It was a search season marked by a lot of non-sexy hires. Thankfully, it was also marked by continued progress. Almost a quarter of the 21 new coaches were minority hires.
Big picture? Les Miles stayed "home." Mike Haywood blew it. The WAC went untouched. The MAC was reshaped (five new coaches). Colorado changed both a coach and a league.
With the silly season done (for now, we think), we ranked the hires 1-21:
|Under Will Muschamp, the Gators should expect to be in SEC title contention soon. (Getty Images)|
2. Todd Graham, Pittsburgh : Within hours of being introduced, the former Tulsa coach had talked to top coaches in the WPIAL -- the fabled western Pennsylvania high school league. Within days Graham had coaxed unofficial visits out of a bunch of that league's top players. At a Pittsburgh basketball game, he unzipped his jacket to reveal an "Oakland Zoo" (student section) T-shirt. Dave Wannstedt's forced resignation was a mess. Mike Haywood's firing was messier. In a week, Graham has brought some desperately needed positive energy to the Panthers. Expect a high-flying offense, one that was once coordinated by Gus Malzahn under Graham at Tulsa. Also expect tight ends and fullbacks, Pittsburgh. At first this seemed like an odd hire -- a Texas native by way of Oklahoma in Steel Town. Then it made sense after a do-over search almost blown by AD Steve Pederson. Pittsburgh needed something different. It also needed a gulp of Five Hour Energy. Graham brought both.
3. David Shaw, Stanford : The man has coached the past two Heisman runners-up as the offensive coordinator. A third of his life has been spent associated with Stanford. His dad coached at Stanford. There is something to be said for continuity after the departure of Jim Harbuagh. AD Bob Bowlsby didn't overthink things going for "the most logical step we can make." Shaw, 38, will soar in his first season with the return of Andrew Luck. The question is whether he can continue the resurrection of the Cardinal. "Coach Harbaugh breathed life into this program. This thing was flat-lining; it was gone," Shaw said recently. "He pounded it on the chest, he breathed life into it."
4. Al Golden, Miami (Fla.) : Someone has to be this season's Pete Carroll. Why not Golden? His hiring at the U was considered underwhelming by more than a few. That pretty much was the case at USC 10 years ago. South Florida needed to be energized. Golden is the guy. AD Kirby Hocutt recognized that and targeted this up and comer. While Golden isn't considered a home run, he is a solid double. Forget that he came from Temple. Consider what he did at Temple. Getting Miami back to the top has to be loads easier than getting Temple competitive.
5. Randy Edsall, Maryland : His departure from UConn wasn't pretty -- he didn't say goodbye to his players -- but Edsall had earned his hasty departure. There's not much more he could have done for the Huskies. Twelve years had produced 74 victories and a BCS bowl. Not bad for program that Edsall took from I-AA status. He will have access to better players in the D.C. region. AD Kevin Anderson didn't get Mike Leach, but Edsall isn't a bad fallback. The Terps will be consistent under Edsall, if not consistent BCS contenders.
6. Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut : Sometimes steady is good. Pasqualoni was steady at Syracuse. Ask the 'Cuse if they missed him after the Greg Robinson disaster. The Orange are 22-50 since Pasqualoni left. Yes, steady is good. As mentioned, Edsall had squeezed all he could out of the Huskies. Pasqualoni needed a job. He knows the region. It's a perfect fit. Under the new coach, UConn will continue to challenge in the fluid Big East.
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7. Jerry Kill, Minnesota : The search was completely mismanaged by AD Joel Maturi. That's not Kill's fault. Maturi got lucky when Kill fell to the Gophers. He has won just about everywhere he's been, moving up steadily from Saginaw Valley State to Emporia State to Southern Illinois-Carbondale to Northern Illinois to the Big Ten. With Minnesota stinking out loud, this is about as close to a home run hire as there is at the moment. By home run, I mean that Kill will get the Gophers to 7-5 and, if he is wise, get the hell out.
8. Brady Hoke, Michigan : Nothing against Hoke, but this hire would be rated higher if Les Miles hadn't reportedly turned down Dave Brandon -- twice -- or if Harbaugh hadn't turned his back on his alma mater and gone to the 49ers. Now the challenge is ripping up the carpet at Michigan for the second time in four years. It isn't going to be pleasant. There isn't that much talent, especially on defense. Let's hope Michigan Men (and Women) have enough patience. Count on two or three years before the Wolverines can win the division title. And then there's the more significant challenge of beating Ohio State ...
9. Don Treadwell, Miami (Ohio ): The cradle of coaches (Schembechler, Parseghian, Hayes) gets another potentially great one on the come. Treadwell got some national run in 2010, taking over as Michigan State's interim after Mark Dantonio's heart attack. Maybe that's the blessing that came out of Dantonio's scare: It raised Treadwell's national profile. The Miami alum has earned his shot after 27 years in the profession. Oh, by the way, Treadwell inherits the MAC champions.
10. Kevin Wilson, Indiana : Indiana needs a few breaks and a lot of players. Wilson, Oklahoma's former offensive coordinator, may be able to bring both to Bloomington. I had a lot of questions about this being Wilson's starter job as a head coach. But it is the Big Ten, where Wilson was offensive coordinator at Northwestern (as well as Miami-Ohio) under Randy Walker. There aren't many Sam Bradfords or DeMarco Murrays on the Indiana roster, but the Hoosiers will be hard to stop. The question is, can Wilson develop a defense to hold Wisconsin under 80?
11. Jon Embree, Colorado : Mike Bohn is putting the band back together as former Buffs Embree and offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy take over. Colorado has a long way to go, but at least they've got some guys who know the foothills. Dan Hawkins' firing was a cautionary tale for every coach moving up the ladder. Be careful how high you reach. It's a concern that Embree has never been so much as a coordinator. Also, Bohn whiffed on top choices Les Miles, Mike Bellotti and Troy Calhoun.
12. Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana-Lafayette : This answers the question -- who coached North Alabama before Terry Bowden? It was Hudspeth who went 66-21 in seven seasons before going to Mississippi State as Dan Mullen's receivers coach. This has the look of a starter head coaching job (at least in I-A) that is going to launch Hudspeth as a future star. There are always players in Louisiana. The Sun Belt is always winnable. Remember the name. If Hudpseth succeeds here, he could be an SEC coach of the future.
13. Rocky Long, San Diego State : Long resigned after 11 years at New Mexico in 2008. The feeling within the administration was that he program had stagnated. New Mexico would kill for stagnation at this point. Since Long left, the Lobos are 2-22 under Mike Locksley. Meanwhile, Long quietly helped Hoke turn around the Aztecs as his defensive coordinator. The defense didn't stagnate, moving from 113th to 43rd nationally in two years. Should be an interesting reunion Sept. 24 -- San Diego State travels to Michigan.
14. Dan McCarney, North Texas : Darrell Dickey proved you could succeed in Denton, winning four Sun Belt titles. His replacement, Todd Dodge, found out the tenuous position of the program, going 8-40 in four seasons. Now Florida defensive line coach McCarney gets his shot. At least he has experience. No head coach has stayed longer at Iowa State than McCarney, who won 56 games in 12 seasons from 1995-2006.
15. Steve Addazio, Temple : And you thought Addazio had a tough time getting production out of Florida's offense? The Gators former offensive coordinator will try to keep the Owls from falling back after the loss of Golden.
16. James Franklin, Vanderbilt : Vandy aimed high. Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn turned down what was reported to be a lucrative offer. Just when you thought Vanderbilt had sacked up and decided to pretend like it was serious about football, it seems to be slipping back. I'd blame the athletic director, but Vanderbilt doesn't have one.
17. Dave Doeren, Northern Illinois : This program always seems to sustain itself. Northern Illinois was one of the first BCS busters, going 10-2 in 2003. Kill won 11 in 2010 and left the cupboard absolutely stocked for Wisconsin's defensive coordinator. The return of quarterback Chandler Harnish means the Huskies will challenge again for the MAC title in 2011.
18. Bill Blankenship, Tulsa : This Tulsa alum takes over a program he quarterbacked in the 1970s. During his four seasons as a Graham assistant, the Golden Hurricane won 36 games.
19. Hugh Freeze, Arkansas State : Probably the only guy on this list to have been portrayed in a movie. Freeze was the high school coach of Michael Oher, subject of The Blindside. The former Ole Miss assistant could use some Ohers for a program that hasn't finished above .500 since 1995.
20. Darrell Hazell, Kent State : Ohio State's former receivers coach is bound for greatness. Ask Ted Ginn Jr. "One day when Coach Tressel is done," Ginn said, "that should be the next guy in line." For now, Hazell has to lift a MAC bottom-dweller. The Golden Flashes haven't had a winning season since 2001.
21. Pete Lembo, Ball State : Lembo came from Elon. Or was it Elon came from Lembo? Either way, Ball State is still finding it hard to replace Hoke. Stan Parrish was 6-19 in two seasons (plus a bowl game) post-Hoke before being fired.