The term "boomerang generation" is used to describe the hordes of kids that leave their parent's home for college and return as young adults. Like the Australian icon, they go leave, see a bit of the world, and come back home.
In college football, and specifically the Big 12, there's a growing generation of boomerang coaches. They started out as highly successful players, left home either to play professional football, to coach, or in some cases, to do both, and return to their alma mater.
Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy is currently the poster child for boomerang coaches. Gundy played quarterback for the Cowboys from 1986-89 and left school as one of the most decorated players in school history. He remained in Stillwater as a coach until 1995, coached wide receivers at Baylor in 1996, then served as the quarterbacks coach at Maryland from 1997-00. He returned to Oklahoma State as the offensive coordinator in 2001, rose to head coach in 2005 and has led the Cowboys to heights previously unseen, winning the Big 12 and the Fiesta Bowl one season ago.
Another prolific Big 12 quarterback returned home yesterday, as Texas Tech hired former standout quarterback Kliff Kingsbury. The first of Texas Tech's many successful Air Raid quarterbacks, Kingbsury may bring former Red Raiders back to campus. Sonny Cumbie, Texas Tech's starting quarterback in 2004, is currently on staff in Lubbock. Former Red Raiders wide outs Eric Morris and Trey Haverty are currently coaching wide receivers at Washington State and TCU, respectively.
Elsewhere within the conference, Texas recently promoted its own former quarterback, Major Applewhite, to offensive coordinator, and former Oklahoma quarterback Josh just completed his third season calling plays for the Sooners.
Kingbsury, Applewhite and Heupel are all familiar foes. Coaching against each other will just be a continuation of when the trio quarterbacked their schools against one another a decade ago. Heupel completed his Oklahoma career in 2000, Applewhite graudated a year later, and Kingsbury moved on a year after that.
The Big 12 is hardly unique to hiring former players, but the league clearly sees the value in it. While other coaches may just see a job as the next step on the coaching ladder, former players are emotionally invested to help their alma mater succeed. And, as we've already seen in Gundy's case, former players are more inclined to stick around when other schools come calling.
Like boomerang kids, the current crop of boomerang coaches won't stick around forever. Opportunity will come calling with raises and promotions. But, at least for these coaches, it wouldn't happen if not for the chance to return home.
We have learned that Kliff Kingsbury is returning to the South Plains as the head coach at Texas Tech.
The first of Mike Leach's gunslingers at Texas Tech, Kingsbury led the Red Raiders to within one win of playing for the Big 12 Championship in 2002 and departed Lubbock as the most decorated player in school history, holding 39 school records, 13 conference records and seven NCAA records.
Kingsbury spent five years in professional football and began his coaching career as an offensive quality control assistant under head coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen at Houston. Kingsbury was elevated to co-offensive coordinator in 2010 with Holgorsen's departure for Oklahoma State and has experienced nothing but success since.
His 2010 Houston offense ranked fifth in passing offense, 11th in total offense and 14th in scoring offense. A year later, Houston ranked first across the board in each of those categories as the Cougars finished 13-1. Kingsbury was named the 2011 FootballScoop Offensive Coordinator of the Year for his efforts.
Kingsbury followed Sumlin to Texas A&M and found instant success in his star pupil, Johnny Manziel. The redshirt freshman set the SEC single-season total offense record en route to becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. The Aggies ranked 13th nationally in rushing offense, 14th in passing offense, third in total offense and third in scoring offense. He again won FootballScoop Offensive Coordinator of the Year honors for his work at Texas A&M.
In Texas Tech, Kingsbury inherits a team that had college football's second-most prolific passing offense, placed 12th nationally in total offense and 16th in scoring offense. The Red Raiders will lose quarterback Seth Doege to graduation, but redshirt freshman Michael Brewer is penciled in as his replacement. Texas Tech has missed a bowl game only once since Leach's hiring in 2000.
The Texas A&M coaching staff is proud of how their wide receivers preformed this season. Very proud, in fact. So proud they created an 11 minute highlight video featuring their receivers...blocking!
Led by position coach David Beaty, a finalist for the FootballScoop Wide Receivers Coach of the Year award, the Texas A&M receivers did have an outstanding season. In Mike Evans and Ryan Swope, the Aggies were the only team to produce two of the SEC's top six pass catchers. Every receiver in Texas A&M's six-player rotation produced at least 250 receiving yards and one touchdown grab.
But what Beaty, offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury and head coach Kevin Sumlin are most proud of is how physical the Aggies' receivers played. In fact, the first half of the video is nothing but blocks. The Texas A&M coaching staff credited its receiving corps with 92 knockdowns, 90 score blocks and 861 body blows this season. Johnny Manziel's rushing totals are the best evidence of the effort Texas A&M's receivers put into blocking. A quarterback can't run for 1,181 yards and 19 touchdowns without help from his receivers.
Would the people who said that Kevin Sumlin and Kliff Kingsbury's up tempo offense wouldn't work in the SEC please step forward. With the body of work that Sumlin and his offensive staff have put together this season, it's now safe to say that statement could not have been more wrong.
In their first year in the new league, under a new coaching staff with a very different offensive approach, Texas A&M's offense has improved in every offensive statistic since 2011. The Aggies rank in the top 18 in rushing offense (13th - 243 ypg), passing offense (18th - 303 ypg), total offense (5th - 545 ypg) and scoring offense (4th - 43 ppg). All of those stats surpass what they were able to accomplish last season under Mike Sherman and his staff in their fourth season (and they were no slouch on offense last year by any means).
Those numbers aren't far off from what Sumlin and Kingsbury (who was our 2011 FootballScoop offensive coordinator of the year) helped engineer last season at Houston where they led the country in passing offense, total offense, and scoring offense.
When people said that the up tempo, "Air Raid" approach wouldn't work in the SEC, I flashed back to watching Houston play multiple times throughout the 2011 season where I caught myself wondering, "Can anyone stop these guys?"
Kingsbury's offensive success over the past two seasons has hinged on keeping things simple and allowing their guys to play fast, while (most importantly) getting players to play with confidence within the scheme..
“That's by design. We're better off having 11 guys knowing what to do on offense and the guys we're playing against knowing what we're going to do, than having two or three guys (on offense) knowing exactly what we're going to do and it being real fancy or complicated.” Sumlin explained to the Houston Chronicle.
Sumlin also noted that the logic behind being with players for just 20 hours a week factored into their offensive scheme, as opposed to tyring to install and execute a complicated pro style scheme. They don't hand out a playbook, instead they focus on perfecting a handful of plays that players easily remember and can eventually execute in their sleep.
"In the NFL, there's a lot more time. You have to use your time wisely, and it's hard to do that with a real thick playbook."
The staff believes that if you can get your guys to play fast without analyzing things, you'll end up with a better product on game day, which is something that Kingsbury learned firsthand playing under Mike Leach.
"It's a belief that if you can get them to play faster and not think as much and let them use their natural abilities the best they can, then you're going to have a better product. We'd have so many repetitions, and he (Leach) would say, 'They're going to know it's coming, and they're still not going to be able to stop you.'"
That feeling of confidence on the field as a player is extremely empowering, and that makes calls a whole easier to to make from the sideline when you've got really good players executing with confidence.
In the coming weeks and months a new crop of assistant coaches should have the opportunity to become first-time head coaches. A group of successful assistant coaches that could graduate to head coaching positions in the not-too-distant future includes Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart (36), Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier (41), Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell (39), Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman (37), Ohio State defensive line coach Mike Vrabel (37), Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris (43), Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich (39), Texas offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin (35), Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury (33) and Texas Tech offensive coordinator Neal Brown (31). Jason Gesser (33), the interim head coach at Idaho, is also in close proximity to a full-time head coaching job.
The problem with those names, according to some, is that they're too young. As in "not old enough to run for president" young in some cases.
But the question we have at FootballScoop is, is age really a valid concern?
Over the weekend we took a look at the youngest FBS head coaches, and our results indicate that the 40-and-under crowd is winning in a big way.
Overall, that group is 67-42 (.615) this season. If you consider that Fuente and McGee are in their first seasons in situations where Vince Lombardi would struggle to win, the record improves to a stellar 64-27 (.703).
Expand the criteria to coaches in their early-40's and the youth movement looks even stronger.
As a whole, this group is 49-21 (.700). Coupled with the group above and young head coaches enjoy a composite 116-63 (.648) record.
In college football, winning begins with recruiting better players than your opponent. With that in mind, imagine you are a 16-year-old recruit. Who are you more likely to relate to, a 35-year-old coach or a 65-year-old coach?
The success of young head coaches are having so early in their careers has to be making athletic directors across the country asking themselves if youth is really a bad thing.
The Colorado School of Mines (D-II) head coach is known in coaching circles as one of the most innovative offensive minds at any level of college football. His offensive strategies are highly regarded by guys like Mike Leach, Dana Holgorsen, Hal Mumme, Sonny Dykes, and Kliff Kingsbury. That's some pretty good company.
"When he turns the film on he thinks everything's open. As an offensive coordinator, that's the mindset you have to have. To him, there's never a play covered, and that's good. You've got to think you're unstoppable." Kliff Kingsbury explains in the article.
Stitt has taken the Colorado School of Mines from a program that many thought couldn't win, to a national title contender that is consistently one of the most explosive offenses in the country. The Orediggers are currently sitting at 6-3 and are poised for their 11th winning season in Stitt's 13 years.