By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer
Have you ever had a pair of old jeans that you just loved? They fit perfect and were so comfortable that you always put them on first. After a few years they started to get a little frayed but they still fit great. Then one day you came home from work and went to the closet to put on your jeans. No jeans in the closet. You ask your wife ” Honey, where are my favorite jeans?.” She says” those old things – I gave them away and upgraded your wardrobe.” You stood there in shock and unbelief.
Well unfortunately that same scenario happens in the college coaching circles. Head coaches – in an effort to improve their situation – sometimes “release” assistant coaches because they would like to “upgrade” their team’s performance. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Take the Tennessee Volunteers for example. Current UT Head Coach Butch Jones inherited a defense – from former Tennessee Head Coach Derek Dooley – that gave up an average of 35 points per game in 2012. Jones brought in John Jancek as Defensive Coordinator and year-over-year the Tennessee defense improved from giving up 35 points per game – 108th in the country in 2012 – to 20 points per game – 17th in the country in 2015.
Unfortunately for Jancek at this point Butch Jones decided he wanted to “upgrade” his staff. Out goes Jancek. In comes Bob Shoop – high powered defensive coordinator from Penn State. Unfortunately for Butch Jones – like the new jeans in your closet – the “upgrade” wasn’t very comfortable. The 2016 UT defense – under Shoop – gave up 29 points per game and finished 68th in the country. Tennessee finished tied for second in the SEC East- with Georgia and UK – and received a trip to the Music City Bowl. Sounds good except Tennessee had been picked as the preseason favorite to play for the SEC Championship against the winner of the SEC West and a potential trip to the College Football Playoffs. Not much of an “upgrade”.
What does all this have to do with Kentucky Football? Plenty. Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops recently hired Jancek to be an off-the-field analyst for UK. That means he will provide support in areas that don’t require on-the-field coaching. Why is that important? Because now – on the UK staff- Stoops has three coaches that have experience at the Division I level as defensive coordinators. That gives UK so much more experience on the defensive side of the ball. To know you have on-the-field coaches like Steve Clinkscale and Dean Hood – both former defensive coordinators at Cincinnati and Wake Forest respectively- and Matt House – former defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh – as your current D.C. while you have an off-the-field analyst like Jancek – with his credentials and experience – supporting the team from an evaluation and strategy development standpoint can make a huge difference in how the defensive schemes are developed, set up and adjusted during the games.
When a head coach can get that type of talent on a coaching staff – and keep it intact – he has a recipe for success that is hard to beat. And if a coach from the staff happens to leave in the future the head coach still has an off-the-field coach that can step in and take the open spot to maintain the team’s continuity. Like developing depth for players – head coaches also need to develop depth among their coaching staff. It looks like Mark Stoops is doing just that. And getting great coaching support at the same time. Now that is an “upgrade” we can get excited about.