A new college football season is just about here (there will be actual college football played this week), and Miami head coach Mark Richt has plenty to look forward to with the Hurricanes. A show at coaching Miami to its first appearance in the ACC Championship Game is right in front of him, but Richt spent a quick moment on Twitter to extended his best wishes to his former program; the Georgia Bulldogs.
Richt recruited the majority of the players currently on Georgia’s roster, and by all accounts, Richt had as healthy a relationship with Georgia’s players than any coach could hope to have. With that in mind, there is no shock in seeing a coach of one program offer this kind of warm and fuzzy feeling to his former program. This is also not the first time Richt has wished Georgia well under new head coach Kirby Smart. In May 2016, Richt was praised for his classiness toward Smart and Georgia for the upcoming season just months after being fired.
Georgia parted ways with Richt following the 2015 season despite a long and successful tenure as head coach (although without as many SEC titles as some would have liked, and a lack of national title appearances during a run that saw the SEC dominate the BCS era). Richt was quickly hired by Miami, and this season Richt is expected to help lead the Hurricanes forward another step toward national prominence.
If there is a college football god watching from the skies above, then we will be blessed with a bowl matchup between Miami and Georgia. Richt said in December 2015 that he believes the two programs are on a collision course for a national championship.
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
There was a bit of a shock when Georgia decided to move on from former head football coach Mark Richt last year. Richt had been a model of consistency in a profession that sees that becoming more and more a rarity and he did so in a conference bubbling with as much pressure as any conference has from top to bottom. Regardless, it was time to try something new if the goal was to get Georgia over the hump of being a perennial SEC East Division contender and more of an annual SEC championship and College Football Playoff contender.
If the decision were up to him, former Georgia head coach Vince Dooley says he would not have fired Richt. This is something you might expect to hear from the man who brought Richt to Georgia in the first place.
“He had to make to real tough decision in changing coaches,” Dooley said to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, referring to Georgia Athletics Director Greg McGarity and the decision to fire Richt. “Mark Richt, I hired him and, well, you have this loyalty when you hire someone that you’re going to go the extra mile. If I’d have been the athletic director, I probably would have sat down with Mark and said ‘next year is very important,’ and I probably would’ve gone another year with him.”
That’s fair, of course. But it is also worth noting Richt had plenty of time to win more at Georgia and was never able to prove he could for one reason or another. At least, not to the extent others in the SEC have raised the bar during Richt’s tenure. Keep in mind how many SEC programs won SEC titles and national titles during Richt’s tenure at Georgia (Urban Meyer, Les Miles, Nick Saban among them). With all of the resources and the talent pool to recruit from available, it is easy to argue Richt should have accomplished more on the field than he ultimately did. That is not to suggest Richt was a failure at Georgia overall, because that simply would not be true at all. But when you have to compare rings, Georgia was lacking in one critical department.
And don’t think that Dooley is against current Georgia head coach Kirby Smart. On the contrary, Dooley is very optimistic and positive about Smart as the head coach of the Bulldogs.
“He’s got a great background,” Dooley said. “He knows what it takes in this league. He’s a Georgia man. He played here but then he had his training under a guy who is a proven success in Nick Saban. He’s got a good staff and the recruiting has been great. So I really think that the future is really bright.”
Richt didn’t take long to land on his feet once being released by Georgia. Richt was named the head coach at Miami and is already building the Hurricanes up the way he did with Georgia. Entering the 2017 season, Miami appears to be trending upward, and we’ll see if they can keep that theme going for an entire season. In the meantime, we’ll keep dreaming about the possible collision course Richt thinks Miami and Georgia are on.
Miami’s offensive line is losing a key piece up front this coming season. On Monday, the Miami program announced the departure of offensive tackle Sunny Odogwu, a starter at right tackle.
Despite having started 14 games for the Hurricanes, it seems Odogwu is looking for a better opportunity to start with another FBS program.
“Sunny and I had a good conversation, and he informed me that he feels his best opportunity to get the most playing time would be at another school,” Miami head coach Mark Richt said in a released statement. “Sunny has been a great teammate and leader for this program, and we will miss him.”
Odogwu is coming off surgery for a right knee injury late last season. After starting 12 games for the Hurricanes, Odogwu was forced to miss Miami’s bowl game and later was limited in spring practice drills. Odogwu had to undergo surgery for a right knee injury late in the 2015 season as well.
Odogwu has already graduated from Miami, so he will be eligible to play immediately next fall with another FBS program as a graduate transfer. Tyree St. Louis appears to have a stranglehold on the starting job at right tackle for the Hurricanes moving forward after a good showing in the spring.
In his second season as the head coach of the Miami Hurricanes, Mark Richt has some believing this may actually be the time Miami turns a corner and fulfills the expectations place don the program when they joined the ACC from the Big East. Despite a few flashes in the pan with good starts to a season here and there, Miami has long struggled to be the football power the ACC thought it was adding, but could 2017 be different? Former Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya seems to think so.
In Indianapolis for the NFL Combine, Kaaya says he has no regrets over making his decision to turn pro with a year of eligibility remaining at Miami, even though he feels he could have been a part of something truly special with the Miami Hurricanes had he stuck around fo the 2017 campaign. How special? How about College Football Playoff contention?
“I thought of both scenarios, but at the end of the day it was an opportunity that I’ve wanted since I was six years old — to play in the National Football League,” Kaaya said in a story by former college football reporter Joe Schad, who currently covers the Miami Dolphins for Palm Beach Post. “And while I think I could have won a national championship and a conference championship had I stayed at Miami, it’s always been a dream of mine to play in the Super Bowl — and play in an NFC Championship or AFC Championship.”
The thought of Miami winning a national championship may be a bit of a reach influenced by close ties to a program, so you can excuse Kaaya for thinking so highly of the once-mighty Miami program. But he does have faith Richt could be on the verge of getting Miami to stay on the right track.
“I think they’ll be in good hands,” Kaaya said. “Coach Richt will have them back on the right page pretty soon. I think next season they’ll be a playoff contender, no doubt.”
Miami went 9-4 in Richt’s first season with the program, complete with the first bowl victory by the program since winning the 2006 MPC Computers Bowl under Larry Coker. Since that 2006 season, Miami has had four different head coaches (including two interim coaches) before landing Richt and has finished in the AP top 25 just twice. The last time Miami hit double digits in the win column was in the 2003 season, Miami’s curtain call in the Big East that ended with a No. 5 ranking and an Orange Bowl victory. The program has since had to crawl through NCAA issues and has not been able to keep pace with ACC powers Florida State and Clemson and has yet to win one ACC Coastal Division championship.
But hey, maybe this is the year the “Is Miami back” question will be able to be answered affirmatively for more than a month.