2004 Hot Coaches
At each level of football is a listing of the have, the have-nots, and those on the rise. This fall the listing of those ‘on the rise’ seems stronger than ever before. From high school to the NFL, there’s a group of coaches -- head men as well as offense and defensive coordinators -- primed for success. Included is our annual listing of the cream of the crop -- those destined for a great season and a greater career.by: AFM Editorial Staff
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RANDY SHANNON, MIAMI: Defensive Coordinator of the ‘Canes,
Shannon is our top selection and a head-coach-in-waiting. A member
of this listing last year and the feature of an AFM cover story
in April, he has all the tools and experience as well as an organizational
plan to get to the top-whether it be Miami’s ‘D’ in
2004 or another Division 1-A program in 2005. The Hurricanes ranked
second in total defense a year ago.
URBAN MEYER, UTAH: When Urban Meyer left Notre Dame to take the
head job at Bowling Green, the Falcons had suffered six straight
losing seasons. In two seasons at BGSU, Meyer produced a 17-6 record.
He’s done the same now in two years at Utah, going 10-2 last
season and shutting out Southern Miss in the Liberty Bowl, 17-0.
Until last season, the Utes had not won an outright conference
championship in 46 years.
STEVE KRAGTHORPE, TULSA: In his first year as head coach, Kragthorpe
guided a program that had won a combined two games over the previous
two years to its first winning season and bowl appearance since
1991. A former quarterbacks coach for the Buffalo Bills and offensive
coordinator at Texas A&M, Kragthorpe’s Golden Hurricane
BRIAN VANGORDER, GEORGIA: Defensive Coordinator for the Bulldogs,
VanGorder builds his defense around speed and experience: Georgia’s
defense ranked 3rd in the country in scoring defense and 4th in
total defense. This fall All-America defensive end David Pollack
returns for his senior season and the Bulldogs should be even better.
VanGorder has improved the defense at every school he’s coached
including Wayne State, Central Florida, Central Michigan, and Western
RANDY EDSALL, CONNECTICUT: The Huskies’ elevation to Division
I-A becomes complete this season as they join the Big East a year
earlier than planned. Under Edsall, UConn finished 9-3 last fall
and now rides a five game winning streak. A former defensive backs
coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars and defensive coordinator at
Georgia Tech, Edsall begins his sixth season in Storrs with a high-powered
BOBBY PETRINO, LOUISVILLE: Returning for his second season as head
coach for the Cardinals, Petrino has eight offensive starters returning
to an offense that averaged 35 points per game and finished 9-4.
A former NFL coach and Offensive Coordinator for Louisville under
John L. Smith, the Cardinals averaged nearly 7 yards per play in
2003, second in the nation to Texas Tech.
PAUL JOHNSON, NAVY: The Midshipmen won 8 games in 2003, matching
the number of wins the team had in the previous four seasons combined.
Johnson has been the architect with a rushing offense that led
the nation. Navy’s eight victories included two over Air
Force and Army, ensuring the Commander-In-Chief trophy for the
first time in a two decades.
NORM CHOW, USC: Although he’s coached many All-America quarterbacks
and two Heisman Trophy winners – Ty Detmer and Carson Palmer – Chow’s
best days may be ahead of him. USC’s Offensive Coordinator
has Matt Leinhart, the leading passer in the Pac-10, back under
center this year along with back-up John David Booty, a former
high school prep star who is highly touted.
DARRELL DICKEY, NORTH TEXAS: Under Dickey’s tutelage, the
Mean Green have won 18 consecutive conference games, tying them
for the longest streak in the nation. North Texas has won three
straight Sun Belt titles and last year, finishing 9-4, they were
the only conference team to have a winning record. Two years ago
Dickey guided North Texas to their first bowl game in 46 years.
JIMBO FISHER, LSU: Considered a top candidate for a head coaching
job next season, it seems Fisher is rumored to be someone’s
new man each year. This fall he begins his fifth season as LSU’s
offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Over that stretch
he has developed a number of quarterbacks that have gone on to
the NFL. Among them are Rohan Davey, Craig Nall, and Josh Booty
with Matt Mauck getting a crack this year.
K.C. Keeler, Delaware: Keeler brought a spread offensive attack
from Division III Rowan to his alma mater in 2002, and led UD to
a I-AA championship during his second season at the helm.
Mike Ayers, Wofford: A blackbelt in karate and former garbageman,
the head coach of Division I’s smallest football-playing
instiution (1,100 students) has won 21 games in the past two seasons.
Mike Kramer, Montana State: The eminently likable coach went 0-11
in his first season at MSU (2000), but has led the program to back-to-back
playoff bids as well as successive victories over rival Montana.
Mark Farley, Northern Iowa: Tradition-rich Northern Iowa had gone
five seasons without a postseason appearance before Farley took
over in 2001 and guided the school to a pair of playoff bids in
Al Bagnoli, Penn: Bagnoli has led the Quakers to six Ivy League
titles since taking over in 1992, and enters 2004 riding a 16-game
Jerry Kill, Southern Illinois: Kill’s forces ended a 20-year
playoff drought in 2003, in only the former Emporia State and Saginaw
Valley State head coach’s third year in Carbondale.
Donald Hill-Eley, Morgan State: Perhaps the most underappreciated
coach in the country, Hill-Eley put up winning seasons in his first
two years at Morgan after the school hadn’t posted a winning
slate between 1979 and 2001.
Rich Ellerson, Cal Poly: Former Arizona assistant has used offensive
and defensive innovation to preside over two winning campaigns
in the last three years at the M.I.T. of the west.
Pete Lembo, Lehigh: The second-youngest coach in Division I Football
at 33, Lembo is 27-8 (.771) since taking over head coaching duties
prior to the 2001 season.
Anthony Jones, Alabama A&M: Jones has gone onto big things
since serving as a tight end on the Washington Redskins’ 1987
Super Bowl team, winning 16 games in his first two years with the
Mark Hudspeth, North Alabama: In only his second year at UNA, Hudspeth
led the Lions to within one game of playing for the national championship.
After a 4-7 record in 2002, Hudspeth’s Lions finished the
year with a 13-1 record. He was also the offensive coordinator
for Delta State during their 2000 championship season.
Dale Lennon, North Dakota: With two national championship appearances
in three years, Lennon is a household name in the D2 world. He
has compiled a 60-23 record in his five years as head coach while
competing in one of D2’s premier conferences. He was named
Schutt Sports Coach of the Year after winning the National Championship
Chris Hatcher, Valdosta State: Reviving a once dominant program
from Gulf South mediocrity, Hatcher has a 46-6 record in one of
the toughest conferences in Division 2. His Blazers are perennial
GSC and National Champion contenders. The fact that Hatcher is
only 31 heading into the season means he is a very hot coaching
Randy Awrey, Saginaw Valley State: Awrey guided the Cardinals to
a 12-1 finish with the only loss coming to eventual National Champion
Grand Valley State. The twelve wins were a school record. In five
seasons, Awrey has compiled a 45-15 record at SVSU and has won
two conference championships.
Willie Fritz, Central Missouri: Fritz continues to lead the resurgence
of the Central Missouri program. In 2003 the Mules picked up their
first conference championship since 1988 as they finished in a
five-way tie in the Mid-American Intercollegiate Athletics Association.
Fritz has a 65-25 record in eight seasons at CMSU.
Chip Hester, Catawba: The 34-year-old Hester has won 17 games in
two seasons at Catawba. His first season saw the Indians finish
second in the South Atlantic. Hester guided Catawba to a conference
title with a 9-2 mark in 2003 despite being denied a place in the
Tom Sawyer, Winona State: Sawyer led the Warriors to it’s
first ever NCAA playoff appearance in 2001 and repeated that feat
in 2003, picking up the program’s first-ever playoff win.
Sawyer does more with less as the Warriors compete well with fully-funded
D2 opponents while operating under Northern Sun rules which prohibit
funding the maximum number of scholarships.
Frankie DeBusk, Tusculum: Tusculum’s 9-2 record and shared
South Atlantic Conference crown are indicators of the improvement
the program has made under DeBusk. He has led Tusculum to four
consecutive winning seasons. Which is a first for Tusculum.
Dave Weimers, Emporia State: Weimers has engineered a turnaround
at Emporia that has resulted in back-to-back 9-3 seasons and the
team’s first ever trip to the NCAA playoffs last year. It
was also the first time that Emporia had won a Mid-America Intercollegiate
Athletic Association title, sharing it with four other programs.
Todd Whitten, Tarleton State: Whitten has turned the Texans into
a perennial Lone Star Conference contender. Division titles are
becoming commonplace for Whitten’s squad and the team’s
10 wins in 2001 were the school’s best in the modern era.
Despite a disappointing 8-4 record in 2003, Whitten remains a candidate
for higher level coaching positions.
Matt Kelchner, Christopher Newport: Kelchner made this list last
season and his team responded with its first playoff victory and
a Top 15 ranking in both major polls. Entering its fourth season
of competition, Christopher Newport has never failed to win its
conference’s automatic bid to the playoffs, building off
the strength of a tough non-conference schedule that last year
included two playoff teams. It’s Kelchner’s first head
coaching job after 16 seasons as an assistant at William & Mary.
Garrett Campbell, Carthage: Campbell, Carthage’s offensive
coordinator is in his first season after spending two years as
offensive coordinator at Menlo, charged with turning around a passing
offense that finished sixth in the College Conference of Illinois
and Wisconsin last season. Prior to Menlo, he was an assistant
coach at Willamette in 2001, an assistant coach at Northern State
in 2000, and an assistant coach at two-year Fullerton College from
1997 to 1999.
Bill Lund, Colby: Lund is Colby’s linebackers and special
teams coach. He was Division III’s only participant in the
NCAA’s offseason expert coaching program and has spent four
years at Colby after coaching at St. Anselm. The expert coaching
program was held in June in Indianapolis. A Wisconsin native, Lund
graduated from Lawrence, where he was a four-year letterman and
three-year starter, playing both sides of the ball at linebacker
Greg Debeljak, Case Western Reserve: Debeljak takes over a Spartan
program that surged into respectability over the last three seasons
while he was offensive coordinator under Joe Perella. He also spent
a year as offensive coordinator at John Carroll, his alma mater,
after eight years as a position coach.
Shap Boyd, Washington U.: Boyd is stepping into a pretty good situation,
following a defensive coordinator who was hired as head coach at
Randolph-Macon this off-season (Pedro Arruza). He joins a program
whose former offensive coordinator is entering his second season
as head coach at Illinois College (Aaron Keen). He comes from I-AA
Jacksonville, where he was defensive coordinator as well.
Ted Karras, Rose-Hulman Institute of Tech.: When he announced his
hiring, Rose-Hulman president Samuel Hulbert said that five wins
would be a miracle for the Engineers. Ted Karras became a miracle
worker, making the Engineers competitive for the first time in
years with a 5-5 finish. Their last winning season was in 1995,
and they’d had two since 1991. He came to Rose-Hulman last
season after four years as offensive coordinator at St. Xavier
Jim Bickel, Capital: Bickel has a challenge on his hands this year as defensive
coordinator, trying to keep pace in the same conference as Mount Union without
the services of All-American Ron Swearingin. Bickel became an assistant coach
at his alma mater, Denison, in 1997. In 21 seasons with the Big Red, Bickel coached
both the offensive and defensive lines for a combined nine seasons and was defensive
coordinator for 12 seasons.
Ryan Hankard, Trinity (Conn.): Trinity had the best defense statistically in
Division III this past season, allowing a national-low 3.8 points per game and
186.8 yards per game. As defensive coordinator, Hankard’s crew allowed
just 49.9 yards per game on the ground, which also led Division III. Hankard
has been an assistant at Trinity for eight seasons, including five as defensive
coordinator. The Bantams are tied with St. John’s for the longest active
winning streak in D-III at 14 games.
Keith Emery, Johns Hopkins: As defensive coordinator, Emery’s unit allowed
just seven points per game in helping the Blue Jays to a 10-1 overall record.
Emery is entering his seventh season at JHU and fifth as defensive coordinator.
A graduate of Dickinson, Emery spent two years as defensive line coach at Kenyon
before coming to Hopkins.
Terry Horan, Concordia-Moorhead: Horan is 19-11 in his three seasons as head
coach at his alma mater, succeeding longtime coach Jim Christopherson. The Cobbers
have finished second and third the last two seasons after finishing sixth and
tied for fifth the last two years before he took over. Concordia-Moorhead has
gone 13-3 in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference over the past
Nick Howlett, the Offensive Coordinator at Carroll College, has led the Fighting
Saints to 18 straight wins (longest streak in all of college football)... Mike
Craven, also an Offensive Coordinator, is the architect of the St. Francis’ (IN)
high-powered offense... Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator Garin Higgins led Northwestern
Oklahoma State to a runner-up spot in the national championship last fall...
the University of Mary’s Defensive Coordinator Paul Schaffner had the Marauders
lead all of NAIA schools in scoring defense... another Defensive Coordinator,
Sean Rochelle, had two All-American’s last year as Azusa Pacific University
allowed only 13ppg in 2003... Matt Welch is one of the most respected defensive
coordinators in the NAIA, having been with Friends University head coach Monty
Lewis for 15 years... Geneva College head coach Geno Demarco became the winningest
coach in the program’s history last fall... Saint Xavier mentor Mike
Feminishelped guide the Cougars to being a national power... Cumberland College’s
Chuck King turned the program around with 9 wins last year... and Georgetown
College head coach Bill Cronin has already had two national championships and
two runners-up titles on his resume.
Junior College Coaches
Troy Morrell of Butler County Community College (Kansas) is one of the hottest
coaches in the country, compiling a 42-6 record over the past four years. He
was the 2003 NJCAA Coach of the Year…Bert Williams’ Georgia Military
College has been almost as successful over that time, compiling a 36-7 mark and
establishing a powerful 3-5-3 defense…Kevin Twait of Iowa Central Community
College has amassed 53 wins in 8 years while Tim Hatten at Pearl River Community
College has a 17-4 mark in two years…Jeff Kilts of Snow College (9-2 in
2003) and Greg Croshaw of Dixie State College (10-2) will again battle for the
title this year in the Western States region of the NJCAA... Bobby Franklin’sNorthwest Mississippi Community College returns 25 letter winners this fall while
Northeastern Oklahoma A & M College’s Dale Patterson (21-3 over the
past two seasons) returns All-American running back Charles Elix…Blinn
College Coach Scott Maxfield and Joliet Junior College, under coach Bob
should both have outstanding teams this season.
Rick Darlington, Valdosta (Ga.): Darlington is on the list for the second straight
year after leading Valdosta (the nation’s all-time winningest program)
back to the state championship game for the first time since 1998, helping spearhead
a major restoration of Brazemore-Hyder Stadium, and assisting 14 members of his
first senior class attain college football scholarships. Not a bad year - not
even by Valdosta standards. The 39-year-old Lakeland, Fla., native came to Valdosta
after winning a Florida 6A championship at Apopka.
Allan Trimble, Jenks (Okla.): You’ll have to look long and hard to find
a high school coach with more success in his first eight years on the job than
Trimble at Jenks. The 40-year-old Northeastern (Okla.) State graduate has won
99 out of 109 games, seven 6A state championships, and shepherded dozens of players
into college football scholarships. Trimble has also seen several members of
his staff move on to head-coaching jobs.
Todd Dodge, Carroll (Southlake, Texas): The former University of Texas quarterback
is earning the reputation as a mastermind of the spread offense. He has guided
Carroll to back-to-back runs to the 5A state championship game, and has tutored
back-to-back all-state passers in Chase Wasson (now at Texas State-San Marcos)
and returning state offensive MVP Chase Daniels. Dodge was being courted for
the job at Allen H.S. this spring, but elected to stay at Carroll and removed
his name from consideration.
Kelly Donohoe, Blue Springs (Mo.): The 2003 Schutt Sports High School Coach of
the Year has led Blue Springs to two state championships and a 45-5 record in
four seasons at the helm. The 36-year-old former University of Kansas quarterback
has also developed two outstanding college passers in Justin Whitworth (Emporia
State) and Stinson Dean (Wyoming). Before Blue Springs, Donohoe transformed the
Raytown South program from an 0-10 doormat into a team that won three straight
conference championships. In fact, no team led by Donohoe has failed to win at
least a share of its league title.
Rush Propst, Hoover (Ala.): Propst has coached Hoover to the 6A state title game
in each of the last four seasons, winning the crown in 2000, 2002 and 2003. He
has led teams to the playoffs at all four of his head-coaching stops and has
been named state coach of the year while at Alma Bryant and Hoover. The 46-year-old
Jacksonville State graduate has helped build Hoover into not just a great football
team, but also a great program. The school now has eight varsity assistant coaches
and this past spring had 150 kids out for spring football.
David Wilson, Lincoln (Tallahassee, Fla.): Wilson’s impact on Florida prep
football has been distinct since his arrival at Lincoln 13 years ago. The Florida
State alum has led the Trojans to 113 wins and two state championships and has
twice coached the Florida squad in the CaliFlorida All-Star game. Wilson’s
program has also become one of the most important stops for college recruiters
among the many in the talent-rich Sunshine State.
Bobby Bentley, Byrnes (Duncan, S.C.): Bentley’s first seven teams at Byrnes
compiled a less than sterling 38-47 record. But the two squads that followed
have gone 29-1. In fact, Byrnes has not lost a game to another South Carolina
team since the 2001 season – their only loss during the period was a 20-10
loss to nationally ranked Evangel Christian in Shreveport, La., in 2002. The
Rebels have also won back-to-back 4A state championships and had 21 players in
the last two seasons go on to play college football.
Mike Herrington, Hart (Newhall, Calif.): With a list of recent grads that includes
Kyle Boller (Baltimore Ravens), Matt Moore (UCLA), Kyle Matter (Stanford) and
Sean Norton (Fresno State), Hart High has developed the reputation as “Quarterback
High” under Herrington. But it’s not just passers who parlay prep
careers at Hart into college scholarship offers. Four non-QBs also signed with
Division I or I-AA teams last season. The Indians are 189-29 with five CIF titles
in 15 years under Herrington.
Mike Mischler, Cathedral Prep (Erie, Pa.): The 36-year-old William & Mary
graduate left behind a six-figure salary in sales to make a fraction of that
coaching football at Cathedral Prep. The move has paid dividends. The Ramblers
are 56-20 with a PIAA 4A state title in six years under Mischler, who was named
AFM’s Schutt Sports National Coach of the Year in 2000. No high school
coach works harder than Mischler at helping facilitate opportunities for his
players to play in college. Mischler was mentored by former Notre Dame OL coach
Dave Logan, Mullen Prep (Denver): Not many men are able to win two state championships
in their first nine years as a head coach. Fewer are able to accomplish it while
coaching at two different schools. Fewer still would then be heavily favored
to win a third at yet a third school a couple of years later. But it’s
safe to say that you can count on one finger all of the above coaches who also
played nine years in the NFL, were also drafted by Major League Baseball AND
the NBA, who now also has a “day job” co-hosting a talk show in afternoon
drive on one of the nation’s largest AM radio stations (KOA), and who now
also serve as the play-by-play announcer for the Denver Broncos. No one fits
that description, actually ... no one other than 2001 AFM Schutt Sports National
Coach of the Year Dave Logan, that is. “I had a chance when I retired to
get into the NFL as a position coach and I’ve had a couple opportunities
since then,” said Logan in a 2001 interview with AFM. “The reason
I got into high school coaching is my father was a little league coach, and he
talked over the years about how important it was to give back to your community.”
NFL Hot Coaches: Five to Watch
Jim Mora, Jr. is the most intriguing coaching story for 2004 – he inherits
Michael Vick and the Falcons in his first head coaching job... Marvin
the Bengals will be a fascinating story this fall – Lewis’ Bengals
just missed the playoffs and have now named Carson Palmer their starter even
though he didn’t take a snap last year... Norv Turner and the new-and-improved
Raider offense should be a challenge with one of the questions: who will be his
QB – Rich Gannon or Kerry Collins?... Tom Coughlin inherits a so-so Giants
team as he tries to ease along rookie QB Eli Manning... all eyes will be on Dennis
Green, back in coaching after many years with the Minnesota Vikings, as he starts
anew with an Arizona team that has some offensive potential with a receiving
corps of Anquan Boldin, Bryant Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald... Joe Gibbs does
the same in Washington, taking over for the departed Steve Spurrier... Kansas
City’s new defensive coordinator is Gunther Cunningham, a former head coach
of the Chiefs... the Patriots’ Romeo Crennel, AFM’s Defensive Coordinator
of the Year, hopes that LB Rosevelt Colvin makes a full recovery from a hip injury
that caused him to miss all but two games last year... the Bears’ rookie
head coach Lovie Smith will try to bring credibility back to the Windy City.