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August 2004

August 2004

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 finished 8-5.

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 Illinois.

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 offense.

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.

Division I-AA

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 three seasons.

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 win streak.

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 Bulldogs.

Division II

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 in 2001.

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 commodity.

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 playoffs.

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.

Division III

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 and center.

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 (Ill.).

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 two seasons.

NAIA Coaches

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 MacDougall, should both have outstanding teams this season.

High School

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 Joe Moore.

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 Lewis and 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.


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