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February 25, 2008

Former NFL coaches a plus for pro prospects

MORE: Rivals.com coverage from the NFL Scouting Combine

INDIANAPOLIS – A recent trend in college football is schools hiring head coaches who have worked in the NFL either as assistants or head coaches.

One advantage for these coaches on the recruiting trail is they're able to say, "Hey, I've been in the NFL, and I can get you ready for the next level."

Rivals.com spoke with multiple players at the NFL Scouting Combine, and USC quarterback John David Booty said there's no question playing for a former pro coach like Pete Carroll helped him get ready for the NFL.

"It's definitely something we try to do at SC, prepare guys for the NFL," Booty said. "That's why a lot of us go there, to get training for the next level. Basically, all of our coaches have been in the NFL at some level …and are bringing the styles back from the NFL, the terminology, plays, all of those things."

Carroll's NFL style became even more apparent at last month's Senior Bowl in Mobile. The Trojans had nine players on the North squad and former Trojans offensive coordinator and current Oakland Raiders coach Lane Kiffin was the North's coach.

The Raiders' coaching staff ran their practices at the Senior Bowl no different than they would with their players in Oakland. So, for guys such as Booty and the eight other Trojans in Mobile, Ala., it felt like they were back home at practice with Carroll.

Boston College offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus is another who played his college ball for a former NFL coach. Jeff Jagodzinski arrived at BC from the Green Bay Packers after the 2006 season.

"What Coach Jagodzinski brought to our team is it's like a mini-NFL team with the way we do things in the offense and the defense that we run," Cherilus said. "I went to the Senior Bowl, and I felt like it wasn't fair because most of the things we were running at the Senior Bowl we already ran at BC."

Here's a list of college head coaches from the 2007 season who have been head coaches or assistants in the NFL:
Alabama's Nick Saban
Arizona State's Dennis Erickson
Boston College's Jeff Jagodzinski
Connecticut's Randy Edsall
Florida Atlantic's Howard Schnellenberger
Fresno State's Pat Hill
Georgia Tech's Chan Gailey
Hawaii's June Jones
Iowa's Kirk Ferentz
Kentucky's Rich Brooks
Louisville's Steve Kragthorpe
Maryland's Ralph Friedgen
Miami's Randy Shannon
Mississippi State's Sylvester Croom
Nebraska's Bill Callahan
North Carolina's Butch Davis
Notre Dame's Charlie Weis
Oregon State's Mike Riley
Pitt's Dave Wannstedt
South Carolina's Steve Spurrier
Syracuse's Greg Robinson
UCF's George O'Leary
UCLA's Karl Dorrell
USC's Pete Carroll
Virginia's Al Groh
Washington's Tyrone Willingham
Virginia defensive end Chris Long played for a former pro coach in Al Groh. Long is considered one of the top overall prospects in this year's draft, which means there is the possibility he could go No. 1 overall to the Miami Dolphins. Most of Groh's defensive philosophies have come from Bill Parcells, who was Groh's boss with the New York Jets and now oversees football operations for the Dolphins. Long said the philosophies he learned from Groh should help him make an easier transition into the NFL.

"Coach Groh is a guy with a tremendous amount of respect for that coaching tree," Long said of Groh's Parcells connections. "I think a lot of his coaching styles and obviously his schemes are derived directly from that tree.

"It'll be a tough transition whatever I do or wherever I go, but I think he does have a lot of similarities."

Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis will be entering his fourth season in South Bend. Weis has implemented a system he learned under New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. One of Weis' former players at the Combine is defensive lineman Trevor Laws. As Laws prepares for the draft, he said there's no question the way Weis ran the program helped him get ready for the next level.

"I think our whole practice schedule he kind of brought in from the New England Patriots," Laws said. "Just the way he acts – he tells us the way it's going to be, what to expect. It really helps because I feel like when I get into camp, when I do these things, Combines, talking to NFL coaches, I already kind of know what to expect."

Pittsburgh tight end Darrell Strong played his college ball under former NFL coach Dave Wannstedt. Strong, like every other player Rivals.com spoke to, said he can't put into words how big of an advantage he feels he has over the other players heading into the draft.

"Everything we did was an NFL-type offense," Strong said. "(Wannstedt) basically ran the team like an NFL team.

"I actually think I have a step ahead of everybody because I've been under Wannstedt for three years."

MORE: Rivals.com coverage from the NFL Scouting Combine



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