Blink and you missed the latest coaching carousel. Twenty-eight schools changed coaches in a 99-day period. Compare that to the 2020-21 hiring cycle when 18 changes took more than 10 months to complete. (Ohio's Frank Solich retired last July.)
Changes were so fast and furious in 2021 that at least one school fired a coach and then hired a replacement within the regular season (Georgia Southern swapping Chad Lunsford for Clay Helton.) Thirteen schools that changed coaches were bowl-eligible.
The only certainty is that the landscape of college football will change further. Three of the Pac-12's most traditional powers will all have new coaches: USC, Washington, Oregon. Brian Kelly changed jobs, cultures and accents in leaving Notre Dame for LSU. Florida has its third full-time coach since 2014. Almost half of the 28 coaches hired (13) are first-time program leaders.
Change is here to stay. In the last three offseasons, 67 schools have hired new coaches. That's more than half of FBS.
Here's how we grade the hires as we enter the 2022 college football offseason with the carousel having stopped spinning ... at least for now.
|Lincoln Riley||A+||As sudden and swift as Riley left Oklahoma, out on the West Coast the prospects at USC improved in a heartbeat. Riley carries the future of not only USC but the Pac-12 in his playbook. The league's flagship program will start keeping California five-stars home. Riley has the coaching chops to move the Trojans back to the top. It was bit unnerving (for OU loyalists) when Riley said, "This was too good to pass up." It made Oklahoma look like a stepping stone. USC looked forward to a limitless future.|
|Mario Cristobal||A||It only took the UM administration 20 years to figure out, if you want to be like the SEC, you must spend like the SEC. It went out and got Cristobal, who was a recruiting force at Alabama and reinvigorated Oregon. Cristobal, reportedly making $80 million over 10 years, won two national titles at Miami as a player. He is motivated to see the Hurricanes get back to their glory having grown up and played in South Florida. The Canes under Cristobal will be physical in both lines, for starters.|
|Brian Kelly||A||Jimbo Fisher wasn't coming. Riley wasn't interested. Athletic director Scott Woodward benefitted from the relationship between Kelly and his Notre Dame superiors running its course. Kelly has won big everywhere. There should be more of the same at LSU. Kelly will have a better shot at the College Football Playoff, but the pressure will be ratcheted up a level above even Notre Dame. It's still not certain if Kelly knows the culture entirely at LSU. It's a unique one that could be hard to navigate for a native of Massachusetts. His introductory speech at the basketball game went viral for all the wrong reasons.|
|Billy Napier||A||Napier is the right guy and the right place at the right time. After the consecutive, at-times wacky regimes of Jim McElwain and Dan Mullen, Florida needed normal. Napier is normal. His next move after Louisiana had to be the SEC. Florida is one of the league's premier programs. "The pieces of the puzzle are here. We've got to put the pieces together," Napier said. With Georgia ruling the division -- and maybe the nation after Monday -- the pieces better come together fast. The Gators and AD Scott Stricklin are making a huge investment to surround Napier with top talent.|
|Jeff Tedford||A||Tedford, still a youthful 60, returned to his old job after attending to health issues. He coached the Bulldogs from 2017-19, winning a Mountain West title in 2018. Six quarterbacks he mentored as either a head coach or coordinator have been first-round draft choices. (Aaron Rodgers, anyone?) Incumbent starting QB Jake Haener changed his mind and came back out of the transfer portal when Tedford was named coach.|
|Brent Venables||A-||The departure of Riley stunned Sooners everywhere, but AD Joe Castiglione recovered quickly to grab the veteran Clemson defensive coordinator who has turned down several jobs over the years. This is a perfect fit with Venables having worked with or for Bob Stoops across 16 seasons. The Sooners will be better defensively. Considering the offense is being turned over to Jeff Lebby, the Air Raid concepts will stay in place. This is an impressive lineup to transition into the SEC.|
|Jerry Kill||A-||The venerable Kill has been through hell – cancer, seizures. He is still one of the most respected football minds around. At age 60, he has plenty left in the tank. Kill reunites with New Mexico State AD Mario Moccia; the two worked together at Southern Illinois. New Mexico State is an incredibly heavy lift, but Kill is a gift for this struggling program.|
|Marcus Freeman||B||AD Jack Swarbrick had a tough choice. Elevate an interim coach with a potential playoff berth looming or hire a permanent coach to replace Kelly. Swarbrick went with the popular choice. Freeman was Cincinnati's defensive coordinator a year ago. Now, he's in charge of one of the most visible sports franchises on the planet. The players love him. He can recruit. We know he can coordinate a defense. Can he run a program? The last three Notre Dame coaches without head-coaching experience were Charlie Weis, Bob Davie and Gerry Faust.|
|Dan Lanning||B||After considering the implications of hiring Chip Kelly, AD Rob Mullens focused on the 35-year-old coordinator of the best defense in the country. Shortly after playing for the national title on Monday, Lanning will head to Eugene, Oregon. The cupboard is loaded from four straight top 13 recruiting classes per 247Sports from 2018-21.|
|Sonny Dykes||B||As ugly as the process may have been -- Gary Patterson forced out to get in front of Texas Tech for the services of Dykes -- these are desperate times in Fort Worth. TCU wants to remain competitive in the reconstituted Big 12. Dykes comes over from one of the Horned Frogs' biggest rivals with a proven track record of winning. His record at SMU (33-17) was the best of any coach since the death penalty. At a key point in its history, TCU is committed to spending big to stay relevant in the new Big 12.|
|Tony Elliott||B||Like Venables, Elliott had multiple chances to leave Clemson over the years. That he "picked" Virginia is a sign he went for the right reasons, citing UVA's successful mix of academics and athletics. Elliott is a proven offensive mastermind and recruiter. One concern has to be Clemson cratering offensively (95th in the country) after the loss of Trevor Lawrence. Bronco Mendenhall left the program in good shape despite a surprise resignation.|
|Jake Dickert||B||The Cougars defensive coordinator was picked as interim coach when Nick Rolovich flushed his career and disowned his players by refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The move kept the players emotionally attached to a current staffer. Dickert had a certain charisma, going 3-3 down the stretch during tremendous upheaval. He's the perfect pick for a program that always punches above its weight class. I don't know if AD Pat Chun could have done better with a protracted search for a sitting coach.|
|Rhett Lashlee||B||Lashlee is the perfect choice after the sudden loss of Dykes. He was Dykes' offensive coordinator from 2018-19. That preceded a successful two-year run at Miami. Lashlee's last three offenses have finished ninth, 12th and 13th nationally. He will attract quarterbacks and capitalize on a foundation established by Dykes.|
|Jay Norvell||B||Pretty much anyone would have been an upgrade over Steve Addazio. Norvell made what, at first glance, looks like a lateral move from Nevada. But Colorado State has one of the best on-campus stadiums in the West, and given the surrounding talent, should be able to challenge for Mountain West crowns.|
|Brent Pry||B-||VT needs a jolt of energy after the Justin Fuente era ended with 24-23 thud across four seasons. Pry has been with James Franklin at Vanderbilt and Penn State as a defensive coach for the last 11 years. With Clemson's death grip possibly loosening on the ACC, there is no reason why the Hokies can't be competitive in the league again.|
|Kalen DeBoer||B-||Jimmy Lake was suspended then fired in November in a dizzying turn following a sideline altercation with a player. AD Jen Cohen is on the hook for Lake's $9.9 million buyout plus DeBoer's $16.5 million salary (over five years). That's a bargain in the current overpriced market. DeBoer has one year of Power Five experience (Indiana offensive coordinator, 2019) but plenty of promise. A short, quick stop at Fresno State yielded a 12-6 record over two years.|
|Mike Elko||B-||I thought Elko would take a better job than this once he decided to make the leap. The 44-year-old has long been a respected defensive mind. Elko had a hand in beating Alabama this season as Texas A&M defensive coordinator. Before that, he spent one season with Kelly at Notre Dame. His defenses have finished lower than 41st in total defense just once since 2012.|
|Michael Desormeaux||B-||The former Ragin' Cajuns defensive back was Napier's co-offensive coordinator, so there is some continuity there. But after what Napier accomplished -- back-to-back Sun Belt titles -- there will be big headphones to fill.|
|Sonny Cumbie||B-||Cumbie has a sneaky good resume. He threw for almost 5,000 yards for Mike Leach at Texas Tech and once replaced someone named Lincoln Riley as Tech's inside receivers coach. At one point, he was the highest-paid offensive coordinator in the country at TCU. Cumbie became the Texas Tech interim coach after Matt Wells was fired. Louisiana Tech won 10 games just two years ago, so there's that.|
|Joe Moorhead||B-||Akron is getting a bargain with an experienced offensive mind. Moorhead reportedly took a big pay cut to become a head coach in the MAC. He was making $1.1 million as Oregon's offensive coordinator. His deal at Akron ($2.5 million over five years) is worth significantly less than his buyout from Mississippi State a few years ago ($7 million). Could he have waited and done better? Possibly, given this team has three wins total across the last three seasons. But Moorhead wanted to be closer to his family and son Mason, an offensive lineman at Grove City (Pa.) College, 83 miles from Akron. |
|Don Brown||B-||UMass barely looks like an FBS program. Brown is now 66. However, he led the Minutemen through a period of prosperity from 2004-08. This might be as good as UMass could have possibly done after Walt Bell went 2-23.|
|Clay Helton||C+||Helton went 46-24 at USC and wasn't nearly good enough. If he goes 46-24 at Georgia Southern, they might make him school president. Helton ran the Air Raid at USC, so it will be interesting see which way the Eagles head offensively. The eight-year-old FBS program has an option tradition.|
|Mike MacIntyre||C+||Mac has been a turnaround master at both San Jose State and Colorado, winning 10 games at both places. Given his talents and the fluid nature of Conference USA, there is nowhere to go but up. The Panthers have lost 19 of their last 21 games.|
|Jon Sumrall||C+||Sumrall is the Trojans' third coach since 2015. He knows all about Troy having served as Neal Brown's linebackers coach from 2015-17. As Kentucky's co-defensive coordinator, he guided a unit that faced only 804 plays, the fewest in the SEC. The Trojans are desperate to return to the top of the Sun Belt where they used to dominate.|
|Joey McGuire||C||AD Kirby Hocutt fired Wells after a 5-3 start. He replaced him with Baylor's outside linebackers coach, who has deep roots as a Texas high school coach. Sound familiar? In terms of football only, McGuire looks like a next-generation Art Briles ... without the baggage.|
|Ken Wilson||C||Wilson has spent a total of 19 seasons as a Nevada assistant. As a defensive coach, he's never called plays on the Power Five level. Nine combined years at Washington State and Oregon helped Wilson get this job. A favorable word from Nevada legend Chris Ault couldn't have hurt.|
|Jim Mora||C||No matter who got this job, you must wonder about UConn's commitment to football after leaving the AAC for basketball reasons. There is an ongoing limbo there as an independent. However, Mora seems committed having served as a Huskie offensive analyst in 2021. He went 46-30 in six seasons at UCLA.|
|Stan Drayton||C-||What Matt Rhule did at Temple looks better every minute. Before jumping to Baylor, Rhule posted the only two back-to-back 10-win seasons in history. Rod Carey tried to keep it going but slumped to 4-15 the last two seasons. Drayton is a career assistant who has had 11 jobs since 2000.|