Unless you’ve been hanging out in a Cold War era nuclear bunker then you’ve probably heard that Joker Phillips will no longer be retained as Kentucky’s football coach at the conclusion of the season. Because of this we now enter one of the most entertaining phases of athletics at any level, a coaching search. Yes fire up the plane tracker and talk to your horse-farm Realtor buddy because paranoia and rumors will be running rampant over the next few weeks. While the decision won’t likely come until after the season’s conclusion, there are multiple candidates who are believed to be favorites of Athletic Director, Mitch Barnhart. One of these favorites happens to be Louisiana Tech’s Sonny Dykes, son of Texas Tech coaching legend William “Spike” Dykes. He has many characteristics that are highly valued by the administration at Kentucky; character, pedigree, and connections to the University to name a few. These are undoubtedly important things when considering a coach, but results and the numbers you put up alongside them are what truly matter. So to give some insight on just how Dykes has performed in his three seasons as Louisiana Tech’s head man I went back and examined some key statistics to evaluate his successes and failures.
The most well known trait about Dykes at this point would be the spectacularly efficient “Air-Raid” inspired offense that he runs. Through his team’s 9 games the Bulldogs are averaging an unreal 52.4 points per game (2nd nationally) and are winning by an average margin of 18.3 points per game (11th nationally). This is due to one of the best quarterback/wide-receiver combos in the nation; Colby Cameron and Quinton Patton. In typical Air-Raid fashion Cameron has completed 71% of his passes for 2946 yards and has also thrown for 24 touchdowns. Eleven of those touchdowns went to Patton, who in addition to his touchdowns, has precisely 1000 receiving yards and 75 receptions. These two are certainly the cornerstones for the Bulldog offense, but many more players and coaches are involved in the continued growth of the program. While they all can’t be listed in the interest of time, here are some of the most vital offensive stats (and their progression) over the tenure of Dykes and his staff.
(*2012 through 9 games)
The most encouraging thing about Dykes’ offense? It has improved in nearly every category during his three season tenure (the passing game improving every year). The passing increase is a trait that Kentucky fans will admire given the obsession with the Air Raid of the late 90’s. Offensively speaking, this hire would be perfect for Kentucky since two Quarterbacks will return in 2013 that have tons of potential in Maxwell Smith and Patrick Towles. Pair these two with Dykes’ offense and we could see some magic reminiscent of the early Mumme years.
If there is a criticism about Dykes’ coaching acumen it would be his defense, or lack thereof. So far this season his Bulldogs are surrendering 34.1 points per game which ranks them 102nd nationally in a tie with Memphis. While this number is largely useless without its offensive counterpart it’s concerning knowing that this was done against a strength of schedule ranked 128th by Jeff Sagarin. This is troubling, but it hasn’t always been this way during his tenure. Last season Louisiana Tech went on a 7 game winning streak largely due to their defense, surrendering an average of 14.8 points per game during that stretch. The success of their defense is largely based off turnovers, that creates a high risk/high reward scenario which Kentucky fans may not be in favor of. This is the sort of “bend don’t break” defense that sent former defensive coordinator, Mike Archer, to N.C. State. Defensively, Dykes has certainly not been among the nation’s elite, but regardless, here are some of the key numbers over his tenure.
Certainly not elite or a model of consistency, but there is the ability to force opponent turnovers and stop the run which is highly prevalent in the SEC. Overall, something would have to change defensively if Dykes were to become the head coach at UK, whether that be a change in scheme or a new defensive coordinator.
Sonny Dykes will certainly get a long and hard (hey-ooohh) look from the Kentucky administration to be the next head coach. His style of play is something that Kentucky fans have long admired and results on the field have been outstanding in his short time as a head coach. Perhaps the only stats that matter in the examination of Dykes are .417, .615, and .889 (Dykes’ winning percentage in his three seasons). Those were close to being even better as well; with brutally close losses coming to Texas A&M, TCU, Houston, Mississippi State, and Southern Miss (all within 7 points). Dykes would be a great hire for Kentucky; his past numbers are excellent, he has connections to the University, and he would bring excitement back to Kentucky Football. Don’t discount the entertainment aspect out of this equation either, tons of points scored would inspire many to come back to Commonwealth and be entertained against the nation’s elite. Believe it or not, offense can win tons of games in the SEC (see 2012 Texas A&M who also runs a modified Air-Raid, and 2011 Arkansas), so this hire would not only give potential to win many games, but it’d be one entertaining product to watch as well.