Dear Andy: Deion Sanders, Luke Fickell and new CFB coach turnaround chances in 2023

The 2022 school soccer season ended Monday — someday in the course of the first quarter, if we’re being sincere — and you have already got questions in regards to the 2023 season…

Which first-year coach do you see being essentially the most profitable or having the most important turnaround in their first yr? — Clay

Everyone taking on a program this offseason faces a excessive bar set by one Daniel Dykes — however you did not know Sonny’s actual first title — after Dykes took TCU from 5-7 to the nationwide title recreation in his first season. Can any of the newcomers put their workforce in the title recreation in 2023? Doubtful. Can some new coaches assist their groups make huge jumps? Absolutely.

The most blatant candidate is Deion Sanders at Colorado as a result of Sanders is taking on a program that went 1-11 (and frankly could not get a lot worse) and infusing it with a degree of expertise it hasn’t had in years. But here is the robust half for Sanders: This might be the very best and deepest Pac-12 we have seen because the age when Pete Carroll’s USC Trojans dominated the game.

In one other yr, merely the addition of Deion’s son Shedeur Sanders at quarterback would sign an enormous bump. But this can be a deeeeeep quarterback league in 2023. USC has returning Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams. Cam Rising, who has led Utah to consecutive Pac-12 titles, is again. Bo Nix returned to Oregon. Michael Penix Jr. returned to Washington. Former Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei has joined an Oregon State workforce that went 10-3 in 2022 and returns almost everybody. Colorado has to play all of these groups besides Washington. Plus the Buffaloes should face the aforementioned TCU on Sept. 2, and they get Nebraska on Sept. 9.

So for those who’re planning on an enormous bounce for Colorado beneath Sanders in Year 1, perhaps ease off the expectations. Winning some video games would signify large progress. Making a bowl can be an incredible achievement. Anything past that’s gravy.

Speaking of Nebraska, Matt Rhule has an opportunity to deliver the Cornhuskers again to bowl eligibility in Year 1. As I discussed above in reference to Colorado, anticipating greater than that proper out of the gate might be asking an excessive amount of. Georgia Tech switch QB Jeff Sims can have an opportunity to take the beginning job in spring apply with incumbent Casey Thompson out recovering from an harm. But as necessary may be the switch portal additions of Arizona State heart Ben Scott and four-year Stanford offensive line starter Walter Rouse. The Huskers want to dam higher, and Rhule and his workers should develop what they’ve — and perhaps seize extra out of the portal — to make that occur.

Nebraska hasn’t performed in a bowl recreation because the finish of Mike Riley’s second season in 2016. The six-win mark is an effective objective for Nebraska.

In one other scenario, I’d in all probability be choosing Hugh Freeze to have an enormous first season at Auburn. Remember, Gus Malzahn took over in 2013 and took a workforce that went 0-8 in the SEC in 2012 to a convention title and a berth in the BCS title recreation. But Gene Chizik had left a fairly stocked cabinet. The Bryan Harsin recruiting philosophy plus the switch losses from two teaching modifications in speedy succession have given Freeze a a lot more durable job on the entrance finish.

Freeze’s tenures at Ole Miss and Liberty counsel that he’ll get Auburn’s roster the place it must be and make the Tigers aggressive in the SEC, which implies they’d be aggressive anyplace. But for a workforce that should play Georgia, LSU and Alabama proper now, it might take a yr or so to get the Tigers right into a aggressive place that may make the fan base blissful. Auburn has been in search of a QB in the switch portal, however do not be shocked if Freeze could make a QB at the moment on Auburn’s roster (Robby Ashford, for instance) appear like a significantly better QB this yr.

The coach who appears to have the very best probability to make a direct affect additionally feels just like the one who might construct the very best long-term program. Luke Fickell is notoriously choosy, so the truth that he popped the hood on Wisconsin and favored what he noticed suggests Wisconsin’s administration is keen to provide him the assets to be aggressive towards the very best of the Big Ten. Not the very best in the Big Ten West, which will not even be a factor after this season. The total Big Ten.

Luke Fickell went 48-15 in 5 seasons at Cincinnati. (Kirby Lee/USA Today)

The Big Ten West continues to be a factor in 2023, and the Wisconsin roster Fickell inherits will likely be much better than the one he inherited at Cincinnati. That one included a younger Desmond Ridder, however the Bearcats wanted critical improvement alongside each strains of scrimmage. Fickell went 4-8 that first yr, however Cincinnati improved to 11-2 in his second.

Fickell would not have as a lot front-end work to do with a Wisconsin workforce that went 7-6 with a pedestrian offense and a good-to-excellent protection. Yes, the Badgers should substitute defensive stars Nick Herbig, John Torchio and Keeanu Benton, however former coordinator Jim Leonhard did a superb job stocking that aspect of the ball, and Fickell is aware of precisely what he is in search of in the switch portal. He’s already grabbed defensive lineman Darian Varner from the portal. Varner was a first-team All-American Athletic Conference choice at Temple final season.

Meanwhile, new offensive coordinator Phil Longo has fully remade the quarterback room. Incumbent starter Graham Mertz is at Florida now. Tanner Mordecai, who’s so outdated that he backed up Kyler Murray as a freshman and Jalen Hurts as a redshirt freshman at Oklahoma earlier than heading to SMU to pile up touchdowns for Dykes and present coach Rhett Lashlee, is the veteran anticipated to start out. Oklahoma switch Nick Evers and Mississippi State switch Braedyn Locke have 4 years of eligibility remaining and appear to be eyeing the QB-of-the-future position. All three come from Texas, the state Longo specializes in recruiting.


Longo brings a radically totally different offense to Madison, however that does not imply he’s unwilling to make use of Wisconsin’s finest assets — its linemen and backs. The hope is that Longo will use backs Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi the identical means he used Javonte Williams and Michael Carter in 2020 at North Carolina. That yr, the Tar Heels averaged 5.8 yards per carry and ran for two,830 yards whereas additionally throwing for 3,617 yards and averaging 10.1 yards per go try. The success of the operating recreation made life simpler for QB Sam Howell, and if Longo can do the identical at Wisconsin, whoever wins the QB job will profit.

In what must be the ultimate yr of divisional play in the Big Ten, the Badgers should face Ohio State (in Madison Oct. 28) however miss Michigan and Penn State. With higher uncooked materials than he had in Year 1 at Cincinnati, Fickell might be able to get the Badgers again to double-digit wins.

Andy, I actually take pleasure in your podcast and began listening final yr when USC began being competent and employed Lincoln Riley. Now after seeing USC’s collapse on the finish of the season together with what I contemplate the worst defensive efficiency I’ve witnessed since I began watching soccer in the mid 2000s in the Cotton Bowl. Thinking about your podcast I got here up with a thought I would like your opinion on. Is USC Beard Iowa? (For non-comic e-book readers, Bizarro is reverse Superman.) Think about it: USC’s protection is unhealthy sufficient however its particular groups had its longest punt finished by Caleb Williams. And let’s not neglect Iowa’s gentleman’s landing of two safeties and a area objective. Side word: Is the Iowa/USC debate additionally the reply to is it extra gratifying to have an elite offense or elite protection? — Richard

Bizarro is certainly Superman’s inverse, however Richard forgets that an enormous portion of the inhabitants remembers the reason of Bizarro and Superman from the basic “Seinfeld” episode “The Bizarro Jerry*.”

And Richard’s evaluation of USC as Bizarro Iowa is spot on.

* This is my private favourite episode of Seinfeld. I lose it each time Kevin (Bizarro Jerry) says “… and this man, we simply name Feldman.” But the A narrative won’t even be the very best in the episode. That episode additionally consists of Kramer pretending to work at an organization to make use of the toilet. It has “Man Hands.” It has George utilizing a photograph of Jerry’s girlfriend to get into an unique membership filled with fashions. It was a tour de power.

We pitied Iowa this season as a result of one aspect of the ball was horrible and the opposite was elite. Meanwhile, we hyped USC many of the season regardless that the Trojans had the identical scenario with the perimeters of the ball reversed.

The loss to Utah in the Pac-12 title recreation and the collapse towards Tulane in the Cotton Bowl shone a brighter gentle on USC’s defensive woes, and I feel we ended the season sharing the identical pity for USC’s offensive gamers as we did for Iowa’s defensive gamers. (And that pity prolonged this week when USC head coach Lincoln Riley mentioned defensive coordinator Alex Grinch can be retained.) But it took the whole season to see what was apparent from the bounce. We had been feeling sorry for Iowa defenders in the course of the season opener towards eventual FCS nationwide champion South Dakota State.

USC ranked 124th in yards per play allowed on protection. (Jerome Miron / USA Today)

This is as a result of most of us assume a workforce with an elite offense at all times has an opportunity and a workforce with a horrible offense by no means has an opportunity. But the inverse is simply as true. An elite protection can generally make up for the ineptitude of an offense equivalent to Iowa’s simply as simply as an offense equivalent to USC’s can rating sufficient to beat a protection that can’t sort out.

As for which is healthier to observe, I’m the unsuitable particular person to ask. I’m sick I watched Iowa video games simply to see if the Hawkeyes’ protection might outscore the Hawkeyes’ offense. I feel the common fan would a lot favor to observe a workforce with an elite offense and a horrible protection as a result of shootouts are typically extra thrilling than rock fights.

Richard’s query is superb, and it brings up one other thought: If you made a workforce consisting of the USC offense and the Iowa protection and had Riley and the Trojans’ offensive workers coach the offense and Iowa coordinator Phil Parker and his workers teaching the protection, might that workforce compete for the nationwide title? The reply in all probability is sure.

A Random Ranking

Tom would love me to rank one-hit wonders. Away we go…

1. “My Own Worst Enemy” — Lit

2. “Let Me Clear My Throat” — DJ Kool

3. “All My Life” — Okay-Ci and JoJo

4. “My Sharona” — The Knack

5. “96 Tears” — ? and the Mysterians

6. “Baby Got Back” — Sir Mix-a-Lot

7. “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” — The Proclaimers

8. “Groove Is In The Heart” — Deee-Lite

9. “Dancing In The Moonlight” — King Harvest

10. “It’s Goin’ Down” — Yung Joc

11. “Ditty” — Paperboy

12. “Tainted Love” — Soft Cell

13. “Whoot There It Is” — 95 South

14. “Not An Addict” — K’s Choice

15. “Come on Eileen” — Dexys Midnight Runners

16. “I Love You, Always Forever” — Donna Lewis

17. “In A Big Country” — Big Country

18. “Sugar, Sugar” — The Archies

19. “867-5309/Jenny” — Tommy Tutone

20. “This Is Why I’m Hot” — MIMS

21. “Supersonic” — JJ Fad

22. “In The Meantime” — Spacehog

23. “Tubthumping” — Chumbawamba

24. “Closing Time” — Semisonic

25. “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” — The Tokens

(Top picture of Deion Sanders: Jayne Kamin-Oncea / USA Today)

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