2022 G5 Preview: Consistency? In MY Bowling Green?
It's more likely than you think!
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I’m going to do this from time to time in the previews, whenever I see fit, and I see fit here. I want to shout out the Toledo Blade’s Corey Crisan for his coverage of Bowling Green. Corey does an outstanding job, and his work helped immensely as background information for me in writing this preview.
One of the best ways to get a feel for where a program is at in its rebuild, or to gauge how secure a coach feels in his job, is to listen to his coach speak. No, seriously. Coaches have become experts at taking up multiple minutes to say nothing, but within that nothing, there’s valuable subtext to be gleaned. How defensive is the coach? Is he pressing his players for more publicly, or is he taking a more laid-back approach? Does he react to losses with patience or is he more urgent and frantic?
Nobody does this better than Nick Saban, and he really did it this season. Knowing that he had a young team, and one that he didn’t really trust to withstand the heat, he dialed it back. He rarely criticized his team publicly, taking the time instead to build his players up while preaching patience. He ranted on a radio show about the fickleness of fans who were complaining about a program that had dominated the national scene for years and even stopped a press conference after his national title loss to compliment Bryce Young and Will Anderson.
In so doing, Saban is telling you exactly what he thinks about his team. This season was not the time for him to kick things into full motivational gear, and he knew that. His tone will change in the coming weeks and months with a more experienced group returning.
In the same way, Scot Loeffler has told us an awful lot about where he feels his Bowling Green program stands in the last six months. He’s referenced the age of his team – the Falcons had 71 first- or second-year players and were starting 11 of them by the final game of the season, to just five seniors – at just about every opportunity, claiming that the next step for his program is to “get old.”
He told boosters the same thing in the offseason, telling them in so many words that the Falcons were in for another down year or two, but that a jump up in quality was coming.
“At Bowling Green whenever you’re old and you have the right kids, you’re going to win. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. When you’re young, at times you’re going to win. You’re not going to win on a consistent basis,” Loeffler said in July.
“Our biggest challenge is taking these young football players and teaching them how to be extraordinary, or teaching them how to be elite when there’s no one they can watch do it. They have to listen to the coaches.”
He used the inexperience of his team to explain away just about every issue the group dealt with during a 4-8 campaign, and in a lot of spots, he’s right. Bowling Green was marred by inconsistency on both sides of the ball and frequently got beaten up in the trenches by more veteran groups.