They say once you leave home you can never look back, however, someone apparently forgot to tell that to this years crop of first year head coaches in the college ranks, for example, Dave Wannstedt, Charlie Weis and Mike Gundy have accepted positions at their alma maters while Frank Solich, Walt Harris, Terry Hoeppner and Ed Orgeron are moving closer to their home towns, Brent Guy and Bill Cubit have with the addition of big titles made a return appearance to former employers, and lets not forget that Steve Spurrier and Tyrone Willingham have returned to the SEC and Pac-10 which originally spawned them.
In the college ranks there exists a distinct advantage with regard to familiarity, many of this year’s new hires used that same familiarity to their advantage during the interview process, 2005 brings no less that 20 newly hired Division 1-A head coaches, following is a listing of the new HC’s and where the former HC ended up as well as a brief synopsis on what each newbie is walking into…..good luck!
Head Coach: Bronco Mendenhall
Former HC: Gary Crowton–now the Offensive coordinator at Oregon
Returning BYU to its glory days will be a tough task but new HC Bronco Mendenhall has an outstanding reputation as a near genius when it comes to coaching defense, Mendenhall is only 38 yrs old and this is his first head coaching gig so he has a lot to prove and of course a lot to change in this program when considering that the Cougars have gone a shoddy 14-23 since that stellar 2001 season when they posted a mark of 12-0.
Head Coach: Skip Holtz
Former HC: John Thompson–now co-defensive coordinator at South Carolina
If the new Pirate skipper has a last name that rings a bell in the back of your mind…it should…he is the 41yr old son of Lou Holtz who retired from South Carolina following last season, Skip Holtz served as his dad’s offensive coordinator with the Gamecocks since 1999 and hoped to succeed his father, however, the availability of Steve Spurrier nixed that notion.
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
Former HC: Ron Zook–now Head coach at Illinois
Urban Meyer at only 40 years of age is another member of the up and coming crop of young HC’s to keep an eye on, Meyer made his mark at Bowling Green by completely turning around that program in 2001 and then the following year led those Falcons to a top 25 finish.
The past two years Meyer has been at Utah and capped off his short stay by leading the Utes on a 16 game win streak followed by a blow out win over Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl which was the first ever BCS bowl appearance by a non-BCS school…in Meyer’s two years at Bowling Green and his two years at Utah he compiled a lofty four year mark of 39-8…look out SEC!
Head Coach: Ron Zook
Former HC: Ron Turner–now Offensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears
After a disasterous (by Gator standards) three year stay at Florida which saw Ron Zook compile a mark of 23-14 following the departure of Steve Spurrier to the Washington Redskins, the Gator faithful had their fill and ousted Zook, however, somehow someway, Zook landed on his feet and is now heading up the Illini. Zook’s strength is teaching and running a strong defense which of course was former HC Turner’s weakness, only time will tell.
Head Coach: Terry Hoeppner
Former HC: Gerry DiNardo–Currently unemployed
Hoeppner had six winning seasons as the HC at Miami of Ohio and was instrumental in molding star QB Ben Roethlisberger into the prize catch that he turned out to be for the Pittsburgh Steelers, now its off to the Big Ten for Hoeppner who will have his hands full trying to turn around the program at Indiana.
Head Coach: Les Miles
Former HC: Nick Saban–now Head coach of the Miami Dolphins
It only took Les Miles four short years to bring a down and out Oklahoma State program into the media spotlight as well as gaining a spot in the hearts of the Cowboy faithful after knocking off Oklahoma twice during his tenure. Miles leaves Stillwater with a 28-21 record and three straight bowl appearances.
Oddly enough Miles takes over a Tiger program from former HC Nick Saban who jumped from the college ranks to the NFL ranks with the Miami Dolphins, I say oddly enough because Les Miles took the opposite approach having left the NFL for the college ranks with regard to Miles having been the tight ends coach for the Dallas Cowboys from 1998 to 2000.
In the big scheme of things Miles takes over a Tiger program that was left in great shape by Saban, thus, no re-building needed here, all Miles has to do is keep LSU on the right path, the retention of Jimbo Fisher and addition of Bo Pelini out of Oklahoma to run the offense and defense should have LSU once again in contention for the National Title.
MIAMI OF OHIO
Head Coach: Shane Montgomery
Former HC: Terry Hoeppner–Now Head coach at Indiana
Hoeppner got most of the credit for the success of the Redhawks but those in the know realize that he couldn’t have got it done without Shane Montgomery who served as the RedHawks offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Hoeppner since 2001, those that keep tabs on the rising stars in the coaching world know that in 2003 Montgomery was a finalist for the Broyles Award which is given annually to the game’s top assistant.
Keep an eye on the Redhawks to produce another Ben Roethlisberger with Montgomery’s guidance who in turn was a star QB himself at NC State from 1987 to 1989, Montgomery earned three letters as a Wolfpack QB and was named MVP of the Peach Bowl and Copper Bowl in successive seasons, look for the Hawks to continue to thrive under Montgonery and especially QB Josh Betts who figures to have a break out year.
Head Coach: Ed Orgeron
Former HC: David Cutcliffe–Now QB coach at Notre Dame
Former HC David Cutcliffe’s fall from grace was swift with the Ole Miss faithful following last seasons mark of 4-7, funny how short their memories are that this same guy posted a combined record of 31-18 in the previous four seasons, but then again QB Eli Manning was on the squad for the previous four years…no Eli no winning season.
Cutcliffe’s demise was really brought about by his less than stellar recruiting skills, in new headman Orgeron the Rebels get a guy that is a proven master at teaching defensive linemen and who also just happens to be one of the top recruiters in the country, Orgeron oversaw the defensive line at Miami, Syracuse and most recently at USC.
He’s also been on the staff of four national championship teams, and has tutored the likes of Cortez Kennedy, Russell Maryland, and Warren Sapp, Oregeron spent seven seasons with the Trojans and over the past four years doubled as the recruiting coordinator…starting to feel bad for opposing offenses in the SEC yet? Don’t feel too badly yet as this is Oregeron’s first gig as the “Man” and the SEC is a lot tougher than the Pac-10.
NEW MEXICO STATE
Head Coach: Hal Mumme
Former HC: Tony Samuel–Currently out of coaching
When you’re New Mexico State and have had losing seasons four of the past five years and have not gone to a Bowl game in 45 years you tend to get a little desperate, enter Hal Mumme who brings tons of baggage along with him stemming from the four years he spend at Kentucky, Mumme built up the Kentucky program and even had a QB taken #1 in the draft (Tim Couch) but in the end he left them in disgrace amid more than three dozen NCAA violations, the past two seasons Mumme has been in exile heading up the Southeastern Louisiana program.
Head Coach: Charlie Weis
Former HC: Tyrone Willingham–Now Head coach at Washington
Charlie Weis is one of the more intriguing additions to this years crop of new HC’s in the college ranks as Weis is making a return to his alma mater and is fresh off his third Super Bowl as the offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots.
Not only is Weis going to be a college head coach for the first time ever but this is also his first job outside the NFL since leading Franklin Township (N.J.) High School to a state title in 1989. Weis is a classic rags-to-riches story of a coach, who didn’t play the game and earned his stripes at the high school level before Bill Parcells gave him his first break in 1990, since then he’s spent every season working for either Parcells or Bill Belichek.
Head Coach: Frank Solich
Former HC: Brian Knorr–Currently out of coaching
Ohio’s landing of Frank Solich is another surprising hire in the college ranks and makes Ohio a team to keep an eye on this year, Solich is originally from the Cleveland area which probably explains this move on his part after being unceremoniously dumped by Nebraska after posting a mark of 58-19 during his tenure, Solich brings a wealth of experience to this small MAC school, unfortunately for Ohio this job is probably just a stepping stone for Solich.
Head Coach: Mike Gundy
Former HC: Les Miles–Now Head coach at LSU
Gundy has spent most of his adult life in Stillwater and still holds the record as Oklahoma State’s all time leading passer, he was the offensive coordinator at this program under Les Miles and with the departure of Miles to LSU was promoted to the HC which makes him the youngest head coach in division I-A football, look for Gundy to keep the Cowboys on course.
Head Coach: Dave Wannstedt
Former HC: Walt Harris–Now Head coach at Stanford
After 16 mostly up and down years in the NFL coaching Dallas, Chicago, and Miami, Dave “Wanny” Wannstedt returns home to Pittsburgh and to his alma mater in an attempt to bring back the glory years of the 1970’s to Pittsburgh when the Panthers and Steelers ruled the roost, don’t be surprised if the media reports “Wanny” asking the advice of Jimmy Johnson when considering that together they won a national championship in 1987 and a pair of Super Bowls in the early 1990’s.
SAN JOSE STATE
Head Coach: Dick Tomey
Former HC: Fitz Hill–Currently out of coaching
Most coaches are retiring at age 66 but not Dick Tomey who will attempt to breathe life into a Spartan program that’s had one winning season since 1992, the Spartans should improve under Tomey who was the defensive genius behind the famed Desert Swarm defense during his tenure at Arizona, Tomey took the Arizona Wildcats to seven bowl trips and the program’s only Top 10 finishes in 1993 and 1998 but he will be hard pressed to duplicate that kind of success with the Spartans who posted a 2-9 record last year and have gone a combined 14-33 over the past four seasons.
Head Coach: Steve Spurrier
Former HC: Lou Holtz–Retired from coaching
Major kudo’s must be given to the Gamecocks for replacing one legendary coach with another as Steve Spurrier makes his return to the college sidelines following two forgettable seasons with the Washington Redskins, whether you like Spurrier or not you have to recognize his brilliance and ability as he sustained one of the greatest coaching runs in the modern era of college football while at Florida, in 12 seasons with the Gators Spurrier compiled a 122-27-1 record, won six SEC titles and won a national championship. Look for the ole ball coach to have the Gamecocks competing for their first SEC title before long.
Head Coach: Walt Harris
Former HC: Buddy Teevens–Now Head coach at Dartmouth
Walt Harris returns home to Northern California following five straight winning seasons and last year’s Big East championship while at Pittsburgh, however, Harris was not well liked in Pittsburgh and could not get along with superiors which caused constant controversy and mudslinging in the media. Harris is however, a major upgrade over Teevens and should be able to bring stability to the Stanford program.
Head Coach: Greg Robinson
Former HC: Paul Pasqualoni–Now Assistant coach with the Dallas Cowboys
It took 30 years as an assistant coach but Greg Robinson has finally landed his first HC job, Robinson spent the first 15 years of his career at the college level and last fall as the co-coordinator of the Texas defense but he’s actually best known for his achievements in the NFL, from 1994 to 2003 Robinson was the defensive coordinator for the New York Jets, Denver Broncos, and Kansas City Chiefs, picking up Super Bowl rings with Denver in 1997 and 1998.
Here’s a nugget to keep in mind my friend, in eight bowl appearances as an assistant coach which includes four Rose Bowls with UCLA and Texas, Robinson coached teams have yet to lose. Robinson is a firey competitor and figures to bring it with him to Syracuse so keep an eye on this team as a possible giant killer in the watered down Big East.
Head Coach: Mike Sanford
Former HC: John Robinson–Retired from coaching
Utah’s unprecedented success last fall opened the door for Utah HC Urban Meyer to take the Florida job, for assistant coach Kyle Whittingham to take over in Utah and for Mike Sanford to take over the program at UNLV. Along with Urban Meyer, Mike Sanford was one of the architects of a Ute spread offense which baffled defenses last season.
UNLV is a program to watch as they have a ton of potential, look for Sanford to bring a fresh energy and an option attack that’s geared toward putting fans in the stands and points on the board.
Head Coach: Kyle Whittingham
Former HC: Urban Meyer–Now Head coach at Florida
Whittingham has spent the past ten years as the defensive coordinator at Utah and now gets his shot to strut his stuff as he takes over for Urban Meyer and assumes his first head coaching position. During his tenure in Salt Lake City the former BYU linebacker has regularly produced underrated and fundamentally sound defenses that have ranked in the Top 25 in points allowed six of the last eight years.
Whittingham has his work cut out for him at Utah as expectations are very high following last seasons 12-0 mark, the Utes became the first non-BCS school to win a BCS bowl game and the Utah faithful want more of the same. The problem is that it won’t be so easy this coming year as offensive masterminds Urban Meyer and Mike Sanford are gone.
Head Coach: Brent Guy
Former HC: Mick Dennehy–Currently out of coaching
Brent Guy spent the past four years as Arizona State’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach and now becomes the 25th head coach in Utah State history. No stranger to Logan, he coached Aggie linebackers from 1992 to 1994 and was Dirk Koetter’s defensive coordinator at Boise State from 1998 to 2000 when the Broncos won two Big West titles , Guy’s Bronco defense led the league in total defense and scoring defense in back to back seasons.
Utah State’s move to the WAC and need to upgrade facilities signal a pivotal time in the program’s history, those around Cache Valley are hopeful the high energy Guy can effectively usher in a new era of Aggie football while helping raise the $16 million needed to give Romney Stadium an extreme makeover, those that have followed Aggie football know that while Guy is a key to the future he is also a bridge to the past as he was on staff in 1993 when the school captured its only bowl win.
Head Coach: Tyrone Willingham
Former HC: Keith Gilbertson–Currently out of coaching
After his highly publicized dismissal from Notre Dame Tyrone Willingham returns to the familiar Pac-10 which spawned him, Willingham was at Stanford prior to taking over the Irish and guided the Cardinal to their first league title and Rose Bowl appearance in nearly three decades and was twice named Pac-10 Coach of the Year.
Say what you will about Ty Willingham but the fact of the matter is that he’s the epitome of sideline professionalism and preparation, after failing to turn around the Irish in three years some have begun to wonder out loud if he’s just an average head coach, however, with only one bowl win in ten years as a college coach you really can’t blame the doubters.
Head Coach: Bill Cubit
Former HC: Gary Darnell-Currently out of coaching
Cubit returns to Kalamazoo where he coached the Bronco offense to some impressive results from 1997 to 1999, Cubit’s only college head coaching experience came at D-III Widener from 1992 to 1996. With W. Michigan riding a streak of four straight losing seasons capped off by last seasons 1-10 finish, anyone could have predicted a change.
A look at the roster shows the name of QB Ryan Cubit, yup, a father and son combo, it has to be sort of weird when your dad’s the HC, but at least Ryan won’t have to work too hard learning a new system since his dad has been his teacher since birth.
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