B/R Staff: Build Your College Football Program

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistJuly 1, 2020

B/R Staff: Build Your College Football Program

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    B/R

    Both on and off the field, many factors contribute to building a successful college football program. Ultimately, though, the most prolific teams have a special blend of coaching, talent, facilities, fan support and conference affiliation.

    Using those five categories, B/R's college football staff—David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller and Brad Shepard—convened to assemble their championship-worthy programs.

    First, the ground rules:

    • Select one for each category (head coach, player, stadium/facilities, fans and conference)
    • Only allowed to double up a Power Five league with the conference (for example, can have Nick Saban and SEC, but not Justin Fields and Michigan fans)
    • Snake draft (Shepard, Kenyon, Miller, Kramer)

    After making their picks, the members of B/R's staff explained their predraft plan, their draft process and why their program is the best. Head to the B/R app to cast your vote and build your own program with $15.

    Note: The prices in the accompanying picture are based on the selection order from the snake draft.

Brad Shepard's Program

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    Ric Tapia/Associated Press

    Shepard's Program

    Head coach: Ryan Day, Ohio State (3)
    Player: Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State (5)
    Stadium/Facilities: Oregon (2)
    Fans: Notre Dame (4)
    Conference: SEC (1)

                

    Draft Strategy Going In

    When it was announced I'd have the top pick, it was a no-brainer to select the nation's top conference: the SEC. The Bible Belt is made of pigskin, as evidenced by the conference winning 10 of the last 14 national titles and 12 of 22 since the birth of the BCS in 1998.

    Once the draft snaked back around, and it was obvious I'd get a blue-blood coach, it was smooth sailing to the top program. Again, the SEC has proved year after year it wins, 'Bama and beyond. So the strategy was "Take the SEC and let the rest fall into place."

    It certainly did.

              

    Why My Program Tops the Rest

    We've already been over conference supremacy, and that alone is worth the faux championship. But there's so much more. The SEC is the centerpiece of it all; five programs with six different head coaches have won national titles in the timeframe listed above. The conference gets the best talent, and it's filled with elite players and elite coaches.

    As if it weren't good enough to have the top conference already in my pocket, two of the best coaches in the nation stared me in the face with my second pick. Though David Kenyon plucked Dabo Swinney right before me, I was more than thrilled that Ryan Day was there for the taking.

    Arguably, the 41-year-old Day has the most upside.

    In his first year succeeding Urban Meyer at Ohio State, all he proved was he could keep that powerhouse chugging right down the championship road. Yes, Meyer left him with a stable full of talent, but Day took an unproven first-year starter in Justin Fields and developed him into a Heisman Trophy finalist. The Buckeyes were electric on both sides, and Day more than proved his chops throughout the year.

    How's his recruiting? Well, the Buckeyes look like they're going to run away with the recruiting title in his first full class. There's nothing but upside with this pick.

    So, with the SEC trumping all other conferences and the top young offensive mind in football leading my team, I'll take all that Nike money dripping from the ceiling in Eugene with those Oregon facilities.

    The Ducks' duds are second-to-none with the most money in this arms race. Autzen Stadium won't compete for the largest capacity, but it's a stunning, comfortable place to watch a football game, and the 54,000 fans can get extremely loud.

    Rounding out the non-player picks, is there a larger national brand than Notre Dame?

    Maybe Nick Saban has put the Crimson Tide on comparable ground, but you cannot go anywhere without seeing countless Fighting Irish fans. The Catholic flagship university has loyalty from coast to coast. I go to a small, rural Baptist church in Southern Middle Tennessee, and there were at least two Notre Dame stickers in the parking lot when I was growing up. That's reach, folks.

    I'll be able to go into any high school in the country, and the interlocked ND or the dukes-up leprechaun will speak for themselves.

    Finally, there isn't anybody better when it comes to toting the 'tater than Chuba Hubbard. All my colleagues went with franchise quarterbacks, and that's a fine strategy. I chose the nation's top running workhorse who has proved he can chew up anybody's defense.

    Hubbard is a dynamic runner who was snubbed last year without an invitation to the Heisman Trophy ceremony. That won't happen again, and while you may think this is a two-person race, Hubbard will have plenty to say about the award before it's all said and done. So, yeah, I went another direction with the player, and I'm thrilled he fell to me with the final pick.

David Kenyon's Program

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Kenyon's Program

    Head coach: Dabo Swinney, Clemson (2)
    Player: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State (1)
    Stadium/Facilities: Alabama (3)
    Fans: Oklahoma (4)
    Conference: Big Ten (5)

                

    Draft Strategy Going In

    Put simply: elite quarterback, elite coach, figure out the rest later.

    I knew a top stadium/facility pairing and power conference would be available at any point, and a strong fan base wouldn't be terribly hard to find, either. There was no chance I would use my first two selections on anything but a player and coach.

               

    Why My Program Tops the Rest

    Can you really go wrong between Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields? I chose the latter because of his untapped upside and exceptional mobility. Fields accounted for 51 touchdowns in his first season as a college starter. He's only going to get better. I mean, come on.

    I'll take Fields and laugh my way to a national championship. 

    Or, should I say championships? Yeah, I should.

    Dabo Swinney took Clemson from a mid-tier ACC program to a national powerhouse. He and his coaching staff have a tremendous ability to identify underrated talent, and Clemson is also a regular front-runner for the nation's premier 5-star talents. That superiority in recruiting is the foundation of a long-term contender.

    Alabama has everything a program or player could ever need or want. The workout, practice and team facilities are incredible, and Bryant-Denny Stadium houses 100,000-plus fans. It's an ideal environment to plug in Oklahoma fans, who have only raised their expectations higher because of recent success. We want our fans to keep the pressure on us to excelnot merely thrive.

    Oh, and you know we wanted that Big Ten money. According to Steve Berkowitz of USA Today, the Big Ten likely distributed at least $55 million to its full-revenue-share schoolsthe highest in college athletics. That's the cherry on top of a stellar team and a strong support base.

    Sure, my colleagues have some potential. Kramer's team is an immediate threat, and I respect thatat least until Lincoln Riley heads to the NFL. My program is built for decades of dominance.

Kerry Miller's Program

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    Richard Shiro/Associated Press

    Miller's Program

    Head coach: Nick Saban, Alabama (1)
    Player: Kedon Slovis, QB, USC (5)
    Stadium/Facilities: Clemson (2)
    Fans: Michigan (3)
    Conference: Big 12 (4)

               

    Draft Strategy Going In

    Initially, my plan was to focus on the culture first and foremost by snagging an SEC fan base in the first round and a Big Ten stadium/facilities in the second.

    However, the reason I talked myself into that strategy was that I had the third pick and assumed Nick Saban would go either No. 1 or No. 2 overall. When he fell into my lap at No. 3, I called an audible. But saving conference and player for the fourth and fifth rounds was always the plan.

              

    Why My Program Tops the Rest

    In 24 seasons as a college football head coach, Saban has never had a losing season. And in the past 12 years at Alabama, he has an average record of 12.5 wins and 1.4 losses, plus five national championships.

    Maybe my colleagues balked at the thought of building their program around a 68-year-old head coach. However, Saban has at least a few good years left in the tank, and just a few years of employing the man who can sign basically any damn 5-star recruit he wants is good enough for me. That's how you lay a solid foundation.

    Plus, Saban has put together a top-five recruiting class in each of the last 13 years, including eight years at No. 1 in the 247Sports Composite rankings.

    If and when Saban's potency on the recruiting trail begins to wane, there's still the allure of my second-round pick: rubbing the rock at Death Valley and training in the Clemson facilities, which were recently ranked by 247Sports as the best in the nation. It'll eventually become outdated in the ever-present recruiting arms race, but the football-exclusive massive weight room, mini-golf course and bowling lanes at Clemson are state-of-the-art.

    In addition to the greatest coach of all time and the greatest facilities of the moment, getting one of the biggest fan bases in the nation during the third round was highway robbery.

    I live in Charlotte, North Carolina, and during the season, there are no fewer than 10 houses in our neighborhood proudly flying a Michigan flag—by far the most well-represented school in that regard. Anywhere you go in the country, it's a similar story. And I don't care if the fans are alumni or merely "Walmart Wolverines."

    Those folks bleed Maize and Blue, and I'm thrilled to have fans who still love their head coach in spite of an 0-5 record against an arch-rival.

    Going into this exercise, I felt the Big 12 was the obvious choice for the conference as it's the only one that legitimately crowns a champion with a round-robin schedule. It's not as deep or as nationally publicized as the SEC or the Big Ten, but it's been good enough to send a one-loss Oklahoma to three consecutive College Football Playoffs.

    And while my colleagues decided to take a "franchise player" who will likely be selected in the first round of the 2021 draft, I'll take at least two more years of Kedon Slovis, please and thank you.

    At 291.8 passing yards per game, the USC quarterback was the first freshman from a Power Five conference to average at least 285 since both Jameis Winston (289.8) and Jared Goff (292.3) did so in 2013—and they became the No. 1 picks in the 2015 and 2016 drafts, respectively.

Adam Kramer's Program

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Kramer's Program

    Head coach: Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma (2)
    Player: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson (1)
    Stadium/Facilities: Ohio State (4)
    Fans: LSU (3)
    Conference: ACC (5)

              

    Draft Strategy Going In

    Excellence. It's that simple.

    I wanted to start with a coach capable of building and rebuilding such excellence year after year and a player who could help see it through. It has to start there. My own little version of The Process.

    It's the fuel that makes a great fan base that much more powerful. Without the coach, everything else falls apart. And when said coach has a player like this, well, you know what happens next.

    I wanted a coach with an offensive background. We all know that's where the game is headed. It's a matter of keeping up and burying teams in touchdowns. I then wanted an elite player to pair him with, followed by an environment and fanbase that would make other people's lives miserable. The rest? I was going to figure that out later.

    Having the last pick made me a bit skeptical that I would be able to execute this plan to my liking. I thought the strategy might fall apart early.

    Oh, I was wrong. So, so wrong.

              

    Why My Program Tops the Rest

    Just look at it. Seriously, stop what you are doing. Pause whatever YouTube video you're watching in the background. Stop the podcast you are halfheartedly enjoying. Take a gander at this program and imagine how absolutely miserable it would be to face.

    Where do we start? How about with the generational quarterback.

    Trevor Lawrence is 6'6", 220 pounds, and he's still probably nowhere near his ceiling. The fact that he was available at pick No. 4 was, frankly, a surprise. I don't need to roll down the list of achievements and spell out the potential. You know all of this.

    And because I had back-to-back selections, I didn't have to think twice about adding him. My player is better than your player. The end.

    Oh, but that's not all. Let's pair the generational quarterback with an elite—and I mean elite—offensive mind.

    Lincoln Riley could turn your labradoodle into a fifth-round draft pick. Imagine what he would do with this guy. Plus, having this kind of influence stretches beyond a single player. If you are an elite wideout, tight end, offensive lineman or quarterback of the future, you're going to want to play here.

    Those two were easy. The thing that brings it all together, though, is the LSU fanbase. I saw what these fine folks were capable of in Atlanta for the semifinals and then New Orleans for the national championship.

    They are, quite simply, a different type of fan. They will lather themselves up in liquid goodness, cook you the best meal you've ever eaten and then yell and scream like you've never heard a fanbase yell and scream for three-and-a-half hours in a stretch of 12 hours. (They'll then do the first few parts all over again once the game ends.)

    This is the kind of energy and culture I want. Intensity. Passion. All of it.

    I capped it all off with the facilities that produced the No. 2 (Chase Young) and No. 3 (Jeff Okudah) picks in the 2020 NFL draft. These same facilities also produced Joey Bosa, Nick Bosa and a seemingly endless scroll of exceptional collegiate and NFL players.

    These facilities were upgraded just last year. They are also appealing enough to draw in the best high school athletes in America. The No. 1 recruiting class in 2021 according to 247Sports? Yep. Ohio State. The Buckeyes are mighty happy with the way things are. So am I.

    Finally, the conference. Some will say the ACC is my weakest link. I would argue it's my strategic advantage.

    Why do I need to be in the SEC and play a grueling schedule year after year? I'd rather cakewalk my way through a bunch of conference also-rans and share 50-burgers each Saturday with every single one of you.

    People will get mad about it. I welcome it. 

    I'm not here for close games and 10-win seasons. I am here for championships and glory and blowouts. Doesn't matter the conference. I've merely set myself up for dominance in a place that is ripe for it. (See: Clemson.) The attention and appreciation and accolades will follow.

    Good luck to everyone else. You will need it.