Preview 2017: FIU & Butch Davis? It’s Interesting
FIU hiring Butch Davis is an interesting call on an older head coach. Will it work?
It’s an interesting idea.
While Florida Atlantic is going with the Lane Kiffin rent-a-coach option – hoping for a jumpstart before he bolts – and UCF is looking to get something special out of Scott Frost for one more year before he takes over at Nebraska, FIU might have landed the better long term solution.
Butch Davis is going to turn 66 this season. While that’s hardly too old to be a successful head football coach – especially one with the fire to prove that he still has it – it’s just the right age to all but assure that this is it. Unless he turns FIU into an unbeaten juggernaut in one season, this is probably the last stop.
And coaching in Miami isn’t a bad place to finish things up, if this is indeed the last job.
No, this isn’t a Ron Turner situation. He was an older option when FIU hired him in 2013, and then got rid of him int he midseason of last year after a rough 10-30 run. Turner had three winning seasons in his 12 years as a college football head coach.
Davis was on his way to legendary status at Miami and – even though two of the years were technically wiped off the books – did an okay job at North Carolina on the field.
Out of the game since 2010, it might seem like it’s a bit of a gamble to take on a guy with such baggage who’ll be in his 70s when his first recruiting class graduates. But for a program that has just two winning seasons and bowl appearances since 2004, and can’t seem to turn a corner to become any sort of a factor, getting a guy whose name and reputation carries the weight that Davis’s does might be a chance on greatness.
And it doesn’t hurt that he’s walking into a great situation.
FIU did nothing on the way to an 0-4 start. Turner got canned, and all of a sudden, the team found an offense, going 4-4 the rest of the way. There were issues defensively over the second half of the season, but everyone had problems with the Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, WKU and Old Dominion offenses last year.
There’s no need for a total teardown – there’s a good foundation to build on.
Seven starters return on a defense that should be fantastic at linebacker and safety. There needs to be more of a pass rush, and the tackles have to emerge, but there’s reason to expect a big improvement with the new coaching staff and the settled situation.
The O that was so inconsistent and turned the ball over way too often needs help on the line, but the skill players are in place. Star TE Jonnu Smith is done, but the rest of the receivers are back, and rushing tandem of Alex Gardner and Anthony Jones is excellent, and Alex McGough is a capable passer who should be okay, if he doesn’t keep throwing picks.
Can Davis prove that he’s a good enough coach to make FIU a Conference USA player? That 2000 season with the 11-1 Hurricanes was a long, long time ago, and his real talent as a salesman and recruiter won’t matter too much right away.
But the bar is set at a winning season and getting to a bowl game. Davis can at least do that, and he might be able to for the next several years.