Tuesday, November 20, 2007
KU's Mangino, Virginia's Groh top list of best coaching jobs
By Bruce Feldman
November 19, 2007
In the Year of the Stunner, we have plenty of candidates for coach of the year honors. This week's top 10 list best coaching jobs:
1. Mark Mangino, Kansas: It's OK to take shots at the Jayhawks' nonconference schedule, but you have to be impressed by a program with virtually no preseason hype. They haven't had any of those clunker performances that always seem to snag teams when they finally find themselves in the spotlight. KU is a legit threat to play for the national title -- not bad for a program predicted to finish fourth in the Big 12's other division. On top of that, Mangino's team has battled despite its coach being firmly on the hot seat going into the season. Behind rising star Todd Reesing, a guy virtually everyone else except Mangino passed on, KU is a team that doesn't beat itself and makes plays whenever the opportunity is there. (Mangino also shifted former starting QB Kerry Meier into a hybrid position that has been a nice boost to the offensive package.) Mangino's staff deserves more credit for mining talent out of Texas and Oklahoma to build this program. They don't have a signature win yet, but they do deserve a lot of praise for avoiding all of the pitfalls that have caught everyone else this season.
2. Ron Zook, Illinois: The Zooker is punch line no more. He and his staff loaded up on big-time recruits in the past three years and the Illini are now reaping the benefits. Lost in all of that is how pivotal it is for a young team that had been down so far to learn how to win. Thanks to an outstanding ground game and a formidable defense, Illinois turned in one of the most impressive wins of the season, going to Columbus and taking down the unbeaten Buckeyes. Illinois is set to go from 2-10 to a New Year's Day bowl, which is an amazing turn. In fact, things have turned so fast, Zook might even get a shot at his old school, the mighty Florida Gators in a New Year's Day bowl.
3. Al Groh, Virginia: Talk about dead man walking, Groh seemed like a lock to get canned after his team opened the season losing to Wyoming. However, the Bill Parcells disciple never lost his team, and the Cavaliers kept plugging away, finding an offensive identity and letting a fierce defensive front control games. The result is UVA has won more tight games than any team in college football history. Even if Virginia doesn't beat Va. Tech, there's no denying Groh has had a wonderful season for the surprising Cavaliers.