Welcome back to our series profiling potential replacements for Geoff Collins. Georgia Tech has a coaching vacancy that is likely to extend for a few months here, but it’s vital to be making good strategic decisions in this early stage of the search. Today, we look at another candidate who would be available to interview now.
By producing this series, we aim to provide numerical context and analysis of Tech’s many options. We hope that this series provides reference for the numerous spirited discussions that are sure to occur over the coming weeks. In these profiles, we will focus on the candidate’s career in terms of Success Rate, the candidates’ history coaching the QB position, the schemes employed, and contract/money considerations. We’ll also include a Reasons to Hire/Risks section to add context that may not be reflected in the numbers. We hope you find these profiles useful and entertaining.
Yes, Clark retired after the 2021 season but has expressed openness to coaching again since - “It’s uncharted territory,” Clark says. “When October gets here and jobs start being talked about, how do I feel? And that’s why I’ve left the door open. I just don’t know.” It remains to be seen if he would be interested in coming back to coach Georgia Tech, but he’s certainly worth considering.
Bio/Career - Program Resurrector
2009–2012 South Alabama (DC)
- 2009 Record: 7-0 (Program’s first season ever, played as “NCAA Unclassified” first 2 years)
- 2010 Record: 10-0
- 2011 Record: 6-4 (First and only year in FCS)
- 2012 Record: 2-11 (First Year in FBS)
After a long career in the HS ranks, Clark got his first taste of CFB program building at South Alabama, where he helped take them from nonexistent to FBS in 4 season. It wasn’t always pretty. It’s likely Clark learned lessons here that would greatly benefit him down the road at UAB.
2013 Jacksonville State HC
- 2013 Record: 11-4 (Made FCS Quarterfinals/#10 final FCS rank)
Bill Clark may have only been at Jacksonville State a year, but that year was also JSU’s first double-digit win season since they moved to FCS in 1996. After Clark left for UAB, his right hand man John Grass took over the program and won 10+ games each of the 4 years after Clark left.
2014–2021 UAB HC
- 2014 Record: 6-6
- 2017 Record: 8-5
- 2018 Record: 11-3 (Conference USA Champs)
- 2019 Record: 9-5 (Conference USA Runner-Up)
- 2020 Record: 6-3 (Conference USA Champs)
- 2021 Record: 9-4
Bill Clark has built a program back from extinction. He took over in 2014 after the three previous seasons had yielded 8 total wins. That rebuilding job was hard enough, and he immediately won 6 games in his first year. Then, Paul Bryant Jr. and company successfully lobbied to have his program killed. Backlash was swift, but UAB would not field a team again until 2017. Clark has led the Blazers to an average of 8.5 wins per year since then, and managed four bowl appearances. From 2018-2021 the Blazers were either CUSA champs or runners-up. When coaches talk about long rebuilds, counter with this. Clark took a program that did not exist, won 8 games in year 1, and won his conference in year 2. Since this is a G5 stop, we have data! Let’s dive in. We’re using success rate again, with the FBS average value set as 100. For Offensive SR+, Above 100 is good. For Defensive SR-, below 100 is good.
Offensive Success Rate + :
Defensive Success Rate - :
Net Success Rate + :
Clark inherited a fairly average offense at UAB, and his tenure was largely more of the same in that regard. Offense was not the reason UAB was winning football games, and it’s not the reason that Clark’s program building was so impressive. That would be the defense.
It’s not particularly surprising that Clark made his living on defense. It was his background long before he became a HC. What is impressive here is the extent at which he turned around UAB’s defense. The defense Clark inherited was horrendous, and he was able to turn it into one of the best defenses we’ve analyzed as part of this profiles series. Defense accounted for 24 points of Clark’s 29 point Net Success Rate + turnaround.
So let’s talk about that net Success Rate + turnaround. It’s the highest we found while doing these profiles. Yes, it is even higher than Chadwell at Coastal Carolina. That said, the turnaround is very lopsided with regards to which side of the ball did the improving. It was almost all defense, while Chadwell improved both sides of the ball equally.
To put this level of improvement in context, let’s see how Mullen’s net impact stands in the industry. Remember that we have been making comparisons using a dataset that includes a 20 year period and 370 coaches that compares the three year performance before a head coach’s arrival to the performance during his tenure. We can use that data to calculate several different net impact metrics. Bill Clark is one of the best, full-stop, across this fifteen plus years of data.
Out of 370 coaches, he ranks:
- 13th in net impact on PPA
- 8th in net impact on success rate
- 11th in net impact on passing success rate
- 76th in net impact on run stuff rate
|Team||Year||Coach Role||Primary QB||PPA/Att||Passer Rating||PFF Team Pass Grade||PFF Individual Off Grade|
|UAB||2019||HC||Tyler Johnston III||0.177||145.4||76.4||79.3|
|UAB||2020||HC||Tyler Johnston III||0.361||153.5||70.1||77.5|
Clark isn’t a QB coach or even an offensive coach like the previous coaches profiled as part of this series. That makes this section short. Clark’s QBs at UAB have all been solid but unspectacular. This echoes Clark’s average offense while at UAB. He’s a defense guy who personally may not elevate the quarterback position, but his record also shows that he knows how to avoid disasters at the QB position.
There are 3 main “coaching attributes” that are important to consider as part of this series. These attributes serve as “inputs” to coaching performance, while “outputs” include W/L Record and Play-by-Play data. These attributes are:
- Recruiting - How well a coach brings in talent
- Development - How well a coach develops that talent
- Deployment - How well a coach deploys talent (Scheme/Playcalling)
While at UAB, Bill Clark has brought in recruiting classes that range from 70th (top of the G5) to 115th (closer to the bottom of the G5), with the current UAB roster ranking 102nd in the 247 Team Talent Index. However, he did strategically use the transfer portal well to prepare for the 2017 season, after the reinstatement of the program. Pure talent hasn’t been the calling card of this program though. Clearly, Clark has built through development and deployment, which have to be central to the work of the next Georgia Tech Football Coach.
He’s employed several different philosophies on offense in accordance with the personnel on hand and instincts of different coordinators. He’s adapted his 4-2-5 scheme where necessary. He has personally expressed a preference for man looks in the secondary but later trended towards playing more with two high safeties to limit explosives on the backend, while scheming up pressure up front. He’s consistently been able to teach tackling, coverage, and alignment, all of which are issues that have plagued Georgia Tech during this previous era. His guys play well above their recruiting rankings, and that would translate well on the Flats.
Clark was making about $1.5 million on a deal that ran through 2024, but his retirement likely altered that arrangement. It’s not clear if there would be a buyout owed UAB in this case.
Reasons to Hire
Bill Clark has a long career building programs while inheriting little. In Clark’s case, he inherited literally nothing. He launched the South Alabama program in its infancy, and resurrected the UAB program from nothing years later. Georgia Tech’s program has many issues, but it does exist. Georgia Tech desperately needs someone who can build something while starting with very little, and if you’ve noticed a theme with these profiles, it’s mostly coaches who have done just that. Even compared to all these coaches who have pulled off program turnarounds, Clark stands above statistically.
At both his HC stops, Clark has eventually handed reigns to someone on his staff who was able to sustain what Clark had built (the jury may still be somewhat out with UAB as it’s only been 3 games, but it is very true for JSU). With some other coaches, the programs they left fell apart after their departure. That level of stability is valuable.
While we don’t like to make insinuations about these coaches’ personal lives, with Clark it has to be noted that he retired from coaching in 2022 for health reasons. If he decides to come back, his health issues could return or worse, requiring him to retire again before he gets a chance to build up the Georgia Tech Program. The interview process would have to include some direct questions along these lines.
Almost all of his turnaround at UAB was on the defensive side of the ball. Clark’s UAB offenses were aggressively mediocre. Given that he doesn’t have a track record of strong offenses, if he is unable to get his defense at Tech to the level it was at UAB he could struggle to fully turnaround the program.
Clark has never coached in any capacity at the Power-5 level, similar to Chadwell. We said in the Chadwell profile that this shouldn’t be a huge concern and we will say that again, but it is worth noting.
Bill Clark may not be interested in coming out of retirement to coach at Georgia Tech, but his invaluable experience starting and restarting programs from scratch would be welcome. No other coach has turned programs around as impressively as Clark turned around UAB, and Tech should ask if he’s interested in doing it once again. For the authors, he’s a Tier 1 candidate.