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Get To Know Your New Coaching Staff: Curtis Luper

Coach Luper has mentored a lot of big names and comes in with a sterling recruiting reputation. Let’s see how much of that reputation has been earned.

Overall, the Drinkwitz coaching staff skews fairly young. Coach Drink himself is only 36 and six of the ten assistants are under 40. I do enjoy a young, hungry staff wanting to prove themselves, but it’s also a good idea to sprinkle in some experienced hands who have some sort of experience in the conference or at the position they are in charge of. Enter: Curtis Luper. Coach Loop has 24 years of coaching experience, 19 of those with running backs and 11 as a recruiting coordinator. Perusing his bio on the official website, there’s a LOT of talk about his recruiting successes, mainly at Auburn (of course) and the various Top 25 rankings that Rivals has bestowed upon him. Knowing what we all know now and should understand and come to terms with in regards to recruiting and the inevitable black market that it creates, most coaches don’t rely on or pay much attention to recruiting ranks of the actual recruiters. But it’s always a comforting thing to play up for any new fan base, and of course every coach is going to claim responsibility for any all-conference/American/NFL Draft pick they had a hand in recruiting (as they should). So let’s take a look at Coach Loop’s history and find out a little more about what he’s been able to do over these 24 years.

Coach Luper’s Coaching History

Coach Loop has had a lot of special teams coordinating experience as well, but he’ll probably leave that responsibility to Coach Link. He’s also almost coached exclusively in Texas, with Stephen F. Austin, McKinney High School, A&M-Commerce, and TCU. New Mexico and Oklahoma State are basically Texas-based and Auburn....well, Auburn is its own insane beast. While Drinkwitz wants to expand the recruiting footprint to Denver and Chicago, Texas will always play a pivotal role in Missouri’s recruiting plan, and with Luper’s extensive experience recruiting the state, he will continue to be a key player in getting Texas athletes to Columbia.

A smaller thing that I appreciate in Loop’s coaching history is his dedication; outside of a one-year stint at McKinney High School, he has stayed at every job for at least three years, including a seven-year stint at TCU.

Curtis Luper’s link to the rest of the staff

  • Running backs coach at Auburn while Eli Drinkwitz, Erik Link, and Casey Woods were quality control coaches

Is he good at what he does?

Real quick...

At the college level, recruiting is the most important thing. Yes, talent development and tactical acumen matter, sure, but that’s not going to win very many national championships on its own. The top recruiting coaches and programs will win way more than other programs; that’s why Gene Chizik has a national championship and Chip Kelly does not. Chizik, Ted Roof, Trooper Taylor, Jay Boulware, Tracy Rocker...none of these guys are considered excellent coaches on their own but they always manage to haul in the top recruiting classes and that’s all the difference.

So: getting super talented guys to the program is the key to overall program success, and if you know how to coach a position decently well you will always have a job on a college staff. So, even though Casey Woods is the official recruiting coordinator on this staff, when I’m diving in to Loop’s history, I do want to see how his running backs do and also how he’s raised the recruiting profile of the school. Reputations are great, but I want to make sure it’s earned!

When a gentleman has been coaching for over twenty years, it equates to a lot of individual seasons to break down and analyze. For our purposes today (and my time management) we’re going to focus on the stops that occur during the SP+ period (2005 on).

Oklahoma State Offense 2005 - 72nd - Special Teams Coordinator/Running Backs

  • Mike Hamilton (SO) - 193 rushes/961 yards/1 TD/20 recs/161 yards
  • Julius Crosslin (SO) - 71 rushes/231 yards/12 TDs/2 recs/16 yards

Oklahoma State Offense 2006 - 15th - Special Teams Coordinator/Running Backs

  • Dantrell Savage (JR) - 126 rushes/820 yards/8 TDs/8 recs/48 yards
  • Keith Toston (FR) - 106 rushes/631 yards/6 TDs/10 recs/92 yards

Oklahoma State Offense 2007 - 6th - Special Teams Coordinator/Running Backs

  • Dantrell Savage (SR) - 223 rushes/1,272 yards/9 TDs/27 recs/259 yards/2 TDs
  • Kendall Hunter (FR) - 107 rushes/696 yards/4 TDs/10 recs/137 yards/1 TD

Oklahoma State Offense 2008 - 4th - Special Teams Coordinator/Running Backs

  • Kendall Hunter (SO) - 241 rushes/1,555 yards/16 TDs/22 recs/198 yards/1 TD
  • Keith Toston (JR) - 102 rushes/686 yards/9 TDs/8 recs/62 yards

Going this far back in time is a fun exercise since the advanced stats are not nearly as robust, reliable, or easily accessed, as they are now. Up until 2010, we’ll have to rely on just conventional stats to see how Coach Loop did in his first Power 5 gigs. 2005 was Mike Gundy’s first year on the job in Stillwater, and he was trying to transition the ‘Pokes out of Les Miles’ smashy-smash style of offense to the more wide-open style Gundy teams are known for now. OSU’s offense improved every year and Luper’s running backs eclipsed 1,000 yards on the ground on an individual level every year except the first. Also, the recruiting improved from 47th in ‘05 to 18th, 25th, and 32nd in the following years.

Auburn Offense 2009 - 16th - Running Backs/Recruiting Coordinator

  • Ben Tate (SR) - 263 rushes/1,362 yards/10 TDs/20 recs/105 yards
  • Onterrio McCalebb (FR) - 105 rushes/565 yards/4 TDs/6 recs/58 yards
  • Recruiting - 23rd

Auburn Offense 2010 - 1st - Running Backs/Recruiting Coordinator

  • Rushing - 1st
  • Rushing Success Rate - 1st
  • Rushing Explosiveness - 1st
  • Cam Newton (JR) - 264 rushes/1,473 yards/20 TDs
  • Michael Dyer (FR) - 182 rushes/1,093 yards/5 TDs/1 rec/9 yards
  • Recruiting - 6th

Auburn Offense 2011 - 42nd - Running Backs/Recruiting Coordinator

  • Rushing - 22nd
  • Rushing Success Rate - 20th
  • Rushing Explosiveness - 23rd
  • Michael Dyer (SO) - 242 rushes/1,242 yards/5.1 ypc/2.1 HLT/10 TDs/2 recs/7 yards
  • Onterrio McCalebb (SR) - 112 rushes/641 yards/5.7 ypc/2.5 HLT/5 TDs/32 recs/344 yards/2 TDs
  • Recruiting - 5th

Auburn Offense 2012 - 61st - Running Backs/Recruiting Coordinator

  • Rushing - 18th
  • Rushing Success Rate - 21st
  • Rushing Explosiveness - 20th
  • Tre Mason (SO) - 171 rushes/1,002 yards/5.9 ypc/5.3 HLT/8 TDs/7 recs/86 yards
  • Onterio McCalebb (SR) - 94 rushes/570 yards/6.1 ypc/5.9 HLT/6 TDs/18 recs/132 yards
  • 5-year Recruiting - 6th

It’s nice when you have Cam Newton on your team, isn’t it? Auburn’s 2010 squad benefited in every way possible from forking over $180,000 to obtain Newton’s services, ranking 1st in nearly every offensive category thanks to arguably the greatest one-year college football player of all time. Without Newton at QB in subsequent years the Auburn offense plummeted to 42nd and then 61st, but Luper’s running game at least stayed in the Top 25 in the rushing categories. Granted, Auburn’s recruiting with Luper in charge was Top 10 in the country every year so of course they should be consistently performing at sustained elite levels. Regardless, Luper’s contribution to the Tigers was positive and consistent.

TCU Offense 2013 - 88th - Wide Receivers/Recruiting Coordinator

  • Passing - 73rd
  • Passing Success Rate - 76th
  • Passing Explosiveness - 70th
  • Josh Doctson (SO) - 56 targets/36 catches (64.3%)/440 yards/7.9 ypt
  • LaDarius Brown (SR) - 54 targets/36 catches (66.7%)/393 yards/7.3 ypt
  • 5-year Recruiting - 44th

Luper’s one year not coaching the running backs had less than stellar returns for the overall offense. The Frogs ranked 58th in offense in 2012 and then crumbled to 88th in 2013. The 2013 recruiting class was also the lowest ranked class in four years. It was a rough first year for Coach Loop!

TCU Offense 2014 - 17th - Running Backs/Recruiting Coordinator

  • Rushing - 13th
  • Rushing Success Rate - 16th
  • Rushing Explosiveness - 11th
  • Aaron Green (JR) - 130 rushes/922 yards/7.1 ypc/7.8 HLT/9 TDs/19 recs/166 yards
  • Trevone Boykin (JR) - 130 rushes/829 yards/6.4 ypc/4.8 HLT/8 TDs
  • 5-year Recruiting - 38th

TCU Offense 2015 - 15th - Running Backs/Recruiting Coordinator

  • Rushing - 70th
  • Rushing Success Rate - 71st
  • Rushing Explosiveness - 70th
  • Aaron Green (SR) - 245 rushes/1,272 yards/5.2 ypc/4.5 HLT/11 TDs/16 recs/117 yards
  • Trevone Boykin (SR) - 111 rushes/671 yards/6.0 ypc/5.2 HLT/9 TDs
  • 5-year Recruiting - 35th

TCU Offense 2016 - 38th - Running Backs/Recruiting Coordinator

  • Rushing - 40th
  • Rushing Success Rate - 14th
  • Rushing Explosiveness - 51st
  • Kyle Hicks (JR) - 205 rushes/1,042 yards/5.1 ypc/4.6 HLT/12 TDs/47 recs/417 yards
  • Kenny Hill (JR) - 97 rushes/755 yards/7.8 ypc/6.1 HLT/10 TDs
  • 5-year Recruiting - 35th

Coach Loop moved back to coaching running backs in 2014, just as the dynamic co-offensive coordinator tandem of Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie took over. Those two crafted the 17th best offense in the country, relying on a balanced attack on the ground and through the air with dual-threat maestro quarterback Trevone Boykin. The 2015 campaign saw the Frogs go through an endless list of injuries but the offense improved even while the running game regressed; a lack of big plays on the ground was the main culprit, especially once Boykin was lost for the season. 2016 had an overall offensive overhaul but the lack of explosive plays on the ground stayed true. Once again the top two rushers were the running back and quarterback, and Kyle Hicks eclipsed 1,000 yards on the year, but overall the Frogs weren’t the same offensive threat that they were the previous two seasons.

TCU Offense 2017 - 22nd - Co-Offensive Coordinator/Running Backs/Recruiting Coordinator

  • Rushing - 23rd
  • Rushing Success Rate - 23rd
  • Rushing Explosiveness - 50th
  • Kenny Hill (SR) - 269-400 (67.3%)/3,152 yards/23 TDs/8 INTs/17 sacks/7.3 ypa
  • Kyle Hicks (SR) - 139 rushes/637 yards/4.6 ypc/4.1 HLT/4 TDs/30 recs/291 yards/1 TD
  • Darius Anderson (SO) - 128 rushes/768 yards/6.0 ypc/4.7 HLT/8 TDs/9 recs/57 yards
  • 5-year Recruiting: 33rd

TCU Offense 2018 - 91st - Co-Offensive Coordinator/Running Backs/Recruiting Coordinator

  • Rushing - 40th
  • Rushing Success Rate - 29th
  • Rushing Explosiveness - 71st
  • Shawn Robinson (SO) - 124-204 (60.8%)/1,334 yards/9 TDs/8 INTs/5.7 ypa
  • Sewo Olonilua (JR) - 135 rushes/635 yards/4.7 ypc/2 TDs/15 recs/86 yards
  • Darius Anderson (JR) - 124 rushes/598 yards/4.8 ypc/3 TDs/7 recs/19 yards
  • 5-year Recruiting: 30th

TCU Offense 2019 - 67th - Co-Offensive Coordinator/Running Backs/Recruiting Coordinator

  • Rushing - 34th
  • Rushing Success Rate - 34th
  • Rushing Explosiveness - 27th
  • Max Duggan (FR) - 181-339 (53.4%)/2,077 yards/15 TDs/10 INTs/25 sacks/5.3 ypa
  • Darius Anderson (SR) - 151 rushes/823 yards/5.5 ypc/5.3 HLT/6 TDs/22 recs/128 yards
  • Sewo Olonilua (SR) - 133 rushes/543 yards/4.1 ypc/3.1 HLT/8 TDs/24 recs/114 yards/1 TD
  • 5-year Recruiting: 33rd

Doug Meacham left the TCU squad after the 2017 season, prompting Head Coach Gary Patterson to bump Coach Loop up to co-offensive coordinator with Sonny Cumbie. The first year featured an upperclassman-heavy roster that improved in every statistical category and ranked 16th overall as a team, 22nd in offense. But then Kenny Hill left and Luper and Cumbie worked with a familiar name, Shawn Robinson, as the heir apparent. Robinson had a tough year: he had over a 60% completion rate but threw a lot of interceptions and the passes he did complete didn’t go very far. The rushing attack also regressed thanks to new faces all across the board. 2019 had some minor improvement while sticking with Max Duggan as the full time quarterback but the running game merely ranked in the Top 40, and that was with two senior backs leading the attack and all five starting offensive linemen returning.

Here’s the TL;DR version:

Pros

  • Ton of experience as a running backs coach, recruiter, and some OC experience
  • Been in charge of 6 rushing attacks that ranked 25th or better in SP+
  • Coached eight running backs who have eclipsed 1,000+ yards in a year
  • Has demonstrated an ability to do what it takes to secure top talent /wink
  • Consistently recruits at a Top 35 level (something Missouri hasn’t done in five years)

Cons

  • Majority of the success has come from his stint at Auburn
  • Running back production of his last three teams has regressed

Conclusion

Again, Luper’s role on paper is to coach the running backs but when someone has a ton of recruiting experience and coordinator experience you can’t help but think that those skills will be utilized in the day-to-day management as well. Loop is walking in to a solid running back room with two younger guys that have an awesome amount of potential. It’s going to be tough to match the developmental talents that former running backs coach Cornell Ford was able to produce but I feel confident that Luper has the talent and experience to match. Moreover, I’m excited to see what he can do for Missouri’s recruiting; I’m not expecting him to be able to...acquire...a Cam Newton-level talent but any positive impact will be appreciated. Good luck Coach Luper!