Earlier today, the NFL announced that the Atlanta Falcons had been chosen as the feature franchise for the 2014 version of Hard Knocks.
While the series has stuck to the NFL for more than a decade after premiering on HBO in 2001, I couldn’t help but wonder which 10 coaching staffs would be the most fun to have the cameras around 24/7 during fall camp.
Now Zach and Scott will have their own opinion, but here’s my take:
Having a camera crew to follow around Les Miles would break every viewership record that Hard Knocks has ever had, and HBO subscriptions would blow through the roof. Combine that draw with the coaches that would pay for an HBO subscription just to get a peek inside of the film room with Cam Cameron and John Chavis, not to mention hearing Frank Wilson work the phones on recruiting calls, and you’ve got yourself a hell of a series.
Craig Bohl was on top of the world the past three seasons at FCS North Dakota State, assembling a dynasty with three straight national titles while rolling through the regular season (and the playoffs in most cases) with dominant performances on offense, defense and special teams. This past off season he decided to take the reigns at Wyoming, and the man knows what it takes to win, so it would be fascinating to take a look how a coach that has seen so much success directs a program that hasn’t won a conference title since 1993.
Ask anyone that knows college football, and they’ll say Kevin Sumlin has one of the hippest coaching staffs in the country. It shows in the way they run practice, the way they recruit, the way they coach and the way they interact with players and their fan base. A young innovative offensive coordinator in Jake Spavital, and an established defensive mind like Mark Snyder running the defensive meeting rooms would make this program flat out fun to watch, regardless of which side of the ball your allegiances fall on.
When you have one of the most explosive offenses in the country over the past few seasons (top two in total offense every year since 2011), and a defense that jumped from 123rd in total defense in 2012 to 27th in 2013, you’ve got my attention. I want to a closer look at how Briles, a former successful high school coach, and his staff run their program.
If there’s one coach that the country as tabbed as the most player friendly in the country, it’s got to be Kliff Kingsbury. He’ll coach you hard and expect a lot, but he also gives you all the opportunity in the world to be successful…and have fun in the process. He assembled his staff with the same thing in mind. Having an all access pass inside this program would show the old school coaches that there’s a new, and effective way to do things, and encourage coaches everywhere to think outside of the box. Kingsbury and his staff would show everyone that there is more than one way to run a major college program, and that it’s okay to have a ton of fun doing it.
This list wouldn’t be complete with Saban and his staff. They’ve experienced an enormous amount of success on the field, and that’s transitioned to their players being coveted by every single NFL head coach, owner, and GM. They coach their guys up, and do it on par with the best in the business. They also recruit their tails off and have a stable of SEC ready guys at every position. If you want to see what success looks like, you’d tune in to see how Saban runs his program. Let’s be honest, they’d probably have enough to justify filming this based on the fanatical ‘Bama fans alone, everyone else would be a bonus.
Any time Mike Leach is in front of a camera for 30 seconds he never fails to provide quality entertainment, so imagine cameras following Leach for all of fall camp. The Air Raid is one of the hottest offenses in the country, and Leach is one of the founding fathers, plus you’ve got Pistol offense guru Jim Mastro, and former Missouri offensive coordinator David Yost all in the same room on the white board and watching film. That alone is enough to get every current, and aspiring coordinator to tune in to figure out how to be more explosive offensive, and defensive guys just want some insight into how to possibly stop teams from chucking it around so successfully in the philosophy that Leach has made his name on.
Winning double digit games is tough. Winning ten games at a perennial basketball powerhouse like Duke had never been done before. This is a program that’s probably never pulled in a top 10 or 20 recruiting class, and the way they win ten games is with a stable of well respected coaches who know how to maximize the talent they have on the roster. Not every program has the bells and whistles, or tradition to woo the best talent, so when you can win games by getting the most out of your players, I want to get a peek at the blueprint.
Call it luck, or call it whatever you want, Auburn made it to the national title game in Malzahn and his staff’s first year because they were able to instill their vision and get their guys to work their tails off. Well, that and they have some players that are really, really good. Malzahn’s offensive scheme is very unique, and anytime you can win games in the SEC with a run game diverse enough to only pass the ball 10 times or less in a handful of league games, you’ve got me impressed. Plus, he’s surrounded himself with a staff that’s a good mix of young talent and established coaches, all of which are even better people.
Aside from being one of the programs with all of the bells and whistles you could ever want, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mark Helfrich and his staff. They run an exciting brand of offense, they’ve always got studs on the defensive side of the ball that can fly around, and they’ve branded their philosophy of “Win the Day” like no other program in the country. Being able to feel like you’re walking the halls of one of the finest facilities in the country has its value but I’m more drawn to being inside of the meeting rooms with first year defensive coordinator Don Pellum, and a run game coordinator like Steve Greatwood. Plus, seeing the wardrobe of running backs coach Gary Campbell on a daily basis has a certain draw as well.