by | College Football Insider

Fun with Numbers: Best (Sumlin) and worst (Weis) of first-year coaches


Last season's batch of 28 new head coaches was an amalgam of promising assistants, retreads and small-school head coaches coming off big years.

The first-year results are just as broad. Eight of those head coaches have at least six wins entering the weekend. They either inherited talented rosters, simply know how to coach, or both.

This list doesn't even include Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze, who injected life into the Rebels with five wins and could be an SEC Coach of the Year contender.

But even more coaches will be branded with the rebuilding label because of their teams' subpar play. Eleven first-year guys have two wins or fewer. It's either the cupboard or the playbook that is bare.

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Here's a breakdown of some of the glorified -- or dubious -- standouts.

Hit list

Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M (seven wins): Sumlin, known for his offenses at Houston, deserves credit for helping mold freshman Johnny Manziel into a force (so does Manziel, of course). He inherited a talented, Mike Sherman-recruited senior class, but Sumlin has had success at every previous stop. Looks like a solid hire.

Jim Mora, UCLA (seven wins): This has to be one of the biggest coaching surprises. Mora is inexperienced in the college game, and UCLA hasn't won more than seven games since 2005. Now the Bruins are positioned to face Oregon in the Pac-12 title game. A once-stagnant offense ranks 17th nationally in rushing. That 43-17 loss to Cal was ugly, but otherwise Mora looks right at home.

Bill O'Brien, Penn State (six wins): Nobody's calling the job O'Brien has done anything less than solid. Loss of scholarships. Postseason bans. Who thought the next sentence would be, "No problem -- six wins in his first nine games?" Win or lose, the Nittany Lions play spirited football each week.

Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State (six wins): Replacing a coach with 15 years of tenure probably isn't easy, but DeRuyter has wasted little time succeeding Pat Hill. The Bulldogs are tied for the Mountain West lead at 5-1. Quarterback Derek Carr ranks second nationally in passing yards (3,070) and touchdowns (30). Fresno could turn into a springboard job for DeRuyter if he sustains success.

Kyle Flood, Rutgers (seven wins): The team with the nation's 14th-ranked defense should enter next week's Big East showdown against Cincinnati with an 8-1 record. Rutgers isn't terribly talented but is opportunistic (tied for first in the Big East in turnover margin with nine). That's a compliment to Flood.

Not to be left out: UNC's Larry Fedora (six wins), Toledo's Matt Campbell (eight wins), Arkansas State's Gus Malzahn (six wins.)


Charlie Weis, Kansas (one win): Turner Gill didn't give Weis much of a roster to work with, and BYU transfer Jake Heaps could help next year, but Weis' Jayhawks debut couldn't have gone much worse. Just ask the rest of the Big 12 -- or the student newspaper.

Ellis Johnson, Southern Mississippi (zero wins): One of the great mysteries of this season is happening at Southern Miss, where a program with 18 straight winning seasons might fade into the late November offseason at 0-12. Only three games have been within 10 points. The rest, blowouts. Johnson has an arduous task to save face.

Tim Beckman, Illinois (two wins): The post-Ron Zook era was expected to be a transition, but a winless Big Ten performance is unacceptable -- especially this Big Ten. Beckman came to Champaign with a defensive background, but the Illini rank 99th nationally with 33.1 points allowed per game.

Norm Chow, Hawaii (one win): Remember when Chow was the toast of college football as the play-caller for Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush? Chow's Warriors haven't scored more than 27 points in a game all season.

Jim McElwain, Colorado State (two wins): The classic case of the high-profile coordinator dipping into obscurity after taking a smaller-conference job and struggles to keep up. A winning Year 2 can change that, and winning in the Mountain West isn't an unreasonable request, but the Rams aren't exactly stocked with talent for the former Alabama offensive coordinator. Meanwhile, the Tide keep rolling.

Not to be left out: Akron's Terry Bowden (one win), Florida Atlantic's Carl Pelini (two wins).

No huddle

1.92: Number of points per minute when Oregon's offense has the ball. The Ducks rank 101st nationally in time of possession at 28:11 minutes per game, yet they've loaded up scoreboards with 489 points. Quick, efficient, painful for those not wearing green.

1: Number of plays over 25 yards Georgia's defense has given up in consecutive wins over Florida and Ole Miss. The Bulldogs D is tightening up.

5: Number of season-ending ACL tears for Maryland this year (h/t to Patrick Stevens of the Washington Times for the stat).

6: Number of Pac-12 teams with at least 70 penalties against them. The number of 70-flag teams in the other five BCS conferences? Three. (h/t to University of Washington's Gregg Bell for the stat.)

27.3: Average number of penalty yards for undefeated Kansas State each week. The Big 12's second-best team in penalties, one-win Kansas, averages 28.3 yards against per game. Only one of these teams capitalizes on mistake-free football.

Jeremy Fowler is a national college football insider with Fowler joined CBS in 2012 after covering the Minnesota Vikings for the St. Paul Pioneer Press for two seasons and covering the Florida Gators for the Orlando Sentinel for two years. Fowler is also a contributor to the CBS Sports Network.

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