Top 10 college football off-season winners
Posted by: Pete Roussel on June 23, 2012
August camp begins in roughly forty days for most college football programs.
Mike Leach begins practice at Washington State on August 2, Steve Spurrier gets going in Columbia on August 3, while Jim Mora Jr. begins camp on August 4 at UCLA.
While there's still time for off-the-field distractions, player suspensions, unfortunate injuries, and academic casualties, let's take a look at the ten programs that have won the off-season to this point.
In the off-season, no news is usually good news. With that being said, a new head coach and/or combination of recruiting and staff additions can really make a big difference from year to year in college football.
Coaching staff transactions, recruiting, off-the-field distractions, academic casualties, transfers, dismissals, suspensions were considered when forming this list.
1. USC: Matt Barkley's decision to return to USC makes the Trojans a legitimate contender for the national championship. Lane Kiffin capitalized by essentially orchestrating a twenty minute promo for USC recruiting via ESPN. Barkley is a unique person, citing, "I stayed so I can finish what I started." But credit Kiffin and quarterbacks coach Clay Helton for creating a culture that's worthy of sticking around. A sure-fired first round draft choice, Barkley clearly enjoys the day-to-day college life, team chemistry, and environment that Kiffin has carried on at USC. In addition, the Trojans haven't found TMZ cameras this off-season, and distractions have been non-existent - a novel concepts for USC football and much to the delight of Kiffin. The Trojans also currently lead the country with three 5-star verbal commitments.
2. Ohio State: Ohio State hired Urban Meyer. As if that's not enough, Meyer turned around and hired an impressive coaching staff that has immediately elevated the Buckeyes recruiting. While Ohio State isn't eligible for a bowl game this season, Meyer has lit a fire on the importance of the Buckeyes season finale against "the school up North." Already one of the best rivalries in all of sports, Meyer is taking the rivalry to another level. While calming the waters of no post-season, Meyer has set up the season finale against the Wolverines as the Buckeyes absolute must-win Super Bowl.
3. Washington: Steve Sarkisian significantly upgraded his staff with Justin Wilcox, Tosh Lupoi, Peter Sirmon, and Eric Keisau. After dismissing a couple of coaches including defensive coordinator Nick Holt, Sark knew exactly who he wanted and he got them. Wilcox and Sirmon left Tennessee and arrived in Seattle in a matter of days. One of the top recruiters in the nation, Lupoi initially turned down the offer to remain at his alma mater Cal, but eventually gave in to Sarkisian's pursuit.
4. Michigan: Coming off a Sugar Bowl win over Virginia Tech, Brady Hoke kept his entire coaching staff intact in the off-season. Coordinators Greg Mattison and Al Borges received impressive new contracts. There's a different feeling around Ann Arbor these days. Currently, 247Sports has the Wolverines with the #2 ranked recruiting class with seventeen 4-star commitments.
5. LSU: Les Miles has superbly handled the aftermath of not crossing the 50-yard line. Unlike last summer, off-the-field distractions have been non-existent. From the outside, the Tigers have moved forward and seem focused on positioning themselves to end up in Miami, site of the 2013 BCS national championship game.
6. Florida State: FSU signed the #2 class in the nation in February, according to 247Sports. Jimbo Fisher became 1 of 16 head coaches to keep his entire coaching staff intact. Not to mention, the 'Noles have stayed out of trouble. Fisher even said, "I said it in a couple of our alumni meetings, I think we're going to be a really good football team. I really believe that. I've never said it since I've been here because I know we're becoming a program because we're developing depth and I feel very good about it."
7. Alabama: Nick Saban is in charge. I don't feel like I need to expand, but I will say that Doug Nussmeier is the perfect replacement for Jim McElwain.
8. Arizona State: This may surprise you, but Todd Graham has captured the support of nearly all Sun Devil fans. The administration has been thrilled by the recruiting effort of Graham and his staff. From a public relations standpoint, Graham weathered the storm. Brock Osweiller did opt to enter the NFL draft, but that may actually work out well for what offensive coordinator / quarterbacks coach Mike Norvell wants to do.
9. Memphis: It's not going to be quick fix at Memphis, but the good news is that first-year head coach Justin Fuente has totally won over the city of Memphis. The media, boosters, and Tiger fans are back on board.
10. Michigan State: Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi passed on the opportunity to join the Texas A&M staff. Mark Dantonio's staff is 1 of 16 to remain completely intact this off-season.
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