Friday Five: Ranking the best college football coaching hires in the Power Five
We've had six whole hires to choose from
Every Friday, the Friday Five will rank something in the world of college football -- anything and everything from the logical to the illogical. This week we rank our five favorite coaching hires in the Power Five.
The coaching carousel has been quiet this year. It's Dec. 9 and there isn't even an open Power Five gig available. In fact, of the 17 schools that will have a new coach in 2017, only seven of them have yet to hire a replacement.
It's strange because when jobs like Texas, LSU and Oregon come open, they're typically the kind of gigs that could topple dominoes all over the country, but that just didn't happen this year. Everything was rather painless.
No Power Five coach left their job for another Power Five job, as all six of the Power Five openings went to the Group of Five well or internal promotions. It was all a bit boring, to be honest, which was a disappointment. The coaching carousel is one of my favorite times of year, as coaching changes are to college football fans what the hot stove season is to baseball fans.
That being said, it doesn't mean I haven't been a fan of the lot of the bigger hires this winter, so for this week's Friday Five, I have decided to rank my favorite hires in the Power Five. With six whole openings to choose from, it was extremely difficult to pare the list down, but I put my head down and plowed through the best I could.
5. Baylor -- Matt Rhule: This one came as a surprise. Baylor was searching for a coach for months and while plenty of names popped up repeatedly, Matt Rhule's was not one of them. There weren't even any leaks about Baylor's interest in the hours leading up to Rhule's hire. It felt like the school just announced it all of a sudden, catching everybody off guard.
Surprise or not, it's an interesting hire, and one I definitely lean toward liking. In my mind, I had envisioned Rhule as a future Big Ten coach, but Baylor could work out really well for him, though there are the initial concerns about his unfamiliarity with the recruiting territory. Still, as long as he is given the proper amount of time to overhaul the program, this could work out very well.
I've always been behind the idea that, unless you're a blue blood program, you should zig when everybody else zags, and hiring Rhule definitely does that. He is a defensive-minded coach, after all, and you don't see that much in the Big 12. Hell, I'm not even sure anybody has told Texas Tech defense exists. If Rhule can bring the kind of defense he has routinely had at Temple to Waco, Baylor will be a team that can continue to compete within the Big 12. While the league is known for its high-powered offenses, it's no coincidence that the few Big 12 teams who actually play defense tend to be the same ones that end up toward the top of the standings.
4. LSU -- Ed Orgeron: I like Ed Orgeron. I've always liked Ed Orgeron, and while he was the interim at Southern California, it certainly felt like he had done enough to keep the job. He didn't, however, and we all know how that worked out for everybody involved. Steve Sarkisian is on the verge of being the offensive coordinator at Alabama and Orgeron is now running the show in Baton Rouge.
Still, as much as I like Orgeron, I can't get past the fact that this all boils down to the fact that LSU fired Les Miles to replace him with Ed Orgeron. We also know that Coach O wasn't the first choice, as LSU's flirtations with Jimbo Fisher and Tom Herman weren't kept under wraps. Had either of them said yes, then Orgeron isn't getting the job.
Having said all that, I'm still happy Orgeron got the job, as I think he has showed enough at both USC and LSU to prove he deserves one. Now we'll just see how he adjusts to the role on a full-time basis, and as we've seen at Clemson, there's certainly a blueprint of success for LSU to follow with Orgeron. Dabo Swinney had a similar reputation as an excellent recruiter without the coaching chops when he replaced Tommy Bowden as Tigers coach, so Dabo took on an CEO kind of role where he ran the show, but he surrounded himself with strong coordinators to take care of everything else. Orgeron already made sure to keep Dave Aranda in Baton Rouge to run the defense, and if he finds the right offensive coordinator, he can continue to work on what he does best: recruiting talent and motivating that talent to be the best it can be.
3. Oregon -- Willie Taggart: I have long been a fan of Willie Taggart, and I've waited for him to get a shot like this. His overall record of 24-25 is very misleading because Taggart originally took over a Western Kentucky team that had just transitioned to the FBS and needed an overhaul. He had that program headed in the right direction when South Florida smartly tabbed him to replace Skip Holtz.
After a few rough seasons with the Bulls to start, Taggart's teams have gone 18-7 the past two seasons, including the school's first 10-win season this year.
And now Taggart heads back to the Pac-12 where he spent three seasons on Jim Harbaugh's staff at Stanford.
He is an excellent recruiter, which is something Oregon needs as the downslide in recruiting is one of the main reasons Mark Helfrich is gone. He also has a smart offensive mind to make sure Oregon's offense continues to be potent, even if it isn't the same crazy tempo offense that made the Ducks famous.
Taggart has been able to rebuild two programs and set them up for continued success. Now, he'll finally get a chance to coach at a place where he can truly reap the benefits of his work. I look forward to seeing the results.
2. Texas -- Tom Herman: The funny thing about the Herman hire at Texas is that it's the biggest move on the coaching carousel, but it also feels like the quietest. I think we were all just assuming that Herman was going to end up at Texas for so long that when it finally happened the collective response was just "yep."
However it went down, and whatever the reaction, it's still a huge hire for Texas, and the best hire it could have made -- of realistic options -- for the program going forward. Houston did not have the same kind of season in 2016 that it did in 2015, but Herman is still one of the brightest young coaches in the sport right now. Just look at some of the recruiting successes he had at Houston, and now extrapolate that out to what he'll be able to do while wearing a burnt orange polo.
Herman is just as skilled at putting together an offense as he is at recruiting, which will be a key at Texas. I've always been a big fan of Charlie Strong, and sincerely hoped it would work out for him in Austin, but Herman is a much better fit for the gig than Strong ever was.
Due to that, the next time we proclaim that Texas is BACK, it might actually be.
1. Purdue -- Jeff Brohm: Oh man did I love this hire. I mean, it's No. 1 on this list, so you could probably figure that out on your own, but I just feel the need to say it as many times as possible because that's just how much I love this hire.
If you haven't been paying attention to Western Kentucky the past few years, that's too bad because it has been one of the best offenses in the country to watch for a while now. If you asked me to label what kind of offense it was that Brohm runs, I would have a very hard time doing so because the truth is Brohm runs a little bit of everything. If he needs to air it out, he'll air it out. If his personnel is better suited to a power run approach, he'll do that to.
Simply put, every time I watched the Western Kentucky offense I just felt bad for the defensive coordinators who had spent a week trying to figure out what to do with it. It just felt like an impossible task, because if you took one thing away, Brohm just played with something else.
And now he'll be bringing that approach to Purdue, which is definitely a school that needs an infusion of offensive excitment to ignite both the football team and a fan base that has been rather apathetic as of late. This hire reminds me of when Purdue went to Joe Tiller, and Tiller brought a spread offense that nobody had ever seen before to the Big Ten and lit things up for a few years.
Now Brohm will be bringing that same kind of excitement, and Purdue football is going to be fun to watch for the first time in a long time.
Honorable mention: Tom Allen, Indiana
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