Three weeks into the season, and we’ve already seen upstart coaches burst onto the scene, cagy veterans springing upsets and established stars say “remember me?”
Good coaching is hard to find these days, but some schools have it made — even if you have to peel back the curtain a bit to find it. This year, though, there already have been some “a-ha” moments for underrated coaches who love to make a splash.
Who are the most underrated head coaches in America?
1. Mike Gundy,
Oklahoma State Cowboys
: Yes, Gundy is highly-decorated. After all, he won the Bear Bryant Coach of the Year Award in 2011 after nearly earning a berth in the BCS Championship Game and owns the most incredible mullet this side of Joe Dirt. But despite that, the No. 6 national ranking and years of sustained success, he still plays second-fiddle in his own state to a guy in Lincoln Riley who has coached a total of three games. Gundy has reached the double-digit win mark five times since the start of the decade, has seemingly created has a stud wide receiver cloning machine buried somewhere in Stillwater. Oh, and he recognizes quarterback talent — like current starter
— that he can develop into superstardom.
2. Dan Mullen,
Mississippi State Bulldogs
: There’s something to be said for consistently being the underdog, consistently finding talented players and having those players buy into a vision that might seem aggressive to anybody outside the Starkville city limits. Mullen has done that consistently. Imagine the horror Mississippi State fans a decade ago would feel when told that, in 2016, they would be disappointed with a 5-7 record and an APR-placed bowl berth. Yet, that’s where Mullen has the program. The ability to develop quarterbacks like
, the ascension to No. 1 in the country in 2014 and realization that big-time college football can be played at Mississippi State make Mullen the second-best coach in the SEC, and one of the most underrated coaches in the country.
3. Willie Taggart,
: The Ducks are used to winning at a high level, but did anyone expect them to be ranked after just three games of the Taggart era? You should have, because winning is all Taggart does. He took
South Florida Bulls
from two wins to four wins to eight wins and then 10 before bailing for Eugene, took Western Kentucky to a bowl game in 2012 and should have had another in 2011 when his Hilltoppers finished 7-5 and 7-1 in the Sun Belt. An offensive genius who’s well-versed in adapting his system to his players, Taggart is actually in a perfect position to thrive in his new digs. The level of athlete combined with the offensive creativity that Oregon expects makes this a match made in Heaven that is already paying dividends for a championship-starved program.
4. Jeff Brohm,
: Is Purdue’s 2-1 start and sudden offensive prowess enough to make the Boilermakers relevant in the Big Ten West? Probably not. But it’s enough to solidify Brohm as one of the more underrated coaches in America. The Boilermakers played
close in the opener, topped a decent
team and then annihilated
at their place in Week 3. When was the last time anybody could say Purdue annihilated anybody — much less an SEC team on the road? Brohm won 30 games in three years at Western Kentucky before moving to West Lafayette, Indiana, and has the passing prowess to make life miserable for opposing defensive coordinators who struggle to prepare for his high-octane passing offense.
5. Rocky Long,
San Diego State Aztecs
: Was San Diego State’s upset of
in Week 3 really that shocking? Well, maybe. But what should be surprising is that Long had his Aztecs ready for what
and the Cardinal brought to the table. After posting consecutive 11-win seasons in 2015 and 2016 with star running back Donnel Pumphrey leading the charge, Long replaced him with senior
— who has 588 rushing yards and four touchdowns in three games. It’s one thing to light up Mountain West foes. It’s something more to drop 175 on Stanford. Long’s system, fit and ability to identify and develop talent goes wildly unnoticed in the college football world.