Will a Change in Coaching Spell Boom or Bust for These BCS Teams?
It has been one very busy offseason in college football. The coaching carousel was in overdrive, as we saw the ouster, relocation, hiring, and firing of more than 20 coaches before the dust began to settle.
Some of the hirings were performance-based, while others eschewed in a total change in the philosophy of how a team approaches its game plan on Saturday.
How will Texas Tech adjust to Tuberville's balance after more than a decade under Mike Leach's high-powered offense?
How will the Georgia Bulldogs fare under Todd Grantham's 3-4?
Will Al Groh be the man to bring Georgia Tech's defense on par with its offense?
The questions are easy. The answers....well...not so much. The expectations, however, are no less high.
Who will thrive and who will dive? That is the ultimate question.
Will the Defensive-Minded Tuberville Bring the Tech Offense to Its Knees?
"Oh no? The Red Raiders are about to become balanced?"
"What the hay? Is Tuberville going to dismantle the offensive powerhouse that Mike Leach built?"
"Stop the madness. Texas Tech is gonna—gulp—run the ball more often? Say it ain't so, Spike (Dykes). Say. It. Ain't. So."
Well, I don't know what the great Spike Dykes would say, but I say that the introduction of Tommy Tuberville won't spell the end of Texas Tech football as we know it.
For one, Tommy isn't afraid of offense. He actually tried to install the spread at Auburn before he was ceremoniously dismissed for failing miserably at doing so.
No, Tommy isn't an offense killer; he's a defense builder. That is something that the Red Raiders could surely use a little more of as a program. No disrespect to former defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill, but the Red Raiders were more about points than punishment.
What Tuberville will bring to Lubbock is a team that can score a ton and keep the other team from scoring quite so much—in a word, balance.
Will it work? Does he have the personnel?
The answers are "yes," and "he's working on it."
Tuberville pulled in a 2010 recruiting class that, unlike in previous years, featured decidedly more defense than offense. Tommy's philosophy is a simple one: Defense wins championships. You can take the man out of the SEC, but...well, you know the saying.
Tech will move to a 3-4 in 2010, and that will mean more aggressiveness from the front seven—a move that will, hopefully, make it a lot tougher for teams to run all over the Raiders at will.
As for the pass first, run second, mentality: That will not change—much. Tuberville will just be looking to utilize his talent at the tailback spot more consistently. However, all that truly means is a few less passes and a few more runs every game.
Do they have a guy who can execute those carries? Of course they do. For all the attention given to the WR and QB spot, the Raiders are not without RB talent.
See the guy in the photo? His name is Baron Batch, and in case you missed it, he rushed for 884 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. The Red Raiders are every bit as capable of running the ball as they are of throwing it, and if Tommy sees fit for Taylor Potts to throw the ball 10 less times in favor of the team running it 10 more, well, that can only help Texas Tech in the long run.
Texas Tech is in for a major change. There can be no doubt about that, but the changes won't spell disaster. It just means there will be a noticeable shift in the priorities of the program where recruiting and execution are concerned.
The main question left to be answered is how will Tommy do with the spread on his second go round?
Will Georgia's Transition to a 3-4 Spell the End of Coach Richt's Tenure?
New defensive coordinator Todd Grantham (pictured) has brought the 3-4 to the Georgia Bulldogs. The big question is, will it work?
The 'Dawgs have played in a 4-3 base for a very long time. The introduction of a completely new scheme is one that will take some adjusting for the Georgia players, coaches, and fans.
The first concern is, naturally, do they have the personnel to execute the scheme? One of the most important components of the 3-4 is the nose tackle. You want a big body up there, plugging holes and fighting off double-teams—a la Terrance Cody of Alabama.
If you lack the right man for that job, then you will fail—at least that is what many believe to be the case.
Here's the thing: The main components of the 3-4 are three down linemen and four linebackers. Period. There is nothing in the rules that says the nose tackle has to be a Terrance Cody type of player.
First of all, guys like Cody are hard to come by—even in the pro ranks. You just aren't going to be able to consistently lock down a guy who is 6'4", 340-plus pounds and quick on his feet. Cody was a freak of nature—and his kind doesn't come around often.
That said, the 'Dawgs aren't looking for a guy like that this season. They are perfectly happy with a kid that is 6'2" or 6'3", weighing in the 290 range. Grantham can work with that—and he has that at his disposal in Athens.
The real question for the 'Dawgs will be how quickly the players learn their assignments.
Coach Richt has taken a big gamble on Grantham, and many believe this decision will either elevate the program to new heights or be just the amount of kryptonite needed to send Richt out the door.
Either way, Georgia is taking a huge gamble by following up a disappointing 8-5 campaign with new coaches and a new scheme. They lost five key players on defense in 2009—all starters. How will that hinder them as a defense?
Can they bounce back and make some noise in the East yet again?
Can South Florida Finally Win the Big East with Holtz at the Helm?
The Bulls are known for their mobility at the QB spot. Since they joined the Big East in 2005, Matt Grothe and B.J. Daniels (pictured) were the dual-threat players that the Bulls looked to for their offensive dominance.
Enter Skip Holtz, the former East Carolina coach who is known less for his offense than his defense—and the folks of South Florida could be in for a rude awakening next season.
For his part, Holtz has yet to decide exactly what kind of offense or defense he wishes to run at USF. He's relying on the players to help him make that decision.
His philosophy in doing so is simple: Why force a scheme that your players don't jibe with? Pick one that plays to their strengths, and you will be able to get the most bang for your buck.
One thing is certain: The QB will be running the ball less. Holtz prefers that the run game be put in the hands of the tailback—lessen the chance of injury to your signal-caller.
Smart move, but, will B.J. Daniels be on board with that decision? After all, he did rush for 700-plus yards last season.
The Bulls were not a floundering team under Jim Leavitt. They were quite relevant on a national and regional level. The question is, can Holtz elevate that success to the next level with his approach?
He's been doing all the right things off the field to rally the fans and the boosters. He's got the gift of gab and a flair for marketing his teams well—but come 2010, all that will matter is wins.
Can he deliver?
Will Brian Kelly Succeed Where Charlie Weis Failed?
Charlie Weis was supposed to be an offensive genius. He rode into South Bend with an NFL pedigree, a couple of shiny Super Bowl rings, and the not-too-shabby moniker of being the man who "made" Brady.
Well, unfortunately for Charlie, he seemed to forget that in order to win football games on a consistent basis, your teams have to play some defense as well—sorry, Charlie.
Enter Brian Kelly and his spread offense. Kelly is also thought to be a mad genius at scheming offensively and will, no doubt, bring something that Charlie never cared that much for as a coach—a running game.
Will Kelly be more successful? All signs point to yes. The one element that Kelly's teams are not as lauded for is their prowess on defense. Now, I'm not saying that they are Alabama or Texas, but his teams are competitive on the other side of the ball, as well.
Last season, his Bearcats were ranked 44th, 10th, and third in scoring defense, sacks, and tackles for loss, respectively.
The Irish, by contrast, who in most case fielded more talented players than Cincinnati, were ranked 63rd, 89th, and 48th in those same areas.
All Notre Dame players have to do now is learn how to execute Kelly's spread—a scheme that employs deception as much, if not more, from the wide receiver position as it does from the QB.
It won't be as easy a task as it sounds, but if Kelly can coach up the talent he has now and find a receiver to adequately replace the departed Tate, the Irish will be fine. Kelly's offense will be much different from the Weisian ball we have become accustomed to seeing—and that will traslate into an Irish squad that is infinitely more promising than in years past.
Dayne Crist, with his nimble feet and big-time arm, seems like a perfect fit for Kelly's system, but the departure of Golden Tate will most definitely hurt the Irish in year one under Kelly. Tate, along with Floyd, made for a devastating tandem, and both would have thrived.
That said, if Kelly can find a suitable replacement for Tate next season, the Irish should be able to see success early—and that may translate into a team that finally is able to live up to its infinite potential on both sides of the ball.
Can Charlie Strong Bring Louisville Back into Big East Legitimacy?
Louisville has been a shell of itself since Bobby Petrino exited for the NFL ranks. The Cardinals have not only failed to make any bowl appearances since 2006, but in the past two seasons, they have struggled to keep up with their opponents offensively.
That's surprising when you recall the phenomenal passing game that Petrino ran in his day.
Former coach Steve Kragthorpe never seemed to find his footing and often failed to give his quarterbacks much of an opportunity to succeed at the position.
In his last season as head coach, he also tried his hand at calling the offense. His reward was a team that managed to score only 217 points on the season.
By contrast, the Huskies, a team known more for its defense than its offense, scored 405.
Enter Charlie Strong. He brings with him Mike Sanford, who promises a Florida-esque offense will be put on display at Louisville, starting with next season.
No Tim Tebow-esque player is promised, but a player who can run and throw is hopeful to be calling the shots sooner rather than later. 2010 signee Dominic Brown, who chose the Cardinals over Ohio State and Cincinnati, rushed for 1,923 yards in his senior season—as a quarterback.
He is just the type of player that Sanford wants calling the shots in his system—and if he shows signs of being ready early, Justin Burke may see a lot less of the field than he would like.
Strong is already making big news as a coach with his solid recruiting class and promise of a stout defense. If he can deliver with Sanford as his OC, it won't be long before Louisville is knocking down the Big East Championship door once again.
Will Al Groh Take the Georgia Tech Defense to the Next Level?
Georgia Tech runs the triple-option. The offense is Paul Johnson's department. It's an offense that, although laughed at in the beginning, has placed Georgia Tech back into the national spotlight as a legitimate contender for the BCS Championship.
That said, their defense gives up almost as many points as their offense produces and that was a problem that needed an immediate remedy.
Enter Al Groh, the man who some feel is one of the fathers of the 3-4 defense. He brings his vast knowledge and infinite game-planning acumen to the Yellow Jackets.
Will he be able to make his system work in Atlanta? After all, for as great a defensive mind as he is respected to be, he went 8-16 in his final two seasons as Virginia's head coach. Does he still have the ability to implement the system at Georgia Tech?
For Groh's part, he stated he wouldn't have gone to the Jackets if the pieces weren't already in place. Recall the nose tackle spot? Tech has a couple of candidates. One of whom is T.J. Barnes who, at 6'7" and 341 pounds, more than fits the bill as a "space-filler".
Add to that, the sheer depth the Jackets have at DE—many of whom can play at OLB—and you can see precisely what Al Groh was getting at when he made his statement.
Tech only needs to add a little more stability on defense to become the balanced powerhouse in the ACC that can rule the roost year in and year out.
Will Al Groh's 3-4 be the difference?