Will Laurier coach Michael Faulds (L) and Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury (R) find success despite their age?Here's the story: a famous former quarterback who's moved into coaching becomes a college head coach at a much younger age than usual. South of the border, we've already seen that happen with new Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, a 33-year-old former NCAA star who also played in the NFL, NFL Europe and had a brief CFL stint in 2007. Now, it looks like the same story's playing out again in Canada with an even-younger guy; 29-year-old former Western Mustangs' star Michael Faulds, the CIS career passing leader, who's reportedly set to be the new head coach of the Laurier Golden Hawks. Just how similar are the two stories, and does this look like a move that could to work out for Laurier?
When most people think of Faulds and Kingsbury, it's their quarterbacking careers that come to mind first. That's reasonable, as both were tremendous college players; Faulds racked up a CIS-record 10,811 regular-season passing yards in five years at Western, mostly under Greg Marshall, while Kingsbury threw for 12,429 yards in five years at Texas Tech under Spike Dykes and Mike Leach. They both faced challenges at the next level, though; like most Canadian quarterbacks, Faulds fell victim to the CFL's disregard for them (and didn't even get a short look, unlike his OUA rival Danny Brannagan, who dueled with him in one of the most memorable CIS games), while Kingsbury had brief stints with three NFL teams, played in NFL Europe for a year and then spent a season in the CFL with Montreal and Winnipeg (but never threw a regular-season pass). Both went into coaching after that, but the success they've achieved there so far is one of the chief distinctions between the two.
Despite Kingsbury's young age, his resume's already very impressive. Yes, he's only been in the coaching ranks since 2008, but his rise has been incredibly rapid. He started as a quality-control coach with Kevin Sumlin's Houston Cougars in 2008, but was promoted to co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2010 following then-OC Dana Holgorsen's departure for Oklahoma State. The 2011 season saw Houston's offence lead all NCAA Division I FBS teams in both yards and points, and that led to both Sumlin and Kingsbury leaving for a bigger school, Texas A&M. There, Kingsbury was a key factor in the rise of freshman Heisman-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel, and when Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville defected for Cincinnati, Kingsbury was a natural choice to replace him and one that's already proving incredibly popular. That goes beyond well beyond his playing career at the school, too; sure, that helps, but any coach who'd played such an important role in two separate programs' offensive dominance would be a hot candidate for a head-coaching job regardless of their playing career.
With Faulds, his coaching record to date is a little more questionable. Yes, he's spent the past three years as an offensive coordinator (so precisely the same amount of time as Kingsbury), but he's done so with the basement-dwelling York Lions and hasn't exactly lifted them to overall success. Of course, there have been some promising signs at York, including their win over Ottawa this year (but that deserves a significant asterisk, considering how the Gee-Gees went 0-5 under Gary Etcheverry and his double-wing scheme), but the Lions went 0-8, 1-7 and 2-6 in Faulds' three seasons there. That's certainly progress, but it's not incredible progress. They also averaged just 24.0 points per game (16th of the 26 CIS teams).
Of course, despite the Golden Hawks' historical dominance, they were even worse this year from an offensive standpoint. Laurier scored just 13.6 points per game (second-worst nationally), and it's amazing that they even managed to go 3-5. Still, Faulds' coaching resume doesn't exactly scream "give this man a head coaching job!" at first glance. At that same first glance, it would seem unlikely he'd be considered for a head job at this point without his impressive playing career.
When you look a little deeper, though, there are further points in Faulds' favour. Yes, the Lions didn't score a ton of points this year, but they finished seventh nationally in offensive yards per game (434.1) and put together a nice mix of of passing (276.9) and rushing (157.2) yards per game. They're also making undeniable progress, which is noteworthy considering just how bad the program was before Faulds and head coach Warren Craney came in. Moreover, Faulds has done some impressive things at other levels, including working as the quarterbacks coach for the Canadian U19 team that stunned the U.S. this summer, serving as an assistant with Team World at the Feb. 2012 International Bowl, serving as the West offensive coordinator in the 2011 CIS East-West Bowl, studying under USC coach Lane Kiffin that year and quarterbacking Team Canada to silver at the 2011 IFAF World Championships.
Faulds also has a master's degree in coaching and appears to be an up-and-coming offensive mind. His name value and connections should be an excellent edge in recruiting. The age element isn't necessarily one-sided, either; while experience certainly can help, younger coaches can bring plenty of energy and new, innovative approaches. Make no mistake, hiring a 29-year-old who only has three years of experience as a coordinator is one heck of a gamble for a program like Laurier, and it's perhaps even a larger risk than Texas Tech is taking with Kingsbury. Like the Kingsbury move, though, this one could pay off big.