If you’ve been reading this blog, you probably know that I’ve been tracking the results of the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Awards (and yes, they help sponsor this site). Voting comes to an end tomorrow and it is interesting to see how the coaches are lining up.
According to the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year website, the award goes to the college football coach, “who best demonstrates sportsmanship, integrity, responsibility, and excellence on and off the field.” And while I would normally use this space to plug Coach Tressel (and I will in a minute), I like some of the names falling in place in front if him.
One of the most interesting is Michigan State Coach Mark Dantonio who is currently sixth in the voting. I liked Dantonio when he was at Ohio State. If it wasn’t for him, we may not know the term Tresselball and it was his outstanding defense that lead the Buckeyes to the 2003 National Championship.
The Buckeye D surprised a number of teams that year but none more than Miami. They sacked a Miami quarterback who hadn’t been sacked all year on the first procession and made an increadible goal line stand in overtime to win the game.
As much as I’d like to see Dantonio back at OSU running the defense, I think Michigan State is going to be an interesting team to watch. I’ve been saying since he went up there that Michigan State was going to be a sleeper and this year they started to come to life.
Rodriguez’s struggles at Michigan also open a big opportunity for Dantonio.Espn’s Kirk Herbstreet pointed out a couple of years ago that it was tough to recruit at Michigan State because they sat right between football powerhouses Michigan and Ohio State. As a result, they sort of got second choice. While many are quick to say that Michigan is going through a building year, I think the problems run deeper then that. They have already lost a handful of commitments and the Michigan blogs regularly speculate on which Michigan players won’t be coming back next year (players who are not leaving early for the pros).
If Danatonio takes advantage of the situation at Michigan and picks up some key talent, I think Michigan State will join Ohio State and Penn State as the top three in the Big Ten and put them back in the BCS hunt.
Alabama Coach Nick Saban currently leads the coach of the year voting. I honestly don’t know much about Saban as a coach but I like to see Alabama at the top of the SEC (which naturally allows them to sit at the top of the BCS – it’s one of the many flaws of the BCS system). I don’t know what it is I like about Bama. Maybe it’s just the fact that they’re not Florida.
As for Coach Tressel, one of the points the award looks for is the ability to groom a star athlete while motivating the rest of the team. If that doesn’t describe Ohio State’s 2008 season, I don’t know what does.
Coach Tressel brought the county’s most hyped recruits, Terrelle Pryor, to Ohio State this year. Not only that, Pryor stepped in to replace senior quarterback Todd Boeckman. While Buckeye fans were quick to get frustrated with Boeckman, there are a number of college football teams who would be happy to have a qb like Boeckman leading their team.
Regardless, Tressel somehow managed to take what could have been a mutinous situation and made it work. Not only did the Ohio State seniors support the new freshmen quarterback, Boeckman supported the new freshman quarterback and he did so with class. It had to be a tough situation for Boeckman and when you hear him speak it is obvious he has learned from his coach (as when you hear all Ohio State players speak). I think he’ll make a good pro quarterback if given the chance.
So, I’ve given you a couple of coaches to think about. Voting continues for the next couple of days and you can vote once per day. Tressel is hanging somewhere around 15th so it will take a serious effort from Buckeye nation to move him to the top. I’ll let you decide where to take it from here.