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Ranking coaching hires: Nos. 6-15 all have something to prove

by | CBSSports.com College Football Insider
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After 26 years spent on NFL sidelines, Mora is returning to the college game. (Getty Images)  
After 26 years spent on NFL sidelines, Mora is returning to the college game. (Getty Images)  

Second of a three-part series

Since Jim Mora was hired at UCLA about two months ago, athletic director Dan Guerrero said his new coach has not "had more than four hours' sleep any night."

Who can sleep when you've got a program to build? Certainly not Mora or any of the other 25 new FBS head coaching hires faced with the challenge of maintaining or turning around a program.

In today's second-part of CBSSports.com's series on the best coaching hires, nine members of our college football staff ranks the sixth through 15th best hires (Mora checks in at No. 15). On Monday we listed our No. 16-26 rankings and on Friday, we'll unveil the top five hires.

On to today's rankings:

No. 6: Paul Chryst
Pittsburgh
Highest ranking: No. 4

Lowest ranking: No. 16
Since Dave Wannstedt's firing last season, Pittsburgh has had five interim or head coaches. Chryst is the sixth, but the Panthers envision him sticking around for awhile and leading the school into the ACC in a couple of years. This is Chryst's first head coaching job after spending the past nine seasons as an offensive coordinator at Oregon State (2003-04) and Wisconsin (2005-11). He replaces Todd Graham, who left after one season. "I know you can't ignore what happened in history," said Chryst, 46. "But honestly, it gave me this opportunity so I'm pretty thankful for the opportunity." A two-time finalist for the Frank Broyles award, honoring the nation's top assistant, Chryst's 23-year coaching career includes 16 seasons in the college ranks and three years as an assistant with the NFL's San Diego Chargers.

No. 7: Larry Fedora
North Carolina
Highest ranking: No. 4 on two ballots

Lowest ranking: No. 17
At his introductory press conference at North Carolina, Fedora remarked: "you'd better buckle your seat belts and you better hold on because it's going to be a wild ride." Fedora was referencing the style of offense he plans to bring to Chapel Hill, but he also could have been describing the affect of the NCAA sanctions that await UNC. Either way, Fedora is ready. "I've got a saying with the football team that adversity, when it strikes, it's going to happen and it brings out the best in all of us," he said. Fedora, 49, was one of the nation's best offensive coordinators at Florida and Oklahoma State before guiding Southern Miss to a 33-19 record the past four seasons, including a 12-2 mark last year.

Ranking the new hires
Coach, School Pts
6. Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh 68
7. Larry Fedora, North Carolina 73
8. Tim Beckman, Illinois 90
9. Jim McElwain, Colorado State 94
10. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss 105
11. Terry Bowden, Akron 115
12. Norm Chow, Hawaii 136
13. Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State 142
14. Tony Levine, Houston 149
15. Jim Mora, UCLA 153
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 pts for second best, etc.

No. 8: Tim Beckman
Illinois
Highest ranking: No. 7 on two ballots

Lowest ranking: No. 19
Beckman turned around the fortunes at Toledo and now he will be expected to do the same at Illinois, which was consistently inconsistent under Ron Zook. "It's not broken, it isn't," said the 47-year old Beckman. "This is a gold mine. You can win at the University of Illinois." Beckman won at Toledo, posting a 21-16 record compared with the Rockets' 13-23 record the previous three seasons. Besides his stint at Toledo, Beckman also was an assistant at Western Carolina, Elon, Bowling Green and Ohio State. At Bowling Green, he was Urban Meyer's defensive coordinator, which should make for an interesting matchup when Illinois visits Ohio State on Nov. 3. "I can't wait," Beckman said.

No. 9: Jim McElwain
Colorado State
Highest ranking: No. 5

Lowest ranking: No. 14
McElwain goes from the penthouse to the, uh, bottom of the Mountain West. For the past four seasons, McElwain was offensive coordinator at Alabama, where he won two national titles. Now he takes over a Colorado State program that has finished 3-9 for three consecutive seasons and tied for last in the MWC in 2011. McElwain's new challenge is his first head coaching opportunity. "I feel like I am getting in (on the ground floor) of the bold new era, as they put it," said the 49-year old McElwain. "And the vision and the passion is here and that's what it's all about. This is an unbelievable place."

No. 10: Hugh Freeze
Mississippi
Highest ranking: No. 8
Lowest ranking: No. 17

Last season Freeze guided Arkansas State to its best season since 1986: 10-2, including an 8-0 record in Sun Belt play. In 2008 and 2009, Freeze was head coach at Lambuth, Tenn., and went 20-5 at the NAIA school. Going from the NAIA ranks to the Sun Belt to the SEC means the degree of difficulty (and heat) has been cranked up for Freeze. This is Freeze's second stint at Ole Miss. He was an assistant athletic director in 2005 and an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator in 2006-07. "This is home to me," said Freeze, 42. "This is a destination job."

No. 11: Terry Bowden
Akron
Highest ranking: No. 6

Lowest ranking: No. 21
Bowden is finally back in the Division I ranks. Nearly 20 years since leading Auburn to an undefeated season, Bowden returns as an FBS head coach. In 1993, Bowden became Auburn's head coach and promptly led the Tigers to 20 consecutive victories. However, he resigned midway through the 1998 season, leaving with a 47-17-1 mark at Auburn. He remained out of coaching for more than 10 years until taking over at Division II North Alabama in 2009. He was 29-9 in three seasons at UNA before replacing Rob Ianello, who was only 2-22 in two seasons at Akron. Bowden, 56, is ready for the challenge ahead. "It's just a matter of time until we build a championship program," Bowden said.

No. 12: Norm Chow
Hawaii
Highest ranking: No. 10 on two ballots

Lowest ranking: No. 23
It took 40 years, but Chow is finally a head coach again -- back home in Hawaii. Chow's last head coaching job was from 1970-72 at Waialua High School. Since then he's been an offensive coordinator at BYU, N.C. State, USC, UCLA, Utah and the NFL's Tennessee Titans. He's been a part of three national titles at BYU (1984) and USC (2003-04) and coached three Heisman Trophy winners (BYU's Ty Detmer and USC's Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart). Now the 65-year old Hawaii native takes over for Greg McMackin. "How many people are fortunate enough to go full circle?" Chow said. "I'm blessed. I'm honored. I know that."

No. 13: Tim DeRuyter
Fresno State
Highest ranking: No. 9

Lowest ranking: No. 24 on two ballots
Before coming to Fresno State from Texas A&M, where he was defensive coordinator the past two seasons, DeRuyter led the Aggies past Northwestern in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. Now he's ready to revive the Bulldogs, who slipped to 4-9 last season. "I see so many parallels between College Station and Fresno," DeRuyter said. "And because of that dynamic of the fanaticism of the fans, the way they embrace the team and the school, I think you've got a tremendous potential to tap into that (at Fresno State)." DeRuyter brings plenty of experience on the defensive side of the ball, having been a defensive coordinator for 16 of his 22 years as an assistant coach.

No. 14: Tony Levine
Houston
Highest ranking: No. 9

Lowest ranking: No. 25
It's hard to have a more impressive debut than Levine, who replaced Kevin Sumlin less than two weeks before the Ticket City Bowl and led the Cougars to a convincing 30-14 victory against Penn State. "Some guys are built to be head coaches and he's one of them," Houston AD Mack Rhoades said. "He's so poised on the sideline. He looked like he has done this before." Levine, 39, has 16 years of coaching experience, including two seasons with the NFL's Carolina Panthers. He joined Houston's staff as the special teams coordinator in 2008. "Continuing to build this program is a personal challenge because this place means so much to (my family)," Levine said.

No. 15: Jim Mora
UCLA
Highest ranking: No. 12

Lowest ranking: No. 22
Mora is best known as an NFL coach, but he actually started his coaching career in the Pac-12. After spending three seasons as a walk-on linebacker at Washington, he was a graduate assistant for the Huskies in 1984. Since then he's spent 26 years as an NFL coach, including head coaching stints with the Falcons (2004-06) and Seahawks (2009-10). Mora, 50, takes over for Rick Neuheisel, who was 21-29 in four seasons. "We're certainly not going to wait to win," Mora, 50, told a Los Angeles radio station. "There is no five-year plan. There is no two-year plan. We're not going to put any limitations on what we can do."

For coaches 1 through 5 click here, and to read about coaches 16 through 26 click here.

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