College football first-year coach grades: Ohio State's Ryan Day aces test, Miami's Manny Diaz fails

The 2019 regular season is in the books, and several rookie coaches made their first impressions on the college football world. From Ryan Day at Ohio State to Manny Diaz at Miami and everyone in between, coaches laid the groundwork for the future of their respective programs throughout the fall. 

Some were successful ... and others were not. Some led their teams to bowl games ... and others fell just short. But the process is still ongoing, potentially with better days on the horizon for some. Others could be a flash in the pan at their programs with the bottom set to fall out by the time Year 2 rolls around next summer. 

Let's grade the first-year coaches from 2019 based solely on their performance this season.

Power Five
Mel Tucker5-7Tucker couldn't lead the Buffaloes to a winning record despite having quarterback Steven Montez and wide receiver Laviska Shenault. That shouldn't happen.C+
Geoff Collins3-9Collins gets graded on a curve since he's transitioning from the triple option. That win over Miami was a good sign.C
Les Miles3-9Three wins at Kansas including a dismantling of Boston College is nice. But Miles hasn't proven that he can dig the Jayhawks out of the hole they were in.C
Chris Klieman8-4It's hard to replace a legend, but Klieman picked up right where Bill Snyder left off.A-
Scott Satterfield7-5This program was in shambles after Bobby Petrino, and Satterfield made it competitive. That's a minor miracle.A-
Mike Locksley3-9Things started out with a bang, but the fireworks flamed out shortly thereafter. Locksley has a lot of work to do.D
Manny Diaz6-6A bowl is nice, but you can't lose to FIU and a transitioning Georgia Tech team. Not at Miami.F
Mack Brown6-6Brown got a broken program back to a bowl and made true freshman quarterback Max Howell a star. That'll work.B+
Ryan Day12-0Day aced his first test. If we could give out something more than an A+, he would get it.A+
Matt Wells4-8Wells came to town with a proven track record but posted a worse record than Kliff Kingsbury did last year. That won't cut it.D+
Neal Brown5-7Brown didn't have a lot to work with, but the program took a pretty significant step back. This team should be able to stumble its way to a bowl.C-
Group of Five
Tom Arth0-12It's a difficult job ... but it shouldn't be that difficult.F
Eliah Drinkwitz11-1The Mountaineers are in the thick of the New Year's Six discussion. That'll work.A
Scot Loeffler3-9The offense struggled under the offensive-minded first-year coach. That's not a good sign.C-
Jim McElwain8-4This team won one game last year and will play in the MAC Championship Game. That speaks volumes.A
Will Healy7-5After turning around Austin Peay, Healy led the 49ers to their first-ever bowl game in Year 1.A-
Jamey Chadwell5-7Things looked promising with the Kansas win in September, but conference play grabbed the Chanticleers.B-
Mike Houston4-8The defense was brutal late in the season, which should concern Pirates fans moving forward.C-
Dana Holgorsen4-8The record coupled with the midseason redshirt controversy of quarterback D'Eriq Kings makes this first year a total failure.F
Hugh Freeze7-5The Flames should go to their first-ever bowl, and Freeze made a star out of Antonio Gandy-Golden.A-
Thomas Hammock5-7The defense took a step back, and the offense was stale. Not a good start for Hammock.C-
Rod Carey8-4Carey kept the Owls cooking at their normal level in a tough AAC.B
Jake Spavital3-9The Bobcats didn't show any signs of improvement despite returning virtually every starter from a year ago.D-
Chip Lindsey5-7Troy had double-digit wins in three straight seasons before Lindsey drove it into a ditch. This type of season should never happen.D-
Walt Bell1-11The Minutemen allowed 52.7 points per game. That's unacceptable.F
Gary Andersen7-5Quarterback Jordan Love didn't exactly have a ton of weapons, but Andersen should have at least put them in division title contention.C+
Tyson Helton8-4From three wins to eight wins and a win at an SEC school will work ... even if that SEC school is Arkansas.A-
College Football Writer

Barrett Sallee has been a member of the sports media in various aspects since 2001. He is currently a college football writer for CBS Sports, analyst for CBS Sports HQ and host for the SiriusXM college... Full Bio

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