Coaching Candidate: Dave Doeren ~ Too Soon to Evaluate But One to Keep an Eye On

Submitted by alum96 on September 28th, 2014 at 8:50 PM

I've been looking at quite a few candidates for 2015 HC the past few weeks as it had become increasingly clear the Hoke is not the answer; something I think the masses have finally agreed upon after Saturday.   I will post a few profiles this week in diaries on what I have found on candidates outside the normal cabal regurgitated over and over.  These profiles are at a 'superficial' level and how many I post are depending on time - it is one thing to read up on someone but another to distill the information back out in a cogent form.  Some candidates I have done a ton of work on - some I have done less on.  All are current head coaches as I don't belive we can take a chance on someone who does not have HC experience at the NCAA level unless their name is John Harbaugh.

Normal caveats apply:

  • I am not an AD nor do I have a full time staff to focus on one of of the most important decisions over the next decade.   These are superficial reports based on raw data.  If  I were an AD I'd be doing a lot of on the ground work on each of these people's backgrounds starting from their playing days on forward  to every coaching stop. 
  • Past results do not guarantee a damn thing.  But that is all we can go on.
  • These are not necessarily my top candidates (read: Jim Harbaugh) but people we could get and are interesting and not "Sumlin, Shaw, Gundy redux"
  • I believe an elite level coach gets results within 2-3 years, by results I don't mean 11-2 but improving a bad program or maintaining a good program
  • W/L record is not the be all and end all - what Gary Barnett did for Northwestern is more impressive than what a lot of coaches have done at USC or Bama or Texas over the years.  Spurrier went and won at Duke for example early in his career.  Or just see John Beilein.
  • Adjust everything for conference, level of competition, and ability to get recruits
  • I don't care about systems - a good coach will coach up players.  It's about the Jimmy and Joes not the X's and O's.


First up.... Dave Doeren, age: 42

Summary:  Doeren is currently coach of NC State which ironically is in the news this week for giving FSU a major upset scare.  That has nothing to do with my analysis of him which was actually done last week but made me more bullish obviously.   This analysis is probably 1-1.5 years too early as I'd be more interested in Doeren after seeing what he does this year and in 2015 with the Wolfpack as they are a rebuild situation right now.  That said since I did some homework on him I will toss him out here and watch him the rest of this year and if he has a good year and a good 2015 I believe he will be one of the hottest candidates out there at THAT point.   He is the opposite side of Chryst who a few people have mentioned as a candidate who is now the HC of Pitt; he was the OC for a while in Big Bert's system in Wisconsin - while Doeren was the DC for some of those years.

Recent (10 years) coaching background

  • 2005:  Kansas co-DC, LB coach, recruiting coordinator.  As a 33 year old
  • 2006-2007:  Same roles as 2005 but at Wisconsin, as a 34-35 year old
  • 2008-2010:  DC at Wisconsin in his mid to later 30s
  • 2011-2012:  HC at Northern Illinois
  • 2013-2014: HC at NC State

Analysis:  A lot of responsibility at a very young age in Big 5 conferences both as a DC and now as a HC.  HC at a non Big 5 conf by age of 40.  Tons of experience in the Big 10 footprint.  Aside from coaching experience was also a recruiting coordinator for 6 years.



Caveat for results ----> (a) nothing exists in a vacuum (b) as a coordinator you can benefit or be penalized if your HC is good or bad or average (c) injuries or graduation can change your results dramatically in any 1 year.  This is the type of stuff you'd research as an AD staff on every potential candidate.

I will break down his results at 3 time frames - DC at Wisconsin, HC at Northern Illinois and HC at NC State.

(1) DC at Wisconsin

These were some great years for the Badgers.  He co-coordinated for Big Bert's first 2 years at Wisconsin, then was sole DC in years 3-5.  These teams were 7-6, 10-3, 11-2.  Being Big 10 brothers we know how Wisconsin is - a stout if not overly athletic defense. 

Total defense ranking

  • 2008: 37
  • 2009: 17
  • 2010: 20

Please adjust that ranking for the fact it was facing Big 10 offenses.  I penalize any Big 10 defense about 8-10 spots in ranking due to facing a lot of bad QBs and not good offenses - meanwhile I'd do the opposite for a Pac 12/Big 12 defense which faces an array off air raid type offenses.  So these were nationally good but not great defenses.  However Wisconsin usually recruits in the late 20s to early 40s in terms of rank so they are not working with OSU/ND/UM type athletes by and large.

(2) HC at Northern Illinois

Whomever the AD is at Northern Illinois is someone I'd trust a lot more than David Brandon to pick a coach.  Doeren came in after Jerry Kill and staff moved on to Minnesota.  Kill had a very good 2010 team (11-3 W/L).  What I like to see in this situation is a David Shaw taking over for John Harbaugh situation - a coach who can maintain status quo without a major dropoff.  Doeren did that.  Below are Jerry Kill's last season in terms of W/L, total offense and total defense compared to Doeren's 2011 and 2012.

  O D W/L
2010 19 26 11-3
2011 11 88 11-3
2012 20 40 12-2

The defense fell off in 2011 but came back in 2012, while the offense maintained excellence. 

2011's 3 losses were 45-42 to Kansas, 49-7 to Wisconsin, and 48-41 to CMU.  CMU and UK were bad teams.  All 3 of these losses happened in Doeren's first 5 games.  It was ironic (my version of ironic) in that Doeren had the 2 teams he cut his teeth on (Kansas, Wisconsin) on his schedule.  N, Ill won the MAC at 7-1.

2012 was a magical year where NIU went from "MAC good" to "damn good" - they were ranked and went up against Florida State in a bowl game. They did lose 31-10 but cmon, its NIU!  Their only losses that year were FSU and Iowa 18-17 to open the season. Caveat - they did have the services of one Jordan Lynch, he if 3K yards in the air and nearly 2K on the ground (breaking Denard Robinson's single season record) - an incredible season.  On the other hand it is not like he was inherited; 2012 was his FIRST year starting.  Lynch went on to have another ridiculous year in 2013.

(3) HC at North Carolina State

Coming off a magical 2012 Doeren did what most good coaches do - struck when the iron is hot.  I dont know why people get upset about this - Urban Meyer left Utah and Bowling Green after 2 seasons each.   Saban left Toledo after 1 year to go to the NFL.  So unlike some folks on MGoBlog I dont blame coaches for hopping around until they get to an elite program.  If Doeren suceeds at NC State I expect him not to last more than 3 years there. /off of soapbox

After a 7-5 campaign, Tom O'Brian was fired after 6 seasons at NC State.  Reasons cited (per wikipedia)

AD Debbie Yow cited several reasons. She was concerned over lagging season-ticket sales, as well as his approach to recruiting. O'Brien's recruiting classes were frequently in the bottom half of the nation, and Yow wanted a coach who could bring top 25-type talent to Raleigh.

Considering recruiting success (or lack thereof) O'Brian did halfway decent at NC State with a lot of just over .500 type of teams.  But it looks like they wanted more. 

Doeren came in and had a pretty rotten season with NC State at 3-9 down from 7-5.  So at that point you are definitely in a wait and see situation.  Not being a NC State expert I don't know if there were injuries or a bad transition or what not. The team did lose as expected to Clemson, FSU, and Duke (which was actually good last year).  Those are ok.  But losses also piled up at Wake Forest, Syracuse, North Carolina etc. 

Here are one of the few 'summary reviews' I can find on the season:

Doeren's debut was a bit of train wreck, as the record suggests. Three wins, one against Richmond. Nine losses, including all eight against ACC competition. But to say the Wolfpack were entirely overmatched would be incorrect. Of those eight ACC games, only two were out of hand in the second half – Florida State, of course, and Maryland. The rest? N.C. State was either ahead or behind by no more than eight points at some point during the second half against its remaining six league foes; the Wolfpack were either tied or ahead of Duke and Syracuse in the fourth quarter. What this says is simple: one, depth was terrible, and two, the depth was really terrible. Yeah, Doeren's reputation lost some luster, but don't throw all the blame on his plate.

Moving ahead to 2014, until the FSU game things were unremarkable because the opponents were unremarkable.  The Wolfpack already have more wins in their first 4 weeks than they did all last year - but it was the baby seal variety.  Of course the 56-41 loss to FSU might go down as an excellent loss especially for the first real game in  year 2 of a regime.  NC State faces another tough game with Clemson next week, then returns to more normal fare like BC, Louisville, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech.  Assuming 2 losses out of the gate to FSU and Clemson a 4-2 or 3-3 versus other 6 in conf challengers would be "not bad" for NC State.  Especially in light of their recruiting which really lags. 

Fun fact - Darian Roseboro was at the NC State - FSU game.


So right now it is wait and see on Doeren- this is an interesting and potentially exciting candidate who probably will determine his long term path in the next 3 to 27 months.  If he has a rousing 2014 ACC season he might immediately be seen as both a guy who can continue success at NIU and then do a major turnaround quickly at NC State.  Same if it happens in 2015.  If there is a lack of success by 2016 he could be "just a guy".  But one to keep an eye on as his age, experience, Big 10 country footprint, pedigree, and relative success. 

Relative to Michigan it is not a guy who I see as a guy in the mix unless he goes something like 6-2 or 5-3 in the ACC.  If he does that combined with a competitive Clemson loss next week and the big scare to FSU it would be a massive 1 year turnaround with a coach that could already be on the hot list of some darn good programs.  A 3-5, or 4-4 ACC season would still be a positive, and a 2015 season that is more like 6-2 and an overall 9-3 type of record for NCS would probably push him into the pantheon of "hottest young coaching candidates" nationally.  And someone who could be the face of a top end program for 20 years at his age. Of course, he could also bust in the next 2 years.


Leroy Hoard

September 28th, 2014 at 9:21 PM ^

Should look at Mike Munchak - HOF O Lineman, Penn State alum (with Franklin there not likely to have his alma matter job opening up any time soon), NFL head coaching experience, OL coach

I'd also be interested in Jeff Fisher if he gets fired by St.L., but that seems unlikely.

I'd try to keep Mattison around to help adjusting to the recruiting/college game, though he may refuse if Hoke is fired.


September 28th, 2014 at 9:41 PM ^

Not to sound too old, but shoes fitting, etc...I like his defensive mindedness and assume he'd work well with the kids that Hoke has brought in.  Becaue defense wins championships (hurrumph, hurrumph)!  Seriously, the one question mark I have is that Doeran is a little spready in his offensive philosophy.  Will that mean ANOTHER shitty transition period if he came here?


September 28th, 2014 at 10:14 PM ^

I looked a lot at Whittingham and liked what I saw.  They dont have good athletes by and large at Utah and when they moved from the Mountain West to the Pac 12 week in and week out its difficult.  Same issue for TCU - they were a power in Mountain West then went to Big 12 and have struggled.  They need to both upgrade their athletes but both seem like good coaches.

Issue with Whittingham is he is a Mormon in Utah (same for Bronco at BYU).  You need to have them leave what is basically a home environment for them.  Tennessee came and offered Whittingham in 2010 - he rejected them.  Michigan is basically Tennessee.

Same issue with Dave Cutcliffe - Tennessee also came and offered him but he decided to stay at Duke. 

So one part is (a) who WE are interest in but the other part is (b) who is really going to make a change.  Which is why I am going to do one of these on Todd Graham later this week.  Even though he has some "perception issues".  But he is the type of candidae who would move.


September 28th, 2014 at 10:18 PM ^

Whittingham seems like a great name but isn't realistic. He played college football for BYU and has been a member of the Utah staff since 1994(!). That dude isn't leaving unless Utah forces him out.

Like the idea of breaking down candidates individually. My only fear is that barring immediate action, Dave Brandon will be the one doing the replacement hire and well...we all saw what happened last time and there's no predicting what might happen.


September 28th, 2014 at 10:29 PM ^

I know everyone mocks Gregg Henson but he was correct that there was a letter (Bacon confirmed as did one of the former captains) and from what others said he (or close associate) broke Hoke hiring.  So if Henson is right this time Brandon won't be doing the hiring.

If he does - I see Cam friggin Cameron as our future.  And I'll be done with UM football for 4 years until he is fired I guess.


September 28th, 2014 at 10:21 PM ^

but let's see how he finishes this season. Proved not too much against UM, as we pretty much did that.  Has been beaten in back-to-back seasons by RR, but I think RR is a damn fine coach so that's not all bad.

Request you take a look at both Schotenheimer and Shanahan, the youngers and, of course, Butch Jones, not quite as intense as Kelly, but the fire burns and he is from Sagatuck which should be a good drawing point, unless he grew up a Sparty fan, which probably wouldn't matter anyway.



September 28th, 2014 at 10:35 PM ^

I think on paper Butch Jones is a good fit.  Here is the issue with Butch Jones - if he turns around Tennessee he will viewed as in high of a light (or higher) than Sumlin.  A SEC team, in a 100K stadium, in a blue blood program in the south where there is a plethora of recruits.  So you'd have to grab him now (this offseason) when he is still unproven at the Big 5 level. 

By the time he turns around Tennessee after the hell they have been thru for a decade (IF HE DOES) he will be considered one of the top young coaches in the country at a program he can just reload every year like Fulmer's heydey and TN will pay him the big bucks.   The only thing Michigan can sell him at that point is "come back home".  TN has a ton of tradition, same size stadium, better conference, better access to top line southern players, etc.

It's going to be difficult for him to prove much by the end of this year.  But I did watch last week's game and they looked a lot better.

Mpfnfu Ford

September 28th, 2014 at 10:12 PM ^

I pay fairly close attention to the Wolfpack because it's the thing in town and if I want to see a live football game, they've got a pretty good stadium atmosphere compared to UNC or Duke down the interstate.

I'm not saying GO HIRE DOEREN NOW HE'S A BOSS, but you really shouldn't pay any attention to last year's NC State record. It is an understatement to say Tom O'Brien did a poor job recruiting. It was a big local radio talking point here that NC State was averaging classes between 20-40 under the previous coach, and under TOB had fallen to the 60-80 range. He had completely fallen behind schools like ECU that are mid majors for local kids. TOB rode two NFL quarterbacks (including Russell Wilson, who is a pro bowler) to mediocre bowls because he couldn't bring in any talent to surround them.

Doeren took over a sorry group, and he's starting to whip them into a football team. He's got Bielema's last Wisconsin OC, so they're doing a lot of Wisconsin-y stuff but from spread sets. It's really interesting to watch. They run no huddle, but they use a lot of tight ends and shift a lot so that they aren't snapping every 5 seconds and gassing the defense. But they still are giving themselves a chance to see the defense pre-snap and keep the defense a bit more vanilla because the defense only gets to see the final formation for a couple of seconds before the snap.

All in all, I think he's worth keeping your eye on. He's a midwestern guy and a lot of the locals think he'll be heading back to the midwest if he can get NC State going in a good direction.


September 28th, 2014 at 10:19 PM ^

Thanks Mr. Ford - with so many UM fans around the country I am hoping some people local to these schools will provide local insight on some of these candidates.  When I google "North Carolina State football 2013 review" and iterations of it I get so little back; that was the one part of the research I couldn't do too much on.   If I do the same for Michigan you get a bazillion things to read over and review - hence I was not able to get much of a review on what went wrong in 2013.  It sounded a bit like Rich Rod's first season at UM for what I can see.

I was also surprised how weak they recruit - I know they have to compete with SEC teams and North Carolina but it is pretty bad.  I remember O'Brian was a pretty big haul for NC State when he was at BC - seen as a risings star coach back then.

I will be interested to see what Doeren can do in the next 1.5 seasons.  It's a poor enough conference that a good coach can really do well in it.  Remove FSU and Clemson at the top and the rest are a bunch of very similar teams below. 

Mpfnfu Ford

September 28th, 2014 at 11:29 PM ^

Is that his previous jobs were HC of Boston College and a longtime George Welsh assistant at UVA. Two really strong academic institutions. I have a lot of NC State friends so I say this with love in my heart, but NC State is not that kind of college. It's around 100 on the US News, and it's basically your dirt mediocre land grant institution. There are certainly worse schools, but it ain't UVA or BC or UNC or Duke.

TOB's main recruiting pitch at BC was, "Hey, come get a great education at a top level institution and play major league college football." That pitch just didn't work with NC HS kids because State is easily 4th in the academic pecking order, behind Duke/UNC/Wake. I don't think he would have left BC if not for a fall out with their notorious shitty AD at the time. That guy got replaced with the current guy who is cleaning the place up and is one of the guys on the radar for Michigan.

He only got Russell Wilson because State was the only BCS level school in the area offering to let him play baseball and football, and that guy basically carried the team on his back. Consistently terrible offensive line play led to no running game. This carried over to the Glennon years. The defense went up when he hired Tenuta, but that basically all Tenuta making chicken salad. The talent level was just so poor, and it didn't help that UNC had Butch Davis recruiting the state well and Clemson finally getting their ISH together. The deathblow was ECU passing them.


Ruffin is a really plain spoken, honest guy. He's from Eastern NC, and that's like a whole other world compared to the rest of the state. He went to ECU, and when he took the job he was adamant that it would be his last job in college football if he had anything to say about it. He was able to bring some smart OCs from the Leach era of Texas Tech with him, and ECU gave him the time to build the team into something. 

And it's certainly helped him that TOB sucked at recruiting and that UNC got NCAA'd. He doesn't strike me as a guy who can turn things around quick, but he's a guy you can root for and he can walk into a family's home and make a good impression as a guy who will help your boys turn into young men. I would genuinely be surprised if he left ECU. I would be double surprised if it was for a non-Southern school. 


September 28th, 2014 at 10:24 PM ^

p.s. what is your perception of ECU's coach?  If they have a big season I could see him also being seen as a candidate for bigger jobs nationally.  He has some of that Mike Leach offense to him.  But I see he is a ECU alum so it would be like getting Mike Gundy out of OK State or Fitzgerald out of Northwestern.  Does he seem like a guy who would leave the school for a bigger job?

Maize and Blue…

September 28th, 2014 at 11:46 PM ^

I, too, have been looking into coaches to replace Hoke, but have predicated my search on Wins, Losses, Championships, and Coaching awards, completely on lower levels, and in the belief that we won't be getting Harbaugh, Miles, or any fantasy coaches people have been throwing out there. Using past performance as a predictor of future outcomes, I have an evolving list, but have only put out one name on this blog - Lance Leopold H/C at Wisconsin Whitewater. Thus far, the only response has been that he has an unfair advantage at Whitewater despite his unsurpassed 95-6 record and .941 winning% 29-1 playoff record, and six National Championships in eight years of coaching there.

I don't know about Doeren at this time, I would put him in the same category as Chuck Martin W/L 74-9 .892 Win% before Miami O, Chris Creighton W/L 140-47 .749 Win% before EMU, and Craig Bohl 106-32 .768 W% before Wyoming. Let's see which one or ones can turn their programs around and win and which one(s) fail.

Another name for you that I really like is Jeff Devanney Trinity CT.  55-9 .859 W% 2 Undefeated seasons, a slew of Coach of the year awards, seemingly a great defensive coach, former asst. at G.T.

I have more if you are interested.


September 29th, 2014 at 12:13 AM ^


I am trying to stick to FBS guys just because I am not sure UM at this point can take a risk on a Div 2 or whatnot.  Obviously OSU hit the motherload with Tressel which would be like Bohl but Tressel was younger and from Ohio so knew the HS coaches inside and out.  It would have been similar to UM hiring Brian Kelly right out of Grand Valley State.  In retrospect that would have worked out as well.

Not sure if UM take that risk 3 coaches in from Carr?  It would take huge brass balls.  He doesnt have the geographic footprint either as he was at Nebraska 12-15 years ago and since then has been at North Dakota.  If Minnesota didnt have Kill he would seem like a logical choice for Minnesota (or Wisconsin)  Or hell if Bo leaves Nebraska.  I think if this was 4 years ago you might take a Bohl (or similar type) after RR.  He is about as impressive as a non FBS candidate as you can find.

Well Creighton is an easy one to watch and if they got him it would be a short commute ;) But I dont see him as realistic and he is at a graveyard for coaches at EMU.  CMU or WMU you can do something with - if that guy can do anything at EMU I will give him massive credit.  I dont know much of anything about him to be truthful.

I'd like to see Chuck Martin rise through the (Div 1) ranks on his own for a while - right now he is a Kelly acolyte and you are back with the situation with Kelly and Bohl.  Do you hire a guy off his results (which are great) at that small division school?  But much better footprint than Bohl for UM.  That would be a near impossible sell though since he is currently 0-5 for Miami OH.  If he gets then turned around he might actually be a candidate if we are in the market (sigh) for a new coach in 2019.

I have not heard of Devanney.

Feel free to write a profile on any of these guys and throw it up - we migh as well use the diary for good use.  Anyone can contribute ;)

Crazy w Cheese Whiz

September 29th, 2014 at 11:36 AM ^

MAC coaches stink.   Outside of Urban Meyer and Nick Saban (who coached Toledo over 20 years ago), the rest of the MAC HCs that have been hired during the BCS era have been mediocre at best.  You can argue that the MAC lacks resources andcannot recruit in prospect-flush areas, and if one of them succeeds that proves they can coach, but c'mon, winning the MAC does not mean you are ready for power 5 conferences.  Far from it (2014 Evidence: Darrel Hazell, Tim Beckman, and Brady Hoke)

Perhaps Doern will succeed at NC State, but how much of his success was built by Jerry Kill building up Northern Illinois' program first.

If Michigan wants to get back on track, don't go cheap a.  Get a new AD, make some calls to Stephen Ross and the other big althletic department boosters and get ready to start thinking we can offer a good HC from a power 5 conference at least $7 million a year (as a floor), and push for paying more as needed.  

We are not going to get Nick Saban or Kevin Sumlin to move to Ann Arbor, but if its known that the new Michigan HC will be paid well, good coaches will be interested.  I khow Harbaugh is feigning interest, but if Michigan offers him $7 million a year, and the 49ers keep tanking...he will be interested.

This time do it right, put up the cash and make a good hire, do not settle for a former MAC HC.