Thursday, November 29, 2007

Coach of the Day: Paul Johnson

At the end of the day, yesterday, ran with a blurb that SMU was interested in Paul Johnson. Somehow, that blew up today.

In the past, I have been rather noncommittal on Paul Johnson.

I like this blog entry:

Dennis Dodd is reporting that SMU is close to hiring Navy HC Paul Johnson to be the Mustangs next head coach.

The announcement of his hiring could come as soon as early next week. Officials at both schools are thought to want to wait until after Saturday's Army-Navy game.
What? Huh?

Johnson's name has been tied to nearly every vacant head coaching job in the country over the past three years. He is one of the hot names in coaching circles. If you have a BCS job opening, Paul Johnson is somewhere on your list... period. Hot! Hot! Hot!

In other words, he is everything that SMU is not.

The Ponies have produced nothing but an awful string of losses since the NCAA shut down the Mustangs program. Since 1991, SMU has had just two seasons at or above .500 and have never won more than six games in any season. The Mustangs have had four different coaches in those 17 seasons, but the only constant has been the losses.

So... Paul Johnson... and SMU? You could have given me eleventy billion guesses and I never would have come up with SMU. But -- if this goes through -- it may turn out to be the single greatest hiring in the history of college football.

Hyperbole, much?

I have said before, I fear the coach with a gimmicky system. Not that I don't think it will work, just that I think it only works so well. Sooner or later the team tops out and the fan base will start blaming the system for not getting the school "over the hump." Now, if the "hump" is seven or eight wins, I think that will be a nice problem to have.

I don't think anyone can say the guy can't coach. He won two national championships at the IAA level and Navy won one game in the two years before he went there-since that time there have been five consecutive bowls.

I don't think Navy has such a natural advantage because it has a prep school and every walkon has a scholarship, unlike some people, but I do see the benefit of a Prep School, just like I see a benefit to having one high school in a school district where all the junior high schools run the same system (Southlake). Bottom line, you don't go to the Naval Academy unless you are prepared to commit the first five years of your life after college to your Country. That nixes 90% of the high school football players right there, and 99.9% of those that think they have a shot at the NFL, which is about 99.999% percent of them. Do the math.

An interesting question is whether Paul Johnson can recruit. I think it is ludicrous to suggest he can't. He still had to recruit to the Naval Academy and it isn't like you don't recruit to I-AA schools. He was doing something. Further, he was the offensive coordinator at Hawaii; he was recruiting there. And I happen to think a coach with five consecutive bowl games and a former national coach of the year has a certain amount of credibility in recruit's living room. Furthermore, that is what assistants are for.

If there is any concern about Paul Johnson's recruiting, it is his system. Any coach is going to have a hard time recruiting quality offensive players at the QB and receiver positions in flex option/triple option system. This is a real issue and it needs to be recognized going in.

We will know something next week. Be careful what you believe. Just because you read it on the internet or the Dallas Morning News or CBS Sportsline doesn't mean its true. Further, don't necessarily believe the guy you know that knows somebody on the search committee. Two people know what is really happening: Mike Vaught and Steve Orsini. Orsini isn't Copeland. Orsini does things his own way and largely on his own. Members of the basketball coach search committee didn't know SMU had a coach until 4 hours before the press conference.

Anyway, we will know more next week. Though I will admit, I might watch the Army-Navy game with some interest on Saturday.


Anonymous said...

The system that Johnson runs at Navy is forced on him by the type of athletes he can recruit. The service academies have height and weight maximums that he has to live with. (a big impact on getting O linemen) Also, it is rare that he can assemble a well rounded group of running backs and receivers due to the service obligation. In my view, while his Navy experience offers SMU many benefits (like a high recruiting standard) his 1-AA success shows he is adaptable.

Anonymous said...

The triple option is not a gimmicky system. It was the backbone of every successful football program from the sixties through the nineties. Nebraska won five national championships with it and Oklahoma won six. It is what Air Force used to run all over us with back in the WAC days. Overpowering your opponent is what football is supposed to be about--not this throw the ball up in the air on every play and see who comes down with it more times.

Granted, it needs to be combined with a great defense--defense wins championships not offense. And, defense seems to be our big problem. No one should ever lose a game when they score fifty points. Which makes me wonder why Bennett, who was a decent defensive coordinator at K-State, couldn't get the job done. I don't think that Paul Johnson will have any trouble recruiting a defense though.

The triple option will be a great match-up against these Conference USA teams as well. They are totally unprepared to defend a power running game. If the defense can get their act together, we'll be winning conference championships in no time.

The potential problem with hiring Paul Johnson will be that he is friends with Orsini from the AD's days at Navy. If Johnson doesn't work out, it will be hard to get rid of him. Nebraska has just been through this where Callahan refused to fire the defensive coordinator because they were old friends. I don't think this will be a problem though because all SMU needs is a winning season and a bowl game to get the recruiting rolling--and a coach who is willing to recruit outside of Texas. There is too much competition with Texas, A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri, Kansas, Baylor, and Rice who all use Texas as their major recruiting base. We need to start snagging more people out of Ohio and California. Johnson should also have some strong ties to the east coast where he can steal recruits from the ACC and the Big East.

Anonymous said...

You will NOT recruit best prospects to a wishbone offense, but then, Johnson had a 'run and shoot' offense out at Hawaii. So, he can adjust offense to fit the situation. Would be wonderful just to have some winning seasons and I think he could get it done.

As for Texas recruiting---maybe you can get some CA kid to come to Dallas who hasn't heard much about SMU, but I'd like to think a good coach at SMU could attract many good TX kids to play there rather than Big 12 schools.

Anonymous said...

I don't know where the whole Paul Johnson run & shoot myth came from, but it isn't true. He ran the exact same offense in Hawaii that he runs now. When he first got there his quarterbacks weren't runners, so he just called a few more passes. They would throw for 150-200 yards per game as opposed to the 100-150 yards per game they throw for now. But that was just for the first couple of years. After Johnson was around for a while and was recruiting his own quarterbacks, he ran the ball again. When it's up to him, he runs.

Anonymous said...

I agree that a good coach should be able to recruit some people out of Texas. If we start winning, we should be able to get a few, but the best of the crop will still go to the Big 12 and SEC. I just think we have been using a poor recruiting strategy focusing primarily in Texas the past 20 years because there is so much competition there. Even if we do start winning, we will only move ahead of Baylor, Rice, and Houston--and possibly the mid-level Big 12 teams or TCU. We may be able to steal a few away from time to time, but we would be better served casting a wider net. Although if we go to the option while everyone else is moving to the spread, we may be able to pick up some runners that the other schools don't want anymore!