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Is the Gopher Football job down to Three?

Doogie over at 1500ESPN and the guys over at GopherIllustrated are tweeting that the Gopher job might be down to three guys.

  • Troy Calhoun
  • Brady Hoke
  • Al Golden

This shouldn't come as a huge surprise to people as this was basically the short list of assumed realistic candidate (along with Kevin Sumlin). Mike Leach, Mike Bellotti, Jim Harbaugh and Chris Peterson are all very sexy names but we all knew they were not very realistic. Nothing is official and the fact that these names are leaking out might be smoke and mirrors before Maturi does pull that rabit out of the hat and we have a Tubby Smith type hire. But Let's assume these are the names and one of the three will be our next Golden Gopher head coach. We could do a lot worse than any of these guys.

Here are my thoughts on the three...

Al Golden
TDG Profile

Of the three Golden probably took over the program in the worst shape and he has turned them into a winner. Golden is young but he's been very successful in his short career. In 2001 he was name Virginia's defensive coordinator and was the youngest coordinator in D1 football. In 2005 he was named head coach at Temple making him the second youngest head coach behind only Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern. As defensive coordinator he took a Virginia defense that was giving up 27.6 ppg in 2001 to 17.7 in 2004 (17th in the nation).

What I like most about Golden is that he has proven to be a guy who coaches guys to play in his system. Defensively he runs a 3-4 and offensively he has been running what he calls an East Coast Offense, which is basically a single back with a tight end. It is a run offense used to set up a high efficiency passing game.

His current season looked to improve on his nine win season from last year. The Owls were sitting at 8-2 with two difficult conference games remaining. But Temple lost a close game with Ohio last week losing their best offensive player, running back Bernard Pierce. And then were handled by Miami (Ohio) last night, again without the services of Pierce.

What he is not is a known great recruiter. But he is a guy who has dealt with recruiting roadblocks and found ways to do more with less. That is what I'd love to have here. We could do a LOT worse than Al Golden

Brady Hoke
TDG Profile

Hoke has the most head coaching experience in this group. He spent six seasons at Ball State that culminated in a 12-0 regular season before he moved on to San Diego State where he is in his second year. His name might be the sexiest on this list, if you are into that sort of thing, because Hoke has taken a very bad SDSU program and will have them in a bowl game for the first time in 12 years. They will very likely finish 8-4 (assuming they beat UNLV) and raised some eyebrows when they very nearly gave TCU their first loss of the year. Their TCU game was the only game TCU has played that finished as a one score game and the Aztecs scored 11 more points than anyone else has on this dominant Horned Frog defense. It was a loss but they did turn some heads but making it much closer than anyone anticipated.

Hoke runs a spread offense that is balanced, typically running the ball 49.5% of the time. His coaching background is that of a defensive nature having coached the defensive line at Oregon State and Michigan. In his two seasons at San Diego State his defense gave up 30.5 ppg in year one and 23.5 this year. A touchdown improvement!

Hoke is a fiery guy who also seems to be teaching his players how to play football and then they actually improve over time. Hoke would be a fine hire and there is no reason to believe that he wouldn't be successful here.

Troy Calhoun
TDG Profile

Of this group Calhoun has easily had the greatest challenges. Weight restrictions and incredible admissions requirements, not to mention the added stresses of life in a military academy all make things very challenging to produce a successful football team. Calhoun has been very successful in a very difficult conference. In 2007 Calhoun led Air Force to wins over TCU and Utah, but has not been able to beat them since. That year they also beat Notre Dame on their way to a 9-3 season.

Let's not forget that he also won the TDG Bracket Challenge so at least some of us would be happy to see Calhoun take the job.

Among this final three Calhoun easily has the greatest winning % with a 33-18 record. Schematically it is difficult to know what Calhoun would run here at Minnesota. Currently he is running the wishbone a Air Force but most believe he would scrap that for a more traditional pro-style offense when he arrives at Minnesota. Personally I don't care if he runs the wishbone or spread or the run-n-shoot or whatever. What matters is that he picks one, recruits for it and teaches his teams how to execute it.

One can only wonder how successful Calhoun would be at an institution where he could recruit kids who are not A students who also want to pursue a life in the military. He competes with the likes of TCU and Utah while facing serious disadvantages and roadblocks along the way. So many people talk about the challenges in place at Minnesota and the lack of institutional support. Maybe Calhoun is the one guy who would come in and say "That's your biggest challenge? That's nothing, I can work around that." I'd be happy if he is given that opportunity here at Minnesota, if he'd be willing to come here.


What do these three guys all have in common? They have all done more with less. They have all proven to recruit the right guys and they then coach them well. And they appear to be guys committed to building programs the right way. I'm happy that if this is truly is a final list (or close to a final list). Any of these three would be solid hires and guys who would be given this opportunity based on merit, not on salesmanship.

If I had a vote my order of this top three would be...

1 - Al Golden

2 - Troy Calhoun

3 - Brady Hoke

what would be your order?