If there’s something Eddie Robinson would have loved, it’s some of the coaches who have been knocking at the door of his FCS coach of the year award.
The best players still need the best coaching, and it’s been happening at some of the top programs in the subdivision.
The Robinson Award, which is in its 32nd year in the FCS, has been won by a Who’s Who of FCS coaches, including Mark Duffner, Erk Russell, Chris Ault, Jim Tressel, Houston Nutt, Andy Talley, Paul Johnson, Mickey Matthews, Joe Glenn, Mike Ayers, Sean McDonnell, Jerry Moore and K.C. Keeler.
Here are Athlon Sports' top five candidates (in alphabetical order) to win the 2018 Eddie Robinson Award.
-- Compiled by Craig Haley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Haley has covered the FCS level since 1999 and is the national writer for www.fcs.football. He appears frequently on radio shows and podcasts to discuss everything FCS. Follow him on Twitter @CraigHaley.
Broderick Fobbs, Grambling State
Career Record: 38-11, four seasons
His SWAC brethren have voted Fobbs as their coach of the year in each of his four seasons. He’s seeking to lead the G-Men to a third straight conference title. While a SWAC team hasn’t beaten an FBS school since 1985, a season-opening win at Louisiana from the Sun Belt isn’t out of the question.
(Photo courtesy of Grambling State Athletics)
John Grass, Jacksonville State
Career Record: 43-8, four seasons
Through his first four seasons, Grass hasn’t lost to an Ohio Valley Conference opponent. This year’s team could be replacing eight players who made first-team all-conference honors, so another big coaching effort is needed. Grass was second in the Eddie Robinson Award voting in 2015, when he led the Gamecocks to a national runner-up finish.
(Photo courtesy of Jacksonville State Athletics)
Mike Houston, James Madison
James Madison Record: 28-2, two seasons
Career Record: 71-21, eight seasons
Houston finished third in the 2016 Eddie Robinson Award voting and second last year, so there’s only one more spot upward. He’s only lost to one FCS opponent while leading the CAA champion Dukes to two straight national finals (including the 2016 title). Oh yes, Houston also lifted The Citadel to a Southern Conference title in 2015 and finished fifth in the Robinson voting that season.
(Photo courtesy of James Madison Athletics)
Chris Klieman, North Dakota State
North Dakota State Record: 54-6, four seasons
Career Record: 57-13 overall, five seasons
Klieman’s predecessor, Craig Bohl, won two Eddie Robinson awards. Considering Klieman has led the Bison to three of the last four FCS national championships, he, too, has to be on the verge of winning one. His Missouri Valley power is the preseason No. 1 team, seeking to win a record seventh FCS title.
(Photo courtesy of North Dakota State Athletics)
Danny Rocco, Delaware
Delaware Record: 7-4, one season
Career Record: 97-46, 12 seasons
Delaware’s tradition-rich program hasn’t been to the FCS playoffs since its national runner-up finish in 2010, but Rocco has the Blue Hens primed for a return this season. They were one of the last two teams left out of last year’s field. A six-time conference champ, Rocco is three wins shy of 100 in his career.
(Photo courtesy of Delaware Athletics)