Spring football is officially here.
The upcoming 2012 season will feature new DII football coaches who are both former players returning to coach at their alma mater, and those receiving their first head coaching job.
At Division I-III schools alike, numerous new coaching staffs and coordinators are receiving their first opportunity to evaluate players' progression from last season, new players, position battles and so on.
Spring football also provides an opportunity to install new offensive and/or defensive systems.
Minus Bobby Wallace, who recently returned to North Alabama, here is a list of new coaches you may or may not have heard of.
Many likely know of Chadron State because of current New England Patriots star Danny Woodhead.
Woodhead was a two-time winner of the Harlon Hill Trophy (DII equivalent of the Heisman). He held the record as the NCAA all-time, all-division leading rusher until it was broken by Nate Kmic of Mount Union College in 2008.
Jay Long, a former two-time Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference selection at center for Chadron, faces the task of replacing Bill O'Boyle, who was fired after failing to document approximately $22,000 in spending. O'Boyle also was found to have placed athletic funds in four private bank accounts during all of his seven years as head coach without consent from the Chadron State administration.
Until being named as head coach at his alma mater, Long spent eight years at Black Hills State in Spearfish, S.D. Three of those years were spent as head coach of the football team, where he guided the Yellow Jackets to a 15-15 record.
Long takes over a program that finished with a 6-5 overall record and 6-3 RMA conference record during the 2011 season. Since 2000, the Eagles have claimed or co-claimed five conference titles.
Long was hired a couple days after National Signing Day. Regardless, Chadron signed 31 recruits; 22 out of that group were defensive players. The Eagles are looking to replace the production of James Belville, Tim Hiett and Sean McGowan on defense.
Chadron does, however, return 60 letter winners and 17 starters. Among them all-conference selections Kevin Lindholm, Jan Karlos Medina, Glen Clinton, Nathan Ross, Keifer Burke and Phil Rivera. Trelan Taylor also returns.
After spending 18 seasons as an assistant coach, John Reiners is finally receiving his opportunity as a head coach.
The majority of Reiners's coaching career (15 years to be exact) was spent at Chadron State College (CSC). There, he coached running backs, wide receivers and tight ends, while also serving as the Eagles head track and field coach.
Prior to his recent promotion, Reiners had spent the last three seasons as the offensive and recruiting coordinator at BHSC. In his first season as offensive coordinator, the Yellow Jackets led the Dakota Athletic Conference in rushing, and in the last two years he has coached eight first team All-Conference selections and nine second team All-Conference selections on offense.
The Yellow Jackets' hope now is for Reiners to lead them to a successful transition from NAIA to DII football. BHSC will eventually join the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, which ironically is the conference home of CSC, but for now, they will begin as a Transitional NCAA DII Independent.
Their journey will start off kind of rocky with defensive coordinator Jeff Larson resigning to take the same position with CSC. Larson had served in that position for the past three seasons.
Although Jay Long was head coach during National Signing Day, Reiners will be familiar with the 2012 recruits as he likely played a role in bringing some of them to campus.
The Yellow Jackets will need to step it up on offense for them to improve from a 3-7 record last season. Starting quarterback Wes Kragt passed for only 1214 yards with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Also, none of the BHSC running backs came close to the 500-yard rushing mark.
For that to occur, a major area that needs attention is the play of the offensive line, which allowed 18 sacks.
Northern Michigan was once a powerhouse in college football. Since 2000, the team has had only three winning seasons.
Bernie Anderson, an alum of NMU, was responsible one of those winning seasons. However, he was not as successful during his other five seasons. A 4-7 record last season was the final straw. Anderson finished with an overall record of 24-38.
The Wildcats will now try their luck with Chris Ostrowsky, who was their offensive coordinator for the past two seasons. Another NMU alum, Randy Awrey, would have likely received the job over Ostrowsky had he not resigned from his job as the Wildcats' defensive coordinator upon Anderson's firing.
Awrey spent nine seasons as the head coach of Saginaw Valley State, where he achieved a 76-27 record with five playoff appearances and two Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships.
Meanwhile, this will be Ostrowsky's first time as a head coach on the collegiate level. From 1997-01, he coached at East Side High School in Newark, NJ, where he earned the Newark Star Ledger High School Coach of the Year honor in 1998, after turning around a program that had lost 18 consecutive games.
The question now is: can he do the same for NMU?
The Wildcats will have Prince Young, Christian Marble-King, Christian Jessie and Julian Gaines to lead them on offense. The team lost Carter Kopach to graduation, however, so there will be a new quarterback next fall. Most likely, that job will belong to Cody Scepaniak.
On defense, they lost key contributors Matt Forward, Robert Edmonds, Demetri Stewart, Junior Michel and Anthony Echols.
Nevertheless, leading tackler Zach Anderson is back, along with Wyatt Jurasin, Morgan Stenz and Brandon Parson.
With a strong recruiting class of 26 to go along with the returning players from last season, it will be interesting to see what Ostrowsky can do with this team.
Quincy University, along with McKendree University, already held membership in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. Now that the GLVC has added football as a league championship sport, both Quincy and McKendree are moving their football programs to DII from NAIA.
Selecting Tom Pajic to lead them on that journey looks like a steal. It also seems shocking Pajic is just now receiving a head coaching gig.
During his eight seasons as offensive coordinator at his alma mater Bloomsburg, Pajic produced a top-ranked offense every season and the Huskies averaged 30 or more points per game in five of those seasons. Last season, the Huskies averaged 34.3 points per game, averaging 258.9 rushing yards and totaling 408.3 yards of offense per game.
The style of offense Pajic likes to use typically focuses on the running game—great news for every running back on the Hawks roster.
Neil Sammons was the second-leading rusher on the team last season, but only rushed for 202 yards. The Hawks leading rusher, Lyndsey Diggs, did not fare any better, as he gained 213 yards during his senior year.
Having Pajic as head coach should also help whoever wins the starting quarterback job. If that person is James Chmelik, expect to see him utilized in both the passing and running game. The new QB will also have Justin Dickens, Jarrod Sergent and Timothy Gower as top receiving targets.
Pajic's offense will likely be depended upon to win games for the Hawks. New defensive coordinator Atiba Bradley was responsible for a Missouri Southern defensive unit that was NCAA ranked 71st out of 150 teams. Bradley, however, is young and improving; next season will mark his third year as a defensive coordinator on any level.
Regardless, that has to be a concern for players on a Quincy defensive unit that finished last season ranked 57th out of 81 teams. They were likely expecting a more seasoned defensive coordinator to be hired.
The last time the Greyhounds won a Lone Star Conference (LSC) South Division title, the late Harold Elliott was head coach. That was during the 2005 season. A few years prior, Josh Lynn helped Elliott earn his second and third division titles.
Lynn's 44 career receptions and 740 yards earned him two-time All-LSC selections at tight end.
Now Lynn will attempt to do something he could not do as a player, and something that neither Elliott nor his successor Mark Ribaudo could not do as head coaches at Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU): take the Greyhounds to the playoffs.
Interestingly enough, Elliot spent 11 seasons as head coach at ENMU and produced nine winning seasons (three seasons with eight wins). He is the school's all-time winningest coach in football, with an overall record of 68-49-2 (.580), yet the team never clinched a berth in the NCAA Division II playoffs.
From 2000-02, Lynn served as the Greyhounds wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator. Now he re-joins his alma mater after spending six seasons at New Mexico Military Institute (NMMI). He had been the team's defensive coordinator until being hired as head coach in 2011.
Lynn brought instant success to a team that finished 3-8 in 2010. NMMI finished sixth in the nation and clinched a berth in the 2011 CHAMPS Heart of Texas Bowl, where they lost 40-24 to Navarro College (Texas).
Quarterback Wesley Wood returns to ENMU to help Lynn turn around the Greyhounds' troubles.
Last season Wood set new ENMU career records for completions (673), pass attempts (1,081), passing yards (6,516), total offense (7,184) and the highest completion percentage (64.9%).
Wood's favorite target Darian Dale has graduated, but Chase Kyser, Arvin Jackson and Michael Matthews return.
Nevertheless, Lynn has inherited a team that had one of the worst offenses AND defenses in both the LSC and NCAA. Former Valencia High School (New Mexico) head football coach Kelley Lee takes over as offensive coordinator, while ENMU alum and former teammate of Josh Lynn, Oliver Soukup, will handle defensive coordinator duties.
Soukup spent six seasons as a defensive coordinator at Concordia University (Minnesota). His 2010 defense set the school record with 39 sacks, which ranked 12th in the nation. They also ranked 14th nationally in pass defense and 20th in scoring defense.
Soukup's first year as defensive coordinator at Concordia featured a unit that ranked sixth in the nation in run defense and 14th in total defense.
Lynn and his defensive players hope Soukup can do the same at ENMU.
Jeff Pierce spent 17 seasons trying to turn Ferris State (FSU) into a winning football program and maintain them as such.
Pierce seemingly was leading the program into that direction during his first two seasons as head coach. In 1995, he led the Bulldogs to their fourth straight Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) title and second-straight undefeated regular season. He also led them to the school's first-ever semifinal appearance in the NCAA Division II playoffs.
However, after earning a playoff berth the following season, FSU has not had a postseason appearance since. They also have not defeated archrival Grand Valley State University since 1999, which is the same year the Bulldogs last won or shared a GLIAC title.
Tony Annese has built a strong winning reputation, so in hindsight, FSU athletic director Perk Weisenburger hit a grand slam with the hiring of Annese.
The problem is, Annese has never coached on the DI, DII or DIII level. His success was gained during 22 years at the high school level and three seasons as head coach at Grand Rapids Community College.
At Grand Rapids, Annese's Raiders only lost a total of four games versus 30 wins. They went undefeated last season and won the Midwest Football Conference championship. Despite that, however, the Raiders were surprisingly not chosen to play in the National Junior College Athletic Association championship game.
Annese also won three state championships at Muskegon High School in 2004, 2006 and 2008.
Annese has already begun turning things around, as FSU's 2012 recruiting class featured 31 student-athletes, which is one of the largest recruiting classes in recent years. Out of that group, 24 come from known winning programs, and combine for an overall prep record of 239-49 during their senior years.
Although they lost Antwian Windmon and Muneer Bawayeh, the defense will be aided by the return of all-conference selections Tayo Moss, Jordan Morgan and Brad Iskow. Second-leading tackler Alex Brajak returns as well.
With the graduation of Tom Schneider, Damien Miller, Mike Ryan and Jake Hancock, Annese will have several new starters at quarterback, wide receiver and the offensive line.
Johnny Knox (Chicago Bears), Bernard Scott (Cincinnati Bengals) and Clyde Gates (Miami Dolphins) are some of the notable players that were coached by Ken Collums at Abilene Christian (ACU). Scott also won the 2008 Harlon Hill Trophy.
During Collums' seven seasons as offensive coordinator, the Wildcats averaged 468.4 yards of offense and 39 points per game. They have also ranked in the top seven in NCAA Division II football in total offense for five of the last seven years. In fact, ACU scored a combined total of 1,267 points and gained 13,772 yards of total offense in the 25 games during the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
The 2008 season featured the record-breaking playoff game against West Texas A&M, in which ACU's offense set 29 single-game records from NCAA Division II, NCAA Division II playoffs, the Lone Star Conference and ACU.
Producing top offenses on a consistent basis is likely what earned Collums the head coaching job.
Having an excellent offense is key, but defense matters just as much. New defensive coordinator Darian Dulin has the type of resume to produce immediate results.
His defensive unit at Tarleton State ranked second in the LSC in scoring defense (18.1 points per game) and number one in rushing defense (90.5 yards per game) during the 2005 season. The following season, they ranked number two in scoring defense and number one in pass defense efficiency.
In 2004, Dulin's Butler Community College defense finished the regular season number one in the Jayhawk Conference for total defense. The defense also led the NJCAA in scoring defense, sacks and passing efficiency defense.
Collums also hired former Eastern New Mexico head coach Mark Ribaudo to coach the linebackers. Although Ribaudo was not successful as a head coach, he is a pretty good defensive coach, having served as ENMU's defensive coordinator for several seasons.
Dulin and Ribaudo together can potentially make ACU an all-around scary team
Jamey Chadwell left Carroll McCray a lot of talent to work with. The Crusader's went 11-3 last season (undefeated in South Atlantic Conference play) and advanced to the Third Round of the NCAA Division II Playoffs.
Therefore, McCray seems to have an easier transition into his second head coaching opportunity. He went 11-33 in four seasons as the head coach at Austin Peay.
McCray has spent his entire coaching career in the Division I level, including several years in the Southeastern Conference. From 1989-1993, he worked with the offensive line, tight ends, running backs and special teams at South Carolina. From 2001-02, he was the offensive line coach at Mississippi State.
McCray's longest tenure was seven seasons as offensive line coach at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.
After spending several seasons on Bobby Lamb's staff at Furman University, he followed Lamb to Mercer University, and was probably set to stay a while until being hired away by NGU.
Fans of the Crusaders have reason to be excited about the upcoming season as Teryan Rucker and Freddie Martino Jr. return to lead the offense, while Isaiah Johnson and Jonathon Sharpe lead the attack on defense.
Former Clemson star Willy Korn has graduated, therefore Martino will be catching passes from a new quarterback.
If McCray's reputation as a good offensive line coach holds true, the NGU offensive line should provide plenty of protection for whoever wins the QB job, and the running game should, once again, be one of the best.
The head coaching job at Delta State was probably one of the most sought-after by coaches throughout Division I, II and III, but athletic director Jeremy McClain obviously saw something in Jamey Chadwell that other candidates did not possess.
McClain had to know all along that Division I schools would eventually come calling about wanting to lure head coach Ron Roberts away. The Statesmen have dominated over the years, which is why Southeastern Louisiana was wise to offer their head coaching job to Roberts before any one else did.
Chadwell's North Greenville Crusaders nearly walked away from Delta State's Parker Field-McCool Stadium with a playoff victory last season. He takes over a team that lost a lot of talent to graduation, including star quarterback Micah Davis.
Being a member of a power conference like the Gulf South Conference you need talent and decent coaching to win. If last season is any indication, repeating as the conference champions next season will not be a cake walk. Every team in the GSC (yes, even West Georgia) has a shot at winning.
Chadwell seems to strive on getting programs back on track. He took NGU from a 2-8 team in 2009 to records of 9-3 and 11-3, respectively, over the next two seasons. Prior to his arrival, the Crusaders had achieved only five wins against NCAA Division II foes in school history.
Chadwell installed a spread-option offense that averaged 40.1 points per game and 434.1 yards of total offense last season. He will likely install the same offense at Delta State, provided he has the players to do so.
Helping Chadwell will be newly-hired offensive coordinator Gabe Giardina, who played football at the University of Alabama and served four years as a graduate assistant under Mike Shula and Nick Saban.
Chad Staggs, who will once again serve as Chadwell's defensive coordinator, also has experience in the SEC. He was the secondary and linebackers coach for five seasons at South Carolina under Lou Holtz and Steve Spurrier.
Russ Martin, like Jay Long, is an alum of Chadron State and had a short stint as head coach at Black Hills State.
It had to be hard for the Chadron coaching committee to choose between Martin and Long, but the youth of Long may have worked in his favor. So instead, Russ Martin gets his second head coaching opportunity at another school in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference: Colorado Mesa.
With Black Hills set to join the conference, this will end up being one big trip down memory lane.
Russ Martin comes to Colorado Mesa from Nebraska Kearney where he was the offensive coordinator for eight years. During that time, UNK produced top offenses in both the RMAC and NCAA Division II football. Overall, the Lopers averaged 33 points and 410 yards per game.
UNK ranked second in Division II in total offense, fourth in rushing and 10th in scoring last season.
Martin will look to improve a dismal pass offense and maintain what was a solid rushing attack at Colorado Mesa. The bright side of all this is that the Mavericks starting quarterback and running back were freshmen.
Colorado Mesa played five quarterbacks last season. Steve Romero received the most starts with six. He finished the season with 959 yards passing, five touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The spring (and maybe fall) battle for this position will be one to watch for, for fans of the Mavericks. It will likely come down to who Martin feels is the best fit for the new offense he will install.
Tracy Holland deserves a lot of credit and respect for taking over a Central Oklahoma team that was facing NCAA probation. Holland responded by winning a Lone Star Conference North Division title in his first season. However, he went 8-25 during his next three seasons.
The trouble at UCO came about when the NCAA discovered the university allowed players to receive free housing, food and transportation. UCO was also discovered to have paid for both athletes to attend remedial classes at Rose State Community College, and a surgery for an athlete who was not enrolled at the university at the time.
In addition, former head coach Chuck Langston allowed the use of facilities by football players who were not full-time students.
UCO is now sanction free. Alum Nick Bobeck will look to keep it that way, while also turning things around on the field. The Bronchos will be joining the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association in the fall. The MIAA is home to 2011 Division II champion, Pittsburg State.
Bobeck returns to the school where he became an all-conference running back after going 42-5 as head coach of Navarro Community College. Navarro won the 2010 National Junior College Athletic Association championship.
Several of Bobeck's players also received Division I scholarships.
Joining him at UCO will be former Navarro quarterback Adrian Nelson. Nelson passed for a school-record 3,754 yards and 33 touchdowns. Ethan Sharp is the incumbent starter heading into spring practice, but was not very effective last season, passing for seven touchdowns and 13 interceptions. As a result, Adrian Nelson and Landon Greve will compete with him for the starting spot.
UCO will also return running back Joshua Birmingham (882 yards rushing and seven touchdowns), defensive backs Keno Meadows and Creadell Pennon, and wide receivers Tucker Holland, Christian Hood and Bryce Davis.