There were many great coaching jobs around college football this season, and the Coach of the Year selection is always a tough decision. Les Miles of LSU was the only coach in the country to go undefeated, and he did it against a tough schedule. Kansas State’s Bill Snyder and Michigan’s Brady Hoke led their respective teams from 7-6 records in 2010 to 10-2 this season. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney led the Tigers to the ACC crown, while Virginia’s Mike London did a tremendous job in getting the Cavaliers to 8-4. Baylor’s Art Briles deserves recognition for the Bears’ 9-win campaign, while Stanford’s David Shaw surprised many by leading the Cardinal to 11 wins. Hugh Freeze won the Sun Belt crown at Arkansas State, while Gary Patterson’s TCU club won the Mountain West after massive personnel losses and the league’s addition of Boise State.
Who is your national Coach of the Year?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
My national Coach of the Year is Kansas State's Bill Snyder. I have to admit I was down on the Wildcats in the preseason. I did not think they would be able to finish much higher than sixth or seventh in the Big 12. However, Kansas State and Snyder proved me wrong, winning 10 games and nearly reaching a BCS bowl. Quarterback Collin Klein was one of the nation's most underrated players this year, and the defense showed solid improvement from an awful 2010 performance. The Wildcats recorded solid victories over Baylor, Missouri, Miami, Texas A&M and Texas, while losing by a touchdown to Oklahoma State. Snyder has done a good job of getting contributions from a few key JUCOs (namely cornerback Nigel Malone) and transfer Arthur Brown, and he's doing this with a roster that is under the NCAA limit in scholarships. On paper, Kansas State shouldn't be able to go 10-2. But that's a credit to Snyder and how good of a coaching job he did with this team in 2011.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Bill Snyder worked a minor miracle at Kansas State, but I’m going with Brady Hoke at Michigan. The former boss at Ball State and San Diego State guided the Wolverines to a 10–2 overall record and a 6–2 mark in the Legends Division of the Big Ten. On the surface, a three-game improvement in the win column (both overall and in the league) is impressive, but when you dive into the numbers you really get an indication of how much better Michigan was in 2011. A year ago, Michigan lost its five games by an average of 20.8 points, with the closest loss coming by 10 points (on two occasions). In ’11, Michigan lost two games, by 14 points at Michigan State and by eight points at Iowa. Last year, the Wolverines were outgained by an average of 1.4 yards per game in Big Ten play. In ’11, they were statistically dominant in the league, outgaining their opponents by average of 130.7 yards per game. That is a staggering improvement in one season. The biggest gains were made on defense. In ’10, Michigan gave up an average of 471.9 yards in eight Big Ten games. This past fall, that number plummeted to 300.0 yards. Statistics alone reveal that Hoke did a great job in his first year on the job. What they don’t show is what he did off the field, as far as improving morale around the program and among the fan base. Michigan is on its way to returning to elite status in college football, and Hoke deserves a much of the credit.
Wear your white hat especially high and savor the sweet taste of fescue football field, LSU's Les Miles is this season's obvious choice for Coach of the Year. The Mad Hatter cannot be stopped. Not only did he load up Baton Rouge's football factory with five-star future first-rounders, but he took his Bayou Bengals on a national tour to show off their dominance against BCS bowl-caliber opponents — handing Oregon a billion-dollar beatdown at Jerry's House to start the year, burning all the couches in West Virginia and washing away the Crimson Tide's title hopes (at least SEC title hopes) in the Game of the Century showdown in T-Town. No team can match the Tigers' resume; their "other" wins include Georgia, Arkansas, Florida and Auburn. LSU is 13–0 and the undisputed No. 1 team in the nation. Les is more.
Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
This is one of the toughest awards to vote for in all of 2011. And the question for Coach of the Year is always: Did you accomplish what you were supposed to (Les Miles, Nick Saban, Chip Kelly, David Shaw) or did you wildly overachieve in the face of adversity with lesser talent? I lean towards the latter — which leaves me with Kansas State's Bill Snyder, Virginia's Mike London, Michigan's Brady Hoke and UL Lafayette's Mark Hudspeth. London and Snyder accomplished the most with the least against the toughest odds. But Snyder had the better record in the better conference with his only losses coming to the state of Oklahoma. His style is unique and, at times, incredibly unorthodox, but it is incredibly effective. He has the nation's No. 3 scorer in Collin Klein and posted wins at Miami, Texas and Texas Tech, with home victories over Baylor, Missouri and Texas A&M. London did an excellent job and has the Wahoos back, but Snyder gets my vote.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
Many coaches around college football had terrific seasons, and my choice for Coach of the Year would be LSU’s Les Miles. The Tigers smacked around the Pac-12 and Big East champions, while also laying the wood to 10-win teams in Georgia and Arkansas. The Tigers’ only close game this year was on the road at then-No. 1 Alabama, and of course LSU won that one as well. Bill Snyder did a tremendous job at Kansas State, but the 10-win season was pretty understandable with the lack of defense in the Big 12. I think Mike London at Virginia deserves a ton of credit for elevating the Cavaliers’ program. Also many of us thought Stanford would drop off (even with Andrew Luck) with the departures of Jim Harbaugh and two key assistants, and that was not the case. In the end, however, it has to be Miles. His defense, special teams and physical running game crushed the competition this season.