It’s Sunday and naturally, I can't stop thinking about yesterday’s game and where we go from here. Maybe this is unfixable, but I don't think it is—I think it all depends on what a reasonable definition of success looks like. Jimbo might not ever be great here but we can get back to good. And I think the fixes are pretty obvious.
All of this is contingent upon the roster staying together which [chuckles nervously] is something that I really hope happens.
This program is very Jimbo-centric. And part of being Jimbo-centric is that it’s inefficient and relies too much on one person to be successful—and that’s not just Jimbo. We put too much on “one” person and need to split off responsibilities to give people smaller areas of focus to dedicate their time and energy toward.
So let’s go from easiest to fix to hardest to fix.
Fix 1: Hire a full-time dedicated special teams coach.
Ole Miss ran a successful fake punt. South Carolina ran back a kickoff for a TD. We had an FG blocked for a TD against Miss St and missed a go-ahead FG against App State. I’m sure there’s more that I’m missing.
Albert Regis mentioned that we look at special teams as an extension of the defense. So that means our DC is the defacto ST coach. As I said relying too much on one person. I know we have an analyst who works with the STs, but analysts are limited in how much time they can spend directly with the team.
Fix 2: Get older through the transfer portal. Drink a magical tackling-fixing elixir.
Maybe I’m being naive but I think Durkin has the capacity to get this to where we need it to be. It might not ever be as good as Elko, but Durkin has demonstrated the capacity to improve a defense from year one to year two.
Right now we’ve got youth all over the field and that’s not a good recipe for success. We can't magically get folks to be older but we need experienced leadership at DE and LB. I’d go hit the transfer portal to see if I can get a 4th-year guy from somewhere just to get older guys in the room.
I don't know how you fix the tackling issue other than to just keep yelling “TACKLE BETTER”. Over and over again I’ve seen us be in a good position to just get shaken off by a ball carrier. You tell me how to fix that.
Here’s the tricky one. But I think all of the fixes I’m about to propose are reasonable. Can Jimbo do it? I don't know.
Fix 3: Change chairs in the offensive meeting room.
We all know Jimbo is the play caller. Right now the other chairs are filled by guys who are our “eyes in the sky” that lock in on the big picture stuff (gameplan, personnel, self-scouting, even down and distance stuff within the context of the game) so that Jimbo can hold a few dozen pieces of paper to make the every down play calls.
That needs to change. Swap places between Dickey and Jimbo. Jimbo needs to be the person to give input and suggestions and keep an eye on the bigger picture stuff and make suggestions about personnel but he does not need to be involved with the small picture of day-to-day play calling. I know we’re going to hire a new OC but it doesn't work if we replace Dickey with another Dickey. We don't need another mind in the room, we need another play caller with Jimbo being the other mind. Jimbo can make suggestions we need someone else to make decisions.
Fix 4: Hire an OC with a QB-friendly scheme
It is too much for one person to manage the game flow and down to down play calling decisions. Hire an OC. It needs to be easy for the QB to have success in whatever offense we run. We need to know exactly what we expect out of the QB and recruit that kind of QB. No more of this recruiting dual-threat guys and hoping we can mold them into pro-style guys while also discouraging them from running.
It needs to be simple. And it can still align with Jimbo’s philosophy of running the ball, eating the clock, winning the game. But it just needs to be simpler. No more of this Jimbo Frankenstein offense where he picks up certain things and tosses them into his already complex offensive scheme.
It needs to be the OCs proprietary system. Not something they and Jimbo come with with a lab.
Fix 5: Let the OC hire their own OL coach
It’s gonna be really easy to get a sense of whether things have really changed when we hire this OC. If the OC has a connection to the OL coach then it’s likely that they got the final say in who that was going to be...and it’s someone they feel comfortable running their scheme. If the OL coach has no connection to the OC we hire then buddy I’m nervous that it might be more of the same as we’ve seen. Too many cooks in the kitchen kind of stuff.
We currently have a Director of Player Personnel that handles both recruiting and personnel-related decisions. This position was previously filled by Austin Thomas (now at Ole Miss) and Marshall Malchow (now at Oregon). Both were absolutely elite at their jobs but I don't know that the position as it's currently structured is set up for success.
Fix 6: Split player personnel and recruit into two different positions.
Again, more people to handle smaller areas of responsibility.
We need one person responsible for the roster and most importantly the portal. We have not done a good job using the portal to build this program and given where we are right now in 2023 recruiting we’re going to need that. Hire a dedicated player personnel director whose job is to look at the roster, look at the portal, fill gaps and make this 85-man roster into what it needs to be. Let them manage a staff of player personnel analysts.
Secondly, hire a dedicated director of recruiting to manage the recruiting process, from communication to outreach to on-campus visits, etc. Two different people with the same amount of clout in the organization work together but work in two separate functional areas with their own uniquely skilled staff. Having one person responsible for both is inefficient and right now ineffective.
It’s not just changing what we do. It’s changing how we go about doing it. An organizational cultural shift away from being a mirror image of everything Jimbo has done for the past 20 years and towards one that empowers people to be successful within their areas of expertise. If we just replace people without rethinking what people need to be doing then we’re selling ourselves short.
Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you get the kick in the ass you need to reevaluate every single thing you do.
Perhaps we (and by we I mean Jimbo) are there right now.