April 14, 2009

Whispers: Ranking the non-Big Six coaches

They may not be in the same income bracket as their "Big Six" brethren, but many non-"Big Six" coaches can stand shoulder to shoulder with heavyweights such as Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, USC's Pete Carroll, Florida's Urban Meyer and Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer.

The "King of the Little Guys" is Utah's Kyle Whittingham, who delivered perhaps the greatest performance by a non-"Big Six" team in the BCS era last season. Whittingham's Utes posted a 13-0 record punctuated by a victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

The Utes finished No. 2 in the final polls, but some felt they deserved at least a share of the national championship.

Ranking the non-Big Six coaches:

(NOTE: New coaches are denoted by an asterisk.)

1. Kyle Whittingham, Utah. A brilliant defensive mind who has helped build the Utes into the premier non-"Big Six" program.

2 Gary Patterson, TCU. The only thing missing from his résumé is a BCS bowl. And it'll come if he stays long enough.

3. Chris Petersen, Boise State. Unlike Houston Nutt, Dirk Koetter and Dan Hawkins, Petersen looks firmly rooted in Boise.

4. Troy Calhoun, Air Force. The next stop for this wunderkind ? Back to the NFL.

5. June Jones, SMU. He's about to make SMU relevant again.

6. Skip Holtz, East Carolina. He has escaped his father's shadow and will pick his next job.

7. Pat Hill, Fresno State. He has done more with less than anyone. It makes you wonder what he could accomplish at a "Big Six" school.

8. Brady Hoke, San Diego State. A tough guy with a relentless work ethic, Hoke will wake this slumbering program that teems with potential.

9. Bronco Mendenhall, BYU. He has had opportunities to leave, but Mendenhall was made for this school. The Cougars are back because of Bronco.

10. Chris Ault, Nevada. Too bad this Hall of Fame coach doesn't get more publicity. He is an innovator and a big-time winner.

11. Todd Graham, Tulsa. A fast-rising coach who knows how to build a program. Next stop: a "Big Six" school.

12. Larry Blakeney, Troy. A wily veteran who has a knack of unearthing hidden gems.

13. Dick Tomey, San Jose State. He may be in the twilight of his career, but Tomey still can coach.

14. Bill Cubit, Western Michigan. The no-nonsense Cubit is an underrated strategist and recruiting dynamo who is ready for the next challenge.

15. Howard Schnellenberger, Florida Atlantic. He's an icon. Schnellenberger is doing at FAU what he did at Miami – laying the foundation.

16. Butch Jones, Central Michigan. One of the top young minds in the sport has helped make CMU the premier MAC program.

17. Mike Price, UTEP. He has succeeded at "outpost" jobs because of his fertile offensive mind.

18. Tommy West, Memphis. West is consistently underrated, orchestrating one of the best runs in Memphis history.

19. Frank Solich, Ohio. He has taken all of that knowledge gleaned at Nebraska and enjoyed a solid run in Athens, Ohio.

20. George O'Leary, UCF. The hard-driving O'Leary's results speak for themselves.

21. Charlie Weis, Notre Dame. He is proof that college football is much more than Xs and Os. It's make-or-break time for Weis.

22. Kevin Sumlin, Houston. Sumlin soon could be the hottest commodity in the non-"Big Six" ranks.

23. J.D. Brookhart, Akron. He has built an all-star staff that could put the Zips over the top in the MAC.

24. Ken Niumatalolo, Navy. Sure, Paul Johnson built it, but Niumatalolo looks as if he will be able to sustain the Middies' recent success.

25. Turner Gill, Buffalo. If he keeps the Bulls near the top of the MAC, Gill will skyrocket to a "Big Six" job.

26. Bob Toledo, Tulane. Toledo has been energized by rehabbing the Green Wave.

27. Larry Fedora, Southern Miss. Smart and personable, Fedora is the total package who is on course to coach an SEC or Big 12 team.

28. Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee State. "Stock" paid his dues, learning from some of the best. And he has put the knowledge to good use at MTSU.

29. Jerry Kill, Northern Illinois. In one season in DeKalb after moving from FCS power Southern Illinois, Kill showed his system works.

30. David Bailiff, Rice. He has done a nice job in two seasons. Keep an eye on Bailiff.

31. Mark Snyder, Marshall. He's a terrific recruiter with a sharp defensive mind. But the Herd need to win this season.

32. Steve Fairchild, Colorado State. He has a strong blend of NFL and college experience, and he should make the Rams a contender again in the Mountain West.

33. Steve Roberts, Arkansas State. He works in the shadows, but Roberts is respected by his peers.

34. Mike Sanford, UNLV. Sanford isn't rattled by the challenge of making the Rebels competitive. And he's about to turn the corner.

35. Al Golden, Temple. He has breathed life into a moribund program. If he delivers a bowl, Golden will be gold – and gone.

36. Dave Clawson, Bowling Green. Forget last year's disaster as offensive coordinator at Tennessee. Clawson showed he can coach during a glorious run at FCS school Richmond.

37. Charlie Weatherbie, Louisiana-Monroe. He will live off that victory at Alabama in 2007 forever.

38. Derek Dooley, Louisiana Tech. He can back up his bloodlines with on-field success. This is a coach to watch.

39. Doug Martin, Kent State. He has come close to getting this program over the hump.

40. Stan Parrish, Ball State. Few coaches in the nation have the experience Parrish possesses.

41. Mario Cristobal, Florida International. If he were a stock, Cristobal would have a "buy" rating. He's young, smart, motivated and energized.

42. Rickey Bustle, Louisiana-Lafayette. Bustle brings boundless energy to the job, but has been unable to deliver a breakthrough.

43. Rich Ellerson*, Army. You may not have heard of this former Cal Poly coach. But you soon will.

44. Dave Christensen*, Wyoming. Bob Devaney, Pat Dye, Fred Akers and Joe Tiller cut their teeth in Laramie. Is Christensen next?

45. Mike Locksley*, New Mexico. A master recruiter and smart tactician, Locksley is poised to thrive at this underrated program.

46. DeWayne Walker*, New Mexico State. Walker built a solid résumé in the NFL and college, giving him a skill set to succeed.

47. Ron English*, Eastern Michigan. He waited patiently for this job? If he wins, English will be hailed as a genius.

48. Mike Haywood*, Miami University. He almost got the Houston job. Now, Haywood gets to show his stuff at a school where you can win.

49. Tim Beckman*, Toledo. Beckman, who was hired off the Oklahoma State staff, knows the potential of this program.

50. Gary Andersen*, Utah State. He's the guy who coordinated the recent standout Utah defenses.

51. Greg McMackin, Hawaii. Too bad he had to follow June Jones. McMackin is a sharp defensive mind.

52. Neil Callaway, UAB. The former Georgia assistant looked like a good fit, but time may be running out.

53. Robb Akey, Idaho. If he gets time, Akey might be able to deliver the Vandals to the postseason.

54. Todd Dodge, North Texas. His first two seasons at UMT have been a struggle for the former Texas prep coach.

Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com.



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