P-D: Back in high school, how did your recruiting process go?
KNIGHTEN: It really didn’t go. (Laughter) I basically had one offer, from here, from Gus Malzahn. He and my high school coach were really good friends. A lot of people said I was too small, so there wasn’t a lot of interest.
I'm a big fan of Knighten. He had a miserable game against USC, but he was good most of last year, and he's a unique, dual-threat guy. And his former high school coach is a guy you've probably heard of: Kevin Kelley, the "never punts" guy.
Their strategic innovations and reliance on analytics is a result of their relative talent level. Kelley realized that his offensive line wasn't big enough to push guys all over the field, so he needed alternative tactics and to develop good quarterbacks.
The best coaches are able to adapt their offensive philosophies to the talent on hand. Kelley mentioned that when Gus Malzhan (who went to Henderson State along with Kelley) was at Shiloh Christian, his teams threw the ball 85-90% of the time. Kelley remembered that they only ran the ball six times in one state championship game. It wasn't until Gus left that Kelley assumed the mantle of the HUNH pass-first team in Arkansas high school football.
Since then, Kelley thinks every quarterback he's coached has thrown for at least 4,000 yards and 50 touchdowns.
I'm not completely sure the math checks out on everything Kelley does (I'm not saying it doesn't, but I have some questions), but beyond numbers, he brings an attitude to the table that is aggressive, fearless and contagious. Just like his friend Gus Malzahn.
Kelley also occasionally finds himself angry at the television, even though he has tried repeatedly to tell himself to stop watching like a math-obsessed coach. "I try to watch the game as a fan and not a coach, but even then it does drive me crazy," Kelley says. "Especially when it’s a fourth-and-one or fourth-and-two, I know 100% of the time they ought to go for it. But who am I to question those guys? They have a plan, and they’re going to stick with it. I have a plan."
The problem is, if coaches such as Hazell or Beaty stick to conventional football wisdom, the math says they’re likely to get fired. In February, Zach Barnett at FootballScoop.com put together a handy list of FBS head coaching tenures. The median length is that of Akron’s Terry Bowden, who was hired in 2011. So why, knowing that the odds are stacked against them from a talent standpoint, wouldn’t a few coaches try something drastic?
This doesn't have much to do with Saturday's game, but it's an interesting topic, and that Staples piece really is fun to read.