
attacking, different than the ball-control style under Wannstedt but similar to
They return senior QB Tino Sunseri (10 TDs, 11 INTs), senior RB
Ray Graham (958 yards rushing) and WR Devin Street, so there is plenty of talent
for the new staff. However, Sunseri never adjusted well to the new style under
Graham. The secondary ranked 72nd nationally in pass defense last season but has
new coordinator Dave Huxtable, so there are changes everywhere. They carry a 7-3
ATS run into the new season.
Hawaii: Folks have been waiting for year
for Norm Chow to get a head coaching position and now he has it. The
Honolulu-born Chow has had great success as an offensive mind for years and
inherits a talented, speedy group that plays on artificial carpet. Junior QB
David Graves (5 TDs, 2 INTs) steps in along with junior WR Billy Ray Stutzmann
(910 yards) and senior WR Jeremiah Ostrowski (687) on a unit that averaged 31.5
points and 308.8 yards passing, 12th best in the nation. They should be a
pass-happy team again, although Chow always pulls surprised, as he did two years
ago when they went with the Pistol-rushing attack out of nowhere and stunned
Texas, 34-12, while at UCLA as a +16 road dog!
Illinois: Ron Zook is
gone and Tim Beckman takes over, the former Ohio State offensive coordinator and
Toledo head coach. While Zook was about running the football, Beckman’s Toledo
teams were deadly at running and passing, torching opposing defenses. The new
coach inherits QB Nathan Scheelhaas (13 Tds, 8 INTs), who was mostly running but
Beckman will try and change that. Illinois was 10-2 under the total last season,
something else that may change!