Yesterday we started a new daily feature called the Daily Dose, in which the FootballScoop staff fires off with an individual opinion on one question per day.
Today’s question: Who is the most underrated head coach in the country heading into 2015?
Scott’s choice: Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald
As the owner of FootballScoop for about seven years now, I’ve had the good fortune of meeting many, if not most, all the head coaches across the country and there are plenty that I would be excited about sending my own kids to go play for, but one of the absolute best young guys in the profession is Coach Fitz at Northwestern.
Fitz was thrust into the job at an early age and has done nothing but get better as a head coach, despite having to deal with certain political situations that come along with being the head coach at a place as academically prestigious as Northwestern. Fitz has done extremely well handling those unique situations, in addition to handling all of the on the field stuff that come with being a coach in the Big Ten.
Fitzgerald is also universally respected by current and former players, teammates, and coaches he has coached with and against, which is increasingly rare in college football today. Being such a high academic institution, located in the heart of Big Ten country, Fitz has been a tremendous leader of Northwestern athletics and, in my opinion, he doesn’t get the credit he deserves.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Pete Lembo as another coach who I also strongly consider underrated heading into 2015. Lembo is a tremendous teacher and mentor of young men, and I have no doubt he’ll be an outstanding head coach in the decades to come.
Doug’s choice: Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill
Before Jerry Kill and his staff resurrected the Minnesota program, the Golden Gophers were a mere afterthought in the larger Big Ten picture. Now, just five years after taking over, Kill has led the program to back-to-back 8-5 seasons and three straight bowl games – and that’s only a small part of the reason I think he’s the most underrated coach in the country heading into 2015.
The staff that Kill has put in place also played a large role in my selection of him. After missing (or being limited) to a few games the last few seasons as he battled health issues, defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys stepped into the acting head coach role and the team never skipped a beat. Many of Kill’s assistants have been with him a decade or longer, and that doesn’t happen unless everyone is one the same page.
As a head coach, you’re only as good as the men you surround yourself with, and Kill has surrounded himself with guys that his players believe in, that can coach alongside the best of them, and most importantly, all of them are also good people.
— Chris Hawthorne (@CHawthorne36) April 21, 2015
Zach’s choice: Rice head coach David Bailiff
I said it a week ago, but it bears repeating: David Bailiff is a coaching wizard. The man coaches at a private school in a pro sports town – and when Houston does turn its attention toward the college game, his Owls must stand in line behind the Big 12, the SEC and the Cougars across town. Rice is an outlier in its own conference, a small, private school in a league otherwise filled with large, public schools. Rice benefits from perhaps the most fertile recruiting soil in the country, but he must compete with 11 other in-state FBS programs plus cherry-pickers from the SEC and Big Ten. His stadium is also the wrong kind of historic.
And yet, all the man does is win. Bailiff has led the Owls to three straight bowl games, a feat never before accomplished in school history. In fact, Rice had only posted one run of back-to-back bowl trips in school history before his current run, way back in 1960-61. Rice is 25-15 over the past three seasons with one Conference USA championship and two bowl victories. And it doesn’t hurt Bailiff is a well-respected, well-liked coach that runs a clean program off the field.