Hot Seat Rankings: Clay Helton, Chad Morris, Mark Dantonio among college football coaches heating up
These college football coaches have some work to do if they hope to survive past the 2019 season
It's never too early for the silly season. Florida State reminded us Sunday when it fired Willie Taggart nine games into his second season. Rutgers beat everyone to the punch on Sept. 29 when it got rid of Chris Ash. We have become so conditioned to in-season firings that it doesn't feel odd there are two Power Five openings in the first week of November.
The pressure point for any of the coaches on this list is the beginning of the Early Signing Period on Dec. 19. Any school that is considering to pull the trap door must be sensitive to recruiting. When the one and only National Signing Day was in early February, coaches on the hot seat at least had a chance to make it through the regular season. Not anymore.
Last season alone, five coaches were fired during the season. Maryland's DJ Durkin never made it to Week 1. After Ash and Taggart, USC's Clay Helton may be the next in 2019
Prior to Taggart's firing, only four Power Five coaches in their second seasons had been fired for performance since 2003. There are five coaches on the list below who are at least are getting scrutiny in Year 2.
Because of that early signing day, it promises to be a busy November -- and December.
Nine coaches, including Ash and Taggart, were listed among our top two categories before the season began. Where do their peers stand now? Below is our ratings key along with how the 130 FBS coaches sorted out before the season began with nine on the hot seat (4-5 rating) and 12 others feeling the heat (3 rating).
|Rating||What it means||Coaches in preseason|
Win or be fired
Start improving now
Pressure is mounting
All good ... for now
Safe and secure
That leads us to our update. Here's how things are shaking out two months into the season with most teams now having played eight or nine games. Take a look below.
|Clay Helton||5||This is getting ridiculous. USC has already fired and hired an athletic director. That guy (Cincinnati's Mike Bohn) is supposed to fire Helton … in time for Urban Meyer to make it in before early signing day? Depending who you read/follow, either Meyer is an absolute slam dunk or new USC president Carol Folt has no intention of hiring him. Someday soon this is all going to be wrapped up. I think. Caught in the middle is a decent man who deserves better. Previous rating: 5|
|Tony Sanchez||5||Not much has changed since a month ago. The Rebels started 1-3 and sit at 2-7. Sanchez is 18-39 overall at UNLV. A change is almost assuredly coming from AD Desiree Reed-Francois. Previous rating: 5|
|Chad Morris||4||The program Morris left (SMU) is challenging for a New Year's Six bowl. The program he's leading hasn't won an SEC game (0-14 since Morris arrived). With both Memphis' Mike Norvell and Washington State's Mike Leach potentially available, AD Hunter Yurachek has a decision to make. If Morris makes it to Year 3, he may have to clean house on the coaching staff. Previous rating: 3|
|Kevin Sumlin||4||Things have cratered in Year 2 under Sumlin. The Wildcats actually lost to Oregon State last week. More than that, they gave up 56 points. That's the most allowed in a series that goes back more than half a century. Arizona doesn't seem to do anything well right now. Sumlin fired defensive coordinator Marcel Yates. If it makes a change, the school would be paying buyouts to both Rich Rodriguez and Sumlin, the latter of whom is standing at 9-12 overall. The possibility of a 4-8 season (losing seven in a row) would weigh heavy on AD Dave Heeke. Previous rating: 3|
|Mark Dantonio||3||The Spartans are just tough to watch these days offensively. Coach D needs to switch to the spread, at least, to get things jazzed up. One of the Spartans' best defensive players (Joe Bachie) tested positive for a banned substance. Six players have entered the transfer portal since September. The Spartans have dropped 4-4 after starting the season 4-1. Previous rating: 1|
|Joe Moorehead||3||This is more about Moorhead and Mississippi State perhaps not being a fit after two seasons more than anything else. Moorhead's name came up in the Rutgers "search." He's a Northeast guy. The SEC West is damn tough. Hey, you ever been homesick? Previous rating: 1|
|Barry Odom||3||We're headed into the second week of November, and Missouri still doesn't know its bowl fate. It appealed a bowl ban to the NCAA earlier this year and still hasn't heard back. Maybe it won't matter if the Tigers lose as expected at Georgia this week. That would drop them to 5-4. Odom, in his fourth season, struggles with consistency. After a 5-1 start, the Tigers have been embarrassed in the last two by Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Previous rating: 2|
|Derek Mason||4||Just when you thought the season was going in the tank, Vandy beats a ranked Missouri. There was one report former NFL coach Jeff Fisher might be Mason's replacement. Previous rating: 4|
|Mike Bobo||4||Bobo can't keep a quarterback healthy, which explains the current 4-5 record. Taking the Jim McElwain route (Alabama, Colorado State to Florida) from the Mountain West back to the SEC hasn't worked for Bobo, 26-32 in his fifth season. Don't be surprised if Bobo surfaces on Kirby Smart's Georgia staff should he be canned Previous rating: 4|
|Steve Addazio||4||When we last left Addazio, he had just been bombed at home by Kansas. Since then, the Eagles have gone 3-3 and -- at 5-4 overall -- are a game away from being bowl-eligible. That may not play at BC, where Addazio is 7-6 each of the last three seasons. Previous rating: 4|
|Jeremy Pruitt||3||The major news here is it looks like Pruitt is going to make it through his second season. Since we put him on the hot seat last month, there was a convincing win over South Carolina two weeks ago. That made a bowl a definite possibility. The Vols are 4-5 with games left against Kentucky, Missouri and Vandy. A return for a third season for Pruitt is almost assured. Previous rating: 3|
|Charlie Strong||3||Look who rebounded. The wolves were out after a 1-3 start in Year 3 for Strong. Then a 3-1 October made a bowl possible. After a 10-2 start in 2017, Strong is only 11-10 since. Included in that is a run of nine losses in 10 games over 2018-19. It's going to be tough, but the Bulls can cobble together a bowl bid with a four-game November finish that includes Temple, Cincinnati, Memphis and UCF. The pressure won't die down anytime soon with the AAC clearly establishing itself as the best outside the Power Five. Previous rating: 3|
|Lovie Smith||3||Lovie's beard is no longer the most unique thing about Illini football. The win over then-top 10 Wisconsin will sustain Smith for a while. There has been a definite improvement. The Illini have won three in a row. At 5-4 and three games to go, Illinois is tied for the program's most wins since 2014. Win one more and the Illini will likely go bowling for the first time in five years. Previous rating: 5|
|Jim Harbaugh||2||There will be no College Football Playoff, and the Big Ten title is unlikely, but Harbaugh is back in the good graces after dominant wins over Notre Dame and Maryland. Of course, the season will be decided later this month in the Ohio State game. Check back with us then. But how do you balance another loss to the Buckeyes with what looks like another 10-win season? Previous rating: 3|
|Chip Kelly||2||After a brutal 1-5 start, one of the worst in UCLA history, the Bruins have won three in a row. During that streak, Dorial Thompson-Robinson completed 68 percent of his passes. The defense has been the difference allowing 273 yards per game. There's a light at the end of the $100 million dollar open-air football facility. Previous rating: 3|
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