Ranking every Power 5 job: Nos. 25-16
These schools have a path to the College Football Playoff, including one program that played last season in a semifinal game.
Let’s say you’re an up-and-coming college football coach and, for whatever reason, every Power 5 job in America opened tomorrow.
Which would you covet? Which would you avoid?
With input and feedback from coaches, administrators and others in the industry, 247Sports this week will count down the power conference jobs, from No. 65 to No. 1.
With the Nos. 25-16 programs today, we're nearing the finish line. These schools have a path to the College Football Playoff, including one program that played last season in a semifinal game.
The U has plenty of cachet in the sport, and it’s starting to show signs of increased internal support. The school shelled out, perhaps as much as $4 million a year, to get alum Mark Richt back home.
And with Richt’s $1 million donation included, Miami is getting very close to the total needed to build a long-overdue indoor facility. (Last year’s pro day was in a deluge, a total embarrassment to the school and its prospects.)
The off-campus stadium, 30-plus minutes from campus, is always a hot-button topic, but Hard Rock Stadium has seen significant upgrades to offset some of the geographic angst.
Richt’s tenure has as much promise as any Miami fan has seen since Butch Davis and Larry Coker’s time, about 15 years ago. The ACC might finally get a return on investment with the Canes.
Industry sources indicate that Arkansas has fantastic drive and desire, but it also has a ceiling that is not easily defined - especially while Nick Saban is at Alabama. Not that that makes Arkansas any different from a number of SEC West schools trying to cut into the gap that Bama has created.
“(Bobby) Petrino was close,” one SEC coach told us in recent months. “Over a beer, we’ve sometimes wondered (as coaches) what he would have done if not for that motorcycle …”
Perhaps the answer is Arkansas’ ceiling is similar to Ole Miss’ under Hugh Freeze: Yeah, it has beaten Alabama (though Arkansas hasn't done that since 2006) — but it hasn’t been able to truly break through on a national scale.
Credit the Razorbacks’ hustle in terms of facilities and salaries, but the expectation level is also quite high. That’s a tough standard for a hypothetical incoming staff.
23. Virginia Tech
We were curious what the post-Beamer era at Virginia Tech would look like, but Justin Fuente has already proven in a year to be a snug fit in replacing a legend and the program’s architect.
The school’s administration, including AD Whit Babcock, has demonstrated a level of support that suggests future success is very possible, and Fuente is walking through the created door.
Fuente arrived to find a recently completed indoor facility, a hassle with local environmentalists, and the football offices in a complete makeover. And as Urban Meyer said upon visiting in 2015, Lane Stadium is one of the finest environments in all of the sport.
Beamer’s late recruiting classes were focused on developing raw talent, but Fuente’s first full group took a step farther and finished 25th in the 247Sports Composite Team Recruiting Rankings. The Tidewater and D.C. areas are there for the taking, and Fuente is showing the way for any future staff.
As we learned when it opened following Mark Helfrich’s dismissal, this is one of those jobs that perhaps seems better from afar than up close. It was striking to see that Purdue paid more for its new coach than Oregon wound up doling out for Willie Taggart.
Nothing against Purdue, but, c’mon.
There’s no doubting the facilities, which at times border being over-the-top relative to a fairly humble community and state. A great challenge remains in getting high-end talent from California to see the reasons to spend three or four years in a mid-sized city 90 minutes south of Portland.
The Nike influence helps. The glossy facilities help. And, to their credit, Taggart and his new staff seem to understand what it possible: It closed with the nation’s No. 19 class. Predictably, Southern California was very valuable. Coaches were almost shocked that Taggart could rekindle those relationships after being away from the conference for several years.
We’ve been told repeatedly that one of the reasons David Shaw does not take an NFL job is that he wants his children to, by proxy, be able to secure a Stanford scholarship. That’s the value of a Stanford education.
Coaches are not the only ones understanding that principle; it’s resonating, too, with recruits and their families. After signing the No. 16-rated recruiting class a year ago, Shaw and his staff added this year’s No. 14 group, including the No. 1 player in the Top247, offensive tackle Walker Little.
That’s real, championship-level talent — something that perhaps only USC is signing in the Pac-12. So much for the academic standard being a recruiting hurdle, huh?
A culture of winning helps, as well. Industry sources agree that it’s clear that Jim Harbaugh and Shaw have elevated the program’s stature to a national job, every bit the equal to Notre Dame.
Coaches and industry sources had felt for years that Washington had upward mobility. Chris Petersen taking the Huskies to last season’s College Football Playoff supported the notion.
Petersen’s peers do not anticipate a step back anytime soon.
“He’s a true program architect,” one Pac-12 coach said. “I hate to say that about someone in my own conference, but it’s true. He’s good at what he does. There’s no questioning that. He makes us have to evaluate how we run our own (programs).”
Petersen arrived just in time to reap the benefits of a $250 million renovation of Husky Stadium. The playoff run creates a new standard for expectation, but it also makes the program more relevant in California, both in the Bay Area and L.A.
Gary Patterson and the program are almost synonymous, which should partially terrify the hypothetical incoming staff. Patterson’s fingerprints are all over the place, setting the bar impossibly high after a 149-53 mark since taking over in 2001.
But the incoming staff would benefit, most notably, from Big 12 inclusion. After years of wandering in the mid-major wilderness, TCU has a seat at the big-boy table.
Administrators laud AD Chris Del Conte as a leader in the industry. Along with Patterson, he has led numerous donor drives, including the one that resulted in a $164 overhaul of Amon G. Carter Stadium. Improvements to the offices and meeting rooms have followed.
The country’s No. 31 recruiting class, sandwiched between conference contenders Louisville and Ole Miss, feels indicative of what’s possible in the future at TCU.
Industry sources had mixed feelings about Tennessee — which, really, is fairly typical of Tennessee.
One agent wanted to see how the AD search concluded, with there being some concern that candidates outside the university’s “family” were not being fairly considered. The name 247Sports heard Thursday was Danny Morrison, the former Carolina Panthers president who was previously the AD at TCU and the Southern Conference commissioner.
Facilities are top-rate, especially after upgrades to the athletic dining room and training areas, as well as the coaches’ offices. But the question here remains about the university’s upper leadership, even above the AD office.
Can the board assume a fair role in affairs, allowing the athletic department and football building the chance to operate in some autonomous peace? Perhaps the new chancellor, Beverly Davenport, will dictate a new direction. This job has potential but enough static to hold it down.
17. Michigan State
As much success as Mark Dantonio has recently enjoyed, an agent wondered recently about the viability of this job moving forward.
“If I’m a coach, I don’t know that I’d want to be at Michigan State right now,” the agent said. “Harbaugh … Meyer … even James Franklin, this is becoming a much harder job than it’s been in the past few years.”
A hypothetical staff would deal with those competitors while trying to leverage the same chip-on-the-shoulder philosophy that has worked so well for Dantonio.
But here’s the bottom line: If you’re not recruiting at the same level — MSU finished No. 36 in 2017 (Ohio State 2, Michigan 5 and Penn State 15) — it’s going to be really difficult to keep pace over the long haul.
The biggest detractor, those close to the program tell us, is internal division and a complicated political structure. It’s “kind of a moving target,” one agent told us in referring to pleasing the university’s boosters.
Gus Malzahn won a national title as a coordinator and played for another as a head coach, but the jury is still out on him. He might've saved his job with a strong 2016 season that included a Sugar Bowl bid — necessary goodwill after disappointing 7-6 mark in 2015.
There are near-infinite resources, but the expectation is that you’re to keep pace with Alabama. Good luck with that standard, at least as long as Saban is around. Recruit as well as you'd like; it's the ultimate shadow in college football.
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