Blog Entry

Coaching an Elite College Football Program

Posted on: September 13, 2009 11:46 am
I often ask myself..... What is the better strategy and what does an elite coach do?

A) Recruiting the best athletes you can and tailor your offense or defense to suit those players.

B) Recruit players who best meet the criteria of your already built system.

I've seen it successfully work both ways , but the most vivid example that comes to mind is the way Urban Meyer adjusts his playbook and style to suit the athletes he has. There is not "Trying to fit a square peg into a round hole" type deal.

Meyer has erected a championship churning machine with that Spread Offense which is specifically designed to utilize Tim Tebow's explosive running ability in addition to his throwing skills. The entire offense runs through Tebow to utilize his talents which it should since he's obviously Florida's heart and soul on offense.

Likewise when Tebow graduates or if he ever got hurt this season, Meyer will be running a more pro-style type offense tailored to suit Brantley's cannon-like arm and pinpoint accuracy.

I think the key is creating your team's indentity and sticking to it once it's identified.

Being a Buckeye fan, I'm an annual victim of Tressel's notorious "fit a square peg into a round hole" routine. He has a wonderful athlete in Terelle Pryor at QB and still trying to run a conservative "Ground and Pound" Power-I/Play Action offense to complement his always tough defense and special teams.

Problem is, you don't have a bruising mauler of a RB anymore in Chris Wells, Pryor can't throw a consistent accurate ball and isn't a precision pocket passer, and you don't have an elite receiving core. This offense is designed to centerpiece a pocket passer with a power running back which is built around the idea of "Managing the game by controlling the clock and gaining 5-6 yards per play with the occasional home-run playaction deepball."

It's truly frustrating to no end to watch your coach try to apply a universal identity to his team to try and get the job done. He has zero imagination or creativity and certainly no adaptability.

I'm interested to know the opinions of all you die-hard college football fans out there: What are the ingredients of an Elite Coach?

Since: Sep 25, 2007
Posted on: September 14, 2009 3:09 pm

Coaching an Elite College Football Program

An elite coach is nothing more than a great strategist, motivator and delegator.  At the professional level, the college level and even at the high school level (in this ever changing day of recruiting and ESPN weekly High School Games) the Head Football Coach has to have great coaches around him.  They still take the lead from the head coach, but if you don't have an Offensive and Defensive Coordinator that get it, then they simply will still be at least a step below the others. 

You bring up a very good point regarding recruiting but the reality is that these coaches don't physically go out and visit with the potential signee until several visits and contacts from the coaching and recruiting staff.  Carroll, Meyer, Bowden, Spurrier, Tressel, and all the rest of them get involved when it is time to "close" the deal, but until that time, it is about the assistants relationships and work.  Thus again, elite coaches have top notch staffs.

How to those "elite" coaches get top talent?  They recruit the Coordinators with compensation, freedom and the ability to run their side of the ball the way they want to do it and the way they are comfortable.  There isn't a reputable Offensive Coordinator in America that wants to go and coach at Notre Dame, OSU or Tennessee these days.  Each of those coaches has his offensive perspective and will run the show.  It is the equivalent of a very high paying manager at Baskin Robbins; you get to taste the ice cream and count the money at the end of the night, but you don't get the money and you don't pick the flavors.  Think Wade Phillips in Dallas and you will get the perfect picture of how not to run a program.

The comments earlier from someone that said the Big Ten hasn't been relative for 40 years is of course incorrect factually, as it has only really been the past ten years and Penn State is closing the gap significantly.  This age of college football is all about speed.  Yes, a coach wants bigger, taller and smarter, but he needs speed more than anything.  And to get speed, you have to be committed to featuring speed.  There are few things worse than bottling up a Tiger and these kids know it.  Why do kids long to play at USC, Florida, Forida State, Oklahoma State, Boise State?  They love the speed and excitement of the game.  It is why Rick Pitino, Roy Williams, John Calipari and Mike Ky(*((&*(^$&y always get the best of the best....those coaches and those programs highlight what is exciting and fun for this generation of athlete and they win with it.

The motivation of the game is far under estimated but as key as anything.  As a player, you want and need the passion and conviction of Urban Meyer in that locker room.  I know guys that still talk today about missing Bobby Bowden and his speeches.  Les Miles, Nick Saban and Pete Carroll are just some of the great speakers, tacticians and motivators that kids (and you and I) want to listen to and follow.  Go back to the old days with Woody and Bo....those two guys, despite the offensive schemes, despite records, weather, fan base and all those factors; no matter what, they motivated and had every link in the chain as strong as it could get at game time.  I don't see and haven't heard Mr. Tressel get another, other than the boosters and Alumni fired up.

I truly think the Elite Coaches understand it is about adjusting and adapting.  Except for the Florida-OSU National Championship Game, OSU has been "in" each of those games but always finds a way to lose.  That is the biggest indicator that Tressel has a better than average program, highly talented players and a basic philosophy that dooms them into second tier competitors on the National Level every year.

Since: Sep 12, 2007
Posted on: September 14, 2009 2:00 pm

Coaching an Elite College Football Program


What a joke of a post that was. First of all, the "ingredient" you supposedly consider the end-all be-all is completely ridiculous. BB is right about the coaches before Meyer and Carroll. They had the same ingredient yet did nothing with it. As far as recruiting, tOSU has already stolen about 7-10 players from the state of Florida for this years team and has done so regularly. Not sure about who we have from Cali but the point is moot. The problem is with the play calling period. The Bucks pulled out some good plays on that 1st drive. They were attacking and looking pretty damn good IMO. After that, I don't know what happended. Coach Tress too another shot of Vanilla I guess. Regardless, they way the defense was playing Saturday night, tOSU didn't have to get too crazy in order to win. Tressel just needed to grow a pair and keep the pressure on. He didn't and we lost. Basically the only ingredient Tressel needs to be an elite coach is a bigger set of balls!!!

I've been a fan for 30+ years so I've seen some pretty bad teams along the way. I bought my membership to Buckeye Nation a long time ago, and I ain't quiting them now!!!


Since: Feb 28, 2009
Posted on: September 14, 2009 9:47 am

Coaching an Elite College Football Program

DBUPS...I had to laugh at your expense. Truly a serious lack of knowledge imparterd on that post. You don't watch much college football, or the NFL drafts for that matter do you?

BuckeyeBrutuality, as a Buckeye, I understand the frustration. I was very concerned with the coaching style being applied to this team by Tressell's staff, and I still think there are issues. But I must defend Tressell to the end that he has not always tried to make his team fit his mantra. In 2002, that team was clearly a grind it out, game management team with a great defense. He adjusted the game plan to that. In 2005-2006, they developed more open-up-the-game type talent, and he adjusted the gameplan to these guys well (Troy Smith, Ted Gin, Santonio) and that culminated with a tremendous offensive output in those years. In the last two year before this, we had a quarterback that could throw, who got into decisionmaking issues and was very one dimensional. Plus we had a running back that might have been the best in college, so the game naturally migrated away from the open up offense. Now you have a young team with no identity yet. Pryor has not proven to be an efficient team manager yet. He got away with some passes the other day, and got burned by a few of them. You have to comit to a run game in football, otherwise your other options will just be shut down. Yes we averaged 2 yards a carry, but those guys ran hard and were more committed to me than Pryor was to that game, save for a few plays.

Since: Aug 4, 2008
Posted on: September 14, 2009 7:21 am

Coaching an Elite College Football Program


So you're telling me the only ingredient to being an elite coach is having access to Florida or California's talent pool?

You really don't know much about college football do you? Simply being a great recruiter or having access to elite geographical athlete supply alone DOES NOT make you a great coach.

Name me the head coach of USC before Pete Carroll put them back on the map? I'm sure you can't. From 1996-2001, USC posted a 37-35 record. By your definition of an "elite" coach, those guys were elite simply by putting on Maroon and Gold and having access to Southern California's sunny weather and recruiting pool.

Give me a break.

Another great example is Ron Zook. He could recruit all-world talent and couldn't translate it to wins. Ask the Gators if they miss Zook.

Or how about Larry Coker. He put together several Miami squads that could have probably competed as an NFL team and still only won 1 title.

Since: Nov 9, 2008
Posted on: September 13, 2009 9:55 pm

Coaching an Elite College Football Program

U R Kidding right? Do you think there is any chance that Ohio can recruit the same caliber athletes that come from those NFL programs at Florida and USC? The ingredients of an elite coach are to be in a situation like Meyer and Carroll: in hugely populated warm climate areas, where the talent pool is limitless. Besides, winning the Big Ten is kind of like being the fifth runner up in the Miss America contest; the Big Ten has not been a strong conference in at least 40 years.


Since: Sep 12, 2009
Posted on: September 13, 2009 8:40 pm

Coaching an Elite College Football Program

You definetly hit on some valid points and that is something I didn't realize that Tressel is trying to make Pryor a sit in the pocket qb.  I was hoping with a year under Pryors belt that the coaching staff would have worked on his accuracy, feet work, and leading his receiver to the ball instead of throwing it at their feet or behind them.  Pryor is an athlete so Tressel should be designing plays to bring his talents out. Troy Smith was only 6ft but he could throw over the defense line, he was quick on his feet, an accurate passer, could stand in the pocket or roll out and still make an accurate pass, Pryor hasn't developed those qualities.  The defense played great they were asked to do a lot when USC had 3rd and short its hard to stop that kind of offense, and when Pryor turned the ball over on the 20 the defense held but had a very short field to work with.  Great play on pinning USC on the 7 yard line and forcing the center to snap the ball over the punter for a safety.  Ohio State has to stop settling for 3 and out its putting too much pressure on the defense and the offense is not getting into a rhythm.  The season is not a total loss we still have conference games to get ready for, the revenage on Penn St and watch out Michigan is back.  Still a fan, but hoping for the day we shock the world.

Since: Aug 31, 2009
Posted on: September 13, 2009 7:01 pm

Coaching an Elite College Football Program

First of all, great article. Even though I am a Michigan fan, I admire Jim Tressel. Although I am beginning to wonder if he is what Ohio State fans really want. Many Buckeye fans want him as what I hear, but I think that a lot of those will change their mind if they can not begin to beat an elite team. The way College Football is now, people crave Championships. If we were having this conversation 20 or so years ago, then people would be happy if they won their conference title, and won their bowl game. I remember my fellow Michigan fans telling stories of games years before I was born, and saying how great it was even if the team went 10-2, as long as we beat Ohio State. Jim Tressel is a great coach, and even though a lot of the country is laughing at Ohio State (unfairly, I might add), I would want him as a coach if I was an Ohio State fan. As for the recruiting question, I would definitely go with the second option, recruiting players who already fit your system. Michigan had a lot of talent last year, but the problem was the players they had did not work well with the system Rodriguez runs. We saw what happened then, and as a Michigan fan I am embarrassed to speak of it. I guess it is because of that experience that I chose the second option. On a different note, I thought the Buckeyes played well last night, but still lost for the exact reasons that you listed. Anyways, good luck the rest of the year, maybe the game in late November will actually have conference title relevance unlike last year.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or