Bowling Green’s Dino Babers and Toledo’s Matt Campbell left their respective posts at the end of the 2015 season with some pretty big shoes to fill.
The former followed Dave Clawson’s 2013 campaign, a 10-3 MAC championship season. Babers left no doubt that the Falcons were turning into the heel in the conference (if only for the simple reason that people often hate winners simply because they are winners). Babers went 18-9 overall, 12-4 in MACtion, in his two-year stint at Bowling Green.
Babers bolted to Syracuse, and now, Mike Jinks will don the brown and orange headset.
On the other hand, Campbell is fresh off back-to-back titles in the West Division — perhaps the selling point for earning the job with the Iowa State Cyclones. Toledo hired from within to replace him, appointing assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Jason Candle to captain the ship.
New benchmarks and thrones atop the MAC equate to a great deal of pressure for both Jinks and Candle — or so it would seem.
The general public often muddles the difference between a “good fit” and a “home run hire” in reference to coaching changes. Neither Jinks, nor Candle, is a home run hire, at least yet; both are terrific fits, though.
Jinks inherits some leftovers from the Babers era, which will complement the new head coach’s background: high-paced offense primarily from his last spell in Lubbock, where Jinks oversaw the running backs for the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Handpicking from the scheme will carry over just fine to the MAC.
Thomas Schmeltz, who covers the Falcons for the Sentinel Tribune, made quick note of Jinks’s mesh with Bowling Green.
“I think with Mike, the one thing that helps is the team runs a similar offense from what was here in the past with [Babers’ familiarity with] Baylor. Jinks brought in the Air Raid — Texas Tech-style — which is still uptempo [and] still pass heavy. I certainly think that will help with the transition,” Schmeltz told Today’s U.
“It seems like the team grasps it pretty well and they still have quite a bit of personnel at the program that will fit that system. I don’t think that’s really going to hurt them. It’s hard to say for the long-term, because how [Jinks] will adapt to being a Division I head coach, obviously having never been one…[he’s] never been a coordinator.
“His resume is still solid, and I’m not saying it’s a bad hire at all — I think he’s going to be successful. He might not show it this year, but they’re recruiting well and have a successful style.”
Jinks’ first recruiting class is a coup that correlates with his composition. Here are Bowling Green’s top pledges from the current cycle:
3* Chris Katrenick – Pro Style Quarterback
3* Cedric Mitchell – Wide Receiver
3* Travis Koontz – Tight End
3* Matt Wilcox Jr. – Wide Receiver
3* Jarret Doege – Pro-Style Quarterback
The long-term scope remains unseen for Jinks, but he seemingly was hand-fed an ideal group of players to match with his blueprint. The aforementioned recruiting circuit also fits the offensive mold.
Now, let’s turn to Candle, who is left with the wick still lit from the Campbell era.
His advantage stems from his familiarity with the Rockets program. Not only does that benefit any window needed for linking chemistry or a new scheme, Candle thrives on the recruiting trail — he was tagged as the MAC Recruiter of the Year in 2010 following a class that topped all other programs in the conference.
So far, so good for Candle, who has rounded up 16 commits entering September 2 (the same number as Bowling Green), with three of the top four pledges serving as (hopeful) potential pass-catchers.
Are there other cogs in the MAC? Sure. Western Michigan has been superb under P.J. Fleck while Northern Illinois is a perennial contender. That top tier should remain stable.
This is far from a fluff piece praising Jinks and Candle. There’s a scarce depository of tarot cards to decrypt the long-term future for both first-year head coaches. However, given Bowling Green’s compatibility with Jinks’ offensive identity, and Candle’s familiarity with his team — plus the ins and outs of recruiting — the strengths on each side should keep both programs above water.