Sunday, December 21, 2008

English to EMU

The Detroit News reported Saturday that Louisville defensive coordinator Ron English was negotiating a deal to become head coach of Eastern Michigan.

English, of course, was Michigan's defensive coordinator in 2006 and 2007. As you may recall, UM finished with one of the stiffest run defenses in NCAA history in 2006 but collapsed while allowing 42 points to Ohio State and 32 points to USC in the final two games. Those efforts were followed up by the Appalachian State and Oregon debacles at the beginning of the 2007 season, which effectively sealed English's fate as an ex-Michigan coach when Lloyd Carr retired (although the defense played much closer to expectations over the final 11 games).

But I'm going to give Eastern Michigan a little bit of credit here -- for a program that's been one of the worst in the country throughout the last decade, this seems like a rare step in the right direction.

Why? Recruiting. English was an outstanding recruiter in his time at Michigan, regularly pulling kids out of California and the South. It doesn't hurt that he's both young (40) and black.

English is also a high-energy guy, the kind who will run along the sidelines to give a guy a high-five after an interception or chew a guy out for missing an assignment. Kids react to that -- see Pete Carroll -- and because of his ability to motivate and connect with his players, I always thought English seemed like a guy who would make a better head coach than a coordinator.

And I'll be honest: Even at Eastern Michigan, which is regularly scraping the bottom of the barrel for recruits, having a guy who might be able to lure just one or two big-name recruits from the Detroit area each year -- guys Michigan will be going after -- scares me just a little bit as a Wolverines fan.

I'm not sure English can elevate the program into the MAC elite, but he's a start. The Eagles haven't had a winning record since finishing 6-5 in 1995, and they've compiled an atrocious 38-98 record in the 13 years since. There's nowhere to go but up.

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