SEC Coach Comparisons: Part 3

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Today we will examine Butch Jones of Tennessee, Derek Mason of Vanderbilt, Missouri’s Barry Odom and Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin.

 

A. Butch Jones of Tennessee

Jones has performed an admirable job of replenishing the talent at Tennessee. He is entering his fourth season with a record of 21-17 and a win percentage of .553 and no titles to date.  His biggest critics point to his teams’ inability to close out games against quality opponents; for example, Florida in 2014 and 2015 and Oklahoma in 2015.  Still, football pundits believe Tennessee to be the best team in the SEC East in 2016.  If Tennessee does not meet expectations this season Vol Nation may be looking for another coach in 2017.  Here is how Jones compares with some other Tennessee coaches of notoriety after three seasons.

  1. Bob Neyland: He is the gold standard for UT coaches. Hall of Famer Neyland coached at Tennessee from 1926-1934, 1936-1940, and 1946-1952.  He left Knoxville with a record of 173-31-12, a win percentage of .801.  Neyland won eight SEC titles and four national championships.  After three years, Neyland had compiled a record of 25-1-3, a win percentage of .862 and 1 SEC title.
  2. Bowden Wyatt: He coached the Vols from 1955-1962 and compiled an overall win percentage of .622.  The Hall of Fame coach won 1 SEC title, in his second season.  After three years, his record was 24-7-1, a win percentage of .750.
  3. Doug Dickey: Dickey coached the Big Orange from 1964-1969, accruing an overall win percentage of .738.  The Hall of Famer won 2 SEC titles while with the Vols.  After three years, he compiled a win percentage of .625.
  4. Johnny Majors: Majors led UT from 1977-1992. His amassed an overall win percentage of .645 while winning three SEC titles.  After three seasons, the Hall of Fame coach amassed a win percentage of .471.
  5. Phillip Fulmer: This Hall of Fame coach compiled an overall win percentage of .745 from 1992-2008.  He won two SEC titles and one national championship.  Fulmer, after three full years, had a win percentage of .801.

Other than Majors, the other UT coaches above had a better win percentage than Jones after three seasons.  In his defense, the cupboard was pretty bare when he arrived.  However, people on Rocky Top are not very patient when it comes to their football coaches.  If Jones does not lock down a weak SEC East division this season, he may be gone before 2017.

 

 B.  Derek Mason of Vanderbilt

Mason came to Vanderbilt after serving as defensive coordinator on some outstanding Stanford University teams.  He supposedly understood what it took to be successful at a Power Five school with high academic standards.  Mason lost to Temple 37-7 in Nashville in his first game.  Vanderbilt fans had just experienced three straight years of bowl games under James Franklin and believed the program had turned a corner.  Mason finished his first year 3-9, 0-8 in the SEC.  Vanderbilt became Vandy again.  Mason compiled a 4-8 record his second year with two SEC wins.  So after two seasons, the former Stanford assistant is 7-17, a win percentage of .292.  Even by Vandy standards, Mason’s record is putrid.  Believe it or not, Vanderbilt was considered a football power from the program’s infancy into the early 1950s.  Then a losing culture took root from the 1950s to the present mainly because of poor coaching, subpar athletes and an overall lack of caring from the administration.  Certainly, the Commodores enjoyed some very competitive seasons during this time, notably under Steve Sloan in 1974, George MacIntyre in 1982, Bobby Johnson in 2008 and the aforementioned Franklin in 2011-2013. Let’s compare Mason with these former Commodore coaches.

  1. Steve Sloan: He only coached the Commodores for two seasons, 1973-1974. Sloan compiled a .520 win percentage and led Vanderbilt to its second bowl game in the program’s history after the 1974 season.  Like all VU coaches who had any success with the Commodores after the 1950s he left for greener pastures–Texas Tech.
  2. George MacIntyre: He guided the program from 1979-1985 and left with a win percentage of .390. His 1982 team went 8-4 and played in the third bowl game in the program’s history.
  3. Bobby Johnson: He led the Commodores from 2002-2009, had one winning season (2008), and a bowl game win after that season.  Johnson retired suddenly two months before the start of the 2010 campaign with a win percentage of .310.
  4. James Franklin: He arguably has been the best Vanderbilt coach since Red Sanders, who last coached a Vanderbilt team in 1948. From 2011-2013, Franklin compiled .615 win percentage and guided the team to three consecutive bowl games. He left after the 2013 season for Penn State.

Franklin proved to Vanderbilt fans and the administration that the program could be very competitive and go to a bowl game consistently.  In Mason’s short tenure, the program has reverted to it old losing ways. The guess here is that if Mason doesn’t finish with a record close to .500 in 2016, Vanderbilt will have a new coach for the 2017 season.

 

C.  Barry Odom of Missouri

Missouri has not won a conference championship since 1969, the Big Eight Conference, and has no national championships since beginning play in 1890.  Safe to say that Missouri fans do not have delusional expectations for championships that other SEC fan bases have.  Still, Missouri has had some very good teams in its history and has come close to winning more conference titles recently.  The Tigers could not win Big 12 title games in 2007 and 2008 nor win SEC title games in 2013 and 2014. Let’s compare Odom to Missouri coaches who have stayed at the school for at least five years.

  1. Don Faurot: This Hall of Famer coached the Tigers from 1935-1942 and 1946-1956. He left with a win percentage of .558 and three conference titles (Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association, precursor to the Big 8).  He has the most wins, 101, of any Missouri coach and his name adorns the stadium.
  2. Dan Devine: Another Hall of Famer, Devine coached at Missouri from 1958-1970.  He left with a .704 win percentage and two Big Eight Conference titles, including the 1969 title.
  3. Al Onofrio: He coached from 1971-1977 but had a win percentage of only.481.
  4. Warren Powers: He guided the Tigers from 1978-1984 and left with a win percentage of .579.
  5. Bob Stull: He left the Missouri program with a win percentage of .291 after leading Mizzou from 1989-1993.
  6. Larry Smith: Smith’s tenure ran from 1994-2000 and his win percentage was .419.
  7. Gary Pinkel: The second longest tenured coach in Missouri history, 2001-2015, Pinkel retired after last season with a win percentage of .622.

Odom will be given every opportunity to succeed at Missouri and if he can continue to recruit like Pinkel, Odom may have a long career with the Tigers.  If he can manage to break Missouri’s title drought and win an SEC and/or national title, he may never have to buy another meal in Columbia for the rest of his life.  Time will tell.

 

D.  Kevin Sumlin of Texas A & R M:

Sumlin begins his fifth season with a win percentage of .750 but is on the hot seat.  The last two seasons Sumlin’s teams have started 5-0 only to finish 2-5 in 2014 and 3-4 in 2015.  Quarterback controversies ensued both seasons prompting multiple quarterback transfers out of the program.  One of the transfers after last season, Kyler Murray, accused Sumlin of allowing a culture without discipline.  Murray complained that players could do anything as long as they produced on game day and that this culture started when Johnny Manziel was the quarterback.  Such allegations may be the undoing of Sumlin if the Aggies don’t improve their won-lost record immediately.

Sumlin’s win percentage is still very impressive and it rates highly with those of other A & M coaches.  The university boasts six Hall of Fame coaches who spent time running the program.  Let’s look at how Sumlin compares with those coaches.

  1. Dana X. Bible: He coached the Aggies in 1917 and 1919-1928 and compiled a win percentage .765.  Bible won three Southwest Conference (SWC) titles and one national championship.  After four seasons his win percentage was .860.
  2. Madison Bell: He guided A & M from 1929-1933 and amassed a win percentage of .531, .470 after his first four seasons.  Bell won no titles with the Aggies but won four SWC titles and one national championship with Southern Methodist University after his time at Texas A & M.
  3. Homer Norton: He led the Aggies from 1934-1947 and had a .531 win percentage, .470 after four seasons.  Norton won three SWC titles and one national championship in College Station.
  4. Paul “Bear” Bryant: The Bear coached at A&M from 1954-1957, before leaving for Alabama.  While with the Aggies, Bryant tallied a win percentage of .610 and won one SWC title.
  5. Gene Stallings: He coached the Aggies from 1965-1971, won one SWC title and had a pedestrian win percentage .377, .410 after four seasons.  He would later win one SEC title, participate in three other SEC championship games and win a national championship at Alabama.
  6. R. C. Slocum: He led the Aggie program from 1989-2002 and won three SWC titles and one Big 12 title. Slocum compiled a .721 win percentage, .780 after four seasons.

Sumlin has a greater win percentage than four of the aforementioned Hall of Fame coaches after four seasons in College Station.  Most of the Aggie faithful believe it would be even higher if not for the quarterback issues the last two seasons.  Sumlin has proven he can recruit, especially quarterbacks.  However, if the culture that Murray portrayed is true and A & M struggles in the second half of the season again, Sumlin may be looking for another job in 2017.

This concludes the examination of the current SEC coaches.  Some will continue to flourish while others will be looking for work at the end of the season.  In the ultra-competitive SEC, winning is everything.

SEC Coach Comparisons: Part 2

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Today we take a look at Kentucky’s Mark Stoops, LSU’s Les Miles, Hugh Freeze of Ole Miss, Dan Mullen of Mississippi State and Will Muschamp of South Carolina.

 

  1. Mark Stoops of Kentucky

Stoops is entering his fourth year as coach of the Wildcats.  His record is 12-24 at this point, a win percentage of .333.  Not only does he have no titles at Kentucky, but none of his teams have been to a bowl game.

Out of 17 coaches that coached at least three years at Kentucky, Stoops has a better win percentage than only one.

Let’s compare Brooks to some of Kentucky’s most successful coaches:

Paul “Bear” Bryant—The Bear coached at UK from 1946-53 and compiled an overall record of 60-23-5.  He won the school’s first SEC title in 1950 and beat Number 1 Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.  After three years, Bryant had a record of 20-9-2.

Blanton Collier—Collier followed Bryant and coached the Cats from 1954-61.  He compiled a 41-36-3 overall record and was 19-10-1 after his first three years.  Collier won no titles at Kentucky.

Fran Curci—Curci held the reigns at UK from 1973-1981.  His overall record was 47-51-2 with one SEC title.  After three years, Curci had a 13-19-1 ledger.

Jerry Claiborne—This Hall of Fame coach and Kentucky grad amassed an overall record of 41-46-3 from 1982-1989.  He won no titles while at UK and had a record of 15-18-2 after three years in Lexington.

Joker Phillips—The coach Brooks succeeded compiled a record of 13-24 in his three years at UK, 2010-2012.  His win percentage was better than Stoops’ after  three years and Kentucky fired Phillips.

Stoops has done very little to inspire faith from the Big Blue Nation.  If Stoops does not lead UK to a bowl game this season, Kentucky may have a new coach to start the 2017 season.

 

  1. Les Miles of LSU

Miles is on the hot seat and was almost terminated after the last game of the regular season last year.  However, his record is stellar.  Miles has coached at LSU since 2005 and owns a 112-32 record, a win percentage of .778.  He has won two SEC titles and one National Championship.  He also lost in the BCS title game in 2011 to Nick Saban and Alabama.  Miles has the best win percentage of any LSU coach who coached more than two years and has the second most wins behind Charlie McClendon’s 203.  LSU fans are unhappy that he has won no SEC titles since 2011 and hasn’t beaten Saban and Alabama since 2011.  In a-what-have-you-done-lately-SEC, Miles may be terminated if he doesn’t at least get into the College Football Playoffs after this season.  Here is how he compares to some of LSU’s most successful coaches.

Bernie Moore—Hall of Famer Moore coached at LSU from 1935-1947 and compiled an overall record of 83-39-6.  After 11years, Moore’s record was 69-35-4, a .639 win percentage.  He won two SEC titles—1935 and 1936—with the Tigers.

Paul Dietzel—Though he only coached at LSU from 1955-1961, Dietzel won two SEC titles and one national championship.  His win percentage with the Tigers was .630.

Charlie McClendon—Hall of Famer McClendon coached in Baton Rouge from 1962-1979 and amassed a record of 137-59-7.  After 11 years at LSU he had a record of 88-29-5, a win percentage of .721.  He won one SEC title in 1970.

Nick Saban—Future Hall of Famer Saban only coached in Baton Rouge from 2000-2004, but he had a win percentage of .750, including 2 SEC titles, one second place in the SEC and LSU’s second national championship.

Saban set the bar very high at LSU and the Tiger fans want someone who can compete with him on a yearly basis.  Miles’ LSU teams won three out of the first five encounters with Saban’s Crimson Tide but as previously noted, Alabama has won the last 5, including the BCS national championship game in 2012.  A victory for Miles against the Tide in November would most likely propel LSU into the College Football Playoffs.  Another loss to Saban may cost Miles his job.

 

  1. Hugh Freeze of Mississippi

Freeze has tallied a four-year record at Ole Miss of 34-18, a win percentage of .650.  As of yet his teams have won no titles of any kind.  Of the eight Rebel coaches who stayed at the school at least four years, Freeze has a better win percentage than all but two, including Steve Sloan, Billy Brewer, Tommy Tuberville, David Cutcliffe and Houston Nutt.  Let’s compare Freeze with the two most successful coaches in Ole Miss’ history.

Harry Mehre—He left the University of Georgia to coach at Ole Miss.  He guided the Rebels from 1938-1942 and from 1944-1945.  After four years, Mehre’s teams compiled a win percentage of.780 but with no titles of any kind.

Johnny Vaught–He led the Rebels from 1947-1970 and for eight games in 1973.  The Hall of Fame coach is the gold standard at Ole Miss, where he won six SEC titles and three national championships.  His overall win percentage at Ole Miss stands at .720 but after four years it stood at .650, the same as Freeze’s percentage.

Freeze appears to have a bright future at Ole Miss. He will probably never come close to Vaught’s record as long as Saban remains at Alabama but is clearly the best Rebel coach since Vaught.  An impending NCAA investigation into alleged rules violations could have a major impact on the Ole Miss program if the allegations prove true.  How that would affect Freeze’s tenure at the school remains to be seen.

 

  1. Dan Mullen of Mississippi State

Mullen, entering his eighth season in Starkville, has compiled a record of 55-35, a win percentage of .610.  Only three other coaches in Mississippi State’s 121 year history of football have stayed as long as Mullen.  That right there speaks volumes.  As of yet, Mullen has no titles at MSU.

Hall of Fame coach Allyn McKeen coached in Starkville from 1939-1942 and from 1944-1948.  He had a win percentage of .764 and the school’s lone SEC title.

Emory Bellard coached the Bulldogs from 1979-1985.  He compiled a win percentage of .468 with no titles.

Jackie Sherrill held the reigns at MSU from 1991-2003.  After seven seasons, Sherrill had a win percentage of .510.  He won no titles at Mississippi State.

If Mullen decides to remain in Starkville, he may well be the Bulldogs’ all-time winningest coach—he is 19 victories shy of Sherrill. History has shown that winning championships at Mississippi State is a herculean task.  My guess is that Mullen will leave to pursue championships at a school that has a better recruiting base, a larger stadium and a larger football budget than State.

 

  1. Will Muschamp of South Carolina

Muschamp begins his first season as head coach of the Gamecocks.  His only other head coaching experience came at the University of Florida where he recorded a 17-15 record from 2011-2014, after which the Florida administration terminated him.

The South Carolina situation is different from that of Florida.  In the history of the football program that dates back to 1896, South Carolina has won only one title, the Atlantic Coast Conference championship in 1969.  Florida, on the other hand, has won six SEC titles and three national championships since 1991.  Florida expects to win championships on a regular basis.  While South Carolina would love to have such expectations the reality is that the program has no history of such.  So the Gamecock Nation may be a bit more patient with Muschamp as he tries to win titles and establish title expectations from both the administration and the fan base.

Since 1896, South Carolina has had 12 coaches who stayed at the school for at least 5 years.  Only six left with a win percentage of .500 or better.  Sol Metzger coached from 1920-1924 and left with a win percentage of .587.  Billy Laval guided South Carolina from 1928-1934 and left with a win percentage of .590.  It wasn’t until Warren Giese’s tenure of 1956-1960 that the program would see another coach with a win percentage over .500.  Giese left with a .570 win percentage.

Interestingly, Paul Dietzel won South Carolina’s only title in 1969 but left win a win percentage of .443 after  coaching at the school from 1966-1974.  Jim Carlen guided the Gamecocks from 1975-1981 and left with a win percentage of .555. Joe Morrison coached from 1983-1988 and compiled an impressive win percentage of .580 but died of a heart attack while exercising in Columbia.  Even Hall of Fame coach Lou Holtz couldn’t amass a winning overall record during his time at the school from 1999-2004.  His win percentage is .471.  Finally, future Hall of Famer Steve Spurrier found the most success in Columbia with an overall win percentage of .637, but he could not secure an SEC title or national championship for the program from 2005 into the 2015 season.

South Carolina fans are starved for championships and Muschamp will likely be given time to attain one.  We’ll just have to see if Muschamp can make the Gamecock fans crow.

 

Next time we’ll analyze Butch Jones of Tennessee, Derek Mason of Vanderbilt, Missouri’s Barry Odom and Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin.

 

SEC Coach Comparisons

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How do the current SEC coaches match up with some of the prior coaches at their respective schools?  Let’s start the comparisons with Nick Saban, Bret Bielema, Gus Malzahn, Jim McElwain and Kirby Smart.  We’ll examine the rest in the near future.

 

  1. Nick Saban of Alabama

Saban begins his 10th season in Tuscaloosa.  His official record at Alabama is 100-18, a .847 win percentage His teams have won six SEC titles and four national championships.  Here are the statistics from two of the more famous Alabama coaches after their ninth seasons in Tuscaloosa:

Frank Thomas—From 1931-1939 Thomas had a record of 69-9-4, an .840 win percentage.  During this time he won four SEC titles and two national championships.

Paul “Bear’ Bryant—From 1958-1966 Bryant compiled a record of 80-12-6, an .820 win percentage.  Bryant, during this time, won four SEC titles and three national championships.

No other Crimson Tide coaches managed to stay in Tuscaloosa for at least nine seasons.  Arguably, Saban is the most successful football coach in Alabama history.  Unless something unforeseeable takes place, Saban will remain at Alabama as long as he wants.

 

  1. Bret Bielema of Arkansas

Bielema is entering his fourth season as coach of the Razorbacks.  His record after three seasons in Fayetteville is 10-15, a .400 win percentage.  He has won zero SEC titles and zero national championships.

Arkansas has had 13 coaches who lasted at least three years.  Of those 13, Bielema’s win percentage is better than just two.  His win percentage does not come close to Arkansas legends Hugo Bezdek, Frank Broyles, Lou Holtz, Ken Hatfield and Houston Nutt.  That does not bode well.  If Bielema doesn’t win more games over the next couple of seasons, you may see a different coach in 2018 at Arkansas.

 

  1. Gus Malzahn of Auburn

Malzahn enters his fourth season on the Plains with a 27-17 record, a win percentage of .610.  He has won one SEC title and lost to Florida State in the BCS national championship game after his first season in 2013.  Since then, Auburn has been very mediocre.

Thirteen Auburn coaches lasted at least three seasons.  Of those 13, Malzahn has a better win percentage than nine.  This includes Hall of Fame coaches Mike Donahue and Shug Jordan.  A better comparison may be Gene Chizik, the man Malzahn succeeded.  Chizek lasted four years.  With Heisman-winning quarterback Cam Newton, Chizik won the national championship in his second season, 2010.  Two years later, Auburn fired Chizik and hired Malzahn.  If Auburn struggles again this season, Malzahn will probably be looking for work elsewhere.

 

  1. Jim McElwain of Florida

McElwain enters his second season at Florida after a 10-3 first year and second place finish in the conference.  Not a bad start.   His win percentage is .770.

The University of Florida has had 24 coaches before McElwain, but let’s compare him with three Hall of Fame coaches, two future Hall of Fame coaches and two coaches who replaced those two future Hall of Fame coaches.

Hall of Famer Charlie Bachman coached Florida from 1928-1932.  He was 8-1 his first year and finished with an overall record of 27-18-3. He won no titles of any kind.

Hall of Famer Ray Graves coached Florida from 1960-69 and tallied a 9-2 record his first year.  He went on to compile a 70-31-4 overall record with no titles.

Hall of Famer Doug Dickey coached the Gators from 1971-78.  He went 7-4 his first year and amassed an overall record of 58-43-2, with no titles.

Future Hall of Famer Steve Spurrier coached Florida from 1990-2001.  He accumulated a record of 9-2 his first year.  His overall record at Florida was 122-27-1, with six SEC titles and one national championship.

Ron Zook took over the Florida reigns from 2002-2004. Zook finished 8-5 his first year, 23-14 overall, with no titles. He could not match Spurrier’s success.

Future Hall of Famer Urban Meyer took over in 2005 and went 9-3 his first year.  He coached through the 2010 season amassing a record of 65-15, with two SEC titles and two national championships.

Will Muschamp replaced Meyers and went 7-6 his first season in 2011.  After four years and an overall record of 28-21, with no titles, Florida terminated him.

Florida’s most successful coaches have had very good first seasons, something that McElwain achieved in his first campaign.  This bodes well for him, although it is too early to make a prediction of success along the lines of Spurrier and Meyer.

 

  1. Kirby Smart of Georgia

Smart starts his first year at Georgia after spending 11 years as an assistant coach under Nick Saban, the last eight as defensive coordinator.  Smart has the pedigree to be very successful.  Time will tell. Below are first year comparisons to prior Georgia coaches who had success at the school.

Harry Mehre coached the Bulldogs from 1928-1937.  His record was only 4-5 his first year, but he ended his Georgia career with a record of 59-34-6, a win percentage of .600.  He won no titles at Georgia.

Wally Butts had the helm at Georgia from 1939-1960.  In his first year, Butts finished with a losing record of 5-6. However, he ended his UGA career at 140-86-9, a win percentage of .600.  Butts won four SEC titles and one national championship while coaching the Bulldogs.

Vince Dooley is the winningest coach at UGA.  He coached the Bulldogs from 1964-1988. Dooley finished his first year with a 7-3-1 record and compiled an overall tally of 201-77-10, a win percentage of .700.  Dooley’s teams won six SEC titles and one national championship.

Jim Donnan coached at UGA from 1996-2000.  He finished 5-6 his first season but amassed an overall record of 40-19, a win percentage of .680.  Donnan won no titles while at UGA.

Mark Richt coached at Georgia from 2001-2015 and finished with a record of 8-4 after his first season.  His overall record at UGA was 145-51, a.740 win percentage.  Richt won two SEC titles but no national championships.

Again, only time will tell as to the overall success of Kirby Smart.  Even if for someone reason UGA struggles in 2016, the past has shown that Smart could still have a very successful career at Georgia.  However, Smart will always be compared with Richt.  While Richt has a terrific win percentage, he could not bring the Georgia fans a national title.   Will Smart?

 

Next time we’ll take a look at Mark Stoops of Kentucky, LSU’s Les Miles, Hugh Freeze of Ole Miss, Dan Mullen of Mississippi State and South Carolina’s Will Muschamp.

 

 

 

Paul Johnson Has Work to Do

 

Photo by Michael Schneider

Photo by Michael Schneider

The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Coastal Division has some new and powerful blood among the coaching ranks, which just made Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson’s job much more difficult.  Unless Johnson recruits better players and/or hires better coaches, his time at Tech may come to an end sooner than later.  Johnson has coached the Yellow Jackets since 2008, has compiled a 61-44 overall record, and a 38-26 mark in the Coastal Division, finishing first or second six out of his eight seasons on the Flats.

The new coaches in the division are Mark Richt at the University of Miami, Justin Fuente at Virginia Tech, and Bronco Mendenhall at the University of Virginia. Before examining some statistics from Johnson’s eight years at Tech, a brief examination of how Johnson has fared against the current coaches in the Coastal Division requires an examination.

Johnson has a record of 6-2 against David Cutcliffe at Duke University, but Cutcliffe has won the last two meetings against Johnson’s Yellow Jackets.  Larry Fedora of the University of North Carolina, fresh off the 2015 Coastal Division title, is 2-2 versus Johnson, with wins the last two years.  Pat Narduzzi came to the University of Pittsburgh before the 2015 season after a long and successful run as the defensive coordinator at Michigan State University.  From 2011-2014, Narduzzi’ s Michigan State defenses were the only ones ranked every year in the Football Bowl Subdivision Top 10 in total defense and rushing defense.  In Narduzzi’s first season, he led Pitt to the school’s most wins, 8, since 2010.  In Johnson’s only game against Narduzzi, Pitt won 31-28.

While at the University of Georgia, Mark Richt’s Bulldogs defeated Johnson’s Yellow Jackets six out of eight times, including this year’s 13-7 victory.  Tech is 2-6 against the University of Miami in the Johnson era, and if one combines that with Richt’s dominance while at Georgia, it would seem that Johnson will have a very difficult time beating Miami.  Bronco Mendenhall’s Brigham Young University teams easily defeated Johnson’s Tech teams in 2012 and 2013, with the closest deficit being 18 points.  Johnson sports a 5-3 record against Virginia, which has not had a winning season since 2011.  Johnson will have to do a better of job scheming against Mendenhall than the two games against Mendenhall while he was at BYU.  Johnson’s teams have struggled mightily against the Virginia Tech defenses of Bud Foster.  Georgia Tech is 2-6 against Virginia Tech in the Johnson era.  Virginia Tech now has one of the most sought after coaches in college football, Justin Fuente.  Fuente, considered an offensive wizard, took over a University of Memphis program that had won only five games in the prior three seasons.  Within three years Fuente brought Memphis a winning season and a bowl victory.  Under Fuente, Memphis finished 19-6 the last two years.  One of Fuente’s first moves as the Virginia Tech coach was to retain Bud Foster as the defensive coordinator.  With Fuente’s offensive genius and Foster’s defensive wizardry, Johnson will find victories over the Hokies to be a challenge.

Paul Johnson has no peers with his knowledge of the triple option. According to cfbstats.com, Tech’s offenses have generally been very prolific.  In the Johnson era, his teams have finished in the Top 5 in the country in rushing offense every year (except 2015).  This is out of 128 or 120 Football Bowl Subdivision schools, depending on the year.  In scoring offense, Tech has finished 21st or better in four of Johnson’s seasons, while in total offense Tech has finished 44th or better in six of eight seasons, including two Top 20 finishes.  However, Tech’s defenses and special teams have struggled most years under Johnson.

Three defensive coordinators have served Tech under Johnson.  Tech’s best defense came in 2008, Johnson’s first year.  With players recruited by former coach Chan Gailey, the unit finished 25th in the country in total defense and 28th in scoring defense.  Since then, Tech has finished no better than 53rd in scoring defense and 43rd in total defense (except for the 2013 season, 29th and 28th, respectively).  Again, this is according to cfbstats.com and the rankings are based on 128 or 120 teams, depending on the year.

Special teams play can influence the outcome of a game, and generally, Tech’s units have recorded poor results, according to cfbstats.com.  Punt and kickoff returns help to establish field position, while punt and kickoff coverage can effect field position as well, thereby making it more difficult for opposing offenses to score because of the length of the field they must navigate. From a punt unit standpoint, Tech has had one very good season, 2012, finishing 17th in the country in punt returns and 14th in opponents’ punt returns (OPR).  The 2009 punt return unit finished 10th and scored two touchdowns but the OPR finish was only 43rd.  In Johnson’s other six seasons, the punt return units have finished no better than 53rd and the OPR units have finished no better than 39th, with three of the units finishing 64th or worse.  The kickoff units have been dreadful for almost every season during the Johnson era.  The Kickoff Return units have finished 47th or worse—four units finished 96th or worse—every year except 2012, when the unit finished 27th.  The Opponents’ Kickoff Return units have finished 41st or worse—three units finished 101st or worse—every year except 2010, when the unit finished 18th.

The above statistics are not meant to give an exhaustive statistical indication of Tech’s strengths and weaknesses under Johnson but do offer a fair account of some of the units’ strengths and weaknesses over the years.  While Johnson’s offenses amass large amounts of yardage and points, the defensive and special teams play have generally been detrimental to Johnson’s overall record.  Maybe Johnson can improve his defenses and special teams with better athletes on those units and/or better coaching.

His strategy to this point seems to be to score as many points as he can and hope that is enough to win.  With the stable of capable coaches in the Coastal Division, Johnson’s chances of using this strategy to win games will more than likely lead to more losses.  Of course, he still has to find a way to beat Clemson and Georgia.  The bottom line:  Johnson must continue to maintain highly productive offenses and consistently develop strong defenses and special teams or he will force Athletics Director Mike Bobinski to make an unpleasant decision.

 

Spurrier Rankles UGA

 

 

Courtesy Zeng8r

Courtesy Zeng8r

In Tales from College Football’s Sidelines, Herschel Nissenson tells a story about Steve Spurrier’s only trip to Athens to play the University of Georgia while head coach of the University of Florida. The Gator Bowl, now EverBank Field, was being renovated in 1994-1995, and the two schools agreed to play a home-and-home series on their respective campuses. Florida won the 1994 contest in Gainesville, 52-14, and the 1995 game came to Athens.

Florida had the ball at the Georgia 8-yard line in the waning minutes with a 45-17 lead. Spurrier sent in the field goal unit. Before the kick, Spurrier received a phone call from someone in the press box. The caller informed Spurrier that no team had ever scored 50 points on Georgia in Sanford Stadium.

Spurrier called time out, decided on a play, and sent the offense back on the field. Quarterback Eric Kresser tossed a touchdown pass to receiver Travis McGriff to give Florida the points needed to exceed the 50 mark.

After the play, Spurrier called back to the person in the press box and declared, “Have now.”

The Holy Trinity of Georgia Tech Football

 

Courtesy of UserB

Courtesy of UserB

In the 120+-year history of Georgia Tech (Tech) football, three coaches have accounted for nearly 60 percent of the school’s overall wins. From 1904 through 1966, John Heisman, William Alexander, and Bobby Dodd led the program to more than 400 wins and three national championships. For over 60 years, Tech was a football power. Since this era, Tech has produced some very good teams– the most notable being the 1990 national champions–but has not enjoyed the sustained success that these three men engineered. Each man had his own coaching style and personality, but they share a common thread: the ability to win football games. Meet the Holy Trinity of Georgia Tech football.

John Heisman coached Tech from 1904 -1919, compiling a 102-29-7 record. Heisman honed his skills while playing at Brown University and the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) in the 1890s. He earned a law degree at Penn but decided coaching football was more satisfying. Heisman started his coaching career at Oberlin College in Ohio in 1892, moved to Buchtel College (now the University of Akron) and then back to Oberlin before heading south to coach the Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University) in 1895 and Clemson University in 1900. Heisman left Tech after the 1919 season to coach Penn. He and his wife divorced and as part of the settlement, Heisman agreed not to reside in the same city as his wife, who chose to remain in Atlanta. After Penn, Heisman coached at Washington & Jefferson University and Rice University before becoming the director of athletics at the Downtown Athletic Club (DAC) in New York. The DAC began awarding a trophy to the nation’s best college football player in 1935. Upon Heisman’s death in 1936, the trophy became known as the Heisman Memorial Trophy.

Heisman was a demanding perfectionist and keen strategist. He loathed fumbling and would tell his players at the beginning of pre-season practice while holding up a football, “Better to have died as a small boy than to fumble this football.” His teams employed the jump shift,the forerunner to the T and I formations; lateral passes; backward passes; reverses; onside kicks and sweeps with pulling guards. His players did not huddle and the quarterback would shout a play or series of plays at the line of scrimmage. Heisman is also credited with developing the center/quarterback exchange to begin a play and leading the battle to legalize the forward pass.

From 1915-1918, Heisman’s Tech teams were 30-1-2 –the University of Pittsburgh beat Tech in 1918. The 1917 team went 9-0 and won the national championship.

Probably the most memorable contest of Heisman’s Tech coaching career was a game against Cumberland College in 1916. Heisman also coached baseball at Tech and he agreed to take his 1916 baseball team to Nashville to play Cumberland College. Cumberland embarrassed Heisman’s team 22-0, allegedly using pro players against Tech’s college kids. Even though Cumberland had dropped its football program before the 1916 season for economic reasons, Heisman was determined to avenge the baseball loss and demonstrate to sportswriters the folly of awarding the national championship to the highest-scoring team. Heisman offered Cumberland a $500 guarantee and an all-expenses-paid trip to Atlanta if they would honor their agreement to play Tech in football. Cumberland accepted and produced 16 players, mostly members of the Kappa Sigma fraternity with little knowledge of football. The game lasted 45 minutes and Tech scored 32 touchdowns in the 222-0 rout.

Unlike Heisman, William Alexander, also known as Alex, began and ended his coaching career at Tech. Alexander came to Tech to study engineering in 1906 as a 16-year-old boy. He walked on to the Tech football team in 1908 and played sparingly under Heisman. However, Heisman must have seen something in Alexander because he added Alex to the coaching staff after Alex’s senior season. Upon Heisman’s departure to Penn, Alexander became Tech’s head coach, serving from 1920-1944. He compiled a 134-95-15 record, won the 1928 national championship, and was the first coach to place a team in all four of the major bowls of the time: the Rose in 1929, the Orange in 1940, the Cotton in 1943, and the Sugar in 1944.

Alex was regarded as a tough taskmaster and a man of high character who rarely lost his poise. He was a fierce defender of his players. After Tech lost a game to Alabama on a last-minute interception return for a touchdown, an assistant coach began verbally abusing some of the players in the locker room after the game. Upon hearing the assistant’s tirade, Alex told him to leave and declared, “This is your team only when it wins. Now it’s my team. Get out before I throw you out.”

After disappointing seasons in 1929 and 1930, Alexander sought a bright young assistant. In the middle of the 1930 season, Alex sent assistant Mac Tharpe to Knoxville to scout the North Carolina -Tennessee game. Tharpe’s car broke down en route and he did not arrive in Knoxville until after the game. Tharpe hoped to receive an analysis of Carolina from Tennessee head coach Bob Neyland, but Neyland directed Tharpe to quarterback Bobby Dodd. Tharpe reported back to Alexander that, “Dodd’s analysis of Carolina is better than any scouting report that I could have made.”

Alex hired Dodd as an assistant coach in December of 1930. Dodd said of Alexander, “Coach Alex was wonderful to me. He could growl and snap, but when it came to an emergency, he was our guy. He enabled me to purchase the home my family and I lived in so many years. And he did the same thing for our black trainer, Porto Rico.”

Bobby Dodd worked for Alexander as an assistant for 14 years before succeeding him as head coach in 1945. Dodd coached Tech from 1945-1966 and had a record of 165-64-8. He guided Tech to a 31-game winning streak from 1951-53, including a 12-0 season and a national championship in 1952. Also in the 1950s, Dodd engineered an eight-game winning streak against arch rival Georgia, the longest Tech streak in the series. After coaching, he remained at Tech as athletics director until 1976, then as an alumni association consultant until his death in 1988.

Generally, Dodd believed in taking it easy on his players during practices (although, numerous exceptions can be documented). He rarely left his team bruised and battered after practice–some coaches believed this method would toughen the players for the upcoming game. Instead, Dodd left his players physically and mentally piqued to give it their all on Saturday. Instead of being among the players during practice, Dodd stood in a tower overlooking the field while his assistants ran the practices.

Bobby Dodd never graduated from Tennessee, something he deeply regretted. So he constantly preached and demanded education. He provided tutors for players struggling in the classroom and badgered them until they earned their diploma. He also approved of marriage for his players while most coaches frowned on the players being married so young.   Dodd believed that the wives would police their husbands and felt confident that he knew where his married players were every night.

Bobby Dodd was arguably one of the greatest football coaches of all time. Furman Bisher wrote in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Robert Lee Dodd brought a different style to coaching, an emphasis on craftsmanship, finesse, well-rehearsed execution and sideline genius. Many a time have I heard it said, ‘Bobby Dodd was the best sideline coach I ever saw.’”

The Holy Trinity brought football fame and recognition to the Flats for over half a century. Heisman, Alexander, and Dodd are names that will forever be linked to the halcyon days of Georgia Tech football.

The Bear

Courtesy of Drakelawfirm1

Courtesy of Drakelawfirm1

Think about the greatest college football coaches of all time. Many names come to mind—Amos Alonzo Stagg, Pop Warner, John Heisman, Fielding Yost, Eddie Robinson, Robert Neyland, Knute Rockne, Wallace Wade, Bud Wilkinson, Tom Osborne, and Bobby Bowden. Arguably, the best of all coached at Maryland, Kentucky, Texas A & M, and Alabama. They called him the Bear and he roamed the sidelines from 1945-1982. Paul W. Bryant compiled a record of 323-85-17, won 14 Southeastern Conference Championships, one Southwest Conference Championship and six national titles.

At the age of 14, Bryant wrestled a muzzled bear at the Fordyce Theater in his hometown of Fordyce, Arkansas. He did so purportedly to impress a girl and to make some money. While he may or may not have impressed the girl or made any money, Bryant received a nickname that stuck with him the rest of his life.

Bryant played football at Alabama from 1932-1935. The 1934 team finished the regular season 10-0, beat Stanford in the Rose Bowl, and was voted national champion by several polls. His coaching career began as an assistant to Alabama coach Frank Thomas from 1936-1939. Before Alabama played California in the 1938 Rose Bowl, Bryant auditioned for some movie moguls in Hollywood. Bryant received a contract offer but turned it down when his wife, Mary Harmon, refused to move to Hollywood. This marked the only time Bryant considered a profession other than football.

Bryant left Tuscaloosa to coach one year under Vanderbilt coach Red Sanders in 1940. Vanderbilt upset Alabama 7-0 that year and Bryant received credit for the victory. Sanders, for reasons unknown, did not renew Bryant’s contract in 1941, but with the help of New York Yankees catcher Bill Dickey, a University of Arkansas athlete, Bryant became a leading candidate for the Arkansas head coaching position. However, after the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, Bryant enlisted in the United States Navy for the duration of World War II. While aboard the troop ship USS Uruguay in 1943, Bryant escaped death when his ship was rammed while sailing to North Africa. Over 200 soldiers and sailors died in the tragic episode.

Bryant had earned the title of Lieutenant Commander by the end of the war in 1945 and accepted the head coaching position at Maryland in the same year. He led the Terrapins to a 6-2-1 record with a team composed mainly from the Navy Pre-Flight group he coached in 1944. After a dispute with Maryland president Curly Byrd over the suspension of a player. Bryant took the helm of the Kentucky program. In Bryant’s first season, the Wildcats went from 2-8 to 7-3. His 1950 team went 11-1 (Tennessee, led by coach Robert Neyland, handed Kentucky its only loss. Bryant never beat Neyland in seven tries.); won the school’s only Southeastern Conference (SEC) championship; and defeated Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, ending the Sooners’ 31 game winning streak.

Bryant left Kentucky for Texas A & M in 1953 after he asked for a release from his contract following the Kentucky president’s failure to fire or force the retirement of basketball coach Adolph Rupp, whose program became involved in a scandal that jolted Kentucky athletics (The NCAA and SEC suspended the Kentucky basketball program for the 1952-1953 season after evidence surfaced that some alumni had offered monetary inducements to recruits to play for Kentucky). The Kentucky president implemented new rules for the school’s athletic teams, including restricting the football team to five non-Kentucky recruits per year. Bryant knew he could not consistently win under these restrictions because the state produced a limited number of quality football players every year. He blamed Rupp for the president’s actions. The Bear coached the Aggies from 1954 to 1957. His 1956 team compiled a 9-0-1 record, beat arch rival Texas in Austin for the first time ever, and won the Southwest Conference Championship.

However, Bryant left College Station for Tuscaloosa in 1958 with seven years left on his contract. Alabama had won only four games in the previous three years. When asked why he would leave a good situation at A & M for a poor one at Alabama, the Bear responded, “Mama called.” In 25 years as head coach of the Crimson Tide, Alabama won 232 games against only 46 losses, 13 SEC championships, and six national championships.

The Bear’s coaching philosophy was rather simple: one must pay the price to win—whether it was he, the players, the coaches, the managers, or the university presidents. Bryant pushed those around him hard but no harder than he pushed himself. Bryant’s fellow coaches respected his coaching ability. Jake Gaither, head coach at Florida A & M said, “He could take his’n and beat your’n, and take your’n and beat his’n.”

As Bryant approached the end of his coaching career, people frequently asked him when he would retire. The Bear’s usual response was, “Retire? Hell, I’d probably croak in a week!” Bryant coached his last game on December 29, 1982, a 21-15 Liberty Bowl win over Illinois. Forty-two days later, the Bear passed away from a heart attack at the age of 69.

The Bear left his mark on college football by building winners at Maryland, Kentucky, Texas A & M, and Alabama. While many outstanding coaches have graced the sidelines over the years, only one could be called the Bear.