This is a wonderful week of contributed articles by so many of our “regulars” and we thank BigDucksFan for this one to ponder! Charles Fischer
We all know that Head Coach Mario Cristobal is your favorite coach, but who else in the Pac-12 piques your interest as a head coach and can challenge Oregon for the Pac-12 champion bragging rights of the future? Below is a summary of each with his records. Who do you fear?
Kevin Sumlin began his tenure with the Wildcats in 2018 and has accumulated a two-year record of only 9-15. Sumlin was previously the head coach of Texas A&M, and with his disappointing track record at Arizona, he is already “on the hot seat” for Pac-12 head coaches. (And many Oregon fans wanted to hire him instead of Cristobal!)
Herm Edwards started his era with Arizona State in 2018 and has accumulated a two-year record of 15-11 — and he was previously a pro football analyst for ESPN. Herm has received a two-year extension and seems to have the Sun Devils heading in a positive direction with an almost NFL-type staff. Arizona State is recruiting at a higher level, but the big question is, “Can they overcome USC for the leadership of the South?”
Justin Wilcox has been at Cal since the beginning of 2017 and has accumulated a three-year record of 20-18. Wilcox previously was the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin, was born in Junction City, Oregon (just outside Eugene) and played his college football at the University of Oregon, graduating in 1999. Wilcox coached under Steve Sarkisian at Washington. In addition, in 2019 Cal (under his direction) went 8-5 and was ranked No. 15 after a 4-0 start. The future looks good for Cal under Wilcox, and we can expect the Golden Bears to contend for leadership of the North.
Karl Dorrell starts as head coach now and will have his first season with the ‘Buffs as the head-man after coaching on the Colorado football staff twice in the past. Prior to the Colorado gig, he was the receivers coach for the Miami Dolphins. Dorrell replaces Mel Tucker, who resigned just after a few months on the job when he decided to follow the money to Michigan State rather than coach at Colorado (A situation that Oregon fans know all too much about). We wish Dorrell all the best.
David Shaw took over the Cardinal in 2011 and has accumulated an overall record of 82-26. Shaw was the team’s offensive coordinator for the entire tenure of Jim Harbaugh, and then took over the head coaching job after Harbaugh moved on to the San Francisco 49ers. Over the years Shaw has done well at Stanford, bringing the power game to the West coast and at times to the dismay of Oregon fans. Under Shaw, Stanford lost its first “Big Game” to Cal this last season, but it still gives Shaw an 8-1 record in that match-up. With a 2019 record of 4-8, Shaw is going through a tough time right now, but I’m sure Stanford will give him time to right the ship, if he wants it.
Chip Kelly started with the Bruins in 2018 and has accumulated a record of 7-17. We are all familiar with Chip and his fantastic run as head coach at Oregon, but after leaving UO for the NFL, Chip’s coaching career went into a skid that still hasn’t stopped. Who in the conference is on the hot seat? Chip’s name has got to be near the very top of the list. Chip’s strength is as an offensive coordinator, but his weakness is recruiting, and it shows up big time at UCLA. The school is located in a hotbed of star football players, and you don’t see that many playing for UCLA. Oh how the wheel turns…
Clay Helton’s time with the Trojans began in October of 2015 and he has accumulated a record of 40-22. Now, a record like that would seem acceptable; however, 2018 was a losing season of 5-7 — something USC does not take lightly. Trojan fans began to call for Helton to be fired. 2019 turned out a little better for Helton with an 8-5 record, but you can bet things had better keep improving or the calls will be back. With the forecast looking better in 2020, Helton may still be around for a few more years. (But you can bet he will be on a short leash.)
Kyle Whittingham has been leading the Utes since 2005 and has accumulated a record of 128-62. Whittingham had been coaching at Utah as DC for 10 years prior to accepting the head coaching role. He is known as someone who can “coach up” players, getting them to outperform their own star status. They reached the Pac-12 Championship Game in 2019, but were overwhelmed by the Ducks. While 2020 is a rebuilding year for Utah, we can expect to see them contending with USC and Arizona State for control of the South in the near future.
Jimmy Lake started as head coach this year after being the Huskies’ defensive backs coach under Chris Petersen, who retired. At this point Lake is an unknown to most, but to some schools in his past, his ascension to head coach is no surprise. Until we know how this is going to work out for Lake, Oregon had better not take him too lightly. (But he is closer to Chip in recruiting than Cristobal!)
Nick Rolovich is in his first season with the Cougars after coaching at the University of Hawaii. Already, Rolovich has created sparks at Washington State after telling wide receiver Kassidy Woods that aligning with the Pac-12 player unity group would create “an issue” with the program. At Hawaii, Rolovich had a record of 28-27 and was the Mountain West Coach of the Year in 2019 with a 10-win season and a win in the Hawaii Bowl over BYU. He is converting the Mike Leach “Air-Raid” offense to a new “Run-and-Shoot” offense in his first season.
Jonathan Smith returned to his alma mater to become head coach in 2018 and has accumulated a record of 7-17. Smith came from coaching as co-offensive coordinator and QB coach for the Huskies under Petersen. Smith was a four-year player for Oregon State and was a walk-on under then head coach Mike Riley. Smith quarterbacked perhaps Oregon State’s best season ever, beating Oregon and Joey Harrington in the rivalry game in 2000. Smith is expected to do well, but being in-state and so close to the Ducks and yet totally under-financed will be a challenge. His opportunities will be limited unless he can catch the Ducks on a bad Saturday. (That’s been known to happen in a rivalry game!)
Mario Cristobal was elevated to head coach of the Ducks in 2018 and has accumulated a record of 21-6. Cristobal was previously the offensive line coach at Oregon and Alabama, and served as the head coach at Florida International University from 2007-2012. His recruiting at Oregon has been outstanding and has put the Ducks in a position to contend for a National Championship run in the future. Cristobal is everyone’s favorite; fans and players alike.
There you have it. So, which of the head coaches do you fear the most, and who might have a chance of dethroning the Ducks?
San Diego, California
Top Photo by Kevin Cline
Natalie Liebhaber, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in the financial technology industry in Bozeman, Montana.
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