The Path of an Up and Coming Coach

Story posted September 24, 2011 in Sports, CommRadio by John Bridgens

On Saturday, Penn State will do battle with Eastern Michigan. To many Nittany Lion fans, Eastern Michigan is best known for their head coach, Ron English who was formerly on the Michigan coaching staff. He coached there from 2003-2007, an in 2006 English was promoted from defensive backs coach to defensive coordinator.

After former Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr stepped down, many considered English a candidate to replace Carr. English interviewed for the job but was beaten out by Rich Rodriguez. English also interviewed at Arkansas before rebounding and being hired as the defensive coordinator at Louisville for one season before being hired at Eastern Michigan.

English is one of thirteen African American head coaches in the country for the 2011 season.

English is a 1990 graduate of the University of California-Berkeley. While at Cal, English was a four-year letterman playing safety for the Golden Bears.  English started at safety as a senior and collected 134 tackles and seven sacks during his collegiate career. 

English has long been considered one of top young defensive minds in college football. While at Michigan, English was named the Rivals.com National Defensive Coordinator of the Year in 2006. Impressively, while at Michigan, every defensive back that played for him made it to the NFL.

English was also the defensive backs coach at San Diego State and Arizona State before moving onto Michigan. While at Louisville, English did not have much in the way of talent to work with and saw his defensive struggle. Louisville’s defense did improve slightly under English, but still underperformed being ranked 70th in total defense.

English was hired in December 2008 as the head coach at Eastern Michigan. Eastern Michigan is widely considered one of the worst football programs in the country.  When English was hired he preached to his players and alumni to, “Embrace the process.” The process has been a long and bumpy struggle in English’s first three years as head coach.

In English’s first season as head coach the team failed to win a game. He followed up the winless season with a 2 win year. Fortunately for English his team has gotten off to a good start this year and has already won 2 games over Howard University and Alabama State University. Eastern Michigan lost last Saturday to English’s former team Michigan, but he believes that this year’s team should compete to win the MAC title.

English would certainly enjoy coming home Saturday with a signature win over the Nittany Lions. English has had much success in the past against Penn State while at Michigan. In Michigan’s three meetings with Penn State while English was on the staff, Michigan was a perfect 3-0, with all three victories coming by less than a touchdown. Unfortunately for English, the talent level that he has to work with now does not compare to the players he coached at Michigan.

English was one of the popular choices to become a head coach at a major Division I football school before his struggles at Louisville and Eastern Michigan. At 42, English still has a chance to land a major Division I coaching job if he can succeed in getting Eastern Michigan to become a successful program.  Similar to Temple coach Steve Addazio, English hopes this weekend will produce the kind of program changing victory to help him regain his status as one of the top young head coaching candidates in the country.

John Bridgens is a sophomore whose major is currently undecided. He can be contacted at jfb5166@psu.edu.