THE X'S AND O'S WIZ
RALPH FRIEDGEN, MARYLAND
He is the man behind a near-mythical 600-page playbook, from which Maryland draws 15 basic running plays with more than 100 variations and 100 pass plays with nearly 1,000 variations. The third-year Terps coach, who spent 31 years as an assistant, credits his father, Ralph Sr., a former high school coach, for teaching him how to turn X's and O's into W's. "I don't think there are geniuses in football," says Friedgen, who often comes up with ideas for new plays in church. "I'm just a guy who works hard and prepares hard."
THE BEST WITH THE LEAST
RAYMOND MONICA, TEMPLE
Think you've got a tough job? Try coaching at a school that hasn't had a winning record in 13 years. Yet the 37-year-old Monica presides over a top-notch defense for one reason: He's the best in the nation at getting ordinary players to do extraordinary things. Temple is just one of eight Division l-A teams that ranked in the Top 20 in total defense in both 2001 and 02. Playing a 4-2-5 base defense, the Owls often fill the box with nine players, daring teams to beat them through the air.
THE PASS MASTER
NORM CHOW, USC
The man USC coach Pete Carroll says is "arguably the best offensive coordinator in the history of college football" has coached six of the NCAA's top 12 career passing efficiency leaders and designed offenses for teams that hold 11 of the top 30 single-season passing yardage totals in NCAA history. Yet ask him to define a particular system behind the collegiate careers of prolific passers like Steve Young and Heisman Trophy winners Ty Detmer and Carson Palmer, and he shrugs. "There's no system, really." says Chow. "You try to magnify the strengths of the players you have."
TYRONE WILLINGHAM, NOTRE DAME
Willingham eschews hokey motivational techniques for simple encouragement. One example came last year when, in his first team meeting as Irish coach, he put together a PowerPoint presentation for his players. The final slide they saw contained one word: WIN. They did. Last season, working with essentially the same team that went 5-6 in 2001, Willingham guided Notre Dame to a 10-3 record. "It's difficult sometimes for coaches to implore the kids and tell them how hard it's going to be." he says. "It's not like a light switch."
THE DEFENSIVE GURUS
BOB AND MIKE STOOPS, OKLAHOMA
When they were assistants at Kansas State in the early 1990s, Bob and Mike Stoops developed a defensive philosophy based on three principles: create confusion, attack constantly and tackle soundly. Every year the Stoops brothers tweak their D—they play far more zone now—but since they arrived in Norman in 1999 the results have been consistent. The Sooners are one of two teams in the nation that have ranked in the Top 10 in total defense in each of the last three years. "We attack from different areas of the field," says Mike Stoops. "We have great athletes, which makes it easier, but our athletes are also great tacklers."
THE ORGANIZATION MAN
DIRK KOETTER, ARIZONA STATE
Koetter is so meticulously organized, one has to wonder if he's in the wrong profession. He logs the name of everyone who calls his office and the time and purpose of the call. He takes notes during every meeting he has with a player and keeps them in that player's file. He has also been known to type an agenda before addressing the local media. Why go to the trouble? "Only a handful of plays can turn [a season]," he says, "but those plays can be changed by what we do the rest of the year. It is not magic. It is attention to detail."
THE RECRUITING KING
MACK BROWN, TEXAS
How has Texas's Mack Brown hooked three consensus top five recruiting classes in just six years? He is a master at using a soft touch to make a hard sell. With ample fatherly charm, the 51-year-old Brown often has recruits over to his lakeside house and also shows off the Longhorns' extravagant facilities, which include a spacious locker room and players' lounge. "We pride ourselves on a family atmosphere," says Brown, "and our goal is to win championships with nice kids who are graduating."