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In ranking coaching hires, big names stand out among worst 11

by | CBSSports.com College Football Insider
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Among new hires, O'Brien may face the most scrutiny as he takes the helm at Penn State. (US Presswire)  
Among new hires, O'Brien may face the most scrutiny as he takes the helm at Penn State. (US Presswire)  

First of a three-part series

Who was the best head coaching hire in college football in the past two months? The worst?

It's strictly a matter of preference, of course, a matter of opinion.

Beginning today, CBSSports.com will unveil its ranking of the 26 new FBS head coaches: from worst to first. Today, we'll look at the worst 11 hires (or, if you prefer, the 16th through 26th best hires); Wednesday we'll unveil Nos. 6-15 and on Friday the top five hires.

I can't take all of the credit -- or blame -- for the rankings. I was just one of nine members of CBSSport.com's college football staff that ranked the 26 new hires from first to worst with one point for the best hire, two points for second best, etc. The other voters? Tony Barnhart, Dennis Dodd, Bruce Feldman, J. Darin Darst, Bryan Fischer, Tom Fornelli, Jerry Hinnen and Chip Patterson. So, please, be sure to cc all of us when sending hate mail.

On to the rankings:

No. 26: Matt Campbell, Toledo
Highest ranking: No. 15
Lowest ranking: No. 26 on two ballots
Ironically, Campbell is one of only three coaches among the 26 new hires who has a perfect record as a head coach, winning his Toledo debut 42-41 against Air Force in the Military Bowl. Campbell spent the past three seasons as Toledo's offensive coordinator and offensive line coach before he was promoted to head coach last December after Tim Beckman left for Illinois. The 32-year-old Campbell is the youngest coach in FBS, but says "age is just a number." His offenses at Toledo have put up some big numbers, averaging a Mid-American Conference-best 42 points a game last season.

No. 25: Bob Davie, New Mexico
Highest ranking: No. 9
Lowest ranking: No. 26 on two ballots
After being fired at Notre Dame in 2001 with a 35-25 record over five seasons, Davie makes his second go-round as a head coach. It's been 11 years since Davie, 57, was last on the sideline, although he was an ESPN analyst since 2002. "I have a whole different perspective on what college football is, what my role as the head coach is," Davie said. "I am not going to panic. I'm not going to be afraid to lose a game if that might keep us from building a solid foundation." It's good he's not afraid to lose because the Lobos have dropped 41 of their past 48 games.

No. 24: Justin Fuente, Memphis
Highest ranking: No. 11
Lowest ranking: No. 26
Like a number of coaches ranked at the bottom of our new hire rankings, this will be Fuente's first head coaching job. He spent the past five seasons at TCU, the last three as the Horned Frogs' co-offensive coordinator, setting numerous school records. In Fuente's last four seasons at TCU, the Frogs lost only five games -- or the same number of wins Memphis had in the past three seasons. "This is a big challenge and I'm so ready for this challenge," the 35-year old Fuente said. "This is the place I want to be as long as you will have me."

No. 23: Bill O'Brien, Penn State
Highest ranking: No. 6
Lowest ranking: No. 26
O'Brien will be under more scrutiny this fall than perhaps any other new head coach. O'Brien has to attempt to replace legendary coach Joe Paterno as the school continues to recover from both Paterno's recent death and the never-ending Jerry Sandusky saga. O'Brien's first head coaching job won't be easy. "We're going to work extremely hard to uphold the standards of excellence that [Paterno] set there and blaze our own trail there," O'Brien said. "It's a new era of Penn State football." O'Brien, 42, spent the past five seasons with the New England Patriots, but does have college experience. Before his NFL stint, he spent 14 seasons as an assistant at Georgia Tech, Maryland and Duke.

No. 22: Kyle Flood, Rutgers
Highest ranking: No. 9
Lowest ranking: No. 26
Rutgers' first choice to replace Greg Schiano was FIU's Mario Cristobal. However, the school settled for Flood, the offensive line coach, which might not be such a bad thing. He's already made a huge contribution by keeping Rutgers' best recruiting class intact after Schiano left. "It's the job of a lifetime," said Flood, 41, who has no head coaching experience. "As an assistant coach, if you dream of being a head coach -- which I did -- you dream about getting it at a place like Rutgers." In his last 17 years as a college assistant, including the past seven at Rutgers, Flood's teams have had exactly one losing season.

Ranking the new hires
Coach, School Pts
16. Ellis Johnson, South. Miss 154
17. Charlie Weis, Kansas 156
18. Todd Graham, ASU 158
19. Garrick McGee, UAB 164
20. Carl Pelini, FAU 170
21. Curtis Johnson, Tulane 171
22. Kyle Flood, Rutgers 173
23. Bill O'Brien, Penn State 174
24. Justin Fuente, Memphis 176
25. Bob Davie, New Mexico 181
26. Matt Campbell, Toledo 184
CBSSports.com staffers Tony Barnhart, Dennis Dodd, Bruce Feldman, Brett McMurphy, J. Darin Darst, Bryan Fischer, Tom Fornelli, Jerry Hinnen and Chip Patterson ranked the coaches from best to worst: 1 point for best hire, 2 points for second best, etc.

No. 21: Curtis Johnson, Tulane
Highest ranking: No. 7
Lowest ranking: No. 23 on three ballots
Another first-time head coach, Johnson takes over a Tulane program that has endured nine consecutive losing seasons since its last bowl appearance in 2002. "We're going to bring this program to new heights," Johnson said. "We're going to show this city that we can be a national player." A New Orleans native, Johnson, 50, spent the past six seasons as wide receivers coach with the New Orleans Saints. He also was a college assistant from 1987 through 2005, including a five-year stint with San Diego State (where he recruited Marshall Faulk) and 10 seasons with Miami (where he coached WRs Andre Johnson, Santana Moss and Reggie Wayne).

No. 20: Carl Pelini, Florida Atlantic
Highest ranking: No. 13
Lowest ranking: No. 25 on three ballots
After a four-year stint as Nebraska's defensive coordinator, Pelini, 46, takes over at Florida Atlantic as only the second head coach in FAU history. Howard Schnellenberger, who started the program in 2001, retired after going 1-11 last season. Prior to Nebraska, Pelini was an assistant at Ohio and Minnesota State for four seasons and a Nebraska graduate assistant for one year. Before that he was a high school coach for all but three of 17 seasons stretching from 1987-2002. "I was very fortunate that I had [FAU athletic director Craig Angelo], who was a risk-taker and was willing to take a risk on me," said Pelini, who hasn't been a head coach since 2002, when he was at the helm at Austintown's Fitch High School in Ohio.

No. 19: Garrick McGee, UAB
Highest ranking: No. 7
Lowest ranking: No. 23
McGee takes over at UAB after spending the past four seasons as an Arkansas assistant, including the past two as offensive coordinator. McGee, 38, and new Memphis coach Justin Fuente are both former Oklahoma quarterbacks who have never been head coaches before and now are faced with the task of turning around losing Conference USA programs. Over the past seven seasons, UAB went 26-57 and in 2011 ranked last in C-USA in home attendance. "We're going to connect this football program with the city," McGee said. "We're going to eventually -- sooner than you think -- produce a winning football team."

No. 18: Todd Graham, Arizona State
Highest ranking: No. 9
Lowest ranking: No. 26
Graham has landed his dream job -- again. For the second time in six years, Graham, 47, has hopped from one job to another after only one season. Graham began his college head coaching career at Rice in 2006 and put together a cumulative record of 49-29 over the past six seasons at Rice, Tulsa and Pittsburgh. "This is a dream opportunity for our family," said Graham after accepting the Arizona State job. "It's obviously the first decision I've ever made that has actually benefitted my wife and benefitted our family. You know, I think that the only way you can do it is, like I said, I'm going to work hard to earn their trust, and I think trust is earned, so that's all I can do."

No. 17: Charlie Weis, Kansas
Highest ranking: No. 4
Lowest ranking: No. 26
Weis joins New Mexico's Bob Davie as fired Notre Dame head coaches back on the sideline this fall. Weis was canned after five seasons with the Irish, going 35-27 from 2005-09. Weis, 55, also has 16 years of experience as an assistant in the NFL, where he won three Super Bowl rings. But now he takes over a program that has lost 19 of its last 24, including last year's 2-10 record. "It was too good of an opportunity, being able to go into a place that was down low and being able to see it through the rise back up top," Weis said. "You're going to be the one that's directly involved with taking that team and moving it to the other end of the spectrum."

No. 16: Ellis Johnson, Southern Mississippi
Highest ranking: No. 10
Lowest ranking: No. 25
One of five new head coaches in Conference USA this fall, Johnson spent the past four seasons as South Carolina's defensive coordinator. The 60-year-old Johnson has the luxury of taking over a program that has posted 18 consecutive winning seasons. Johnson should know his way around Hattiesburg since he was USM's defensive coordinator in 1988-89. "Southern Miss is special," Johnson said. "From the time I worked here it has held a special place in my heart." This is Johnson's third head coaching job. He compiled a 17-28 mark in four seasons at Gardner-Webb (1983) and The Citadel (2001-03).

For coaches 1 through 5 click here, and to read about coaches 6 through 15 click here.

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