College Football Predictions 2011: How Will Al Golden and Other New Coaches Fare
Like several other new coaches around the college football landscape, Al Golden has renewed hope at the University of Miami in just a short time on the job.
Although he has yet to step on the field for a game that counts, Golden has brought the right attitude and the right mindset to Coral Gables.
Golden is intense, engaging and charismatic, but he is also an extremely motivated individual with a tireless work ethic. He is also obsessively organized and intent on returning the University of Miami back to its dominant ways of the 1980s and early 2000s.
Any school in search of a head coach will look for an individual who is smart and hard working, but one who also has his finger on the pulse of the fanbase while maintaining a sense for the team's history.
Al Golden has already said and done all the right things during his time with the Hurricanes. Many other coaches, however, would have been capable of doing the same so far.
Around college football, 11 major conference schools switched head coaches this offseason.
With spring football having come and gone, these coaches now have four months to prepare their players for the only part of their job that ultimately matters: generating wins on the football field.
What follows is a list of the eight most promising candidates among these new coaches and some predictions for how their schools will fare moving forward.
Jon Embree, Colorado
Jon Embree never had to attend the University of Colorado.
The high school All-American tight end and three-sport star from Cherry Creek High School in Denver was widely recruited, receiving offers from USC, Ohio State and Oklahoma, among other places.
He chose to stay and play closer to home, however, despite the fact that the Buffaloes had won just nine games during his four preceding years in high school.
Embree had a monster sophomore season, besting the school records for receptions (51) and yards (680) for a tight end. Colorado switched to the wishbone offense before his junior season, severely affecting his stats for his final two years.
He began his coaching career with Colorado as an assistant in 1993. Embree stayed for 10 seasons, gaining experience coaching tight ends, defensive ends, wide receivers and kickers.
He moved to UCLA from 2003-2005, serving as the position coach for the receivers and tight ends and as the assistant head coach for the team.
Embree also has NFL experience, having spent 2006-2009 as the Kansas City Chiefs' tight ends coach, and 2010 in the same position with the Washington Redskins.
But Jon Embree will return to Colorado in 2011 for his first head coaching job. It is a place that he knows and loves.
When a former Colorado teammate, Anthony Witherspoon, was diagnosed with Leukimia, Embree created the Buffs 4 Life Foundation, an organization designed to help former Buffaloes take care of one another after graduation.
According to one of his former players, Joel Klatt, Embree "is a humble, selfless, goal-oriented leader...You don’t have a vision to start something like Buffs 4 Life unless you are selfless and you absolutely love the university that you played for.”
As Colorado moves into the Pac 12, they leave behind their recent legacy as a Big 12 doormat. Jon Embree has the character and the personality to right the ship.
Prediction: Behind senior running back Rodney Stewart, the Buffs go 6-6 and make a bowl for the first time since 2007.
Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut
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Paul Pasqualoni may have seemed like a strange replacement for departed UConn coach Randy Edsall, but he was actually a surprisingly underrated hire.
Pasqualoni, 61, is a Connecticut native whose first head job came with Division III Western Connecticut College. After going 34-17 over four seasons, he was hired to coach linebackers at Syracuse.
He remained in that role until 1991 when the Orange's coach, Dick McPherson, left for the New England Patriots.
Pasqualoni was subsequently promoted to head coach at Syracuse and won 10 games in each of his first two seasons, including a Fiesta Bowl victory in 1992-1993.
In 14 seasons with the Orange, Pasqualoni amassed a 107-59-1 record and had just one losing year (2002) in which his team went 4-8. During his time, the coach led the Orange to four Big East Championships.
Three of those came from 1996-1998 with a young Donovan McNabb working his magic at quarterback.
The fourth came in 2004, Pasqualoni's final season. In 2005, Syracuse went 1-10; the worst record in the history of the school's program.
Since his firing from Syracuse, Paul Pasqualoni has bided his time in the NFL. He's served as the defensive coordinator for the Dolphins and the Cowboys, and has also coached tight ends, linebackers and defensive linemen.
He'll inherit an improving UConn program that received a BCS bid last season and is returning nine starters on defense.
Prediction: UConn won the Big East last year, despite going just 8-5. Even without running back Jordan Todman, Pasqualoni should be able to duplicate that. The first-year coach should help the Huskies challenge for the conference crown once again.
Will Muschamp, Florida
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By succeeding Urban Meyer in Gainesville, new Gators head coach Will Muschamp already has a lot on his plate.
Although Florida finished a disappointing 8-5 in 2010, they were the winningest program in college football under Meyer's watch, capturing two national championships along the way (2006, 2008).
Just 39-years-old, Will Muschamp has long been considered one of the hottest coaching prospects in football. Prior to arriving at Florida, Muschamp served under Mac Brown as Texas' linebackers coach and defensive coordinator.
After his first season in 2008, Texas announced that Muschamp would be granted a five-year deal to coach the Longhorns at the time of Mack Brown's retirement.
Deciding he didn't want to wait around for what is currently an open-ended time frame, Muschamp agreed to take a five-year offer from the Gators.
Although expectations are high, Florida fans should be excited about their new coach. Muschamp is an excellent recruiter and should continue to bring in top talent along the lines of what Urban Meyer managed.
Additionally, he's a fiery and intense competitor who has shown mastery in his abilities as a defensive coordinator.
The Florida Gators will have an identity under Muschamp, and it will be that of a hard nosed defensive team.
Prediction: John Brantley isn't the answer at quarterback. This Gators team is young but should improve quickly under Muschamp's guidance. Georgia and South Carolina will compete for the SEC East this season. Another year of seasoning will get the Gators back in contention for 2012.
Kevin Wilson, Indiana
In 120 seasons of their football program's history, Indiana has only reached nine bowl games. The team hasn't played in a bowl since 2007 and before that, 1993. Their last bowl win came in 1991, a 24-0 victory over Baylor in the Copper Bowl.
Arguably their most successful coach in recent history was Bill Mallory, who reached six bowls in eight years from 1986-1993. He was fired in 1996 after compiling a 69-77-3 career record at IU.
Their last winning coach was Bo McMillin, who went 63-48-11 and retired in 1947.
The Indiana Hoosiers football program, you see, has nowhere to go but up.
That's exactly where new head coach Kevin Wilson plans to take them.
Wilson arrived this winter from Oklahoma where he most recently served as the offensive coordinator. He also held the same position at Northwestern and Miami (OH) and has served as a position coach for offensive linemen and quarterbacks in the past.
Wilson's offenses posted some staggering numbers during his time in Norman. His quarterback, Landry Jones, finished second in the nation for passing yards in 2010 (4,718).
His 2008 offense, with Sam Bradford at quarterback, led the nation in points per game (51.1).
Wilson likes to run a spread passing attack that eventually opens up holes for the running game. It is a multiple offense that puts players in the best position to find open space and make plays with the ball.
Prediction: Indiana has some nice weapons in the receiving corp, but Wilson will have to find a new quarterback since Ben Chappell graduated. His first year could be rough, but Wilson has a chance to go down as the best coach in Indiana's football history.
Randy Edsall, Maryland
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Randy Edsall saw a lot of things change during his 12 seasons as UConn's football coach.
When he arrived in 1999, the Huskies were still a Division II program competing out of the Atlantic 10 conference. In 2000 they moved up to the ranks of Division I, competing as an independent.
Edsall improved the team from 3-8 to 9-3 by 2003. In 2004, the Huskies joined the Big East for good, winning eight games and defeating Toledo in the Motor City Bowl.
Although the team had losing seasons in his next two years, Edsall finished strong by going 9-4 in 2007 and 8-5 each year from 2008-2010.
The Huskies won the Big East championship in both 2007 and 2010 and received their first BCS bid (Fiesta Bowl) last season.
Edsall is from western Pennsylvania and is a protege of New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin. As a result, he likes building teams with good lines and a workhorse running back.
Although believed to be a candidate to eventually replace Joe Paterno at Penn State, Edsall instead decided to replace Ralph Friedgen at Maryland.
The hiring was perplexing considering Edsall doesn't have a ton of upside. Sure, he took a program from Division II to a BCS game. But he lost at least two conference games every season, and never once has he hit 10 wins.
Prediction: Edsall's teams play close games. They tend to rise up or fall down to the level of their opponent. Maryland went 9-4 last year with a freshman quarterback. I would place that as their ceiling again for this year, but I expect closer to .500
Al Golden, Miami (FL)
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What should Canes fans like most about Al Golden so far?
Is it the fire in his eyes? Golden has said time and time again that he plans to return the University of Miami to national prominence. He is intense when he speaks and seems capable of making a believer out of even the most stringent pessimist.
Is it the passion and confidence he exudes? Golden has repeated the fact that the "U" is the most recognizable brand in college football. He attended Penn State while Miami was in its prime. Golden had first hand experience with the Canes players that changed college football forever.
Is it his sense of history? Golden has implored former players to come back and be around the program. Randy Shannon had a closed door policy. Golden had upwards of 300 former Hurricanes attend the recent spring game.
Is it his recruiting abilities? Golden was already known as a great recruiter before he came to Miami. In a few weeks time, he was able to add a bunch of talented, high-upside players to a class that had only had just a handful of commitments.
Is it his organizational abilities? For his job application to Miami, Golden submitted a 300-page book on how to restore the Miami Hurricanes to their winning ways. He set up the team exactly how he wanted it and brought over many of his defensive coaches from Temple.
Golden clearly has a plan for how he wants his program run, changing everything from the way the players lift weights to the way the team deals with the media and provides access to content.
The Canes are supposedly in negotiations with ESPNU to create a Hard Knocks style show about Miami football.
Al Golden has already changed a lot of things about the University of Miami and its football program. Now it's time for him to put a winning product on the field.
Predictions: This current crop of seniors were part of the No. 1 recruiting class in 2007. This is still an immensely talented roster that went 7-5 last year during a miserable season. Al Golden gets the most out of his players, making Miami a real sleeper for 2011.
They should challenge for the ACC title as early as this season and will continue to do so in the future under Golden's guidance.
Brady Hoke, Michigan
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Despite the fact that he's a "Michigan man," the maize and blue faithful won't be accepting of Brady Hoke until he proves that he can win football games.
The fact that the've even used that moniker for him is a stretch in the first place. Hoke hails from Dayton, OH and he played football at Ball State in Indiana.
The only tie he has to the Michigan program is the fact that he coached defensive linemen there from 1995-2002. For the 2002 season, Hoke also served as the assistant head coach.
He left to take over as the head coach for Ball State. Hoke stayed for six seasons, leaving after a 12-1 finish in 2008.
Before coming back to coach the Wolverines, Hoke spent two seasons as the head coach of San Diego State. He went from 4-8 in his first year to 9-4 in his second, defeating Navy in the Poinsettia Bowl last season.
Hoke will inherit a Michigan team that returns 18 of its 22 starters from last season. On offense, they'll only need to replace left guard Stephen Schilling.
Hoke's teams have run the spread offense in the past, but not with the kind of options the team saw under Rich Rodriguez.
He has said that he will be flexible in order to accommodate for the talent on the roster. There's no sense, after all, in wasting the abilities of a game breaker like Denard Robinson.
Prediction: Hoke will eventually look to make long-term changes to the Michigan program in order to build the team as he sees fit. For now, there's no point in tinkering too much since there's already a lot of talent that suits a certain style. Michigan might be a bit better this year under Hoke, but Rich Rod should have gotten one more chance with 18 of his starters returning.
David Shaw, Stanford
In replacing the departed Jim Harbaugh, who was almost single-handedly credited with restoring Stanford's football program to relevance, former offensive coordinator David Shaw has some enormous shoes to fill.
Thankfully, for his first year as a head coach, the 38-year-old will have a little bit of Luck on his side.
The Cardinal will return starting quarterback and Heisman trophy runner-up Andrew Luck. Last season, Luck completed 70.7 percent of his passes and threw for 3,338 yards with 32 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
He led Stanford to a 13-1 record and a victory in the Orange Bowl. Their only loss came to the No. 2 Oregon Ducks on the road.
Although this is his first head coaching gig, Shaw has 15 years of coaching experience. He's spent time with Western Washington, the University of San Diego and Stanford in college and also had stints with the Philadelphia Eagles, Oakland Raiders and Baltimore Ravens in the NFL.
Shaw has coached quality control, linebackers, tight ends, quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs. He spent four years as Stanford's offensive coordinator.
Shaw is a well-rounded coach with an NFL background who orchestrated a deadly Stanford attack the past few seasons. He was hand picked by Jim Harbaugh as a replacement and should continue to serve as a wonderful mentor to Andrew Luck.
Prediction: It's hard to go 13-1 at Stanford in any year. Due to their stringent academic requirements, it's difficult for the school to bring in top recruits. However, Shaw can continue on the tradition that Harbaugh helped reestablish. With his background, he should have no problem landing top quarterback recruits.