Friday, August 21

College Football Previews: The Assistants

One of the aspects of college sports that makes me appreciate them more than their professional counterparts is the importance of coaching. While I am not saying that professional coaches do not earn their money, it is clear that at the collegiate ranks the opportunity to shape the young men into the players you want them to be is more feasible. The head coach gets the publicity, the pay, and the blame most of the time yet assistant coaches can have an incredible influence on how players develop and how the games themselves are played. In this episode of our college football previews we look at some assistants, both old and new, who are going to play important roles not just with their teams but perhaps affect the title picture of the entire country.

Monte Kiffin- Defensive Coordinator, Tennesee

Monte was the longest-tenured NFL defensive coordinator when he was with the Bucs, but apparently blood was thicker than water. When his son, and former offensive coordinator in the college ranks, Lane Kiffin took the head coaching job at Tennessee Monte joined his staff. There are many that feel Monte should be in the NFL Hall of Fame one day for the innovation and success he brought to the defense in Tampa Bay. Will this translate to the college game? I am not sure if Kiffin has the Rosetta Stone of pro defensive schemes to make it work with the Volunteers. The important thing is that he has good coaches around him to manage the collegiate athletes which is a slight bit different than handling the pro guys. The proof will be in the results as the schedule in the SEC is always a tough one to handle. What will Monte have in store for Florida when the Volunteers travel there September 19? He better be prepared because if he had not been paying attention to the college game I will let him know now: Urban Meyer really really really likes to run the score up, especially against teams that he feels have hurt his fragile sensibilities.

Steve Addazio- Offensive Coordinator, Florida

Staying in the SEC, because that's all that matters in college football(right CBS?), Addazio takes over for former playcaller Dan Mullen who will be the head man at Mississippi State. Addazio is no stranger to the Gator system as he was the former O-line coach at UF and therefore has an intricate knowledge of the offense. However there is a distinct difference between knowing how things work and adding input to calling the plays. I think Addazio will do fine this year because the system is in place and Tebow will be taking the snaps, the true test may come next year when Lord Tebow is gone. The one thing Addazio will not have this year is Percy Harvin, who bailed Mullen out of a few jams last year, including the title game.

Ed Ogeron- Assistant Coach/Defensive Line Coach/Recruiting Coordinator, Tennesee

This is the only non-coordinator I have on the list and that may be unfair to other similar coaches that do things similar to Ogeron, but let us make him the example for the others out there. Ogeron's name has become more well known inside college football recently as an excellent recruiter and coach. Backtracking through Ogeron's credentials yields an impressive body of work that proves he has earned his reputation. Prior to Tennessee, Ogeron was at Ole Miss collecting the talent that has helped lead the Rebels to their big season of a year ago and bigger expectations for this year. Before Ole Miss, Ogeron was at USC where he and Lane where assistants together from 2001-2004. The Trojans won two titles while he was there and obviously Kiffin recognized that he was vital to the success. Ogeron also has national championship ties to the University of Miami where he was a grad assistant turned defensive line coach from 1989-1992. Just some of the All-Americans he coached on that line were Russel Maryland, Cortez Kennedy, and Warren Sapp. With Kiffin and Ogeron together, there is no reason to think that in a few years if not next year the Tennessee defense will be among the most vaunted in the country.

John Chavis- Defensive Coordinator, LSU

This is the last SEC one, I swear but realistically, all the voters will be looking at this conference this year to set the table for how the BCS shapes out. If any SEC team wins the conference championship and has 0/1 losses, do you expect them not to be in the top 2 for the BCS at the end of the season? A sleeper team and I use that term loosely because this team won the national title two years ago is LSU. The Tigers had what their fans would call a disappointing season last year. Part of that disappointment was on the defensive side of the ball while the majority of it landed with the quarterback position. The defensive issue should be a thing of the past with John Chavis coming in. For the past 14 years Chavis was the coordinator of the Tennessee defense and had the Vols continually ranked near the top of the nation in defense. Even in recent years when the team faltered, the defense stayed strong. Last year Tennessee went 5-7 yet the defense was third in the nation in total defense. Expect the Tiger defense to bounce back strong this year.

John Morton/Rocky Seto- Offensive Coordinator/Defensive Coordinator, USC

Just days after Pete Carroll's Trojans thrashed Penn State in the Rose Bowl this January, he was in the business of reassembling a staff. He lost his offensive and defensive coordinator to Washington. Steve Sarkisian got the head coaching job and brought along Nick Holt to run the defense. The Trojans even lost their director of football operations to UW. Carroll is not one to panic though, especially with the level of talent he is able to bring in from a player standpoint. Carroll promoted from within which is not a bad idea since he has so much to lean on. Rocky Seto was the linebackers coach and will now head the defense. His linebackers of last year are well known. The defense did lose all three of those players but still have Taylor Mays patrolling the defensive backfield. At USC the motto of reloading instead of rebuilding is firmly in place.

On the offensive side of the ball John Morton was the quarterbacks coach and assistant head coach before being bumped up into Sarkisian's old post. Taking Morton's place will be Carl Smith who was previously on the Trojans staff and part of the national title teams. Carroll says the two will call the game together but that Morton will be the voice of the offense like Sarkisian was. The Trojan offense again has loads of talent but the quarterback will be a first year starter and that can always be an uncertain proposition. However if the new quarterback, Aaron Corp, has as much time to throw as Sanchez did last year he should do well. [A quick side note here: Mitch Mustain, what happened dude? This guy left Arkansas for what he thought were greener pastures but now sits 3rd on the USC QB depth chart.] The Trojan army should fight on like usual but sometimes coordinators are not the exact fit in certain situations and if USC does falter, these men will take the brunt of the blame.

Jim Bollman- Offensive Coordinator, Ohio State

How do you solve a problem like Pryor? Jim Bollman may have that figured out and if he does, then the Buckeyes may shed their tag as BCS punching bags. Bollman has been the offensive coordinator since 2001 and the Buckeyes have no doubt had success during his tenure. He also coaches the offensive line which has sent many athletes on the NFL, a total of 15 including Jets standout center Nick Mangold. Bollman also has previous experience coaching tight ends in the NFL. Yet a strong O-line and pro experience may not be what it takes to unleash Terrelle Pryor. Last year Pryor started as a freshman and had a successful year but his youth showed and in the end the Buckeyes fell short in conference and in the Fiesta Bowl. The rumors of Pryor's improvement at the quarterback position are only eclipsed by those of his blinding 40 yard speed. In my mind the issue is coming up with a scheme to maximize what Pryor can do on the field. I am certain Pryor wants to develop himself into a complete quarterback but his assests place him in the realm of Vick and VY territory. It may not work in the NFL, but in college you can use the superior athleticism of the quarterback to win game, Young is as good an example of that as anyone.

Galen Hall/Tom Bradley- Offensive/Defensive Coordinator, Penn State

I love Joe Paterno, who doesn't? The man is a living legend with the record for division I coaching wins well within his sights due to FSU's violations. He has been the head man at Penn State since Lyndon Johnson was in office and he knows that this was what he was meant to do until his time here is over. He does not want to retire and he has more than earned the right to choose when, if ever, he steps down. While JoePa mostly represents the tradition and mystic of Penn State, the man still has a strong input into the team and was even willing to break a hip last year during an onside kick drill. However, the coordinating team of Galen Hall and Tom Bradley have a huge influence on the way this team is run and the plays called on the field. Last year, with Paterno watching mostly from up high in a coaches box, Penn State captured the Big Ten and earned a Rose Bowl trip. The voyage to Pasadena did not leave a pleasant memory and this year expectations are again high. Daryl Clark returns at QB but there were heavy losses on both sides of the ball. Aaron Maybin, Derrick Williams, Jordan Norwood and many others will not be making plays for the team this year so it will be up to some guys that haven't necessarily seen the reps or have been in the pressure situations before. It will be up to the coaching staff to make sure they are ready and when they face a big time opponent at season's end (which they should if you see their schedule) and avoid another disappointment like the one against USC.

Kevin Steele- Defensive Coordinator, Clemson

There is a strong contingent of Tiger Nation that was happy with the job interim coach Dabo Swinney did last year after Tommy Bowden resigned. After throwing a couple of lines out in the coaching world, they gave Dabo the reigns. The Tigers revitalized their season last year except for a late minute loss to Nebraska in the Gator Bowl. While expectations are high for Clemson this season, they are not as ridiculous as they were last year before the season began and Alabama exposed the Tigers on national television. Speaking of the Tide, Swinney was able to lure Kevin Steele away from Alabama and Nick Saban. Steele has a wealth of experience in college and pro football. He has coached under Tom Osborne, Saban, Bobby Bowden, and Johnny Majors. Clemson is picked to finish under Florida State this year in the Atlantic Division of the ACC, but if Steele can infuse his knowledge into the players at a fast rate, the Tigers may have a chance at getting to Tampa.

Bill Young- Defensive Coordinator, Oklahoma State

Mike Gundy and Zac Robinson have the Cowboy offense running at high octane, it is the ability to stop people that may be standing in the way of them making noise near the top of the BCS this year. Gundy added Young when his former defensive coordinator, Tim Beckman went to Toledo. Young comes from just one season at Miami where he did an admirable job with a young defense. Young has coached in the conference before and has tremendous experience in his arsenal. At Kansas, Young helped lead the Jayhawks to the surprise Orange Bowl win a few years ago. With the Heisman hype around Robinson the focus will not be on defense, but it surely be the difference if they make a run in the Big 12.

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