Hot Reads:The Next Next-Big-Thing Coach
Photo Credit: Mark Zerof - USA TODAY Sports

Hot Reads:The Next Next-Big-Thing Coach

November 15, 2017

We know who the “next big things” in coaching are. Given the way schools churn through coaches in today’s game, those guys get identified earlier and probably flame out faster. But the way the current G5-to-P5 pipeline works is a coach wins a bunch of games at the former – two or three years of that can be enough – and gets the chance to move up to the latter. 

Sometimes that coach is Urban Meyer (two years at Bowling Green to two years at Utah to Florida) and sometimes that coach is Derek Dooley (three years at Louisiana Tech to Tennessee). That’s a pretty wide range of results, but it seems as nobody has come up with any better way so on and on we go.

The current class of next-big-things seems to have solidified just in time for the next spin on the coaching carousel. Scott Frost is probably the president of the class. Mike Norvell (Memphis) and Chad Morris (SMU) or towards the top of the class. Guys like Seth Litrell (North Texas), Neal Brown (Troy) and Frank Wilson (UTSA) are in the class picture, too.

But if you want to know about the next next-big-thing, turn your attention to Clarksville, Tennessee. As things shake out over the next few weeks and some of the coaches mentioned above move on to bigger jobs, Will Healy, second-year head coach at Austin Peay, is probably going to get his shot to prove himself at the Group of 5 level.

He’s already achieved eye-catching results in the FCS ranks. At the end of the 2015 season, Austin Peay had one win in the previous three seasons and ranked 238th out of the 253 FBS and FCS teams ranked by Sagarin. Enter Healy.

The Governors went 0-11 in 2016 and opened the 2017 season, Healy’s second, ranked in a similar spot in the Sagarin rankings as when he started. He got his first win in his third game this season and Austin Peay is now 7-4 with three losses to FBS teams. The Governors hung with UCF for about a quarter and a half before the Knights did what the Knights currently do and scored 31 second-quarter points on their way to a 73-33 win.

But Healy’s name is starting to get noticed, and has a lengthy interview with him that’s well worth a read. This answer, in response to a question about what advice he’d give a coach in a similar situation, stood out:

If there’s one thing I’ve done right, I’ve hired right. I’ve surrounded myself with people who would not let me fail. They’re all really good friends as well. Our staff is very close. We spend a lot of time together outside of football. Our families are very close. Kids and wives are around all the time, and I think creating that family environment and making sure that everybody is supportive of one another is very important when you’re going through a rebuilding process, for us just a building process.

. . .

The advice I would give is be consistent, love on kids and make sure they understand how much you care about them, and surround yourself with great people. But also, take a job where the values of the administration match up with what you want your program to look like. The great part about my job is I’ve got a president and an AD that are about family, that allow us to treat kids the right way, that allow us to bring values and ethics to our program that we think are important, that are supportive of us, and that will put the resources behind it. This was a gold mine job and I felt that way from the get go.


There’s a lot more of note in that interview. The Frosts and Norvells of the world are getting all of the attention now, but as one class moves on another has to take its place. You’ll find Healy there, and it's always worth checking out what guys like that are about.

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