It's quite possible that I have just forgotten, but I don't believe my high school did the "Most Likely to Succeed" thing. If it did, I have no idea who earned the designation.
I have a better chance of remembering the college football version of that designation from 2018 by Ralph Russo of the Associated Press. Not because I think it's "wrong"––who knows right now?––but because Scott Frost is on it, and that's something we'll all be watching closely.
Some of you might think it's already "wrong," however, given that Frost checks in at No. 5 on the list of new hires most likely to succeed in 2018. Here's Russo's short write up:
Few topics fuel the college football content machine like the question: How can Nebraska be fixed? It has been nearly 20 years since the Cornhuskers won a conference title. The Bo Pelini era was the peak of the last 15 years. All that is to say, Frost is taking over a program with adjusted expectations. The job is challenging, but Frost has the highest upside of any coach Nebraska has had since Tom Osborne and what qualifies as success in Lincoln has never been lower.
When I saw that Russo––a writer I admire––had done such a list, my first reaction was, "Jimbo Fisher can't be ahead of Frost here." My standard position on that: Fisher will make A&M better, but he has the highest mountain to climb (the SEC West, and then the conference as a whole) of any of the "major" hires of the offseason. Fisher is not ahead of Frost, he's one spot behind him. First checkpoint reached.
Now let's look at who's ahead of Frost. At No. 4, we have Joe Moorhead of Mississippi State. Yeah, I don't know what to tell you. I like the former Penn State offensive coordinator as much as everyone else does; it's a great hire. Russo notes that Mississippi State fans have realistic expectations and replicating the Dan Mullen era in Starkville would constitute success. I think that's entirely possible. I also think that if that's what Moorhead does we won't really be talking about what a success he's been five years down the road.
Mullen, now at Florida, comes in at No. 3. We're all aware of the Gators built-in advantages being in Florida, but here is a list of the coaches to win a conference title in Gainesville: Steve Spurrier (6) and Urban Meyer (2). Are you putting Mullein in the same class right now? I'm not.
No. 2 is new Florida State coach Willie Taggart and that's a pretty solid pick. If you want to talk about a coach capitalizing on his natural resources, Taggart seems like the guy on this list most likely to do it. He'll get talent. A lot of it. And, given the Seminoles standing in the conference, that will be enough to win a lot of games. Will it be enough to get to the lofty level people have come to associate with Florida State? I don't know because I don't know much about Taggart the coach. He's been a program flipper––go in, make things better, move up the career ladder––as his career 47-50 record indicates. But he's at the top of the ladder now. There's nowhere else to go, and that's a different challenge. I give Taggart the title of "most likely to leave no doubt as to whether he succeeded or failed." The length of that title might be problematic for the students working on photo layout for the Class of 2018 yearbook, but what can you do? It's a problematic space to occupy.
Leading the list is Frost's Oregon mentor, Chip Kelly and UCLA. The Bruins remain a program that everyone knows could be very good, probably should be, but really hasn't been for any extended stretch. At Oregon Kelly had the edge of innovation and relative solitude. The Ducks were becoming a very good program before he got there, but taking it to the next level, the level Kelly reached in Eugene, required a contrarian strategy when it came to recruiting and development. Oregon didn't send out its offers and just wait for the 5-stars to roll in. It recruited at a top-20 level and had a comprehensive program that made those players better in that system. UCLA offers the often dangerous enticement of adding a talent multiplier on top of that if Kelly is able to replicate the football lab he built at Oregon.
The point here is not to say that Frost is too low on the list, though I think that's the case. It's sort of an impossible task because success will always be subjective and vary by program. But it does serve as a look from beyond the Nebraska forest, so to speak. In the Nebraska forest, enthusiasm abounds. The trees are getting healthier, stronger. This natural wonder has already started to recover some of its past glory say the people who check the trees daily with fine instruments meant to measure things down to the millimeter.
On the outside, however, it's still hard to see anything other than just how much was lost in recent years to deforestation. And that's always an interesting juxtaposition.
(For what it's worth: Fellow USA Today reporter Paul Myerberg largely agreed with Russo's ranking on their podcast discussing the topic, but said if he could hire any coach on the list for any job in the country, it would be Frost.)
The Grab Bag
- Really well-done story hear from the Washington State student paper on how the athletic department deficit in recent years has eaten into the university's reserves.
- Jake Trotter writes that West Virginia could have the top offense in college football in 2018.
- Major-league pitchers are lighting up the radar gun with greater regularity, but a fast fastball seems to mean less in this current era.
- ICYMI: Big, big news for Nebraska volleyball as the Huskers added one of the top outside hitters in the country yesterday, and she'll be eligible to play right away in 2018.
Today's Song of Today