Bigtime Big 12 turnover with 4 new head coaches this spring
By STEPHEN HAWKINS AP Sports Writer
Never before has the Big 12 had such a big turnover in head football coaches. Not even when the conference had more teams.
Four of the 10 Big 12 teams went through spring drills with new coaches. They still have more time to get acclimated before the league’s 24th season opens in just over four months.
The two new coaches in the Sunflower State — Les Miles at Kansas and Chris Klieman at Kansas State — both have won national championships, though at different levels. After six seasons at Utah State, Matt Wells took over at Texas Tech and Neal Brown has taken over at West Virginia.
“All very quality coaches and deserving of their jobs, and it will be an interesting year,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “We’ve been in a pattern in our league where we knew each other really well for a number of years, so this will throw a little curveball to everybody in the league for a couple of years.”
Gundy, the former Cowboys quarterback going into the 15th season coaching his alma mater, has been in the Big 12 the longest. While Gary Patterson will be in his 19th season at TCU, the Horned Frogs were in different leagues his first 11 years.
After all the turnover, Gundy and Patterson are the only coaches who have been in the Big 12 longer than fourth-year Iowa State coach Matt Campbell.
“Yeah, that’s certainly hard to imagine,” Campbell said. “I remember how intimidating for me it was walking into the first Big 12 meetings. … It certainly has changed, and the dynamic in the room has certainly changed tremendously over the last couple of years.”
There were no new coaches last season, after the 2017 debuts of Lincoln Riley as Oklahoma’s coach, Tom Herman at Texas and Matt Rhule at Baylor. In the 15 seasons the league had 12 teams (1996-2010), there were three coaching changes in the same year only twice.
“It’s always good for a league to have new blood come in, new ideas,” Patterson said. “Now we have to get used to the new coaches and what they do and how they do things and their teams.”
At 79 years old, Bill Snyder retired for a second time after winning 215 games in 27 seasons at Kansas State. Klieman replaced him after leading North Dakota State to its fourth FCS championship in his five seasons as head coach after being part of three other titles as defensive coordinator there.
Miles, Oklahoma State’s coach from 2001-04 before replacing Nick Saban at LSU, succeeds the fired David Beaty at Kansas. Miles is now the Big 12’s oldest coach at 65, returning to coaching for the first time since getting fired after a 2-2 start in 2016 at LSU, where he was 114-34 and won the 2007 national title.
Wells went 44-34 at Utah State , his alma mater, before taking the Texas Tech job.
“It’s been a great fit,” Wells said. “The biggest thing for us is I’m going to be me and we’re going to be us.”
Texas Tech was 35-40 in six seasons under Kliff Kingsbury, who after had a short-lived gig as Southern Cal’s offensive coordinator before getting hired as coach of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals.
The 39-year-old Brown is a former Texas Tech offensive coordinator who went 35-16 with three bowl wins the last four seasons as coach at Sun Belt Conference school Troy. He took over at West Virginia after Dana Holgorsen left suddenly to become Houston’s coach.
Texas wrapped up Herman’s third season as the Big 12 runner-up and got its 10th win of the season against SEC runner-up Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
“This year’s team can learn a lot of lessons from last year’s team, good and bad,” Herman said. “But last year’s team will never be referred to as we or us. We didn’t win the Sugar Bowl last year. That was last year’s team. We are the 2019 team, and we have a lot of work to do.”
BACK ON OFFENSE
Tom Manning is back as Iowa State’s offensive coordinator after one season on staff with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts. Manning gets an offense with all five linemen returning, and quarterback Brock Purdy after he rose from third string to lead Iowa State to seven wins in nine games with the most efficient passing season in school history. Gone are 1,000-yard receiver Hakeem Butler and 1,000-yard running back David Montgomery.
John Lovett, Baylor’s leading rusher as a sophomore last season, could become one of the Bears’ primary defensive backs. Rhule said the plan is to “use his skill set on both sides of the football, primarily as a defensive player. I think he has a long future ahead on defense.” With senior running back JaMycal Hasty healthy, the Bears need more help at safety than they do at running back. But Rhule said Lovett would be an elite running back in red zone, short-yardage and goal-line situations.
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