As we approach the beginning of the 2012 college football season, 27 teams will have a new head coach patrolling the sideline. Which schools made the best choice in their new mentor? Let’s take a look.
Ohio State: Urban Meyer
If ever there were a perfect fit, Meyer and the Buckeyes just might be it. Meyer, the former Florida head coach who guided the Gators to two national championships, is an Ohio native, played college football at Cincinnati, spent two years as a graduate assistant at Ohio State, and two years as the head coach at Bowling Green. To say he knows Ohio…well, he knows Ohio. And he brings a national prominence to a program that had been hit with the “Tattoo-gate” scandal and the decline of the Jim Tressel era. Meyer is the right guy. He’ll spend 2012 stockpiling talent and installing his spread option offense. The Buckeyes are not eligible for the Big Ten championship or a bowl game this year. Meyer has engineered big turnarounds before–8-3 in his first year at Bowling Green and 10-2 the first season at Utah. Look for big things in the Horseshoe in the next few years.
Mississippi: Hugh Freeze
Less than 10 years ago, Freeze was a high school head coach in Tennessee. And if you didn’t already know, one of his star pupils was Michael Oher of Blind Side fame. Fast forward a few years and you have a guy who went 20-5 in two seasons in his first college job, head man at NAIA Lambuth University, and 10-2 and a Sun Belt Conference title in his only season at Arkansas State. Freeze worked at Ole Miss from 2005 to 2007 serving in the athletic department for a year before becoming the tight ends coach. Granted the competition will be much tougher in the SEC, but if Freeze can change the culture in the program and around campus, he may get his wish… “to retire at Ole Miss.”
Washington State: Mike Leach
College football’s true “pirate” moves to Pullman, WA, not necessarily a football hotbed, but that may change as one of the game’s most intriguing coaches looks to lead the Cougars out of the depths of obscurity. Leach, unlike most BCS head coaches, did not play college football, but his developments in the philosophy of offense are prolific. In 10 years at Texas Tech, Leach coached three Sammy Baugh Award (best QB in the nation) winners–Kliff Kingsbury, B.J. Symons, and Graham Harrell. He posted 10 consecutive winning seasons, nine consecutive bowls (five bowl victories), and was the Big 12 Coach of the Year in 2008 when the Red Raiders went 11-2. He’ll bring his swashbuckling attitude and high-powered offense to the Wazzou who desperately need it in order to get back in the thick of things in the Pac-12.
Texas A&M: Kevin Sumlin
Not only will they have a new head coach, but the Aggies made another huge decision in the off-season–moving from the Big 12 to the SEC. Sumlin arrives at the right time to help make the transition to college football’s best league more manageable. Sumlin worked as an assistant in College Station under R.C. Slocum and was the assistant head coach in 2002. Ten years later, he’ll be the one to call the shots and if it’s anything like his stay in Houston, the SEC should take notice. Sumlin went 35-17 in Houston, including a 12-1 season last year. His offenses are known for huge numbers–last year’s Cougars were first in the nation in scoring offense (49.3 ppg), passing offense (450.1 ypg), and total offense (599.1 ypg). If Sumlin can get the Aggie defense anywhere near the capabilities of the old Wrecking Crew defenses of the past, Texas A&M will be in good shape for the future.
Pittsburgh: Paul Chryst
After three head coaches in a year, the Panthers have found the right guy in Chryst, the former offensive coordinator at Wisconsin. Chryst has never served as a head coach at any level, but with his pedigree he is certainly ready. The son of a high school coach, Chryst was an integral part of Wisconsin’s combined 70-22 record over the past seven seasons. His offenses have been among the nation’s best. Last year, the Badgers finished sixth nationally in scoring offense, averaging 44.1 points per game while featuring the 11th-best rushing attack with 235.6 yards per game. It’s exactly what Pittsburgh needs; a blue-collar, physical approach to the game for a blue-collar town which is a far cry from the one-and-done Todd Graham spread-and-shred offense of last season.