In the off-season one's mind tends to wonder. Spring ball is over, recruits have been signed, and there are still over four and a half months left until kickoff. So what does one do with all that time? You daydream of course! Whose going to start where, and what kind of production can we expect from the offense next year, and whose going to replace Van Noy and Hadley on defense. That kind of stuff. Or if you've already done all that you can make a list of your Top 5 Dream Coaches. That's what I did. Realizing of course that short of starting my own dynasty on NCAA 2014 and naming the coach "Gus Malzahn" I've never going to see any of these guys in Provo. Like ever. Unless they're coaching for the other team. Which actually did happen on one occasion. Anyways, back to fantasy land.
This is not a replace Bronco list. I've seen those lists and they're pretty sad to say the least. I'm also fully convinced that questionable calls aside, Bronco is by far the best coach for BYU right now. This is also not a list that takes into account things like salary, whether a coach would ever leave the school he's currently at, or whether or not the BYU administration would actually hire these coaches if they were available. The only stipulation is they have to coach at the Division I level and it can't be someone from the past, like Bear Bryant or Jimmy Johnson. With that in mind here we go!
#5 Kliff Kingsbury: Texas Tech Red Raiders
He's young, he's fun, and he looks a lot like Ryan Gosling. What's not to love about Kliff Kingsbury? The only reason he's not higher on this list is because of his lack of experience. At 34 years of age he's the second youngest head coach in college football. He's also only ever been the head coach of one team; his alma mater Texas Tech. Not that his years under Kevlin Sumlin weren't impressive. In 2011 Kingsbury was voted the Offensive Coordinator of the Year after Houston averaged 50 points and 600 yards of total offense per game. In 2012 he was again voted the top OC in the country after Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M Aggies finished 1st in rushing, passing, total offense and total scoring offense in the SEC.
Although some of Kingsbury's success at A&M could be attributed to his once in a lifetime quarterback I still think there is a razor sharp offensive mind behind his cool facade and ray-ban sunglasses. Time will tell. All this rising star has to do is win. Wins will turn even the most skeptical of fans into staunch supporters and he didn't do too bad of a job in his first season. Alternating between two different, true freshman, starting quarterbacks over the course of the season Kingsbury led the Red Raiders to a 7-0 start and a #10 BCS ranking. That's the highest Tech has been ranked since 2008 and only the fourth time in school history that they've started the season 7-0. Granted they did stumble down the stretch losing the next five games in a row, but they finished out strong with a 37-23 upset of then 14th ranked Arizona St. in the Holiday Bowl. Jace Amaro was a consensus All-American at tight end, which was also another first since 2008 when Michael Crabtree was selected, and the Red Raiders finished 2013 with a bang.
In summary Kingsbury is cool, smart, and successful. His offense incorporates elements from the Air Raid, which he set records in during his playing days under Mike Leach, and the Spread, with a hurry up tempo and quarterback runs. It's also a lot of fun to watch. Defensively the Red Raiders struggled a bit in 2013 giving up more than 30 points in all five of their losses. But since it was only Kingsbury's first year as a head coach and since they played the five toughest teams in the conference five weeks in a row it wasn't enough to bump him out of my #5 spot. Staying with the number 5 I'm predicting that in 5 years I won't be the only one who would be happy to have this guy running my program.
#4 Steve Sarkisian: USC Trojans
Back at USC, this time as the head coach, Steve Sarkisian is fresh off a 9-4 season and a 31-16 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl victory over our own beloved Cougars. Hey if you can't beat em join em right? Especially since we had Sark first! Well he might have played a little baseball for USC to start things off but whatever! What really matters is that for two seasons he wore Cougar blue and passed 7,755 yards and 55 touchdowns. Not too shabby. Especially since 4,027 of those yards and 33 of the touchdowns came in 1996 when he led BYU to a 14-1 record and a #5 National ranking.
As impressive as his college career was the thing that most impresses me about this 40 year old, California native is how well he's transitioned into a coaching role. Some former players struggle to become coaches but seemingly every quarterback to play under Sark has turned to gold. Carson Palmer, Matt Leinhart, Mark Sanchez, Matt Cassel, and John David Booty have all gone on to play in the NFL. Palmer and Leinhart both picked up Heisman Trophy's on the way and those were just the quarterbacks he coached at USC. Jake Locker is also currently in the NFL and Keith "Smiley" Price will most likely join him after this year's upcoming draft.
Speaking of Washington how bout those Huskies? After going winless the year before Sarkisian took over the "Dawgs from Seattle" have went to four straight bowl games and in 2013 posted the most program wins in 13 years. In my opinion Washington's turn around is one of the main reason Chris Petersen was persuaded to jump ship at Boise St. and become the new head coach after Sark left for USC. No small feat in and of itself as Petersen was seemingly a candidate for every big name head coaching position that came open.
As a quarterback guru and one of BYU's favorite sons Steve Sarkisian would be a perfect fit for the Cougars. Unfortunately since it looks like he's going to be at USC for awhile the only tune Sark is going to be singing is "Fight On."
#3 Gus Malzahn: Auburn Tigers
Without a doubt one of the hottest coaches in college football right now Gus Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers literally went from worst to first last year. In 2012 the Tigers finished dead last in the SEC and promptly fired then head coach Gene Chizik. Enter Gus Malzahn. Or re-enter I should say. Malzahn was the offensive coordinator, and some would say the real reason Auburn won the National Title, in 2010. Now I'm not a big Auburn fan. Something about the whole Cam Newton thing left a really bad taste in my mouth. But Malzahn is slowly winning me over. The more I study him the more I like him. And his prolific offenses leave nothing to be desired. The thing I find so intriguing about them is how he is able to do so much with so little. Against Alabama Auburn racked up 296 yards on the ground alone. A week later Trey Mason would set an SEC Title Game record when he rushed for 303 yards and 4 touchdowns. BY HIMSELF! The team's total offense output was just short of 700 total yards. 700 yards! In one game! And if you watch those games you'll see that Malzahn's offense basically consists of three plays. Granted those plays have multiple options, but it's still amazing to see how much offensive production a team can get out of such a small playbook.
In the end the reasons for Malzahn making this list is are simple as his offense. He wins, he's an incredible motivator, and his offense vaguely resembles what BYU is already doing. By vaguely I mean what BYU's offense would look on crack. Without a doubt Malzahn has already proven to be one of the most innovative offense minds in the game and also one of the best offensive guys to come around in the last 15 years. Who knows how many national titles he'll win before the defenses catch up.
#2 Gary Patterson: TCU Horned Frogs
The lone defensive guy on this list Gary Patterson has been a personal favorite of mine for years. Back when BYU and TCU were still in the Mountain West I used to hate it when they had to play each other. Not because of who TCU was but because of what they could do. And did. I don't even want to talk about the scores. The only thing that made it any better was the fact that they usually destroyed Utah in the same way. Now that the Frogs are in the the Big 12 Patterson's teams have struggled a little bit. And it's only what he's done recently that firmly cemented him on this list.
Offensively TCU was abysmal in 2013. Sinking to record lows in points per game and yards per play the Frogs went 4-8 and missed the post season for only the second time in the Patterson era. So he went back to the drawing board. Hoping to create an Oklahoma St./Texas Tech hybrid Patterson hired offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Combie. He also adopted a hands off approach, allowing Meacham and Combie to do what they wanted while focusing his attention instead on defending what they came up with in practice. That says a lot to me. The first thing it says is that Patterson is willing to do whatever it takes to win. Having made his reputation on nasty defenses Patterson could have refused to change his offensive philosophy. He could have stuck with what they were doing and blamed the offensive failures on his players, or lack thereof. But he didn't. He also could have made a show of implementing a new offense while micro-managing the new coaches he brought it. But he didn't do that either. In his own words Patterson told ESPN he had "watched too many skill players leave the city. Right now, they don’t know what this offense is about. Right now, they think TCU has a defensive coach. But to be honest with you, I have no problem winning 45-31."
That right there is the reason Gary Patterson is #2 on my list. Having taken TCU from Conference USA, to the Rose Bowl, and now to the Big 12, Patterson has proven that he can win. He's also a class act. Combine those two things with the fact that he's also one of the sharpest defensive minds in the game and I think he's an offense away from competing for Big 12 titles on a regular basis. In fact if it weren't for the next guy on this list Patterson would already own the top stop.
#1 Mike Leach: Washington State Cougars
Mike Leach. The Pirate. The Mad Scientist. Captain of the Air Raid Offense, and without a doubt the most prolific aerial assaulter since LaVell Edwards. Which ironically is where Leach got the idea for the Air Raid in the first place. Given the time I probably could, and would, write several articles on The Pirate alone but since this is a BYU blog and Leach coaches for the red cougars now and not the blue ones I'll keep it brief.
Even though Leach is best remembered for his stint at Texas Tech his career didn't start there. Far from it. After graduating from BYU, and then Pepperdine, he decided a career as a lawyer was not for him and instead moved his family to Daphne, AL were he received a Master's Degree in Sports Science from the United States Sports Academy. After countless inquiries Leach was able to land an assistant coaching position with the Cal Poly Mustangs. That's right the Cal Poly Mustangs. Never heard of them? Neither had I. Then it was the College of the Desert Road Runners, Iowa Wesleyan under Hal Mumme, the Pori Bears in Finland, and another two years at Iowa Wesleyan. Valdosta St. was the next stop on the list followed by offensive coordinator positions at Kentucky and Oklahoma. Finally Leach got his chance at a head coaching position with Texas Tech in 2000.
The two things that have remained constant throughout his career are offensive numbers and exceeded expectations. Leach is another coach who does more with less and not only in the playbook category. During his time at Texas Tech the Red Raiders competed with, and often beat some of the best teams in the nation despite having half the recruiting talent. In 2008 when recruiting finally began to catch up the Red Raiders beat then #1 Texas on a last second play and were a game away from playing for a National Title. His quarterback Graham Harrell would finish his career with over 15,000 passing yards and 134 touchdowns. Let me pause for a second to let that sink in. 15,000 yards and 134 touchdowns. In three years as a starter Harrell averaged over 5000 yards and 44 touchdowns per year! Michael Crabtree, who is now with the 49ers, was a two time Biletnikoff Award winner and averaged over 1500 yards and 20 touchdowns his freshman and sophomore years. Those two years also happened to be the only ones he played.
Who knows what Leach could have done at Texas Tech had he been allowed to continue. Sadly he was fired in 2009 after a complete farce of a player abuse claim and spent the next two years pursuing lawsuits. In 2012 Leach was hired by Washington St. and in 2013 he led the Cougars to their first bowl game in a decade. Expectations are high for 2014 as the Cougars return every significant player on offense and the majority of their defense.
He's innovative, he's quirky, and his style of play is something I can only dream about seeing in Provo. I did have some concerns about the amount of emphasis Leach places on defense and for awhile it was a toss up between him and Gary Patterson as far as who would take the top spot on this list but in the end I would rather have a great offense and an ok defense than a great defense and a poor offense. Patterson is taking steps to fix his offense and in time his approach my prove to be the more balanced of the two but for now Leach takes the top spot on my list and remains my #1 dream coach for BYU.
Nick Saban, Alabama Probably one the best coaches of all time but you have to wonder if the guy is ever really happy. Please he struggled to win without elite talent at Michigan St.
Urban Meyer, Ohio St. Another amazing coach and motivator but I don't like the teams he's coached for or his offensive approach.
Steve Spurrier, South Carolina The innovator of his day but you have to wonder how many years he's got left in the tank.
Chris Petersen, Washington I don't know. I've just never have really liked him. I don't dislike him by any means and he proved himself over and over at Boise St but he's just not my favorite.
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern. Gosh you like the guy but in the end you have to win!