4 Small-School College Football Coaches Who Deserve a High-Profile Job
Throughout the 2012 season, many coaches from smaller schools earned recognition for their astonishing efforts. Northern Illinois's Dave Doeren, Louisiana Tech's Sonny Dykes, Kent State's Darrell Hazell, San Jose State's Mike MacIntyre and Utah State's Gary Andersen all got scooped up by more prominent schools as their lists of accomplishments grew to sufficient size.
The proliferation of the Internet, video technology and sports coverage have all put every aspect of college football at the tip of anyone's fingers. This means that every game, every season and every clutch, on-field decision could make or break a coach's immediate future.
This is especially true of the small schools. There are a few coaches on the radar, but these are the four remaining coaches that deserve a shot at the big leagues of college football right now.
*Coaches on the radar: Rod Carey, Northern Illinois Huskies and Frank Solich, Ohio Bobcats
4. Rocky Long, San Diego State
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Rocky Long is the first coach to move from "on the radar" to on this list. For two seasons, Long has continued the success that Brady Hoke started at San Diego State.
That gives a little pause as to his true ability, of course, which is probably why he didn't get picked up during the 2012 shuffle.
However, he has taken San Diego State to back-to-back bowl games for the first time in the school's Division I history. His storied coaching career includes stops at TCU, Oregon State, UCLA and New Mexico before signing with the Aztecs as a defensive coordinator.
Sure, he's continuing Hoke's success at San Diego State, but the same can be said for Les Miles at LSU. Nick Saban built that program into the powerhouse that Miles inherited. That doesn't mean that Miles isn't one of the best coaches in the country.
He improved on Saban's start, and he was well on his way to owning the SEC until Saban came back to college football.
The same is true of Long. Just because someone starts up a program doesn't mean that it's easy to sustain. Long is ready for his own top-tier program, and the 2013 season should be his final interview. San Diego State will be sad to see him go, but it'll never forget where he came from.
3. Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana-Lafayette
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In 2012, the Ragin' Cajuns went 9-4 again after a second-straight New Orleans Bowl win, this time over the East Carolina Pirates.
Hudspeth took over a 3-9 team and led it to back-to-back bowl wins in his first two seasons. He's not going to prove much more than he already has, but a 10-win season in 2013 would definitely push the power conferences to move on this should-be-hot commodity.
Hudspeth is easily on this list, and he probably deserved to be on the list of small coaches that were picked up after 2012. The Ragin' Cajuns will be more than happy to let him coach at least one more year.
2. Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State
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Tim DeRuyter led the Fresno State Bulldogs to a three-way tie at the top of the Mountain West Conference in 2012. While he may not be someone's first choice as a new head coach of a major program, his resume isn't standing in the way.
The 2011 edition of the Bulldogs only won four games. That's right, DeRuyter took a 4-8 team to a 9-4 record in his first season.
DeRuyter made an astounding leap with the Bulldogs, and with Boise State looking rather drab in 2012, there's little reason to doubt that Fresno State can win the MWC outright in 2013. If the Bulldogs do that, they can expect to say goodbye to DeRuyter.
Unless, of course, he takes a Chris Petersen "not interested" approach to the bigger conferences.
1. Bill Blankenship, Tulsa
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Bill Blankenship is at the top of the list ever since the smaller schools' coaching staffs were decimated by teams like Wisconsin and Colorado.
Blankenship is entering only his third year at Tulsa, and the Golden Hurricane have amassed a 19-8 record under his leadership. In 2011, the Hurricane went 8-5, and they went 11-3 in 2012, complete with a Conference USA Championship.
Since UCF is joining the Big East in 2013, the Golden Hurricane should be the favorite to win C-USA a second year in a row. Blankenship was an assistant coach for Tulsa in the four years prior to his promotion to head coach, so he's had a hand in every bit of Tulsa's recent success.
Blankenship may not be the most familiar name in the country, but think about what he could do with access to SEC, Big 12 or Big Ten recruiting grounds. Tulsa is a perennial C-USA contender now. With access to a big school's accessories, he could make anyone a contender.
It's a wonder he was left untouched during the 2012 shuffle. He would have been a solid pick for someone like Arkansas or Tennessee.