Their first year on the job contained a ton of growing pains with changing the culture of the program, winning over the fans and getting the players and assistant coaches all on the same page.
Planting those seeds in year one has led to positive results coming to fruition in year two. These coaches achievements can’t be determined by just wins and losses. You also have to look at the direction each coach has his team headed in as far as recruiting, academics and overall play on the field.
It’s all about laying down the foundation and creating a smooth transition. Everyone wants to rally around an individual that’s bringing about a positive change. After we examine these five different Power 5 coaches, it’ll be evident that they have created a buzz for themselves and their programs have momentum for the foreseeable future.
Matt Ruhle, Baylor: Ruhle’s first season with the Bears was really rough. Baylor lost its’ first eight games and won only one conference clash, which was over Kansas. The Bears’ defense was the worst in the Big 12 and that’s saying a lot from a league that plays the worst on that side of the ball. Fast forward to year two and Baylor has won four conference games, bowl-eligible and has a chance to win seven games for the first time since 2016. Ruhle has established toughness in his team and his boys have been more competitive this year. Two of their conference losses were by a touchdown or less. Baylor’s offense has scored more points and its’ defense has allowed fewer touchdowns in Ruhle’s second season. Sophomore signal-caller Charlie Brewer finished the regular season with 17 touchdown passes and is blossoming into a leader. Baylor could very well be the surprise team of the Big 12 next season. That alone speaks volumes with the job Ruhle has done two years in Waco.
P.J. Fleck, Minnesota: Fleck’s style is sort of unorthodox when it comes to the coaching standard, but he has great chemistry with his players. The 38-year old is the youngest coach in the Big 10 and had one of the youngest teams in the league this season also. The Golden Gophers increased their conference win total from Fleck’s first year. Minnesota has also won two of its’ last three games, including a victory over rival Wisconsin. The team brought the Paul Bunyan Axe back to Minneapolis for the first time since 2003 and tied the series with the Badgers. Minnesota is bowl-eligible for the sixth time in the last seven years. Fleck’s first season was a far cry to what he has done this year. Minnesota’s offense has made the biggest improvement. The unit went from scoring 22.1 points per game in Fleck’s first season to 28.5 in year two. A lot of Fleck’s players will be returning next season and will be one the more experienced teams in the Big 10. The Golden Gophers have won their last two bowl games and will try to make it two victories in the last four years in the Quick Lane Bowl when they face-off against Georgia Tech.
Tom Herman, Texas: Once Herman accepted the Texas job the pressure has been on him to win. The program suffered some down years towards the end of Mack Brown’s tenure and Charlie Strong never had a winning season during his time in Austin. Herman was one of the hottest coaching hires two years ago, but his first season was filled with inconsistency and Texas lost to Oklahoma. The Longhorns did win three of their last four games, including their bowl game to close out Herman’s first season. The 43-year old coach followed that up with a Top-10 recruiting class and led Texas to nine wins for the first time since 2012 and got to put on that golden hat two months ago. Although the Longhorns failed to beat the Sooners in the Big 12 Championship Game, the team did make their appearance for the first time since 2009. Texas again has a highly-ranked recruiting class heading into the early signing period. It has been nine years since the Longhorns finished the season with at least 10 wins. Texas has a chance to accomplish that feat with a win over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Increasing the Longhorns’ win total by three in his second year shows Herman has the program headed in the right direction.
Justin Wilcox, California: The Golden Bears are on their third coach in six years, but Wilcox has showed promise. After Wilcox’s first year on the job, California had back-to-back 5-7 seasons. However, the Golden Bears are currently 7-5, have one of the best defenses in the Pac-12 and can potentially finish Wilcox’s second season with eight wins for the first time since 2015. California closed out the regular season strong winning four of its’ last six games. Quarterback play has been spotty, but the Golden Bears’ defense has handled their part. California’s defense has improved drastically from last year and the unit leads the Pac-12 with 17 interceptions, to go along with 29 sacks and has scored five defensive touchdowns. California has one of the top recruiting classes in the Pac-12 heading into the early signing period. This shows Wilcox boys will be a force to be reckoned with sooner than later in the Pac-12.
Jeff Brohm, Purdue: People wondered if the Boilermakers overachieved in Brohm’s first year on the sidelines. After all, Purdue closed out the 2017 season winning four of its last five games, including a bowl victory. Fast forward to Brohm’s second season and Purdue started out 0-3, before going on a four-game win streak, that included an upset victory over Ohio State. Purdue got some much needed momentum after its’ win over in-state rival Indiana to close out the regular season. Brohm has the Boilermakers bowl-eligible in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2012. Purdue’s offense has been very dangerous at times and the unit increased its’ point total by nearly seven points from year one under Brohm. The 47-year old coach decided to stay put in West Lafeyette instead of taking the job with his alma-mater at Louisville. Brohm wants to build something special at Purdue and he’s bringing in one of the best recruiting classes in the Big 10 West heading into the early signing period. It looks like the Boilermakers aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.