When you really think about it, a watch list for a college football award is nothing more than a way to keep public relations staffers in college football programs busy this summer. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it is nice to have a number of key players for the upcoming season highlighted whenever possible (unless you are a Big Ten team going to Big Ten media days). But a watch list is generally pretty pointles sin the long run for most awards. This is especially true for a watch list of college football coaches.
The Dodd Trophy watch list was released today with a list of 19 coaches from many of the top programs around the country. Yep, a watch list for head coaches. Silly, right? It really is the easiest watch list to put together.
The award watch list, compiled by the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, includes four coaches from the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC, two coaches from the Big 12 and one from the American Athletic Conference. You know all of the names, like national championship coaches Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, and Dabo Swinney; household names like Jim Harbaugh, Mark Richt, Bill Snyder, and Chris Petersen; and conference championship coaches like David Shaw, James Franklin.
Some notable names not on the list? How about Jimbo Fisher of Florida State? Fisher has a playoff contender in Tallahassee and is the ACC favorite. He also has a national championship ring. Not having Fisher on a preseason watch list for top coaches seems like a bad oversight. Not having new Big 12 coaches Tom Herman (Texas) and Lincoln Riley (Oklahoma) also feels like a swing and a miss if pulling together a list of potential coach of the year candidates. If we are not going to just list all 130 head coaches in FBS, it seems silly to have such a weird collection of watch list candidates when Butch Jones is on the list.
Five coaches on the watch list are former winners of the Dodd Trophy; Snyder, Petersen, Swinney, Saban, and Paul Johnson. Paul Chryst, Ken Niumatalolo, and Petersen were finalists for the award last season as well.
2017 Dodd Trophy Watch List
- Paul Chryst, Wisconsin
- James Franklin, Penn State
- Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech
- Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
- Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
- Clay Helton, USC
- Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
- Butch Jones, Tennessee
- Gus Malzahn, Auburn
- Jim McElwain, Florida
- Urban Meyer, Ohio State
- Ken Niumatalolo, Navy
- Chris Petersen, Washington
- Mark Richt, Miami
- Nick Saban, Alabama
- David Shaw, Stanford
- Bill Snyder, Kansas State
- Dabo Swinney, Clemson
- Kyle Whittingham, Utah
Alabama head coach Nick Saban, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer are among 16 remaining candidates for the George Munger Collegiate Coach of the Year Award presented by the Maxwell Football Club.
Saban is the only coach from the SEC listed as a semifinalist, and he has never won the award that was first presented in 1989 to Michigan’s Bo Schembechler. Gene Stallings is the only Alabama coach to win the award, doing so in 1992. Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen was the first SEC coach since 1998 (Tennessee’s Philip Fulmer) to win the award, in 2014.
Meyer and Mike Leach are the only semifinalists to previously win the award. Meyer won the award in 2004 at Utah and Leach took the award in 2008 with Texas Tech. Penn State’s James Franklin could become the third Penn State coach to win the award, joining Joe Paterno (1990, 2005) and Bill O’Brien (2012).
The remaining semifinalists for the award are Mike MacIntyre (Colorado), Bobby Petrino (Louisville), Neal Brown (Troy), Ken Niumatalolo (Navy), Scott Frost (UCF), Kyle Whittingham (Utah), Justin Fuente (Virginia Tech), Chris Petersen (Washington), Dana Holgorsen (West Virginia), P.J. Fleck (Western Michigan) and Paul Chryst (Wisconsin).
Finalists for the award will be announced on December 12 and a winner will be named on December 29. The winner will be presented with the award on March 10, 2017 in Atlantic City, New Jersey at the annual Maxwell Football Club Awards Banquet.
Christian Hackenberg created a bit of a stir when he omitted Penn State head coach James Franklin from his announcement confirming he will be passing on his final year in Happy Valley and entering the NFL Draft. Now at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, that was one of the topics of conversation once again as Hackenberg makes his rounds with the media. Hackenberg says there is no friction with his now former head coach at Penn State.
“We’re fine,” Hackenberg said, according to PennLive. “No hard feelings there. I think he’s doing a great job up there in terms of recruiting and getting the program headed in the right direction.”
Franklin previously said he had spoken to Hackenberg about his decision, perhaps easing the tension from the way things looked as Hackenberg was on his way out. Hackenberg’s lack of public thanks to Franklin was viewed as a slap in the face of Franklin during a month that also saw two assistant coaches leave to fill the same position in other programs and a small handful of players opt to transfer for one reason or another. But Hackenberg says there was no ill-will intended.
“It was one of those times where it was really emotional,” Hackenberg said. “It was a decision that was made, and I didn’t have anything written out, so what came to mind was the people I spent a lot of time with and the people that brought me to Penn State. Coach Franklin and I had a conversation in person, and I felt like that was best for our relationship to thank him on a personal level.”
Hackenberg did single out a couple of assistants on Franklin’s staff, including offensive coordinator John Donovan, who was fired after the end of the regular season.
With a small handful of scholarships left to use, Penn State is giving a scholarship to senior Gregg Garrity. Garrity, a former walk-on player and punt returner, was awarded his scholarship Thursday morning.
Garrity’s father, also named Gregg Garrity, was a former wide receiver for the Nittany Lions and a part of the first national championship team coached by Joe Paterno. It was Garrity’s signature catch down the left sideline from Todd Blackledge in the 1983 Sugar Bowl against Herschel Walker and top-ranked Georgia that helped push the Nittany Lions to the first national championship in school history. The younger Garrity may not have the opportunity to provide as memorable a highlight for Penn State, but his hard work and dedication to the program have clearly not gone unnoticed by James Franklin and his staff. Garrity came to Penn State as a walk-on under former head coach Bill O’Brien and has made a case for playing time even if his role is limited.
Garrity returned two punts for nine yards last season. He could be expected to handle more punts this season, although DeAndre Thompkins and Mark Allen — both freshmen last season — could also get special teams assignments. Thompkins returned 23 punts for 178 yards last season to lead the team.
When Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg announced his decision to enter the NFL Draft with a year of eligibility remaining, much was made about the display of public thanks the Nittany Lions’ battle-fatigued quarterback shared. One notable exception was Penn State head coach James Franklin, which led to plenty of hot takes left and right. On Saturday, Franklin was asked about Hackenberg’s departure and lack of public thanks on his way out during a media press conference.
“I’m really happy for Christian and his family, Franklin said. Franklin said Hackenberg actually called Franklin the next day and claimed the two had a great conversation.
The relationship between Hackenberg and Franklin had been a talking point for the past two seasons. After a brilliant display as a freshman under Bill O’Brien, Hackenberg’s development was hindered under Franklin for what turned out to be his final two seasons in Happy Valley. Behind a shallow offensive line, Hackenberg was sacked routinely, leading him to appear to take some steps back in his development. As he enters the NFL Draft mix, scouts will be taking a deeper look at Hackenberg’s skills and determine whether or not the offensive line woes were enough of a factor to hold him back as a sophomore and junior.
As for Penn State’s next starting quarterback, Franklin said there will be an open competition for the job starting this spring. Trace McSorely stepped in to replace an injured Hackenberg in Penn State’s TaxSlayer Bowl loss to Georgia and eventually found a comfort level. That brief time leading the offense gave McSorely a nice confidence boost but is far from enough evidence for Franklin to make a call naming McSorely the starter for 2016.
Franklin also noted he was appreciative of the jobs done by former assistants Bob Shoop and Herb Hand. Shoop, who was Franklin’s defensive coordinator, accepted a job offer for the same role at Tennessee. Hand accepted a lateral move at Auburn.