Brian Jones is a football analyst for CSTV and CSTV.com. E-mail
Let's see, last year we called this piece `"New Faces In New Places." This year let's try "A Change of Scenery." The annual relocation of coaches has taken shape and spring football is in the air. Here in the state of Texas, where I reside, there were shakeups at three well known institutions: Baylor, Texas A&M and SMU.
Baylor drove east down Highway 6 to find their new man Art Briles, formerly the head coach at the University of Houston. Having called a few Cougars games in the past two years I must admit that Briles is one of my favorites. He's just a straight shooter that has fun with the game and his players. While he enjoys a good laugh, Briles is as competitive and intense as they come. With one of the more innovative offensive minds at the helm, the Bears should win again.
Next is my nemesis: the Texas A&M Aggies. They chose a former NFL head coach and a guy that had coached in College Station once before. Mike Sherman knows the tradition there in Aggieland and from all accounts is a great guy. There's always a ton of talent at A&M and while Sherman may not have his type of players, Aggie faithful should expect immediate success.
The SMU Mustangs closed the door on the era of head coach Phil Bennett in October. I called a few Mustangs games the last couple of years as well and folks, let me tell you, Phil Bennett is the real deal. I could sit around and talk X's and O's, or listen to his football stories, all damn day! It was a hoot to chat with him. Unfortunately, the same could not be said about watching his team play. The Mustangs must get tougher and June Jones now has the responsibility of making that a reality. Jones did a masterful job at Hawaii. That being said, he and the Warriors let me down in the Sugar Bowl versus Georgia - that was my upset special during the bowl season. Now if Jones can get SMU to the Sugar Bowl or any bowl in the next three years I just might pick the Mustangs to win.
Nationally, there were some huge changes for prominent programs. Lloyd Carr stepped down at Michigan. Enter Rich Rodriguez who can flat out coach. He's won at every stop and should transform the Wolverines into a team that does not lose to Division I-AA competition.
My initial alma mater, UCLA, made changes at the top by canning Karl Dorrell and replacing him with a guy that used to throw him passes there in Westwood. Former Bruins QB Rick Neuheisel is a solid coach and will bring some electricity to the Bruins offense. Look out USC, your cross-town rival means business again.
Others that made moves were Arkansas, Mississippi, Nebraska and Southern Mississippi. The Razorbacks snatched up Bobby Petrino who had had enough of the NFL game and its players. Ole Miss pegged Houston Nutt to replace Ed Orgeron. You think Nutt was ecstatic about leaving Fayettenam? After all the scandals the past few seasons, hell yeah! Nebraska got a guy that's understands Husker pride and passion. Bo Pellini will have the Blackshirts fighting mad this upcoming season.
And finally, for the life of me I can't understand why Southern Mississippi fired Jeff Bower. Officially, he resigned. Yeah right. All the man ever did was win and go to bowls. New head coach Larry Fedora better win immediately and often.
So there you have it, just a few of the head coaches that have a change of scenery in 2008.