Year 2 of a college football coaching tenure can serve as a pivot point. The first year almost always comes free of expectations, but by the end of the third season, there is a body of work that can be fairly judged. In between, coaches have a roster that is a mix of inaugural recruiting classes, veterans recruited by the previous staff and -- increasingly in the era of the transfer portal -- a handful of players that have transferred in from other schools or the junior college ranks. Managing that hybrid roster and settling in with the lessons learned in Year 1 is a tremendous challenge, but it's also presented incredible opportunities in years past.
Urban Meyer won a national championship in Year 2 at Florida, Nick Saban notched top-10 finishes and conference title game appearances in both Year 2s at LSU and Alabama, and recently, Scott Frost led UCF to an undefeated 13-0 record in his second season.
On the flip side, Year 2 can signal to a school and fans that a coach isn't the right fit for the job. Sometimes that's warranted and other times it's not, but if lowered expectations aren't met in Year 1 and Year 2 doesn't present some sort of turnaround, then it can be the first signs of an early end to a coaching stint.
Below, we've broken down the profiles of seven coaches with the most on the line in Year 2 during the 2020 season. Some of them have to meet sky-high expectations, while others need to show incremental progress and at least one faces a combination of high expectations and the need to reverse any memory of what happened in Year 1.
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|Ryan Day -- 2019 record: 13-1 | 2020 CBS Sports Coach Ranking: 10 (+35) | Outlook: Other coaches have to be envious of Day not only ascending the to head spot at one of college football's blue bloods but doing so in the wake of Urban Meyer's total infrastructure installation. Strength and conditioning, player personnel departments and several key assistants remained in place as Day delivered on the promise of continued success with arguably the most successful season since the Buckeyes won the national championship in 2014. Ohio State reached the No. 1 spot in the College Football Playoff Rankings and provided the most competitive foil to LSU during the Tigers' title-winning tear. As the argument went, LSU was the offensive juggernaut while Ohio State was the more complete team. As 2020 looms ahead, the Buckeyes begin back in that one-two debate, this time with a Clemson program that prevented Day from winning it all in Year 1. Right now, it's nearly impossible for Day to exceed expectations because everything on and off the field points to national championship-contention, and anything short will be a disappointment.|
|Mack Brown -- 2019 record: 7-6 | 2020 CBS Sports Coach Ranking: 20 (+13) | Outlook: Obviously, there's some bit of a qualifier here with this being Year 2 for Brown while also being his 12th season overall as North Carolina's head coach. On the field, the Tar Heels exceeded expectations in 2019 with a 7-6 record when Las Vegas odds and many prognosticators saw a season that would end without a bowl appearance. Even still, the reverberations created by Brown's return extend far beyond what anyone would expect from a seven-win campaign. Freshman quarterback Sam Howell, who Mack Brown flipped from Florida State shortly after his hire, threw for more than 3,600 yards with 38 touchdowns and just seven interceptions en route to earning ACC Rookie of the Year honors. Howell was electric and North Carolina was seemingly always in nail-biters, including the 21-20 near-upset of Clemson that came down a failed two-point conversion. Now, North Carolina enters 2020 as one of the favorites to win the ACC Coastal Division, which is quite a jump up from six regular season wins but warranted given the team's offensive firepower. Those expectations have only been stoked by Brown's success on the recruiting trail, which includes holding down a top-five class in the 2021 class rankings. After easily clearing a low bar in 2019, the stakes are significantly higher in 2020. Anything short of division title-contention will be a disappointment for Tar Heels fans who have embraced Brown's vision of transforming North Carolina into one of the elite programs in the ACC.|
|Scott Satterfield -- 2019 record: 8-5 | 2020 CBS Sports Coach Ranking: 31 (+6) | Outlook: While Mack Brown made waves by exceeding expectations, it was Satterfield who ended up taking home ACC Coach of the Year by blowing the expectations out of the water. Louisville had one of the top single-season turnarounds in the country as Satterfield and his staff led a team that had bottomed out under Bobby Petrino in 2018 to eight wins and a solo second-place finish in the ACC Atlantic Division. When the preseason polling comes out for 2020, Louisville won't be picked last in the Atlantic like they were a year ago, but the expectations are arguably more manageable due to the mere presence of Clemson as a division opponent. Satterfield has one of the better quarterback-running back-wide receiver trios in the league with Micale Cunningham, Javian Hawkins and Tutu Atwell all returning to lead an offense that ranked second only to Clemson in the ACC in yards per play (6.68). But the key to building on last season's success will be shoring up a defense that conversely ranked tied for last in yards per play allowed (6.33).|
|Manny Diaz -- 2019 record: 6-7 | 2020 CBS Sports Coach Ranking: 58 (-1) | Outlook: Things went relatively well for Diaz in Year 1 coaching a program that he holds dear. Then came a crushing loss to neighbor FIU on the grounds of the old Orange Bowl that saw a listless performances from the Hurricanes who were coming off a bye. Diaz was left to take responsibility for what he called a "very, very dark night; one of the lowest points ever in this proud program's history." It was the third time, to that point, that Miami had suffered an outright loss when favored by at least 14 points and kickstarted one of the worst late-season collapses at the Power Five level. The Canes went on to lose to Duke in the regular-season finale and Louisiana Tech in the bowl game, with offensive performances that were so woeful Diaz sought a new offensive coordinator and welcomed in Houston transfer quarterback D'Eriq King to provide a much-needed spark. Arguably no Year 2 coach needs to see things turn around in 2020 quite like Diaz, who, despite the shortcomings of last season, has enough talent on the roster to warrant betting odds that suggest the Hurricanes are one of the top choices to compete for an ACC Coastal Division title and a spot in the ACC Championship Game.|
|Geoff Collins -- 2019 record: 3-9 | 2020 CBS Sports Coach Ranking: 57 (-2) | Outlook: This is an interesting case because unlike division rivals North Carolina and Miami, no one has extended the invitation out to ACC Coastal Division title contention for Georgia Tech. The pressure on Collins exists within the context of continued incremental success as he totally reshapes a roster that was built for Paul Johnson's methodical flexbone option attack. Collins and his staff have been relentless on the recruiting trail, with their branding of the new-look era at Georgia Tech generating enough positivity to land the No. 27 recruiting class in the country in 2020. Included in that group was four-star in-state running back Jahmyr Gibbs, a top-100 player who could be an instant-impact weapon as Georgia Tech continues to lean on the youth movement to build for the future. Georgia Tech might not get the ACC Coastal dark horse label until 2021 or 2022, but keep your eye on what's happening in Atlanta because the talent level is rising.|
|Dana Holgorsen -- 2019 record: 4-8 | 2020 CBS Sports Coach Ranking: No. 7 in AAC (-4) | Outlook: The stock may be shaky, but I've come around on doubting Holgorsen's plan for a tear down and rebuild at Houston. to believe this experiment may work, and there's some things to like about what's in place for the Cougars in 2020. There was a stubborn calm to the way Holgorsen navigated a 4-8 season, and while that finish fell way short of expectations for Year 1, there is just as much of a chance to get things right in Year 2. The expectations are going to be significantly lower than they were heading into 2019 when experts (myself included) assumed that the combination of Holgorsen and D'Eriq King with the skill-position talent left on Houston's roster would produce conference title contending fireworks. Even with lowered expectations, though, there is still optimism for improvement, just as even the most ambitious tear down-and-rebuild projects need to show progress before receiving more financing. Of all the coaches here, Holgorsen has the best chance to improve his stock for the better.|
|Les Miles -- 2019 record: 3-9 | 2020 CBS Sports Coach Ranking: 43 (-15) | Outlook: If there's one place where Miles can offer Kansas fans some hope, it's going to be on the recruiting trail. The Jayhawks still appeared more than a year away from closing the gap with most Big 12 rivals in 2019, but Miles and his staff have been hard at work during the pandemic to use creativity and the national championship-winning coaches' connections to raise the talent level for the future. Those efforts came together for a win over the weekend with the commitment of four-star wide receiver Keon Coleman. In addition to being one of the highest-rated prospects in the recruiting services era, Coleman is a Louisiana native who also had LSU in the mix. The bar for the Jayhawks in 2020 isn't much higher than it was in 2019, but every win against a Big 12 opponent is proof positive for the current roster and prospects at home that Kansas is building towards something special with Miles at the helm.|