We know the drill. A new coach takes over a program, almost always because it has had disappointing results, and is asked to assess the talent he has inherited. He is never going to say, "These guys are a bunch of stiffs. They got my predecessor fired, and if I don't replace them quick, they'll get me fired, too." Instead, we'll hear, "We'll put in a more aggressive scheme, so these guys can play faster, without slowing down to think so much", or "We'll emphasize the fundamentals of blocking and tackling"
The truth of the matter is that fired coaches rarely leave significant talent, and a new coach needs to start upgrading recruiting immediately. This is a good time to review what three major local programsleft in the cupboard for new coaches recently. It's hard to measure objectively the total talent level, unless you want to use wins as a metric (and it may be the best one). We can, however, measure elite talent, and if we assume talent is somewhat distributed normally we can make assumption. How do you measur elite talent? You don't; the NFL does that for you with the draft.
Let's start with Texas. Mack Brown inherited a 4 - 7 team in 1998, that had been B12 champion in 1996. He had holes in his lineup so great that he had to start walk-on Jeremy Jones at CB against UCLA (didn't really work), but he also got to plug (to be) Heisman winner Ricky Williams into his lineup. Per the draft, here's the elite talent Brown inherited- Ricky Williams (1st round, played for Brown 1 year), Wane McGarity (4th round, 1 year for Brown), Jay Humphrey (T, 4th, 1 year), Cedric Woodward (DE, 6th, 2 years), Casey Hampton (DT, 1st round, 3 years), Shaun Rogers (DT, 2nd, 3 years), Leonard Davis (T, 1st round, 3 years), and Quentin Jammer (CB, 1st, 3 years after injury redshirt).
That's a fair amount of talent. It's nice to come into a situation where DT is set for three years. Brown deserves some credit, though. He got the most production from Jammer by moving him from SS to CB, and from Woodward by moving him from DT to DE. McGarity never had as good of a year under Mackovic as he had in his one season coached by Brown. I aso believe Mackovic had not settled yet on whether Davis would play offense or defense.
Stoops is said to have inherited decent talent from his predecessor, woefully overmatched John Blake. Let's look at his elite talent. He had Stockar McDougle (OL, 1st round, 1 year), William Bartee (DB, 2nd round, 1 year), Rocky Calmus (LB, 3rd, 3 years), Roy Williams (SS, 1st, 3 years), and Andre Woolfolk (CB, 1st round, 4 years). Note that other key contributors his first few seasons (Heupel, Mashall) were recruited by Stoops. Again, like Brown, Stoops was not afraid to move guys around to maximize their potential. It looks like he had less elite talent to begin with than Brown. Frankly, his 2000 MNC team looks less talented than several of his subsequent teams. Both Brown and Stoops send more players to the NFL now than in their first few years, due to better recruiting.
Now, let's look at a less successful tenure. What did Fran inherit in 2003? He had Jamaar Taylor (WR, 6th round, 1 year), Terrence Murphy (WR, 2nd round, 2 years), Geoff Hangarner (OL, 5th, 2 years), Johnny Jolly (6th, 3 years), Reggie McNeal (WR, 6th, 3 years), and Mike Montgomery (DE, 6th, 2 years). I believe the 2003 recruiting class was largely done by the time Fran was hired, so I don't know what to do with draftees like Chris Harrington or Cody Wallace. Are they inherited from RC, or recruited by Fran? In either case, it looks like less elite talent was inherited by Fran than his peers, and he did himself no favors in developing it. It appears he was less willing to try non-starting players at other positions tha Stoops or Brown. Of the three coaches, he was the least likely to take advantage of the inherited receiving talent (you think Sherman would like to have a few future NFL draft WRs right now?). When you see how much Jolly plays for the Packers, you have to wonder why he wasn't a bigger star in college.
Of course, this begs the question- how much talent has Mike Sherman inherited? When you look at the TAMU roster, how many future NFL draftees do you see?
So, what are the lessons learned from this study? First, no new coach inherits a fully stocked cupboard, but there are probably a few gems. Second, the best players may be playing the wrong position. Third, recruiting needs to improve ASAP, or the coach will leave his replacement something to complain about.