As the 2013 season quickly approaches, fans have seen preseason articles about depth charts, player battles, injuries, transfers, and what opponent will be the biggest challenge of the year. We wanted to dig a bit deeper, and take a look at the actual coaches that the Irish will be facing this year. See what they bring to the table, how they got there, and what we like about them. There are some new faces in new places, and some old favorites that litter the 2013 schedule, and they should make the upcoming season a fun and memorable one.
Temple – Matt Rhule(1st Year Coach)
At the relatively young age of 38, the man from State College, Pennsylvania is getting his first chance to be a head coach. Spending the his previous 14 years in various assistant positions with schools such as Albright, Western Carolina, Buffalo, and Temple, it was the Owls who would finally offer him the head coach position in 2013. After spending one year as the offensive line coach for the New York Giants, Rhule decided to head back to Temple, where he spent 6 years as an assistant under former head coach, Al Golden.
Rhule is taking over a program that seemingly was on the rise under former coaches Al Golden and Steve Addazio, but in 2012 ,the Owls went 4-7 in their return to the Big East Conference.
- Record at Temple – N/A
- Record vs. Notre Dame – N/A
- What we know about him – Rhule has definitely put in his time as an assistant, now can he do it as the man in charge? We are not sure time served though will translate into a positive experience at Temple, for either side.
Michigan – Brady Hoke(2011-Present)
A former linebacker at Ball State University, Brady Hoke is widely known as a person you want as head coach if your program is dire need of a positive change. After spending 20 years as an assistant in one form or another, the former Cardinal was given the chance “to come home again” He was hired as head coach at his Alma Mater, and in 2008 promptly led the Cardinals to a 12-1 record, and their highest ranking ever in the AP poll(#12) In the same year, Hoke would leave Ball State and take over the failing program at San Diego State. In 2010 he would lead the Aztec program to its very first 9 win season, and a victory over Navy, in the Poinsettia Bowl.
The failed Rich Rodriguez experiment ended in Ann Arbor in 2011, and the powers that be would look to bring in a former Michigan man, and did just that in the likes of Brady Hoke(UM Assis. 1995-2002) In his first year, Hoke would lead the Wolverines to an 11-2 record, and 23-20 victory over Virginia Tech in the All-State Sugar Bowl. While at Michigan, Hoke has done an outstanding job of recruiting, as he has finished with the #5 and #7 classes over the last two years. Hoke caused some controversy earlier this year, when speaking in front of a group of Michigan supporters, claimed the Irish were “chickening out” of the two teams long-standing rivalry. While he later tried to explain his comments, Irish fans would have none of it.
- Record at Michigan – 19-7
- Record vs. Notre Dame – 1-1
- What we know about him – Great recruiter, and has a true love for the game and his school. Other than small lack of respect for the Irish program, we actually like what Hoke has done up in Ann Arbor – a lot.
Purdue – Darrell Hazell(1st Year Coach)
After being an assistant with Ohio State from 2004-2010, Hazell is making his way back to the Big 10 Conference, only this time as a head coach. Compiling a record of 16-10 in his two years at Kent State, in the same position, Hazell takes over a Purdue squad that’s cupboard is somewhat bare – at least when it comes to experience. Losing their top 2 quarterbacks, their leading rusher, and their top defensive player, Hazell will look to implement the same pro-style offense in West Lafayette, as he did with the Golden Flashes.
Hazell’s squad focused on defense and turnover ratio on their way to a 11-3 record in 2012, and a trip to the GoDaddy.com bowl, and will likely have to take the same path in 2013. While the boilermakers have some tools, they are young, inexperienced, and will need time to develop. The firing of former Boilermaker coach Danny Hope seemed a bit premature last year, but Hazell understands the game, and understands how to get the most out of his players.
- Record at Purdue – N/A
- Record vs. Notre Dame – N/A
- What we know about him – Understands his teams strengths and weaknesses, and plans accordingly. Hazell has tough road ahead, and hopefully the powers-that-be at Purdue, understand this(they didn’t before)
Michigan State – Mark Dantonio(2007-Present)
Entering his 7th year as Spartans head coach, Dantonio has firmly made his mark on the Michigan State program. Known best for his ability to draw the most out of his players, the crusty veteran from Zanesville, Ohio will have to rely on that even more this year. Dantonio is hoping to replace a lot of production on offense in 2013, as the losses of running-back Le’Veon Bell and tight-end Dion Sims will surely hurt. He and his staff will have to rely on star linebacker Max Bullough and the Spartan defense, if they have plans to stay competitive in the BIG 10 this year.
When Irish fans think of Michigan State, there are more than a few thoughts that come to mind, and one of those would be the fake field goal that Dantonio called in 2010 to beat the Irish. Aaron Bates took the snap for the field goal and promptly hit Charlie Gantt wide open for a 29 yard touchdown, and 34-31 Sparty win in OT. It’s this type of play, and the fact that Dantonio has done very well against the Irish in his tenure in East Lansing, that cause Irish fans to cringe when they hear his name.
- Record at Michigan State – 51-28
- Record vs. Notre Dame – 3-3
- What we know about him – He is tough, gritty, and has the fortitude to call plays like the fake field goal against the Irish. Dantonio tends to rely on system recruiting, and perennially acts like the little brother to Michigan because of that.
Oklahoma – Bob Stoops(1999 – Present)
Affectionately known as “Big Game Bob” by the college football world, Stoops enters 2013 with a good team, but not a great one. The Sooners are replacing their starting quarterback, but return their leading rusher and best receiver. Oklahoma should be strong on the offensive line, but only return 4 starters on the defensive side of the ball. With all that said though, if one looks at the schedule, they should really only be challenged in three games – tops.
Fan’s can complain all they want about Stoops possibly losing his effectiveness in Norman, because of his time spent there, but his squad’s have finished in the AP top 15 for eleven of the last fourteen years, he has been the head coach. While we agree that the Sooners over the last five years, are not the same Sooners that fans saw over Stoop’s first 6 years, they are still a very good team and he is still a good coach. Irish fans will be quick to point that Oklahoma is 1-9 against their team all time, and that the Sooners have not won since 1956.
- Record at Oklahoma – 149-37
- Record vs. Notre Dame – 0-2
- What we know about him – Unfaltering loyalty to the Sooner program, and always has a top 15 squad. The only problem as of lately is he seems to get less out of his players as his tenure at Oklahoma grows longer.
Arizona State – Todd Graham(2011 – Present)
Graham seems to have started off on the right foot in the valley of the sun after his first year, as the Sun Devils compiled 8 victories, and a 62-28 win in the Kraft Fight Hunger bowl. The ASU squad won 8 games for the first time since 2007, and won the last 3 games of the year for the first time since 1978. On defense, Graham has most of the components back that was ranked in the top 40 in 2012, and of the offensive side of the ball, they return running back Marion Grice, quarterback Taylor Kelly, and their leading receiver in Chris Coyle.
All Irish fans are aware that Notre Dame will play Arizona State in Cowboys stadium on Oct 5th, and most should be aware that this game is a very dangerous one. The Sun Devils have speed to burn, and Graham understands how to utilize it. The Sun Devils do a great job of throwing down field, looking underneath, and mixing in the run when an opponent least expects it.
- Record at Arizona State 8-5
- Record vs. Notre Dame – 0-1
- What we know about him – Graham understand the types of players he has, and game-plans around them very well. Graham is still using former coach Dennis Ericson’s kids for the most part, now he has to prove he can do it with his – and we think he will.
USC – Lane Kiffin (2010 – Present)
Born the Son of legendary defensive coordinator, Monty Kiffin, Lane started his coaching career at Fresno State University as assistant coach. He would eventually join USC for the first time, as former Trojan head coach Pete Carroll would bring him aboard as the tight-ends coach, wide receiver coach, and finally as offensive coordinator. After a failed stint as head coach on the NFL with the Raiders, Kiffin would eventually make his way back to the college ranks, as the University of Tennessee’s head coach. As seem to so common in Kiffin’s coaching career, his time as the Vol’s coach would be short lived. After just one season(and many failed-promises and problems) Kiffin would be lured back to USC to fill the vacant position of head coach.
In his time with USC, Kiffin has had more problems than success, and many feel like he is a lame-duck coach, and will be let go as soon as the sanctions are lifted from the NCAA’s ruling of “lack of institutional control”. Although his success has been hampered severely by limited scholarships, his tenure at USC has been anything but a positive one. In 2012, Kiffin became the first coach since 1964(USC also) to take a pre-season #1 to unranked by the end of the season.
- Record at USC – 25-13
- Record vs. Notre Dame – 1-2
- What we know about him. Kiffin is seemingly hated by every team he has coached for, or against. He has caused some sort of controversy wherever he has coached, and seems to leave the program worse off after his departure, than before he got there. He still does a decent job of recruiting(even with the limitations), but we wonder how much of that success is a residual effect from the Carroll years.
Air Force Falcons – Troy Calhoun(2007-Present)
If anyone was meant to coach the Air Force Falcons, it is current coach Troy Calhoun. A former Falcon quarterback(85-88) and assistant(89-94) Calhoun left the Falcon program to be an assistant with the Ohio Bobcats and Wake Forest, and had two stints in the NFL as an assistant with the Broncos, and offensive coordinator with the Houston Texans. He returned to Colorado Springs in 2007, and has been a fixture there since.
Irish fans surely remember the 41-24 drubbing in South Bend during the 2007, unless you have found a way to block that 3-9 season out of your mind(if so, congrats) Even in 2011, although Notre Dame handled the Falcons rather easily, Calhoun’s team would never quit, and we are sure they won’t this year either.
- Record at Air Force – 47-31
- Record vs. Notre Dame – 1-1
- What we know about him – Has only had one losing season(2012 6-7) during his six years as the Flacons head coach, as has been to a bowl game every year. Calhoun is a good coach, but his Air Force squad has only defeated one top 25 team during his tenure(#25 Houston – 2009)
Navy Midshipmen – Ken Niumatalolo(2007-Present)
A former Navy assistant , now turned head coach, Niumatalolo has done a fine job of carrying on where former coach Paul Johnson(Georgia Tech) left off. In fact, it is highly likely that Niumatalolo will become the winningest head coach ever at Navy within the next two years, as long as he averages just 8 wins a season. During his time with Navy, Niumatalolo is 2-4 against the AP top 25, but nearly beat #6 Ohio State(31-27) in Columbus in 2009, and almost did it again playing at #11 South Carolina(24-21) in 2011.
Few coaches have been a thorn in the side of the Irish program, like Niumatalolo has been. Granted over the last years two, his squad has given up 106 points to Notre Dame, while only scoring 20, but that doesn’t erase the consistent success his teams have had over his six years against the Irish.
- Record at Navy – 40-26
- Record vs. Notre Dame – 2-3 (Paul Johnson was head coach for Navy’s win over Notre Dame in 2007, before leaving and being replaced by Niumatalolo for the bowl game)
- What we know about him – Has a vision for each and every opponent, and conveys that vision to his players very well. Niumatalolo is basically still running the same offense as he did under Paul Johnson, but if it’s not broke, why fix it?
Pittsburgh – Paul Chryst(2012-Present)
If there has ever been a coach who has earned his position, Chryst would be that man. Chryst has over 21 years of experience as some form of an assistant in the NCAA, the NFL, and CFL. The 2nd year coach will lead the Panthers into their inaugural year of ACC play, and experience trial by fire, as they open up with Florida State. The offensive minded coach will be put to the test early on, as his Pitt Squad lost their starting quarterback and top running-back from last year, but return a trio of linebackers who missed the majority of the 2012 season due to injury.
Regardless of how good or poorly the Panthers are playing in a given year, they always seem full of All-Americans when they play the Irish. In 2012, the Chryst led Panthers pushed the undefeated Irish into 3 TO’s and came within a Kevin Harper missed 33 yard field goal from beating the Irish in South Bend.
- Record at Pittsburgh – 6-7
- Record vs. Notre Dame – 0-1
- What we know him – Most “experts” were sure he was bolting to Wisconsin last year, except they forgot to check with Chryst himself. He has been everywhere, and now is his time to make his mark as the leader of program. The only issue we have right now with Chryst In his short tenure as Pitt head coach, his team tends to play to the level of the competition.
BYU – Bronco Mendenhall(2005-Present)
During Mendenhall’s time with the Cougars, his team(s) have had plenty of success, but no victory stands out like the 2009 opening week victory over the # 3 ranked Sooners. Though they have not had one like that since, but that doesn’t diminish what he has done in Provo. What is even more impressive though, is that when Mendenhall took over for former Cougar coach Gary Crowton, BYU was in the midst of 3 consecutive losing seasons – that haven’t had one since. Did we mention that under Mendenhall, the Cougars are 6-2 in bowl appearances?
We hate to keep bringing up stressful situations for Irish fans from 2012, but the BYU game was definitely one of those. After being down 14-7 late in the 3rd, the Irish put up 10 points and held the BYU offense scoreless, to win 17-14. As reserved and controlling as Mendenhall is, he is equally as competitive. When the Cougars visit South Bend again on November 23rd, we know this – Mendenhall will have his team as prepared as possible, and the Irish should be ready for another 12 rounder.
- Record at BYU – 74-29
- Record vs. Notre Dame – 0-2
- What we know about him – If you play or coach under Mendenhall, it’s either his way or the highway, and if you’re not onboard, he will gladly show you the exit ramp. Always incredibly stoic and reserved on the sidelines, it would be nice to see some emotion out of him once in awhile(Not really a bad thing though)
Stanford – David Shaw(2011-Present)
A veteran assistant in the NFL, Shaw cam to Stanford when former coach Jim Harbaugh called in 2007. Once Harbaugh made the jump to the NFL with the 49ers, Shaw was picked rather unexpectedly, as least to outsiders, to fill the shoes of one the most popular coaches in Stanford history. All Shaw has done since taking over is go 23-4, and has done so with many of the pieces from the Harbaugh years no longer contributing. Throw in back-to-back trips to BCS bowl games in his first 2 years, and Shaw has done about all he can do to create his own legacy in a short period of time.
The Irish and their fans actually owe Shaw a bit of gratitude from last year, as they did the unthinkable. Shaw took his Stanford team into Eugene, and beat the mighty Ducks, who many claimed were the best team in the country, and stopping their offense was an impossibility. Shaw and Co. will host the Irish this year on national television in prime-time, and Fox Sports is hoping this game will be every bit as good as the classic that took place in South Bend last year.
- Record at Stanford – 23-4
- Record vs. Notre Dame – 1-1
- What we know about him – Shaw’s teams play tough, smart football, and never beat themselves. Shaw has done an exceptional job in every facet of the game, and we do not see that changing anytime soon. We have no reason not to like Shaw at this point, unless of course he beats the Irish this year in the final week.
The 2013 season should have as many thrills and as much excitement as last year, and these opposing coaches will be part of it. We may not know everything these coaches bring to the table, but we do know this – every coach on this list is going to have their team absolutely ready and treat that game against the Irish as if it was the national title game. The Irish are one of the teams in college football that seemingly get every teams “best effort” on any given Saturday, and Irish fans, players, and coaches know this – and they are ready for it.