Akron Football Hoping for a Leader in New Head Coach Rob Ianello

Nino Colla@TheTribeDailySenior Writer IDecember 12, 2009

COLUMBUS - SEPTEMBER 8:  Brian Robiskie #80 of the Ohio State Buckeyes is forced out of bounds by Reggie Corner #20 and Andrew Johnson #21 of the Akron Zips in front of the Akron bench during the first quarter on September 8, 2007 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  Ohio State defeated Akron 20-2.  (Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)
David Maxwell/Getty Images

Akron football fans may be a tad bit puzzled as to who exactly their new head coach is.

When the words "Notre Dame" come up, some are hoping that the Zips have hired former head coach of the Irish, Charlie Weis.

Let's be real, with their men's soccer team on the brink of an undefeated season and a national championship, the only football on the minds around people on campus is the one you kick.

But there is a lot to be excited about the Notre Dame coach the Zips actually hired, Rob Ianello.

When Akron fired J.D. Brookhart, some clamored for a coach with some name recognition.

Call up former Minnesota coach Glen Mason or one of the Bowden kids, namely Terry. Akron can't lure in a coach that's actually established somewhere else unless it's a school lower on the food chain.

So go out and get one who has already established his name, but hasn't really done anything as of late.

A retread would have been the wrong way to go. Just because a coach has been a head coach, but at a larger program, doesn't mean he will be successful at a larger one. Plus, what would you really gain from a coach with name recognition?

Not many people in Akron knew who Rob Ianello was a few days ago and some probably still don't. But don't tell that to Notre Dame's recruiting coordinator who had the Irish in the top ten of national recruiting rankings for three straight years.

Renowned recruiting guru Tom Lemming went as far as naming him as one of the top ten recruiters of the past 30 years.

One thing we know, Ianello can recruit.

He'll also have the connections to go outside of Ohio as well as inside it for players. With stops at nearly every point of the United States, Ianello can probably boast a large list of connections.

He's been with a Big Ten school up north in Wisconsin and out west in PAC-10 country with Arizona. Notre Dame's central location and national pull is certainly something that can aid him, as well as his stint in the SEC as a graduate assistant and assistant recruiting coordinator at Alabama.

This is a coach that can bring in some serious talent to the program and what's scary to the rest of the state of Ohio is the tools he is armed with to do so.

They may not be competing with Ohio State for top-flight prospects, but compared to some of the other MAC schools, Akron's facilities are top-notch.

Ianello can point to some of the MAC's best practice facilities and the newly constructed InfoCision Stadium as a strong point for possible recruits. All this in addition to some of the magic he seemed to have in other places he's been.

But as the previous staff had learned, talent alone cannot get the job done.

Injuries and in the final year of Brookhart's staff, a suspension, might have been good excuses for awhile. However there comes a point where you need to be able to overcome those excuses.

So the question now becomes. Can Ianello coach 'em up?

He's certainly learned from some that could and hopefully he picked up a few ideas. A few former bosses include Weis, Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez and recently retired Dick Tomey.

But results also speak for themselves and as wide receivers coach at Notre Dame, he certainly has a few recent success stories, including 2009 Biletnikoff Award winner Golden Tate.

Other success stories under Ianello include Owen Daniels at Wisconsin, Bobby Wade at Arizona and in addition to Tate, the recent string of wideouts at Notre Dame that also includes Jeff Samardzija.

So after browsing through some of these accomplishments, at big time universities, you tell me who you would rather have. Take a shot on an up and coming name that has been all over the nation, has worked under good coaches and has produced successful results in everything he's done.

Or re-explore someone that just didn't work out for a program that was slightly larger than yours?

This is the Mid-American Conference, a conference that you must first have success in before you go any further. You aren't contending for the National Title, but your goals must be to contend for the MAC year in and year out.

While Brian Kelly is being introduced at Ianello's old stomping grounds, all the attention will be on him and the national glamour of that job and his hiring. That's how it works in college football and that's probably how it always will.

Akron, like every other MAC school is a stepping stone, not a place of permanent residence. And the best thing for Akron is if Ianello is in some sort of position that Kelly is in years from now.

They may have not hired someone who's destined to stick around for a long time. But it's a whole lot better than hiring someone who they have to force out in five years, rather than replace because of sustained success.

In the MAC, especially the East, anything can happen. However, immediate success probably shouldn't be expected. There is a foundation for Ianello to work with, though, and it will start with quarterback Patrick Nicely.

The true freshman showed vast improvement down the stretch after starter Chris Jacquemain was kicked off the team and backup Matt Rodgers tore his ACL. Rivals top quarterback from the state of Ohio should be the front-runner to start next season.

He'll definitely have to bring in some of those prized recruits to get the ball rolling, but with top notch facilities and an expanding campus, he'll have a lot of persuasive tools.

The University of Akron has shown amazing commitment. The new on-campus stadium is just one thing, but hiring Tom Wistrcill as the athletic director and letting him go through this process the right way is something that shows they want to win.

Hopefully, Rob Ianello is the man who can help that commitment pay off.


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