Derek Johnson Muses

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Five Mid-Major Coaches who could be Trading Up

Since it is college football’s off-season, and I’m a college football degenerate, get ready for some speculative stories. Today, here’s the five mid-major coaches who I think will be trading up to bigger and better jobs in the coming years.

  1. Gus Malzahn, Arkansas State: Granted, Malzah has not coached a game yet at Arkansas State, put his pedigree at Arkansas, Tulsa, and most recently Auburn will get him the dream job sooner rather than later. Malzahn runs the kind of offense that dazzles recruits, wins games, and most importantly to a university administration, sells tickets. He could get the next good job in the SEC.
  2. Steve Addazio, Temple: Earlier this year, I watched a video interview with Addazio on a Philadelphia news outlet’s website, and was blown away by his presence and ability to sell his program, when asked if Temple should be allowed into the Big East. Addazio has the perfect resume: assistant at a two major programs (Notre Dame and Florida), work and filled in for a top 10 head coach (Urban Meyer), and crushed a recruiting rival from a BCS conference on the road (Maryland). If Addazio goes into State College and beats Penn State next year, Nittany Lion fans may want him to replace Bill O’Brien someday, if he’s still available.
  3. Dave Doeren, Northern Illinois: the former Wisconsin defensive coordinator stepped in for Jerry Kill and didn’t miss a beat with the Huskies, guiding them to the MAC title in his first year. Kill, Todd Beckman, and Buth Jones all traded up from the MAC to better jobs after three years; it may take less time for Addazio and Doeren to do so, especially if Bill Synder heads back to retirement. (Doeren is a native of the Kansas City area).
  4. Mario Cristobal, Florida International: while it certainly helps that Cristobal is Cuban American and major colleges are eager to hire minorities, it’s more than his ethnicity that had Pitt calling him. This year, Cristobal nearly doubled attendance from two years prior for the fledgling FIU program, not an easy feat in event driven Miami. Even though his overall record is sub-.500, Cristobal beat Louisville this year and won the Sun Belt last year. Every school in the east needs to recruit Florida.

5. Dave Christensen, Wyoming: While arguably his biggest achievement in coaching was turning around Missouri’s offense to a spread in 2005, he’s done an even better job to turn around one of the country’s most remote programs in Laramie. While his second year was a disaster when he lost his quarterback, Christensen won eight games this year with a freshmen quarterback, and like Malzahn, his offense will make him a popular hire.

How My Journey of Photographing Barns Began

As God told Eve after the fall, births are never painful. How I became a photographer was a rough journey. It took place in two parts. One was a trip to Wyoming in August of 2008. The other was a day in 2009 when I went to visit a field by central Iowa and had a panic attack.

The trip to Wyoming was to visit our alfalfa grower by Otto. Otto is small town about50 miles east Cody and the gates of Yellowstone . Calling it a town is an exaggeration; it is more like a collection houses and old buildings. There are roughly four households there, and a post office that is run out of a small room in our grower’s home. Mail is delivered to the town twice a week, and you pick it up.

The drive from my home in Seward to Otto is over 750 miles, roughly twelve and a half hours. The problem with that is, it is just over the amount of time that you can make it in one day. Add in the time I spend visiting with the grower, it was a three days. The trip is more rural than any of the trips that I go on, and I travel to rural areas all the time. Sure there are great places along the way: Hokes Cafe in Hastings, Cabela’s in Sidney, Sierra Trading Post in Cheyenne. But it’s empty land, and I have never passed more farmyards littered with old trucks, tractors, and other broken down machinery from the last four decades. It’s like they expect another depression to hit any day now. (Given the greedy morons who run our economy and our gutless politicians, they may be on to something.)

But while I was passing also rotting barns, breaking down sheds, and combines that were older than I was, I got to thinking about how cool it would be to drive through that country and just take photographs of everything. It could make a good coffee table book or home art; I could remember the painting my grandparents kept in their farmhouses. I stowed those ideas in the back of my mind and while I mostly photographed the landscapes and roads around me.

The day in August of 2009, I was headed out to rural Iowa to look at a field of soybeans. It was a bad day in a really bad time in my life, and for a variety of reasons a bunch of problems had come to a head that day. After I left the field distraught, I drove down the road back to the highway, and right by the turn-on to the road, there were these two barns, with a windmill sitting between them, its blades facing one of the barns. Here, I thought I would take some of the frustration out of my experience of going to fields, and photograph some barns. So I took my camera, and photographed the barns and the windmills. I often photographed a lot of the little towns I went through, but this was the first time I can remember shooting barn.

An 8’x”10 of those barns and windmill now hangs on the wall by the staircase in our basement. There is something eerie and haunting about it to me, because at the time, I was feeling like a failure. In many ways, that’s what photographing a barn is like for me: seeing ghosts. But now, I taking steps to show my photos around, and I realize that that day, I was starting a new chapter in my life.


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