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Schutt - FBS Coach of the Year Finalists

by: Mike Kuchar
Senior Writer, American Football Monthly
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Nick Saban
University of Alabama

Nick Saban has won plenty of hardware in his illustrious career, and he’ll add more to his mantle this year. The Associated Press and SEC Coach of the Year has single-handedly restored the pride back in Alabama football. After struggling through a 7-6 record in 2007, Saban and his staff rolled the Tide to a 12-1 mark and a berth in the Sugar Bowl. At one point during the season, Alabama was the number one team in the country in each of the three polls, the first time that has happened since 1980. The five-game improvement is the greatest by a second-year head coach in Alabama history.
He did it with a trademark, tenacious Saban-style defense – the Tide finished first in the SEC in total defense and scoring defense this season, including yielding a mere 73.6 yards on the ground per game. That, coupled with a ball-control, run-dominated offense, had the Tide marching through the toughest conference in football until eventually getting plucked by the University of Florida in the SEC Championship Game, 31-20. With Saban and his staff reeling in what most considered to be the best recruiting class in the country last spring, all signs will continue to point up in Tuscaloosa.

Turner Gill
University at Buffalo

Who says you can’t win in Buffalo? Gill surprised the entire country this season with his record-setting effort at Buffalo. Garnering their first ever Mid-American Conference Championship, the Bulls finished 8-5 and secured a bid in the International Bowl, their first bowl game in school history. The trademark of a well-coached team is the ability to progressively get better as the season rolls on and Gill’s squad won six of their last seven games including a 42-24 win over previously-unbeaten Ball State to capture the MAC crown.
Aside from its first conference championship, Buffalo broke its all-time scoring record, amassing 404 points (31.1 ppg) en route to its first-ever winning season since the Bulls made the move to the FBS (Division IA) in 1999. “On the day I came here to be head coach, I told my team that one day we would be successful here at the University at Buffalo,” said Gill. “I have never been more proud to be the head coach of this program at this great academic institution. This program has proven it can win and it is built to continue to win in the future.” The future for Gill now comes in the form of a contract extension that will see him pacing the sidelines at Buffalo for at least another two seasons.

Paul Johnson
Georgia Tech University

It didn’t take Johnson long to silence the myriad of critics who felt his triple option offense would never succeed at the top level of college football. Despite producing winning programs and top-notch offenses at nearby Georgia Southern University and the United States Naval Academy, there were plenty of pundits who felt it wouldn’t happen in Atlanta. They couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only was Johnson’s offense productive, it was downright dominating at times – the Yellowjackets posted over 40 points in three of their nine wins this season. In fact, Georgia Tech’s offense finished tops in the ACC in total offense (377.3 ypg) and first in rushing offense – amassing 282 yards per game, one hundred more per game than runner-up Florida State.
Johnson, who was also selected as the Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year, won more games as a first-year head coach than any other in Georgia Tech’s illustrious history. His 9-3 record is also fourth best among all first-year head coaches in NCAA history. Trouble is, for ACC opponents, it might not be getting any easier. Johnson did it with only 76 players on scholarship and 16 of his 22 starters on both sides of the ball were either freshman or sophomores. He may not be going anywhere anytime soon – Johnson just signed a seven-year contract extension to say on until 2016.

Kyle Whittingham
University of Utah

Whittingham has officially stepped out of the shadow of former Utah coach Urban Meyer. The DC under Meyer, Whittingham produced a record setting season for the Utes. Utah has finished the regular season with a 12-0 record, one of only two undefeated teams in the country, and a number seven ranking at the end of the season. It was a season that produced a Mountain West Conference Championship as well as an upset win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. It’s only the fourth time that a non-BCS conference school has been awarded a bid to play in a BCS bowl game.
Named the Mountain West Conference “Coach of the Year,” Whittingham and his Utes have won 20 out of their last 21 games including 14 consecutive wins – the longest current win streak in the nation. Whittingham has spent 15 years in Salt Lake City, including four as the head coach, posting a 36-14 career record.


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