Consider all the examples — through two weeks of this college football season — in which a head coach or coordinator has excelled in the art of coaching.
Some examples offer very little room for ambiguous or tentative interpretations. For instance, Florida State co-offensive coordinators Lawrence Dawsey and Randy Sanders, in tandem with head coach Jimbo Fisher, all did a great job getting Deondre Francois to play and thrive against Ole Miss. That’s a situation-cum-result in which coaches unquestionably soared.
The opponent was formidable. The situation was tense. The ultimate objective — victory — was achieved.
However, this being the first half of September, many games lie in front of us. The sample sizes of what teams and coaching staffs have accomplished are small. Can we say for sure that certain head coaches and coordinators are headed for a big 2016?
Let’s provide several examples. You can think about them and discuss them with your friends and work colleagues:
CHIP LINDSEY, ARIZONA STATE
Todd Graham’s first year offensive coordinator could not have done a better job last Saturday in Week 2. A 68-point explosion (even if the defense set up one of Arizona State’s touchdowns) is impossible to argue with on an immediate level. What makes Lindsey’s feat more impressive is that ASU’s offense looked mediocre in Week 1 against an FCS school, Northern Arizona.
Problem solved, right? Arizona State will remain in rhythm on offense for the rest of the year, right?
… It’s too early to tell.
The Red Raiders’ defense is so notoriously awful that any good offensive performance against “Fiscal” Kliff Kingsbury has to be placed in context — maybe not with an asterisk, but certainly with a “wait and see” tag.
Chip Lindsey did really well, but his coaching acumen requires further evaluation this season.
KEVIN STEELE, AUBURN
Containing Clemson — keeping the Tigers under 20 points — seemed like a massive coaching feat for Auburn’s defensive coordinator.
Then Troy’s defense held down Deshaun Watson a week later on Clemson’s home field.
Sorry, Kevin — we have to allow more time to unfold before arriving at the conclusion that you have unmistakably improved Auburn’s 2016 defense.
MIKE MacINTYRE, COLORADO
Yes, it’s true that few FBS teams have played better than the Buffaloes in this season’s initial two-game stretch, but Colorado State — CU’s victim in Week 1 — had a very hard time with Texas-San Antonio in Week 2. It could be that Colorado State was wretched.
Colorado and MacIntyre need to take down a formidable Pac-12 team before the R-word — renaissance — can be uttered with complete intellectual certitude. This is yet another coaching story which must be allowed to unfold.
JEREMY PRUITT, ALABAMA
The Tide’s defensive coordinator smothered USC, but in all candor, Clay Helton is a first-year (permanent or non-interim, depending which term you prefer) coach who could be in over his head. (We’ll see about that against Stanford this Saturday.)
This weekend, Pruitt leads his defense into The Grove to take on Ole Miss and Chad Kelly, who torched Bama with a number of big plays last year. If Pruitt presides over a strong defensive performance by Alabama against the Rebels, the college football coaching community can say that he’s the right man to replace Kirby Smart in Tuscaloosa.
JEFF HORTON, SAN DIEGO STATE
The Aztecs’ offensive coordinator found a coaching groove against California on Saturday, but much as a Kliff Kingsbury-coached team doesn’t care about defense, a Sonny Dykes-coached team similarly ignores that side of the ball. San Diego State’s season is promising, and Horton certainly earned his money this past Saturday, but Los Aztecs need to be consistent against defenses other than Cal’s for Horton to be seen in an unambiguously bright and favorable light.