First steps for new coaches 

March, 29, 2012

Welcome back to Three Downs and Punt, where not even giant yellow clouds of "allergy hell" can keep us away from spring practice.

Over the past two weeks I've bounced through drills throughout the Southeast and the most common theme (besides sneezing through face masks) has been new faces in new places. You might think the challenges for all new coaches would be the same. But they aren't.

First down: New faces, new places, new challenges

During my visits to practices over the past couple of weeks, I've heard no fewer than four exchanges between coach and player that go something like this:

Coach: OK … you … big guy … No. 89 … umm …

Player: Jackson …

Coach: Yeah, Johnson, you gotta explode off the line, man!

Player: Jackson …

Coach: Jackson, Johnson, whoever you are, you gotta start getting some pop, dude.

These are the conversations that are taking place on spring practice fields across the nation this week. That confusion will continue through the end of the spring game and likely well into two-a-days this August. It's a necessary by-product of a crazy season of college coaching changes.

"It is a different world, for me and for them," new North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Larry Fedora admitted last week, with a gesture toward his players, nearly all of whom looked visibly gassed. "It's hard for us on the coaching staff to learn a whole new roster, to evaluate kids for the first time. Heck, we just moved in less than three months ago. We're still trying to figure out where the bathrooms are."

It's the result of no fewer than 27 head-coaching changes throughout FBS football. Only 18 FBS schools have the same nine-man staffs that they did one year ago. At first blush, you might assume each situation is basically the same. Truthfully, all are unique and thusly present their own individual set of challenges.

Ryan McGee | email

ESPN Senior Writer