April 21, 2009

Whispers: Ranking the nation's top coaches

It's Urban Meyer's world. Everyone else is just coaching in it.

Meyer has enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top of this chart. When this decade dawned, Meyer was the wide receivers coach at Notre Dame under Bob Davie. Meyer went on to coach Bowling Green for two years (17-6 record), Utah for two seasons (22-2) and is entering his fifth season at Florida (45-9).

Meyer has two BCS titles in the past three seasons, and his Gators figure to be the overwhelming favorite to win another national championship this season.

When will Meyer get bored by all of this and scamper off to the NFL? Or perhaps he'll be lured to Notre Dame, his "dream job," and restore the Irish to national prominence.

Whatever is in his future, know this: It's good being Urban Meyer, college football's coaching king.

The top 30 coaches:

1. Urban Meyer, Florida. Two BCS titles in three seasons, with another in his sights.

2. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma. No coach can match his four BCS title game appearances.

3. Nick Saban, Alabama. First, he made LSU a national power. Now, Saban has Alabama poised to be the nation's top program.

4. Pete Carroll, USC. No program dominates its conference more. The only thing missing? More BCS titles.

5. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa. He has won big with talent that annually ranks no better than fourth in his league – at best – each season.

6. Mack Brown, Texas. To whom much is given, much is expected. And Brown has delivered.

7. Jim Grobe, Wake Forest. Honestly, if this guy were coaching at, say, Texas, how many national titles would he have?

8. Brian Kelly, Cincinnati. He was at his best last fall, tiptoeing around myriad quarterback injuries to lead the Bearcats to the Big East title.

9. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech. He took a simple idea of building a program around defense and special teams – and "Beamerball" – and created a perennial power.

10. Mark Richt, Georgia. His résumé only lacks a national title. And you know one is coming.

11. Rich Rodriguez, Michigan. Not only has he won big, RichRod has helped change the sport with his offense.

12. Mike Riley, Oregon State. He is proof that nice guys don't finish last … and that you can go home again.

13. Jim Tressel, Ohio State. Is he the best coach in Buckeyes history?

14. Tom O'Brien, N.C. State. He's a throwback coach who wins with toughness, discipline and lots of smarts.

15. Joe Paterno, Penn State. Perhaps his best trait at this stage of his career is knowing how to delegate.

16. Kyle Whittingham, Utah. He has taken what Urban Meyer built and made it better.

17. Houston Nutt, Ole Miss. He's an underrated offensive mind who has a knack for getting players to reach their potential.

18. Gary Patterson, TCU. He's a defensive mastermind whose program is every bit as good as most in the Big 12.

19. Mark Mangino, Kansas. He has done the impossible, making Jayhawks football a nationally respected program.

20. Randy Edsall, Connecticut. There isn't a more underrated coach in the nation than Edsall, a smart taskmaster who finds ways to win.

21. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina. He has lost some luster, but Spurrier still is an offensive genius.

22. Mike Leach, Texas Tech. Perhaps no coach means more to his school than Leach, whose offenses have revolutionized the sport.

23. Greg Schiano, Rutgers. He inherited one of the worst programs in America and made it into a likeness of himself – strong, tough and good.

24. Jeff Tedford, California. The offensive wiz has done everything but lead the Golden Bears to the Pac-10 championship.

25. Dennis Erickson, Arizona State. Erickson, who has won two national titles, yearns to finish his career with a bang.

26. Gary Pinkel, Missouri. It was just a matter of time before he imposed his iron will on this program, as he did at Toledo.

27. Jim Leavitt, USF. He has built something out of nothing, making USF a Big East power.

28. Les Miles, LSU. The "Hat" has done enough to prove he belongs among the nation's elite.

29. Chris Petersen, Boise State. The cerebral Petersen understands how to find talent to fit his schemes.

30. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech. He's about ready to change the way we thought you could win in big-time football.

Others: Chris Ault, Nevada; Bobby Bowden, Florida State; Art Briles, Baylor; Rich Brooks, Kentucky; Troy Calhoun, Air Force; Mark Dantonio, Michigan State; Butch Davis, North Carolina; Todd Graham, Tulsa; Al Groh, Virginia; Jim Harbaugh, Stanford; Pat Hill, Fresno State; Brady Hoke, San Diego State; Skip Holtz, East Carolina; Bobby Johnson, Vanderbilt; June Jones, SMU; Steve Kragthorpe, Louisville; Bronco Mendenhall, BYU; Rick Neuheisel, UCLA; Bobby Petrino, Arkansas.

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


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