Bumped...this is a great read with some great research done by anh_sc79 - Paragon
SMQ (my second favorite CFB blog after EDSBS [since nothing beats those LSUfreek farks]. No, comedy blogs do not count), posted a couple of interesting write-ups on bRuin football, Rick Neuheisel, and their expectations for the next season.
First article does a great job going through Skippy's record, pointing out the life-cycle of RN coached teams:
These were both short stays, but the pattern was the same at both: fast start, second year peak, slight decline, resignation/termination under controversy. In years one and two at both stops, Neuheisel’s teams were 38-10, and a tremendous 25-6 in-conference; in years three and four, they were 28-20 and 17-15 in conference games.
I’d like to throw in a couple of my thoughts on RN to complement SMQ’s write-up. Since there is a lot of data to analyze, I will make few assumptions (some may not agree, I realize they are subjective assumptions) to draw my conclusions:
A) Years 1-2: Credit (or blame) for talent & development is given primarily to previous coaching staff (assumption about 2nd year is debatable)
B) Years 3-4: Current coach is responsible for the team, including recruits he inherited from previous coaching staff
C) NFL draft is a good proxy for team talent level. I’ll also assume that NFL teams look primarily at player’s potential, rather than on-field performance
First, let’s look at what happened 4 years prior to RN’s arrival to Colorado & Washington (SMQ briefly goes over it):
Colorado (under Bill McCartney):
1991: 8-3-1 (Big-8 co-champs, loss in Blockbuster Bowl)
1992: 9-2-1 (loss in Fiesta Bowl)
1993: 8-3-1 (won Aloha Bowl)
1994: 11-1 (won Fiesta Bowl)
Washington (under Jim Lambright):
1995: 7-4-1 (Pac-10 co-champs, loss in Sun Bowl)
1996: 9-3 (loss in Holiday Bowl to RN’s Colorado team)
1997: 8-4 (won Aloha Bowl)
1998: 6-6 (loss in Oahu Classic)
Neuheisel inherited good to great team in Colorado (with positive momentum) and mediocre to above-average team in Washington (with negative momentum). Both of them are clearly better than what RN inherited at UCLA (record-wise).
SMQ’s chart above goes over RN’s tenure, which includes two 10-win seasons at Colorado and one 11-win season at UW highlighted by 2001 Rose Bowl win over Purdue.
Here is what's more interesting: look what happened to Colorado & Washington after RN's departure:
Colorado (under Gary Barnett):
2001: 10-3-0 (B-12 championship, loss in Fiesta Bowl)
2002: 9-5 (B-12 North championship, loss in Alamo Bowl)
Washington (with Keith Gilbertson and Ty Willingham [2 years each]):
2003: 6-6 (no bowl)
Before we jump to conclusions, let’s go through NFL draft records to see what kind of talent RN inherited and left after his departure.
During RN era (draft round in brackets)
1996 draft: Heath Irwin (4th), Daryl Price (4th), Bryan Stoltenberg (6th), T.J. Cunningham (6th), Kerry Hicks (7th), Koy Detmer (7th)
1997 draft: Chris Naeole (1st), Rae Carruth (1st), Greg Jones (2nd), Matt Russell (4th), Steve Rosga (7th)
1998 draft: Ryan Sutter (5th), Ron Merkerson (5th), Ryan Olson (6th), Phil Savoy (7th), Viliami Manumau (7th), Melvin Thomas (7th)
1999 draft: Hannibal Navies (4th), Darrin Chiaverini (5th)
2000 draft: Jabari Issa (6th), Lester Towns (7th)
2001 draft: Marques Tuiasosopo (2nd), Elliot Silvers (5th), Jeremiah Pharms (5th), Hakim Akbar (5th), Chad Ward (6th)
2002 draft: Jerramy Stevens (1st), Larry Tripplett (2nd), Omare Lowe (5th),
2003 draft: None
Post RN era (draft round in brackets)
2000 draft: Ben Kelly (3rd), Damen Wheeler (6th), Brad Bedell (6th), Rashidi Barnes (7th)
2001 draft: None
2002 draft: Daniel Graham (1st), Andre Gurode (2nd), Michael Lewis (2nd), Justin Bannan (5th), Victor Rogers (7th)
2003 draft: Tyler Brayton (1st), Donald Strickland (3rd), Chris Brown* (3rd), Justin Bates (7th), Brandon Drumm (7th), Wayne Lucier* (7th)
* - Barnett recruit
2004 draft: Reggie Williams (1st), Tank Johnson (2nd), Marquis Cooper (3rd), Cody Pickett (7th)
2005 draft: Khalif Barnes (2nd), Derrick Johnson (6th)
2006 draft: Joe Toledo (4th)
2007 draft:Stanback, Isaiah Isaiah Stanback (4th), Dashon Goldson (4th)
So what kind of conclusion can I draw from above?
1) Can RN succeed if he inherits a talented team with proper level of talent development?
Absolutely. Colorado & Washington teams that he inherited were quite successful. His 1996 Colorado team had 2 first-rounders and went 10-2. 2000 Washington team was very talented as well. However, most of the players were recruited by the previous regime. Also, we have strong reasons to believe that in Colorado, previous coaching had a big role in player development. Basically, if God-forbid RN becomes USC’s coach next year, I am certain he’d be very successful in his first 2 years.
But the big question now is whether RN can succeed with Dorrell’s players? While KD had some success recruiting (2008 class was Dorrell’s), I don’t think RN inherited superior talent like he did at Colorado.
2) Can RN develop players and turn a program into consistent winner?
Doubtful. As SMQ rightfully pointed out, RN coached teams took a nose-dive (major one in Colorado, minor in Washington) in his 3rd and 4th year. One possible explanation would be lack of senior leadership or talent (previous coaching staff’s last class); however by 4th year, nearly 70% of players would be RN’s recruits. Also, I don’t really buy the talent excuse in case of Colorado. UW’s case is debatable.
3) Can RN evaluate and recruit talent?
Yes. Looking at Colorado & UW post-RN, we’ll see that a number of RN recruits were drafted high in the NFL. Also, during Gary Barnett’s 3rd and 4th year (most successful period of GB era), the majority of players were RN recruits .
4) Can RN develop talent?
Using my assumptions above – I am skeptical. NFL output gradually declined after his 2nd year. 1998 Colorado team had two second-day picks and 2002 Washington team had none. One counter argument would be to point out 2004 NFL draft where 3 Neuheisel recruits were selected in the first 3 rounds (which I assume were developed by RN). Keith Gilbertson was a terrible coach at UW – even he managed to win 6 games with those players. But after RN's departure from Colorado, we didn’t see similar interest from NFL to RN's recruits in year 1-2.
Another counter argument would be to say that McCartney & Lambright's last 2 recruiting classes were very weak. I have no reasons to believe that (especially with McCartney), but if anyone can post recruiting rankings from 94-95 and 98-99, I'd be happy to change my opinion.
Overall, while I think RN is a good coach and fits great at UCLA, I am highly skeptical of media hype about renewal of the rivalry. UCLA is clearly so far behind now and given RN’s coaching record, I wouldn’t worry about the Bruins just yet.