4. Q: How good will the new head coaches really be?
Every league has to undergo a little bit of change every season when it comes to new head coaches taking over. But when 40% of a conference’s teams are breaking in new guys, the energy level all across the board perks up a bit.
Depending on the schools and the circumstances, there are always two ways things can go with a slew of coaching changes. Either it becomes a rebuilding year – like the Pac-12 was last season with five new head men taking over – with the hope of taking a massive step forward after a few years, or it’s a quick-fix in a tweaking and retooling way.
In the case of the Big 12, it’s more of the latter, and even more so considering the four programs with new coaches appear to have upgraded. They all got exactly what they needed.
After dominating the FCS world at North Dakota State, Chris Klieman is just the right guy to take what Bill Snyder had built and make it even better.
Klieman’s Bison teams were what K-State was when it was rocking and rolling – own the time of possession, keep the chains moving, don’t turn the ball over, play great special teams, win up front. It all sounds so simple, but Klieman did all of that at the most consistent and highest of FCS levels. That works in the Big 12.
How many coaches go from a losing season and almost-fired to a plum gig in the NFL? Gene Chizik went from clunking at Iowa State to winning a national title at Auburn, but Kliff Kingsbury falling up in meteoric fashion was something different.
Matt Wells is a wee bit of a questionable call, only because he struggled for a few seasons after starting out strong at Utah State. His star rose after going 10-2 last year with one of the nation’s most efficient offenses, but it also helped that his Aggies didn’t beat anyone with a pulse. Even so, Wells’ teams will play some defense – defense? Texas Tech? – and his offensive system fits what Red Raider fans have become accustomed to.
Neal Brown was a fantastic get for West Virginia. The program is used to having high-powered offenses and innovative minds running the show, and that’s Brown. After turning Troy into a dangerous Sun Belt powerhouse that was good enough to beat both LSU and Nebraska over the last two seasons, he’s more than ready for the job upgrade.
And then there’s Les Miles.
He’s really not all that far removed from doing huge things at LSU. His 2013 team won ten games, and he won 17 games in two seasons before getting fired in 2016 after a 2-2 start.
It might seem like a lifetime ago, but he’s just seven seasons removed from coaching in the BCS National Championship.
Of course he’s not going to recruit like he did at LSU, but he won a national championship. No other coach in the Big 12 can say that – at least at the FBS level.
He’s a big name, he’ll be a star personality for a program that needs an injection of anything positive, and he’s going to add some more pizzazz to a conference full of excellent coaches across the board.