Q&A: Best New Coaching Hires from the Group of 5


Weekly Q&A took a hiatus last week for Pac-12 media days, but we’re back. Don’t be bashful about submitting your questions. Just tweet @CFBHuddle or @kensing45, and feel free to use the hashtag #QA.

Maybe next week you, The College Football Huddle reader, can get #QA trending. Or not. Either way, keeping the questions coming.

@kensing45 Q&Aquestion for this week: Which head coach hire outside of the Power 5 conferences did you like the most for 2014?

— Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven) July 31, 2014

Let’s defer to CFBHuddle.com contributor and founder of the soon-to-debut American Athletic blog AAC Football Fever, Tyler Waddell (@Tyler_Waddell).

After winning back-to-back-to-back NCAA Division I championships (take that, LeBron!) and receiving 17 points in the AP Top 25 final rankings, Craig Bohl came to the conclusion that he couldn’t take FCS powerhouse North Dakota State any further and accepted the vacant position with Wyoming.

Outside of the Power 5, this hire has grabbed my interest the most – I mean seriously though, how many small-market programs can say they have hired a three-time title winner?

It’s not like this is Idaho, either. Wyoming has stayed relatively competitive, playing in two bowl games since 2009, and nearly knocked off then-No. 18 Nebraska during last year’s opener in Lincoln.

Bohl persuaded quality athletes to play in Fargo. If he can recruit the kind of athletes that beat Kansas State to play at an FBS program, then I’d have to think Wyoming will be competing for a Mountain West Championship in three years’ time.

Addison Gillam was not the most celebrated freshmen in the Pac-12 last season; heck, he wasn’t even the most celebrated freshman at his position. But no first-year player matched Gillam’s Week 1 splash, a 14-tackle effort in Colorado’s win over Colorado State.

Gillam was a Freshman All-American and is unquestionably one of the top linebackers in a conference loaded at the position. But the Buffs pretty much know what they’re getting from him; fellow second-year starter Sefo Liufau is less of a certainty, which makes the quarterback a bigger X-factor.

Quarterback play has pretty consistently been a mess at Colorado. That was case in the Dan Hawkins era, the abbreviated Jon Embree era, and in Mike MacIntyre’s first season. But Liufau replacing Connor Wood midway through 2013 gave the Buffs some hope for the future.

“He got thrown into the middle of last season, so he didn’t really have time to work with our first [string] offense,” wide receiver Nelson Spruce told me at Pac-12 media days. “We had this whole offseason to get comfortable with him, and I think this year you’re going to see him take his game to the next level.”

Spruce should move into the No. 1 role electric Paul Richardson filled last season. Richardson was one of the Pac-12’s best receivers, so Liufau does face a steep learning curve heading into his second year. But he’s got the talent to flourish–UCLA head coach Jim Mora said last October that Liufau was someone his staff was interested in as a prep prospect.

And MacIntyre’s done impressive work with quarterbacks in the past. Lightly recruited David Fales turned into an NFL prospect after playing under MacIntyre at San Jose State.

Liufau’s development is going to be key to Colorado being more competitive in the Pac-12.

@kensing45 *sigh* more passing yards: Goff or Halliday?

— Chris Turner (@ChrisLTurner) July 30, 2014

Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich said last week that the West has a reputation for being “pass-happy.” Having two branches from the Hal Mumme tree in the same division does nothing to dispel that notion.

Now, Mike Leach’s version of the air-raid spread and Sonny Dykes’ Bear raid are two different animals. Connor Halliday is expected to account for a greater percentage of Washington State’s offensive production, evident in the 714 passes he attempted in 2013. That’s 55 more than the nation’s next most active thrower, Derek Carr.

Leach’s offense is almost exclusively reliant on the pass–the end of December’s Alamo Bowl suggests when the Cougars do run, they don’t exactly have it down to a science. Halliday should have no problem eclipsing the 700 pass attempt mark again.

While the 2013 Cal run game didn’t exactly resemble the 2005 USC Trojans, Dykes’ offense typically features much more balance than Leach’s. Nic Grigsby went for over 1,100 yards under Dykes at Arizona, and Louisiana Tech’s Kenneth Dixon led the nation in rushing touchdowns for the 2012 Bulldogs.

Running backs Daniel Lasco and Khalfani Muhammad have a potential thunder-and-lightning dynamic. Of course, the Golden Bears won’t exactly be lining up in the Wishbone.

Jared Goff attempted 529 passes last year for 3,488 yards. With a more effective run game, defenses will have to be honest in their coverage of Cal’s deep and talented wide receiving corps. Goff has playmakers in Chris Harper, Bryce Treggs and Kenny Lawler, and he’ll make effective use of them.

Goff should approach 4,000 yards in his sophomore season–but it won’t be enough to catch Halliday.

While Cal has a deep wide receiving, Halliday is throwing to a group with an absurd nine returners who caught at least 26 passes. That’s a byproduct of the nature of Leach’s system, of course, but Gabe Marks, Dom Williams and River Cracraft are all potential breakout stars.

Halliday could threaten the single-season passing record in the Pac-12 Oregon State’s Sean Mannion set just last season.