Behind The Scoreboard
Every new NFL coach has a plan set in motion – if things go poorly during his first season at the helm.
First-year coaches recite these familiar lines every mid-season and college football fans know them very well, too.
“We’re changing the culture here and it will take time…I inherited a roster in rough shape…These guys have to learn how to win.”
Loyal fans support the belief that the coach needs time to win. In most cases, it’s a fair and accurate belief, but, not in every case. Some new coaches step into turnkey situations or at least ones where the roster, if developed correctly, can achieve some level of success. They shouldn’t be able to use the excuse, “Hey, I’m new.”
The first coach who comes to mind is Ed Orgeron. As LSU’s defensive line coach and then interim head coach, Orgeron knows how much talent is packed into this roster. There’s some youth on defense but plenty of speed and a game-changing pass rusher in Arden Key. At first, Leonard Fournette was originally thought of being missed greatly at running back, but that was not the case. Derrius Guice looked great in SEC play last season. Quarterback mismanagement cost Les Miles his job, and while Orgeron doesn’t inherit a great situation there, Danny Etling is tough and experienced. New offensive coordinator Matt Canada has the type of system to finally give LSU’s offense a schematic edge it lacked under Miles. LSU is good enough to win at least nine games in Coach O’s first full season.
With Charlie Strong at South Florida, what is so ironic is that Strong steps into a better situation at USF than he ever had at Texas. The Bulls should be the Americana Athletic Conference favorite, returning 16 starters from an 11-win team led by quarterback Quinton Flowers. The defense needs significant upgrades, but it’s also Strong’s specialty. Anything short of an ACC East title would be a disappointment for Strong in the first year.
P.J. Fleck, head coach for Minnesota, could be partially excused. Fleck is a strong pivot from Tracy Claeys and Jerry Kill. Fleck will need to build long-term depth through better recruiting. But one thing to remember is this team won nine games last season, its second most wins since 1905. Minnesota won under Kill and Claeys with defense and the run game, two areas that could still be strengths. While nine wins might be tough to repeat, a bowl appearance shouldn’t be.