September 21st, 2014

Pogue’s Ponderings: Football coaches are more upwardly mobile than ever

by Greg Pogue

Football trends are fun to watch.
In football coaching, there is an uprising brewing from the inner ranks, where high school coaches quickly move into major college jobs, and college coaches have never looked more attractive to the NFL.

Sat watching Saturday while Ole Miss beat Pittsburgh in their bowl game in Birmingham and couldn’t help but be amazed at how it was just six years ago that Rebels coach Hugh Freeze was coaching high school football and girls basketball at Memphis Briarcrest Christian School.

After just one year of college head coaching experience last year at Arkansas State, Freeze got serious consideration this year for Southeastern Conference coach of the year. Nobody thought the Rebels would finish this season with a winning record and bowl victory.

It’s similar to Guz Malzahn’s rise from the prep football ranks in Springdale, Ark., where he catapulted into offensive wizardry status and assistant jobs at Arkansas and Auburn, the latter of which he helped guide to the national title a few years back.

Like Freeze, Malzahn spent one year as head coach at Arkansas State before becoming Auburn’s new coach last month. It will be interesting to see how his spread offense works in the SEC West. It did Texas A&M’s offense quite well this season, now didn’t it?

It is neat to watch the clamoring of NFL teams to hire Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, who has reportedly spurned NFL head coaching job offers to remain at Oregon. His offense could well revolutionize the NFL, where sprinklings of what can happen has been exhibited by Washington quarterback R.G. Griffin III and Carolina QB Cam Newton.

Count Patriots coach Bill Belichek among those who have sought Kelly’s input on the offensive stylings of wide-open attack.  Guess where Kelly was coaching six seasons ago? New Hampshire, where he was offensive coordinator before taking a similar gig at Oregon for two seasons and then the top job at one of the top college football programs in the country without any previous
head coaching experience.

Locally, former Riverdale football coach Gary Rankin was asked many times why he didn’t move into college football. Commitment to excellence at Riverdale and now at Maryville High makes his enshrinement into the TSSAA Hall of Fame a given. Rankin could have been upwardly mobile professionally, but chose otherwise.

And over at the local university, MTSU football coach Rick Stockstill could have entered the coaching carousel a few years back when he turned down jobs at East Carolina and Memphis. At those schools, you either move on to next best job or get fired.

Greg Pogue is host of the Wendy’s First Quarter on 102.5 The Game ESPN Radio Nashville. Contact him at


Photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

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