Thursday, February 16, 2006

Settle's Gone, Who's In?

It seems the people of Madison are happy with the hire of former Bulldog running back coach John Settle. He has been a very popular coach where ever he goes. The Wisconsin State Journal has just one thing to say about what Settle brings to the table, he brings an attitude.

Pat Hill originally wanted to bring Settle with him, from Baltimore, back in 1997 when he was first hired at Fresno State, but Settle was unable to get out of his contract. But Settle became the RB coach the next year and coached his first 1,000 yard rusher, former walk-on Jamie Kimbrough. Kimbrough was the first of six 1,000 yard rushers he would eventually mentor. Settle had a 1,000 yard rusher each year, except in 1999 and 2000, including Fresno State record breaker Rodney Davis.

However, in 1999 he had two backs that rushed for over 600 yards apiece, Paris Gaines and Derrick Ward. Ward was even named freshman All-American that season. The 2000 season was a disaster for the Bulldog tailbacks. Gaines was recovering from a season ending knee injury, and Ward struggled to get healthy all season. Little used Josh Levi led team in rushing but failed to rush for over 400 yards.

Gaines returned to post a 1,000 yard season in 2001, but Ward missed that year but was poised to start in 2002. He failed to qualify, and the running back position looked dismal since the only other back with experience, Levi, had left the team that Spring. Settle did his best coaching job, in my opinion, that year. Walk-on redshirt freshman Matt Rivera was the starter in the first game, but eventually gave way to JC transfer Davis. Despite just three weeks of preseason practice, and not playing in the season opener, he burst on to the scene and simply broke the school's season rushing record.

Settle rounded out his career, as a Bulldog assistant, by tutoring three of the school's best running backs, Dwayne Wright, Bryson Sumlin, and Wendell Mathis, all 1,000 yard rushers. Not to mention helping transform Clifton Smith from cornerback into a college running back. Settle will be missed. He had to be the most underrated coach on Hill's staff. He has practically been with Hill since the get go, but has never been given the respect he deserves. Hill has lost three offensive coordinators in his tenure, but only one, Jeff Tedford, of the three was worth a "hill" of beans.

Former offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig left in 2001 and drove the Oregon offense into the ground. The jury is still out on Frank Cignetti, but in my book wasn't too impressive in his four years as the offensive coordinator. Why wasn't Settle considered for the vacant offensive coordinator position after Cignetti left for North Carolina? Was Steve Hagen's hire a sign to Settle that he would always be just a running back coach if he stayed at Fresno State?

But no one has coveted Settle until Barry Alvarez decided to retire and his replacement, Bret Bielema, went looking for the best rb coach available. Settle should fit in perfectly with the Badgers. Hill loves to run a smashmouth attack led by a pounding running game, and what conference is synonymous for playing smashmouth football? The Big Ten, and Wisconsin has had its share of great running backs. What does Settle think of the Badgers' great tailbacks? He just said one name.

"R-o-n D-a-y-n-e." He said with a laugh, mimicking the public address announcer at Badger games when Dayne was carrying the football.

What does Hill do now? He replaced Cignetti with Hagen, who was out of coaching in 2005 after serving as an assistant with the Cleveland Browns in 2004. Hagen was an average college offensive coordinator at best when he was at Cal, but Hill was looking for a long term hire. Hagen, 44, has young children, and has bounced around coaching jobs for the last 15 years. Is Hill look for a running back coach in the same type of situation or is looking for the best coach available?

I would love to see Kelly Skipper come back to Fresno State. Hill has been reluctant to hire any former Bulldogs for his staff. Skipper was a Fresno State assistant for 9 years, and was the running back coach in 1997. Both Skipper and Tedford left the Bulldog program after 97 for jobs in the Pac 10. Tedford became the offensive coordinator at Oregon and Skipper the RB coach at UCLA, where he eventually became the offensive coordinator. Skipper is now coaching running backs at Washington State, but returning to Fresno State would be considered a step down.

As stated above, according to the WSJ, Hill wanted Settle at Fresno State in 97. So Skipper would have never coached under Hill, if Hill would have had his way. But it always Hill's way when it comes the Bulldog football program. Don't get me wrong I like Hill, but I would love to see some former 'Dogs on his staff. By looking at Hill's track record, it would be a cold day in hell before Hill would hire a Jim Sweeney protege. My guess, Hill will hire a RB coach with some NFL experienced, probably affiliated with either the Cleveland Browns or Baltimore Ravens.

Hill's Way or the Highway!


Barkelnic said...

Just a comment: I spend hours devouring info on the Dogs. Your site is clearly #1 and my first stop every night. THANKS for a great job.

mdg said...

Thanks for the kind words. As long as I have the extra time, I will devote it to my alma mater and my favorite sport, college football.

Go Dogs!