The long, grueling offseason is underway. I'll do my best to make it go by quicker through the healing power of Q&A. We'll be doing this every Friday, so if you have a question about Big 12 football, tweet me @BenKercheval or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let's get to it.
@BenKercheval What are the odds of Kansas pulling a Louisville and hiring Mangino back in 2 years?— Dean Williams (@DeanMWilliams) January 16, 2014
This is a thought-provoking question about a potentially fascinating scenario.
Louisville hired former head coach Bobby Petrino earlier this month after Charlie Strong left for Texas. Petrino, who led the Cardinals to a 41-9 record from 2003-06, came back to Louisville after stints with the Atlanta Falcons, Arkansas and Western Kentucky.
Petrino's tendency to job hop and (figuratively) napalm places on his way out is well-documented. By bringing Petrino back to Louisville, athletic director Tom Jurich proved to many people, including Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples, that winning, not character, is what's most important in college football.
In that vein, is it possible that Kansas hires former head coach Mark Mangino again in the near future? Mangino, who coached at Kansas from 2002-09, led the Jayhawks to a 12-win season in 2007 and an Orange Bowl victory. However, he was let go two years later amid allegations that he physically and verbally abused players during his tenure.
Kansas has been abysmal ever since, and the jury is still out on head coach Charlie Weis.
The thought of hiring Mangino, who recently became the offensive coordinator at Iowa State, may be tempting; Lawrence is a hard place at which to win, but Mangino figured out a way to do it.
Kansas' athletic director, Sheahon Zenger, hired Weis two years ago. Generally, an AD wants to give "his guy" as much time as possible. If Zenger has to fire Weis, his own future may rest on whom he hires next. That's where Mangino, a proven winner, becomes an intriguing possibility.
That said, it would be a public relations disaster. Even if the allegations of abuse were untrue, Kansas would essentially be saying that it has no regard for player well-being. The university fired Mangino over the issue four years ago. Bringing him back would reek of desperation and would make an already tough recruiting pitch even harder.
It's one thing to treat others poorly in a professional setting; that's something Petrino has a history of doing. It's another to allegedly abuse a player. That doesn't make Mangino unhireable, but it likely takes him out of the running at Kansas.
Dana Holgorsen definitely has to improve in 2014. The program has done nothing but trend downward since he took over as the Mountaineers head coach three years ago.
But the startling decline from a team that once hung 70 points on Clemson in the Orange Bowl isn't entirely Holgorsen's fault. The 'Eers simply didn't have the personnel depth necessary to succeed in the Big 12 right away. They were especially young on defense in 2012, and it showed. Add in a brand new defensive coaching staff/scheme in a conference full of great quarterbacks and skill players, and of course it was going to be a defensive nightmare.
West Virginia's defense was much better this past season, despite what the numbers might tell you. However, depth became a major issue when players started getting hurt. By the end of the year, when WVU blew a 24-point lead to Iowa State in a 52-44 triple overtime loss, the team was running on fumes.
That doesn't mean that Holgorsen doesn't deserve his share of the blame. All the quarterbacks on roster were recruited by him—and quarterback is a major question mark for this team.
Still, the Mountaineers played in some tight games. In five of last year's eight losses—against Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Kansas State, Texas and Iowa State—West Virginia was in a position to win heading into the fourth quarter. Finishing was obviously an issue.
If West Virginia can get back to the postseason in '14, Holgorsen's job is safe and I doubt that it's even a discussion. Even 5-7 might land Holgorsen one more year. If nothing else, Holgorsen would be an expensive person to fire since the school would owe him just about every penny on his remaining six-year contract.
As for Holgorsen as a head coach, the one thing you can't say about him is that he's not bright. You don't get hired as an offensive coordinator by head coaches Mike Leach, Kevin Sumlin and Mike Gundy without knowing your stuff. Holgorsen has a track record of success from his time at Texas Tech, Houston and Oklahoma State.
Of course, being a brilliant offensive mind doesn't mean you're a great head coach. It's fair to question whether Holgorsen is capable of getting West Virginia out of this hole.
If things don't work out for him there, he'll get picked up quickly as an offensive coordinator somewhere else. Eventually, someone will give him another chance as a head coach. Worse coaches have been given second chances, to be sure.
@BenKercheval TCU is redoing their offense to air raid. Thoughts on how this will go in the first year with personnel and who starts at QB?— Mikey C (@MikeyFrog) January 17, 2014
TCU had myriad problems on offense in 2013, including injuries to quarterback Casey Pachall and attrition along the offensive line. It also became clear, however, just how much the Frogs missed former co-offensive coordinator Justin Fuente, who left two years ago to become the head coach at Memphis.
Head coach Gary Patterson has brought in two coaches with Air Raid backgrounds: Doug Meacham from Houston and Sonny Cumbie from Texas Tech. Additionally, TCU is expected to bring in two quarterback recruits: Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein.
The quarterback competition should be open, and it needs to be. My guess is that Trevone Boykin, who has served as a substitute quarterback for the past two years, makes a more permanent move to wide receiver and/or running back.
All of this may result in some growing pains, especially if TCU can't shore up the O-line. Last year, it didn't matter who was at quarterback because the protection was lousy.
The good news is that TCU actually has a wide receiver group with lots of potential. The receivers underperformed in 2013, and no one had a worse year than Brandon Carter. But the core of that group, including Carter, will be back—hopefully, better than ever.
It wouldn't be surprising to see TCU start slow on offense with so many pieces moving around. It also wouldn't be surprising to see it catch on by the end of the year.
Wyoming? More like Wy-NOT-oming! I mean, am I right or am I right?
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football.