10 College Coaches with Something to Prove in 2011
Can you feel it? That calm that lays claim prior to a large storm is setting in nicely in the sports world. t's almost here. Football season will soon be thundering upon us.
The smell of hot dogs, bud light and cigars will be permeating throughout stadium parking lots. High fives, man hugs and women gossiping about anything other than football will soon be seen throughout parking lots and groves throughout the country.
And, oh yeah, the complaining and discussion about the men that are the face of the programs.
Every season there are college football coaches around the country that are on the cusp--the cusp of greatness of failure.
Today, we will take a gander at several coaches that have something to prove throughout the 2011 season. A chance to right their wrongs, better their failures and correct their erroneous behaviors of the past.
With that being said, let's get to it.
Turner Gill—Kansas Jayhawks
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Turner Gill headed to the friendly confines of Lawrence, Kansas after completing a rebuilding project that many thought unfathomable. Gill turned a program in the city of Buffalo into a winner, a bowl representative and a stable program.
However, in his first season at Kansas, disappointment would be the first term that comes to mind.
Gill returned some talent, not a lot, but enough talent to field a much better football team than the Jayhawks produced in 2010. In his first season at the helm, the Jayhawks lost to North Dakota State to open the season, and were derailed by Baylor and Kansas State in back to back weeks.
Gil returns 15 starters in the 2011 season and his roster will be entering the second season of his system. Improvement is expected.
Kansas does not expect a national championship--or even to compete for a national championship--every season, but they do expect a program that can compete for a bowl. If Gill doesn't meet that goal this season, the seat will begin to warm.
Danny Hope—Purdue Boilermakers
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Danny Hope replaced Joe Tiller following a couple of sub-par seasons for the Boilermaker programs, and is in the midst of a rebuilding project. The Purdue faithful expected a team to compete for a bowl game last season, but the season quickly derailed due to injuries.
With 16 starters returning, Hope must improve upon the 9-15 record he has compiled in his first two seasons at the helm of the Boiler program.He returns a young and talented nucleus--led by quarterback Rob Henry--and a bowl game should be in their sights.
If the Boilermakers fail to make a lower tiered bowl game, the Danny Hope project in West Lafayette will come to a screeching halt.
Luke Fickell—Ohio State Buckeyes
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Luke Fickell enters a situation that no coach ever wants to experience. A program that has been under the eye of the NCAA microscope and had to force the dismissal of one of the most beloved figures in school history. And this isn't just your average run of the mill program where he is attempting to pull this maneuver--this is a true Blue Blood.
Even with the drama that has surrounded the Ohio State program this off-season, they are still one of the most talented teams in the country and they still expect to do one thing--Win.
If Fickell flops in his first season, he will kindly be shown the door and Ohio State will look for a much more prominent name to enter the fray.
Mark Richt—Georgia Bulldogs
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Mark Richt has thoroughly underachieved during his last two seasons at the helm of the Bulldogs. Georgia fans continually expect greatness and with the talent that is readily available for Coach Richt, a losing season is unacceptable.
Richt has one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country at his disposal in Aaron Murray and brought in one of the nations most prominent recruiting classes--led by blue chip tailback Isiah Crowell. There is enough talent on board to compete for an SEC East crown and that is exactly what is expected in Athens.
Georgia opens the season with Boise State and South Carolina, and if they flop out of the gates, Richt may not make it through the 2011 season.
Houston Nutt—Ole Miss Rebels
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Houston Nutt is a two-time SEC Coach of the Year and has been known to overachieve throughout his career. However, his 2010 season in Ole Miss was one of strife and failure. His failed attempt at implanting Jeremiah Masoli at the quarterback position was frowned up and he continually blasts by the recruiting scholarship limits.
However, this can all be declared null and void with modest improvement in the 2011 season. The Ole Miss fan base realizes that they are competing in the most dominant division, in the most dominant conference in the country and they are not expecting an SEC Championship game appearance.
They certainly don't expect to lose to Jacksonville State, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State in the same season, though.
Nutt must survive the gauntlet and get this team to a bowl game or there will be trouble in Oxford.
Ron Zook—Illinois Fighting Illini
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Since a 2007 Rose Bowl appearance, Ron Zook has continued to waste strong recruiting classes and a considerable amount of talent in Champaign. It has been a model of consistency for the Zooker, even since his days with the Florida Gators.
The fan base and the administration have been relatively patient with Zook over the years, but he must make a quality move this season.
With the return of Nathan Scheelhaase at quarterback and a quality set of skill position players accompanying a manageable schedule, nine wins should be possible.
If not? The Zooker is Zooked.
Dabo Swinney—Clemson Tigers
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Dabo has proven he can absolute dominate the recruiting trail. Now he must prove that he is capable of putting those talented players in a position to win ball games.
The program has consistently underachieved throughout his previous three seasons, especially in the 2008 season. There is much hoopla surround the ballyhooed recruiting class and the talent that is on campus.
Will Dabo be able to finally put all the pieces of the puzzle together? Or will he once again mismanage his team and fall below expectations.
Rick Neuheisel—UCLA Bruins
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Neuheisel was brought into Los Angeles to restore UCLA to a competitive force within the confines of the PAC 10, now known as the PAC 12. Yet, he has not accomplished any of the goals he originally set out to achieve.
He has yet to beat USC, he has failed to make a bowl appearance in two of his first three seasons, and the program does not appear to be improving.
UCLA produced one of the worst offenses in the country in 2010, and they were forced to replace Norm Chow. Will the changes on the Bruin staff bring forth improvement?
The Bruins have 17 returning starters and have the talent to compete for a bowl game and show some spunk in the south division of the newly reconfigured PAC 12. Another atrocity like 2010 season and the Neuheisel era will not end in pretty fashion.
Greg Schiano—Rutgers Scarlet Knights
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It may shock many people to see Greg Schiano on this list, but one has to wonder if he has reached the peak of his ability with the Piscataway based program.
Before Schiano arrived, Rutgers was a downtrodden program that always appeared to be an easy win on the schedule, but he placed them firmly on the Big East map. Schiano had the team competing at a high level and even produced a quality national contender in 2006.
However, things have slowly begun to slip away from Schiano over the last several years. The 2010 season was one of epic failure, a 4-8 record, that was not expected.
Schiano returns a talented nucleus on offense and has a team that should return to postseason play. If not, perhaps, the Schiano era will conclude in bittersweet fashion.
Mack Brown—Texas Longhorns
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Mack Brown returned the Texas Longhorn program to a glorified position among the nation's elite. He possesses a recruiting base that is more fruitful than any other location in the country and combines them with the most prominent athletic department to form a national powerhouse.
However, during the 2010 season, things appeared to become stale with Brown at the helm. The Longhorns suffered through a traumatic losing season and were atrocious on the offensive side of the ball.
Brown has parted ways with longtime friend Greg Davis and is hoping to rejuvenate the Longhorn program. With all that he has accomplished during his tenure, you would never expect Brown to be dismissed, but another season like 2010 and retirement will become a strong, strong possibility.