When New Mexico fired Bob Davie and hired Danny Gonzales, I had instant excitement.
I’m not a fan by any means, and I’ve never been to New Mexico in my life. However, I was thrilled they would most likely take recruiting more seriously, so I would be able to follow them more closely.
The next thought that occurred to me is in many ways; they are (re)building the program from scratch. Yes, the team is full of scholarship players. However, even if you haven’t been paying close attention to the team, you likely know they primarily recruited junior college players and usually didn’t start focusing on recruiting until after the season, which isn’t ideal for securing talent.
Anyway, the Lobos are rebuilding in many ways. They are committing to finding high school talent and securing talent that matches their system as well as their culture. The question then becomes, what are the important choices to make when making the first steps towards building a program from scratch?
The first installment looked at building the offense around a running back or a quarterback, while the second piece dove more into which recruits were “the right recruits” for the rebuild. Part three examines how to build a successful coaching staff.
When it comes to a coaching staff, multiple factors go into the decision. Can you lure coaches with successful track records to a rebuilding program? Do you value experience that players can see or younger player-coaches that players can relate to? Would you rather put veterans in coordinator positions to groom younger coaches or give a rising star the chance to be a coordinator with veteran position coaches to help him succeed? And how do you blend old and new schools of thought under a unified vision? There are no easy answers, but let’s see how Danny Gonzales filled out his staff.
Gamble on young coaches.
Young coaches bring new life and energy to their craft. The good young ones especially can relate to players as they are closer in age, and communicate well to get the most out of the those in their position. Since they are relatively unknown, salary is often smaller, and other programs are trying to steal them occur less frequently, at least for a while until they make a name for themselves with continued success from their recruiting efforts and the performance of their position on the field.
The risk is more significant, though. Younger coaches don’t have an extensive track record, having not been around as much. There are experiences they haven’t encountered yet in their career. They are more likely to be limited in the number of systems or schemed they have coached in.
Here are the younger coaches on the Lobo coaching staff, including a first-time offensive coordinator, one moving to offense after mostly defensive coaching experience, and two coaches with less than two seasons as a full-time position coach.
Derek Warehime: OC/TE
Brandon Blackmon: WR
Jason Lenzmeier: OL
Jordan Salkin: QB
Jordan Somerville: RB
Hire established veterans at key spots.
Veteran coaches usually have long track records at the college level and are a pretty known commodity. Their strengths and weaknesses are apparent. They have been able to hold a job at the college level based on distinct traits and, due to this, are less of a risk. Coaches also have a lengthy resume of success with players to use in recruiting and developing players to their full potential.
On the other side of the argument, veteran coaches are often in higher demand (at least the good ones are). A school on a budget may not be able to afford them or at least afford them for very long. If coaches are more readily available, it may be for a good reason (not always). Some coaches may be too established in their ways as it has been working for them, and not be able to reach different types of players or adjust schemes or coaching style for them.
Below are the veteran coaches that Coach Gonzales was able to secure as members of his first staff. Obviously, getting Rocky Long was a major boon for the staff, but two others in this category bring twenty and thirty years of college coaching experience, respectively.
Rocky Long: DC/LB
Jamie Christian: Special Teams
Jerome Haywood: DL
David Howes: Safeties
Troy Reffett: CBs
Aim for longevity.
The hope for coaches is always that they will stick around for as long as possible. And though football coaches are rarely at a school for the long haul, identifying the right coaches who will stick around to build the foundation for the rebuilding program is essential. This can be done with both groups of coaches mentioned above. When it comes to the veterans, some of them are tired of moving around after so many years and want their family to be in one place for a while. Likewise, some of the younger coaches may want to establish themselves with consistent success and one place and not be labeled as a job jumper for when their dream offers come about.
Balance the styles and perspectives.
This will be the tricky part and the one worth watching. Looking above, it appears Gonzales valued balance in his staff as well. Five fit pretty neatly into younger coaches while the other five are seasoned veterans when it comes to coaching. Even more interesting, the youth is on offense while the coaches with the most experience are all on the defensive side of the ball. It will be interesting to observe if the defense is ahead of the offense out of the gate due to this.
Danny Gonzales seems like he put together a diverse coaching staff on paper, and the coming years will determine how successful they are in the areas discussed here today.