Thu Feb 17 04:04pm EST
A weeklong grade book for the offseason coaching hires. Part One: Established head coaches moving up the career ladder. Part Two: Old faces resurfacing in new places. Today: Up-and-comers in their first head-coaching jobs.
• DAVID SHAW (Stanford).
Replacing: NFL-bound Jim Harbaugh, resurrector of Stanford Football from a 1-11 catastrophe in 2006 to 12-1 juggernaut four short years later. Only the most staggering program rehabilitation this side of Bill Snyder's miracle at Kansas State, and much faster.
Previously on: Shaw grew up with coaching – his dad, Willie Shaw, bounced all over the country as a college and NFL assistant for 30 years – and didn't take long to catch as the Oakland Raiders' quarterbacks coach at age 28. (His successor in Oakland? Jim Harbaugh.) Shaw joined Harbaugh's staff at the University of San Diego in 2006, and subsequently followed him a year later to Stanford, where he's spent the last four years as offensive coordinator.
Best resumé line(s): The year before Shaw took over the offense, Stanford was dead last in the Pac-10 in every major offensive category, finished 118th (out of 119) nationally in total and scoring offense and allowed more sacks than any other team in the country. Last year, the Cardinal averaged over 450 yards and 40 points per game, allowed fewer sacks than all but one other team nationally and sent the Heisman runner-up to New York for the second year in a row.
Biggest drawback: No head coaching experience at any level.
Stopping point or stepping stone? Shaw spent eight years on three different NFL staffs from 1998-2005, and no doubt will subject to rumors of a return to the pros if he sustains the Cardinal's success. With the exception of Tyrone Willingham, coaches who win at Stanford don't stay long – Bill Walsh was gone to the 49ers after two years, Dennis Green to the Vikings after three, Harbaugh to the 49ers after four – and even Willingham eventually left for Notre Dame.
But Shaw is also a Stanford alum (class of '94), and even sustained success over the next few years will come with the caveat that he's taking advantage of Harbaugh's infrastructure. Those two factors alone could keep him in the fold for at least five years.
Grade: A. In the short-term, Shaw offers stability for a serious run at the Pac-12 and possibly BCS championships with star quarterback Andrew Luck back in the fold this fall. In the long-term, he's been around the block, but still has roots in Palo Alto that should keep him from leaping at the first offer that comes his way. In-house promotions don't get much better.
• WILL MUSCHAMP (Florida).
Replacing: Urban Meyer, owner of two SEC championships, two BCS championships and one very long shadow after just six years on the job.
Previously on: Muschamp comes from Texas, where he was groomed for three years to take over for Mack Brown at some point in the as-yet unforeseeable future. But his big break really came under Nick Saban, who hired the unknown Muschamp as linebackers coach in 2001, promoted him to defensive coordinator in 2002 and brought him to the NFL for a two-year stint with the Miami Dolphins.
Best resumé line(s): Besides his willingness to wallow in blood and unleash booming expletives from the sideline, Muschamp's defenses have always backed him up with sound and fury of their own. At LSU, he oversaw three straight top-10 seasons in both total and scoring defense from 2002-04, including a No. 1 finish in both categories en route to a BCS championship in 2003. His defenses at Auburn under Tommy Tuberville were also top-10 efforts, helping the Tigers win 20 games in 2006-07 – including back-to-back wins over Florida – despite rolling out one of the SEC's limpest offenses both years.
At Texas, he unleashed a fast, aggressive D that led the nation in sacks in 2008 and then finished No. 1 against the run in 2009, on teams that combined to go 26-2 with top-five landings in the final polls. Even last year, amid the Longhorns' stunning collapse to 5-7, Muschamp's defense led the Big 12 in yards allowed.
Biggest drawback: No head coaching experience at any level.
Stopping point or stepping stone? Muschamp's brief foray into the NFL shouldn't fool anyone: He's a college coach, and an SEC coach, at that. Florida is a destination job in his hometown, and he should be around as long as they'll have him.
Grade: A–. The minus is mainly in deference to the expectations that come with succeeding Meyer, as tough an act as there could possibly be to follow in the business. But Muschamp was already prepared to follow one of the few contemporaries who comes close at Texas, and would already be a year or two into another high-profile job if the Longhorns hadn't pulled out the stops to keep him for as long they did. If there was anyone in the country worthy of a job as prestigious as Florida as his first head coaching gig, he's obviously the guy.
• HUGH FREEZE (Arkansas State).
Age: 40, though technically he does not age inside his cryogenic suit.
Replacing: Steve Roberts, whose nine-year stint from 2002-10 marks him as the second-longest-tenured head coach in Arkansas State history, and … well, that's about it. Freeze joined Roberts' staff last year as offensive coordinator.
Previously on: Freeze is best known as Michael Oher's head coach at Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis, Tenn., from 2003-05, as depicted in the bestselling book/hit movie "The Blind Side," where Freeze's character ("Coach Burt Cotton") is frequently upstaged in his duties by Sandra Bullock. (In reality, Freeze won two state championships at Briarcrest and was Region 8-AA Coach of the Year five times.) Freeze's relationship with Oher prompted an NCAA investigation when he joined Ed Orgeron's staff at Ole Miss three weeks after Oher signed with the Rebels in 2005. Technically, Arkansas State is Freeze's second college head coaching job: He spent two years as the top dog at Lambuth, an NAIA school in Jackson, Tenn., before signing on at ASU.
Best resumé line(s): Freeze was 20-5 at Lambuth, including an 11-0 regular season, NAIA playoff appearance and No. 6 final ranking in 2009.
Biggest drawback: He has exceedingly little experience at the Division I level (FBS or FCS), and the D-I teams he has worked for have combined to go 14-33 in four seasons.
Stopping point or stepping stone? Freeze didn't leave a wildly successful high school gig to coach in the Sun Belt. A couple winning records – Arkansas State hasn't finished better than .500 since 1987, five years before it moved up to Division I-A – and he's on his way up the ladder.
Grade: B–. Freeze has a good track record as a head coach on (much) lower levels and should know the Arkansas/Mississippi/Tennessee Delta region like the back of his hand. That may be faint praise, but frankly, it's about as good as Arkansas State is going to get.
• DAVE DOEREN (Northern Illinois).
Replacing: Jerry Kill, who moved on to take over Minnesota after leading NIU to three straight bowl games and matching a new school record for wins in a season (10) last year.
Previously on: Doeren spent the last decade moving up the ladder from Montana to Kansas to Wisconsin, where he served as Bret Bielema's defensive coordinator for the last five years.
Best resumé line(s): His first defense at Wisconsin led the nation against the pass and finished in the top five in total and scoring D en route to a 12-1, top-five finish in 2006.
Biggest drawback: Bielema, a former defensive coordinator himself, always got most of the credit for the Badger D – and that wasn't always very much, considering it's only been an above-average unit at best over the last four years.
Stopping point or stepping stone? Doeren is young, comes from back-to-back stops at bigger programs and has no ties to Northern Illinois or the MAC. He'll be on the first bus out to a "Big Six" conference job.
Grade: C+. There's nothing bad to say about Doeren, except that there's not much to say at all. His resumé is short and bland. Then again, vanilla seems to suit NIU just fine.
• JAMES FRANKLIN (Vanderbilt).
Age: Just turned 39.
Replacing: Longtime Vandy assistant Robbie Caldwell, who could charm the pants off the media but turned out to be a pretty awkward fit in the top job after head coach Bobby Johnson abruptly retired last summer. The school officially dropped the interim tag from Caldwell's title in August, but not really: He was out – seemingly by mutual agreement – on the heels of a seven-game losing streak.
Previously on: Franklin spent eight of the last 11 years on Ralph Friedgen's staff at Maryland, the last three as offensive coordinator, and was tapped to succeed Friedgen in 2009. The problem: The athletic director who oversaw that arrangement, Debbie Yow, left last year, and her replacement, Kevin Anderson, clearly wanted no part of it. When it was clear Friedgen planned to return for the final year of his contract in 2011, Franklin took the opportunity to jump ship – allowing Anderson to take the opportunity to dump Friedgen and bring in his own man, Randy Edsall.
Best resumé line(s): Convinced Maryland he was coveted enough by the NFL to guarantee him the head coaching job as an incentive to stay.
Biggest drawback: Franklin's attacks since returning to Maryland have ranked 68th, 102nd and 80th nationally in total offense.
Stopping point or stepping stone? Considering he was in line for a more attractive job, Franklin is a good candidate to bolt if he has any success whatsoever with the SEC's perpetual doormat. Considering how unlikely success is, though, and how slow Vanderbilt typically is to fire coaches who didn't begin their professional as turkey inseminators, he may be around awhile.
Grade: C+. "Guy who was going to take over at Maryland" is a pretty good get for Vanderbilt. But Franklin doesn't have any specific success on his resumé that suggests he's going to fare better here than anyone else over the last 30 years.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.