Coaching carousel winners and losers: Grades for every college football hire ahead of 2020
The Egg Bowl got even more interesting with the hires of Mike Leach and Lane Kiffin
It has seldom been riskier to be a head coach. Just ask Willie Taggart (Florida State), Joe Moorhead (Mississippi State) or Chad Morris (Arkansas), all of whom failed to make it to Year 3. Washington's Chris Petersen blamed burn out when he decided to step down in the midst of a hall of fame career.
It's so risky that we had to grade the 2020 hires again. Five more schools changed coaches since we thought the coaching carousel had stopped spinning on Dec. 20, 2019.
It's so risky that there were 22 coaching changes in the latest silly season, which we can only hope is now completed. That makes 71 coaching changes in the last three seasons. (Arkansas, Florida State and Mississippi State each changed twice.) That's more than half of FBS since the end of the 2016 season.
The money has never been better. The security? Well, that's another thing.
The rapid turnover perhaps means less available experience. Only five of the 22 new coaches this cycle have Power Five head coaching experience: Mike Leach (Mississippi State), Todd Graham (Hawaii), Brady Hoke (San Diego State), Lane Kiffin (Ole Miss) and Steve Addazio (Colorado State). Only Leach was in a Power Five job when hired.
|Mike Leach||A||Let's be clear: The hiring of Mike Leach in Starkville was a corresponding response to Lane Kiffin joining Ole Miss. Strap yourselves in. The price of (football) poker just went way up in the state of Mississippi. The Egg Bowl already is appointment TV. It will be interesting to see if Leach's offense-first philosophy will work in the SEC. A couple of reasons why it will: Leach is coming to the conference at the right time. That's exactly how LSU and Alabama are playing these days. Leach will have to pay particular attention in recruiting to offensive and defensive linemen or risk being run out of the building in the SEC. Leach's preference to work under the media radar in small towns will be tested at Mississippi State. Yes, this is Starkville, but the SEC is covered like no other conference.|
|Lane Kiffin||A||Kiffin was eventually getting back to Power Five. That it is with the Rebels makes so much sense. The school has already a shown a certain recruiting-friendly approach to the game (see: Hugh Freeze, NCAA sanctions). Not to say Kiffin will do anything underhanded, but Freeze set the template for how it can be done -- 10 wins, one of them being over Nick Saban. Believe it or not, Kiffin brings a more reasoned and credible approach. The Boy King who has flaunted both authority and convention has proved he can coach and be a stabilizing force at age 44. Our little Lane may growing up before our eyes. Wouldn't that be something at Ole Miss.|
|Greg Schiano||A||Rutgers is lucky to be in the Big Ten. Check that: Rutgers is lucky to have a football program. Things are that bad. That's another way of saying: <em>Rutgers had to get Schiano.</em> The former Scarlet Knights coach might be the only human alive able to get Rutgers competitive again. In 2006, Schiano led Rutgers to within a heartbeat of a BCS bowl. His record in Piscataway (68-67) looks by comparison like Bill Belichick's Patriots dynasty. Schiano brings sizzle and work ethic immediately. He'll recruit talent-rich New Jersey. He's got ties in South Florida. Before taking the job, Schiano used his leverage to get much-needed infrastructure upgrades.|
|Mike Norvell||A||FSU remains in disarray. That's not to say Norvell can't get things back quickly. In this search cycle, Norvell was the best name left on the board for FSU despite what you may have read about Bob Stoops being a candidate. (He wasn't, by the way.) At age 38, Norvell has the energy and experience to at least try to make the Clemson game competitive again. That's really what this is about, baby steps in the ACC before trying to regain national traction.|
|Nick Rolovich||A||Washington State got the over-the-top, wide-open, edgy replacement it needed. Rolovich runs the run-and-shoot but is much more offensively balanced than Leach. The former Hawaii coach (and quarterback) will entertain, like Leach, but in a different way. Rolovich keeps everyone guessing. He once brought an Elvis impersonator to Mountain West media days. He staged a get-to-know-you meeting with Wazzu fans in a Seattle bar. Under "Rolo," Hawaii won 10 games for the first time in a decade and played for the MWC title. Leach left behind a roster will continue to compete in the Pac-12. "The Pirate left his treasure in Pullman, and the X marks the spot here in Martin Stadium," Rolovich said at his introductory presser.|
|Danny Gonzales||A-||How do we put this mildly? New Mexico doesn't deserve Danny Gonzales. The program hasn't mattered in years. The university kept Bob Davie way beyond his sell-by date. But Gonzales, 43, is a former New Mexico walk-on who coached under Rocky Long with the Lobos and San Diego State. At Arizona State, he was considered one of the nation's best defensive coordinators and was a valued member of Herm Edwards' staff. Let's hope New Mexico provides Gonzales with the resources he needs to assemble a staff and recruit. The Lobos were 2-10 last season and went winless in the Mountain West. They've been to two bowls in the last 13 years.|
|Dave Aranda||B||What keeps Aranda from an "A" is his lack of experience as a head coach. He doesn't have any. Aranda is a master defensive strategist. As a recruiter and program leader, we'll see. Baylor is currently ranked dead last in Big 12 recruiting heading into the traditional National Signing Day. Aranda was able to snag a top-five recruiter in LSU defensive line coach Dennis Johnson for his staff. Even at its best, though, Baylor is program that requires daily care and feeding. It can't recruit like Oklahoma and Texas. It certainly can't rest. Ever. The guess here is that the program will suffer, at least in the short term, from the loss of Matt Rhule. Going from 1-11 to 11-3 in three seasons cannot be overstated. One recommendation: Get a Texas high school quarterback, fast. That will help with Aranda's credibility with prep coaches around the state and his ability to compete in the Big 12.|
|Jimmy Lake||B||As shocking as Petersen's departure was, U-Dub seems to be well positioned with Lake. Athletic director Jen Cohen and Petersen had a plan. Lake goes back to 2012 with Petersen at Boise State. He matured in those eight seasons to become the Huskies' stand-alone defensive coordinator for the first time in 2018. Petersen's shadow will loom large over Washington. Lake is following a guy who was one of the top five coaches in the country. Can he keep up?|
|Jeff Scott||B||Scott had his shot at multiple jobs as co-offensive coordinator at Clemson. That he decided to launch his head coaching career at USF is huge. Scott concluded that he can win with the Bulls. History supports him. This is a talented offensive coach with a couple of national championship rings who will be showing his quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence film. If it's about fit, Scott is the guy. He's a Florida native who has recruited Florida and knows Florida. At age 38, Scott has spent 13 years at Clemson. It was time. USF is lucky to get him.|
|Willie Taggart||B||A soft landing spot for a coach who may have overreached at Florida State. It happens to all of us. We all reach the level of our incompetence. That's nothing against Taggart, who won 10 at South Florida. That's reality. His Power Five record at Oregon and FSU is 16-17. Maybe Group of Five is where he should be. Kiffin proved it could be done in Boca Raton. Taggart just never figured it out at FSU.|
|Todd Graham||B||Graham's high-flying offensive philosophy will fit nicely in Manoa after the loss of Rolovich. Yes, Graham has a defensive background, but he made his career embracing the spread before it was fashionable. Graham had gotten a bit lax in recruiting at the end at Arizona State. At least that's what folks at ASU said. He was 18-20 in his final three seasons with the Sun Devils. This is a career reboot for a 55-year-old who was once one of the game's hottest coaches.|
|Brady Hoke||B||Former coach Rocky Long was asked to change his grinding, tedious run-first offense. That meant changing assistant coaches. Long refused and "retired" the same day (Jan. 8). Hoke was elevated (from defensive line coach) to his second stint as the Aztecs' head man (13-12 in 2009-10). Continuity is key here. Hoke gets another chance to prove himself (78-72 in his career as a head coach. But Hoke is comfortable with SDSU and SDSU is comfortable with him. Long, who surfaced this week as New Mexico's new defensive coordinator, leaves the program in amazingly good shape. It is one of only 11 teams to win at least 10 in four of the last five seasons. With an offensive upgrade, the Aztecs will continue to challenge Boise for the Mountain West and, hence, the Group of Five's automatic New Year's Six berth.|
|Eli Drinkwitz||B-||Missouri did OK for grabbing its fourth choice, or maybe fifth choice, in Drinkwitz. None of that is the coach's fault. The search became public, and the board of curators got involved shooting down names (Skip Holtz, Blake Anderson, Jeff Monken). Drinkwitz appealed to curator chairman Jon Sundvold, an ex-basketball star at Mizzou who wields a lot of power. Drinkwitz makes quite a leap from NC State offensive coordinator (2017) to Appalachian State coach (2018) to SEC coach. Somehow, the fact that he took Scott Satterfield's players and won the Sun Belt became a criticism. The opposite of winning with someone else's players is losing. Missouri football needs to become exciting again. The former assistant under Gus Malzahn (Auburn) and Bryan Harsin (Boise State) has the personality and offensive chops to do it.Jury is still out|
|Jeff Hafley||C+||Hafley's ascension to Power Five coach has been dizzying. When he was hired at Ohio State a year ago, he hadn't been in college football since 2011. As Ryan Day's defensive play caller, Hafley changed the entire culture, taking the Buckeyes from T71 to second in total. Hafley, a New Jersey native, was an aggressive recruiter under Dave Wannstedt at Pitt. One concern: He has never been so much as a coordinator. The last BC coach (Addazio) put folks to sleep with his offense. Hafley will have to hire a hot-shot offensive coordinator and get a quarterback -- quick. That's how it works in Trevor Lawrence's conference, and really, everywhere. |
|Shawn Clark||C+||The Mountaineers moved quickly to replace Drinkwitz with his offensive line coach. Clark played for App State in the 1990s and was the offensive line coach for the last four seasons. The momentum created by a Sun Belt championship won't wane anytime soon. In those four seasons, App State is 42-10. |
|Marcus Arroyo||C+||The Rebels get an upgrade if only because Arroyo has college experience. Tony Sanchez was elevated straight from local Bishop Gorman High School and flopped, going 20-40 in five seasons. Oregon's Mario Cristobal inherited Arroyo as OC after Taggart left. How about this for an upgrade? In his second season, Arroyo was OC for the Pac-12 champions. UNLV has been a long-suffering program. Arroyo is the face of a program that moves into the new Las Vegas Raiders stadium. |
|Kaelen DeBoer||C||It took long enough on the parts of both parties to finally get this deal done. DeBoer, 46, is seen as continuity after the retirement of Jeff Tedford. During his two seasons as offensive coordinator at Fresno (2017-18), the Bulldogs were eighth and third in Mountain West scoring offense. In the two previous seasons, Fresno State was 10th and 12th (last). DeBoer is leaving Indiana where he helped the Hoosiers to eight wins for the first time since 1993. Only Ohio State was better in the Big Ten in total offense. Could DeBoer have hung on for a year or two and gotten a better job? This guy has made the right move each step of his career. |
|Ryan Silverfield||C||Memphis also stayed in-house in elevating Silverfield, Norvell's offensive line coach. Silverfield began last week as the interim coach, certainly not a favorite for the head job. The week ended with him dabbing at his eyes calling his ascension, "a dream come true." Good continuity here with the Cotton Bowl coming up, but let's not kid ourselves. Silverfield can pledge loyalty all he wants. He was in Memphis only because he left the Detroit Lions after less than a month on the job in December 2015. |
|Ricky Rahne||C||It's a good thing to be Penn State's offensive coordinator. The last two have gotten head coaching jobs. First, Joe Moorhead at Mississippi State. Then, Rahne who has been with James Franklin for nine straight years at Penn State and Vanderbilt. Not many times when the coach has more experience than the program. Rahne has been a coach for 16 years. ODU has been an FBS program for six years. |
|Sam Pittman||C-||As an SEC head coach, Pittman is a heck of an offensive line coach. That's not to disparage Pittman, 58, who has coached for 35 years and been a part of nine FBS programs. Pittman was one of Kirby Smart's top coaches at Georgia. However, Arkansas' last six coaches have brought a combined 49 years of head coaching experience to the job. Pittman has none. |
|Jeff Traylor||C-||The one-time Big 12 recruiter of the year (at Texas) comes from Arkansas where he was Morris' running backs coach. Traylor won four state championships in 15 years at Gilmer High School in Texas. He has pledged to recruit the Lone Star State. Good place to start at Texas-San Antonio. |
|Steve Addazio||D||This job went to Addazio after Urban Meyer reportedly intervened. Meyer's second job as a college coach was as a receivers coach at Colorado State from 1990-95. Addazio, a former Meyer assistant, is 60 and a .500 coach in his career (57-55) with a reputation for sluggish ground-based offenses. CSU needs an exciting program to match its exciting home, Canvas Stadium, where beer flows at the New Belgium Porch. Addazio's BC offenses finished above 68th nationally once in seven years. Pass the pale ale.|
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