By Corey Long - @CoreyLong
Updated Feb. 24, 2020.
Colorado hires Karl Dorrell as head football coach Grade: C-
Well, Colorado needed a coach and had to go down a little on its list to find one after Steve Sarkisian and Eric Bienemy both said no, thanks. Dorrell, 56, went 35-28 at UCLA from 2003-2007. He wasn't great at UCLA, and for whatever reason Bruins fans were trying to get him out from the moment he got in there, but he did have a 10-win season in 2005 and made a bowl game in all five seasons in Westwood.
For Colorado, a program with two winning seasons and three bowl appearances since 2005, you better believe that fan base will take five straight bowl appearances, even if from an uninspired hire. The fact is the Colorado job isn't a good job and isn't a job for a young coach who is looking for their first big opportunity. Bienemy would've been a moron for taking it and completely eliminating himself from future NFL consideration. Dorrell, who has spent the majority of his coaching career as an NFL assistant since his dismissal at UCLA, might bring some stability for a program that's on its third head coach in 15 months.
Michigan State Hires Mel Tucker as head football coach Grade: B-
I hear a lot of people panning this hire, and I really want to say what I think the real issue is, but I'm not going to dive into that right now. Mel Tucker was the coach at Colorado for a year, abd the Buffaloes went 5-7 and were pretty much what they have been for the past decade - a below-average bottom-feeding Pac-12 team that's had two winning seasons and three bowl appearances since 2005. I was shocked Tucker said no to Michigan State the first time, but after Matt Campbell and Luke Fickell also turned down the job the Michigan State brass decided to circle back to Tucker and made him an offer he couldn't refuse.
So what if Tucker is making $5.4 million/year? What does it matter to YOU? He went from a dead-end situation at Colorado to much more comfortable situation at Michigan State and got a massive raise. So what if Drew Pearson is mad? He would've done the same thing.
Tucker has a history in the Midwest. He's familiar with how things are done at Michigan State from his time there as a graduate assistant and his relationship with Dantonio and Nick Saban. Tucker was also an assistant coach at Ohio State under Jim Tressel when the Buckeyes won a national title in 2002. I believe Tucker has the midwest connections in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, plus in the southeast in Georgia to get the players back in the program who Mark Dantonio was struggling to pull in over the past few recruiting classes, and if Tucker can do that, then the Spartans will always be competitive, plus they have shown the ability to pull off a great season every now and then.
Texas A&M hires James Coley as tight ends coach Grade: A-
Coley and Aggies head coach Jimbo Fisher reunite after several years together at Florida State in which they built much of the nucleus of the Seminoles' 2013 national title team before Coley left to become the offensive coordinator and primary play caller at Miami. Fisher tried to hire Coley when he took the Texas A&M job in 2017, but Coley decided to go to stay at Georgia, where he took the wide receivers coaching job in 2016 and eventually moved to coaching quarterbacks. Coley was, in many ways, the fall guy for Georgia's struggling offense in 2019. He needs to rehabilitate his coaching reputation a little, and getting back with Fisher is probably the best way for him to do that.
Coley is a dynamic recruiter, arguably among the top-10 recruiting coaches in the nation. With LSU losing a lot of talent and coaches, Alabama breaking in a new quarterback and Auburn replacing a ton of defensive talent, the timing is right for Coley and Fisher to see if they can turn back the clock and do for Texas A&M what they did for the Seminoles.
USC hires Todd Orlando as defensive coordinator Grade: C-
This is another uninspired hire by USC. Orlando has been a well-traveled defensive coordinator for the past 15 years, making stops at Connecticut, Florida International, Utah State, Houston and Texas. He started well with eah program and usually produced a top-25 defense early before fading in the following years because of a failure to recruit young talent. Orlando's defenses have generally been tough against the run, not so much against the pass, and they rely on being aggressive and causing turnovers. After a good start in 2016 and 2017, Orlando saw the weaknesses in his defenses at Texas start to get exposed. The Longhorns' scoring defense was 27.5 in 2019 and struggled to get off the field on third downs.
USC's defense will attack in 2020 and will be aggressive for better or worse. And despite Orlando's inconsistent stats as a defensive coordinator, he's well regarded as a position coach with linebackers. With Clay Helton on an annual hot seat, his options were probably limited. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Orlando as a "one and done" coach at USC.
Syracuse hires Sterlin Gilbert as offensive coordinator Grade: D
If this follows suit, Gilbert won't be there very long. This is Gilbert's seventh job since 2012, and he comes to Syracuse from McNeese State, where he was head coach for a year and led the Cowboys to a 7-5 record. Gilbert is probably best known for his short stint with Texas in Charlie Strong's final year as the Longhorns' head coach. Strong took Gilbert with him to South Florida, where Gilbert clearly didn't know what he was doing with Quinton Flowers for much of his first year with the Bulls and the offense looked lost and overmatched in his second year at South Florida without Flowers to bail him out.
Before Gilbert's recent stint, he carpetbagged under Syracuse head coach Dino Babers at Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green, so there's clearly a lot of familiarity there. But Gilbert has generally failed in this position and has yet to prove that he's worthy of this opportunity at a Power Five program.
Hawaii hires Todd Graham as head coach Grade: B+
I can't argue with this hiring. Graham has taken a few years off since being forced out at Arizona State after six seasons. Graham was generally been a .500 or better coach for the 12 seasons he was at Rice, Tulsa, Pittsburgh and Arizona State (95-61 overall record). Graham has only had two seasons in which his teams did not qualify for a bowl.
Graham is going to implement a high-octane offense, keeping Hawaii with its identity, and he has a very impressive coaching tree, which means that the administration at Hawaii is likely willing to invent a lot more money in the coaching staff than in years past. For the most part the Mountain West has been Boise State's playground, but Hawaii is serious about competing and getting back in the top 25. This is a good hire, and I feel bullish on Graham's chances of success there.
LSU hires Bo Pelini as defensive coordinator Grade: A-
Pelini is making taking his second whirl at the LSU defensive coordinator job. His first stint was successful, as he was part of Tigers staff that won the BCS Championship in 2007. He took the head coaching job at Nebraska and won nine or more games in each of his seven seasons but was relieved of his job because the Cornhuskers athletic director at the time, Shawn Eichorst, said Pelini "hadn't won the games that mattered the most". Nebraska is 28-33 since Pelini's departure and has struggled to win games period, much less any that matter.
Pelini moved on to take the head coaching job at Youngstown State and outside of a 12-4 season in 2016 when the Penguins lost in the FCS Championship game, Pelini has struggled, going 21-24 with no other FCS playoff appearances. As a defensive coach, however, it's hard to argue with Pelini's success. He has a Super Bowl ring as a defensive backs coach with the San Francisco 49ers and has been linebackers coach in the NFL with the Packers and Patriots. He was the defensive coordinator for Oklahoma in 2004 when the Sooners made the BCS championship game and lost to USC. With so much attention focused on what Ed Oregon is going to do with the offense after the departure of Joe Brady, he needed a defensive coordinator who could handle business on his own so he could continue to act as a CEO. Pelini is that guy.
Baylor hires Dave Aranda as head football coach Grade: B-
The inventory is kind of low at this point so for Baylor to pull Aranda from his defensive coordinator post at LSU is not a bad get. And Aranda, who looked to be out of the running for a head coaching job in 2020 after being passed up at UNLV, gets as Power 5 job with much of the roster Matt Ruhle built coming back for another season. In a conference known for a lot of offense, Aranda brings a hard-defensive background and a lot of success on that side of the ball from his time at LSU and Wisconsin. The good news is Baylor lead the Big XII in scoring defense, sacks and takeaways so his focus to keeping teams out of the end zone won't fall on deaf ears. Aranda, to his credit, says he'll be focused on recruiting and staff hires and has already decided to give up the play calling on defense to new defensive coordinator Ron Roberts, who are hired from the same position at Louisiana-Lafayette. Aranda isn't necessarily known as an ace recruiter, but he understands how important the recruiting aspect is a team's success and will surround himself with guys that can deliver the goods. Baylor hasn't been an easy job in the past, but the past decade has seen the Bears go from highs to lows to highs again, so it is possible to win big there.
Georgia hires Todd Monken as offensive coordinator Grade: B+
Monkey will replace James Coley, who will stay with the program in another capacity. This likely also signals that head coach Kirby Smart will take a step back this season as I doubt Monken would have taken the job without full autonomy with the offense, especially after he spent last year in Cleveland watching Freddie Kitchens ruin a potential offense with his ineptitude. Coley didn't have that as Smart wanted to keep things under control with limited risks in the passing game despite having an experienced starter like Jake Fromm at quarterback. Monken will throw the ball down the field and figure out ways the utilize transfer quarterback Jamie Newman. With Georgia bringing in a slew of young talent on offense it could be exciting times in Athens. It'll be curious to see what the future holds for Coley, who probably should've been more aggressive in finding a head coaching job this past season.
Ohio State hires Kerry Coombs as defensive coordinator Grade: A-
This hire is a little interesting to me and maybe a bit concerning that Day either didn't feel comfortable going outside of his coaching circle or wasn't interested in promoting a fresh face. Coombs, 58, returns to Ohio State after spending the last couple of years as a co-defensive coordinator under Mike Vrabel with the Tennessee Titans. He will be the only defensive coordinator for the Buckeyes in 2020 with last year's co-defensive coordinator, Greg Mattison, losing that title and the guy he shared duties with, Jeff Hafley, leaving to take the Boston College head coaching job. Coombs was the cornerbacks coach for Ohio State under Urban Meyer and will coach the secondary again. This isn't to say Coombs won't be good at Ohio State again, he's a hell of a coach and highly regarded by former players in college and the pros. I was just hoping to see a new "hot" coaching prospect get this opportunity.
Missouri State hires Bobby Petrino as head football coach Grade: LOL
Ok, the grade has less to do with Petrino's coaching acumen than it is about Missouri State's desperate plea to become relevant. Apparently, Petrino and former Baylor coach Art Briles were the finalists. When you get past the negatives around Petrino and his general lack of integrity, you will find a hell of a football coach who has won everywhere he's been and compiled a 119-56 record with stops at Louisville, Arkansas and Western Kentucky.
Petrino is highly regarded as an offensive mind with the ability to develop quarterbacks including former Heisman winner and likely 2019 NFL MVP Lamar Jackson. Missouri State has been a rudderless program to say the least, as Petrino will replace Dave Steckel, who went 13-42 in five seasons. There's no doubt that Petrino, 58, is taking the job with the hopes of one final run on the FBS level and hopefully at a Power Five program. I wouldn't discount the possibility of that happening either, because there's always a program out there desperate enough to win that it will hire anyone. Enjoy it while it lasts, Missouri State.
Oregon hires Joe Moorhead as offensive coordinator Grade: A-
This should work out on both ends. Moorhead was fired from Mississippi State a couple of weeks ago for reasons that seemed more cosmetic than anything. I believe Moorhead has a good chance of getting another head coaching job in the next couple of seasons, so holding a high-profile assistant job at a program that's trying to compete for a championship is a good career move.
Moorhead will have some work to do as Oregon will have to replace some parts, none more important than quarterback Justin Herbert. But Moorhead showed the ability to recruit at Penn State and Mississippi State. Moreover, the offense he and James Franklin built at Penn State in four seasons was very impressive, led to back-to-back 11-win seasons and a Fiesta Bowl win to cap the 2017 season. There's a reason to believe that Moorhead, who has mostly coached quarterbacks and wide receivers, and Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal, a former offensive lineman and offensive line coach, will complement each other well on the field and on the recruiting trail.
Washington State hires Nick Rolovich as head football coach Grade: B+
The Cougars made a smart hire and decided to stick to their offensive identity by bringing in Rolovich from Hawaii. Rolovich, a former quarterback, is going to bring over his version of the air raid offense and keep the high-volume passing attack that Mike Leach had in the program for the past decade. Rolovich had a 28-27 record in four years at Hawaii and bounced back from a rough 3-9 season in 2017 to go 8-6 and 10-5 in his final two years with the Rainbow Warriors. Rolovich is a solid recruiter and did a good job of getting players from California to the islands. It'll be a little tougher to get those players to Pullman, but I think he'll do well enough to keep Washington State competitive in the Pac-12 and eligible for bowl games on an annual basis.
Mississippi State hires Mike Leach to become head football coach Grade: A
I give Mississippi State credit here for going all in. I would've put money on hiring Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, but the administration wanted to make a splash and keep the program in the headlines. Leach might not be any better of a cultural fit than previous coach Joe Moorhead was, but he'll certainly generate attention.
From a football standpoint, Mississippi State isn't in the class of the SEC West powers Alabama, Auburn and LSU, but Leach will be able to attract much better talent to Starkville than he could get at Washington State. The Bulldogs always have pretty good talent in the trenches, and that will make an old offensive line coach like Leach very happy. He will also have better access to the top quarterbacks in the Southeast, many of whom would love to be part of his offense. Can the Air Raid work at Mississippi State and in the SEC in general? Why wouldn't it? LSU and Alabama have both gone to more pass-happy offenses in the past couple of years and their successes speak for themselves.
Mississippi State will never be destination central for a college football coach. Starkville just isn't as attractive of a stop as many of the other programs in the region, and for Mississippi State to pull a coach from another Power Five program with a 139-90 record and 12 seasons of eight or more wins is a major coup and should be a day of celebration for Bulldog fans.
San Diego State head coach Rocky Long retires, replaced by assistant Brady Hoke Grade: B-
Word is that Long, 70, was interested in doing another year or two at San Diego State but refused to make staff changes that were being pushed by the administration. The Aztecs were not an exciting team to watch offensively - take it from someone who wagered on them often -, but Long squeezed every bit of success he could out of each one of his teams. San Diego State was 10-3 in 2019 and an impressive 81-38 over nine seasons with three Mountain West titles and nine bowl appearances.
Long, who was 65-69 at New Mexico, which is much more impressive than it looks given New Mexico has won just 37 games total in the 12 seasons since Long left, could be done as a head coach. Reportedly, he is still interested in coaching and would be willing to do it as a defensive coordinator. Hoke was Long's top assistant and previous head coach at San Diego State in 2009 and 2010, going 13-12 before taking the job at Michigan. This move makes the transition smooth, although Hoke will likely have to make changes on offense to appease an administration that doesn't want one of the bottom-20 scoring offenses in college football.
Mississippi State fires head coach Joe Moorhead Grade: D+
The fit was strange from the beginning to be honest. Moorhead, a coach who has had all his success in the Northeast, was always going to be a bit of a strange bird in the Deep South. He was given a vote of confidence after the Bulldogs' 21-20 win over Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl and reiterated during his post-game press conference that he was in full control of the program and "you'll have to drag my yankee ass out of here."
Moorhead was 14-12 in his two seasons at Mississippi State. That's not worth throwing a parade over, but it is Mississippi State we're talking about here, not Alabama. The fan base had been less than enamored with Moorhead from the start for no other reason than he isn't Dan Mullen. Mullen is probably the greatest football coach in the program's history ... at least the program they remember. Anyone will have a tough time matching his success there, and Moorhead never really had a chance.
There have been rumblings about concerns within the program. Player suspensions for various reasons were becoming a regular occurrence and starting quarterback Garrett Shrader had to miss the Music City Bowl after a fight during a practice left him too injured to play. Mississippi State lost that game to Louisville, 38-28, and it's shameful to think that had he won that game we wouldn't be here today - I mean seriously, you're judging a coach's tenure on the Music City Bowl?. But expectations were completely out of whack and Mississippi State fires only the second coach to leave the school with a winning record since 1956.
Mississippi State isn't an easy job by any stretch. Alabama, Auburn and LSU are on the schedule annually, making the likelihood of fewer than three losses during any given season a rarity. Moorhead, who went 8-5 and 6-7 in his two seasons, might not have been Mullen, but he was going to keep Mississippi State bowl eligible most years and had just pulled in a recruiting class just outside of the top 20. For starters, the Mississippi State administration should allow those players who signed to be released from their letters of intent if they choose. And then good luck finding a coach who is willing to take on the challenge of winning in Starkville at the rate that Mullen did. The recent history of programs like Arkansas, Nebraska and Tennessee tell me that this could be a struggle for Mississippi State.
Ole Miss hires D.J. Durkin as defensive line coach/co-defensive coordinator Grade: Disgraceful and Embarrassing
I can admit I was on the Lane Train when he was hired by Ole Miss. I think he earned the opportunity to step back up to the plate in "big-time" college football and get another swing. But Durkin shouldn't be on his or anyone else's team. Accidents happen, I can accept that. Some accidents have tragic results. But Jordan McNair's death at Maryland under Durkin still doesn't feel like a tragic accident and it's certainly not one that Durkin has been accountable for in the past two years.
Whether Durkin is a good coach or not shouldn't make a difference here because many of the players he coached at Maryland believed he was responsible for their teammate's death and when he was re-instated after a joke of an investigation by the Maryland administration, the players decided enough was enough. They didn't believe he was sorry or that he cared about that. That should say it all.
Some people will say that Durkin deserves a second chance, but where's McNair's second chance? Would you let Durkin coach your son? How would you react to him stepping into your house to recruit your son and telling you he is going to care about him?
The constant joke about football in the SEC is that the schools will do ANYTHING to win. I don't think that's always fair. I do believe there are many honorable administrators and coaches in the conference. This hire, howevewr, shows me that joke is accurate when it comes to Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss football.
UNLV hires Oregon offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo Grade: A-
When the UNLV job opened, I said that the UNLV leadership there would be wise to find a coach with Pac-12 ties who could hit the transfer portal and help the program's roster improve quickly. But even I must I admit I was very surprised at hearing that Arroyo and LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda were top candidates for the job.
Arroyo's hire is a huge home run for a struggling program like UNLV that some suggested should've considered moving on from football. Arroyo has coached on staffs under Jeff Tedford, Todd Monken, Lovie Smith - with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -, Mike Gundy and Mario Cristobal. That's a solid group of guys to learn from and have them trust in his abilities. There's a lot of work to be done at UNLV, but Arroyo will have $30-40 million brand new football building to work from.
Florida Atlantic hires former Florida State head coach Willie Taggart Grade: B+
This seemed like a pretty simple, easy transition. Taggart, 43, will be on his fifth head coaching job and fourth since the end of the 2016 season. I get the feeling he'll hang out at Florida Atlantic for a few seasons and stop moving around for a while. Taggart struggled at Florida State, going 9-12 in his short tenure. He is certainly to blame for his record, but Florida State was probably a much bigger turnaround than most people anticipated.
For the first time, Taggart actually steps into a good situation. Lane Kiffin won two conference championships in the past three seasons at Florida Atlantic, which should have a good handful of returning starters coming back next year. Taggart remains a high-level recruiter with deep in-state ties. He has proven he can win at this level, and it was a good move for Florida Atlantic to attract another head coach with experience to the job.
Colorado State hires former Boston College head coach Steve Addazio Grade: HUH?
For a few days, Tony Alford was the name being floated around, and it made sense for a coach with extensive experience and an alumnus to help Colorado State open a new stadium and try to bring the program back to prominence. Instead, Addazio is quite the curveball and a huge question mark.
Addazio was a good fit for Boston College as a tough northeast guy, who liked tough football, and Boston College was always a program known for tough, physical players. Colorado State is a much different culture, and I don't believe Addazio has ever recruited west of the Mississippi. Colorado State Athletic Director Joe Parker said that he had integrity at the top of his list for the program's next football coach. Then he asked Urban Meyer to assist him with the coaching search. If that isn't a mixed message, I don't know what is. Anyway, back to Addazio, this is a strange hire and one that it might take a while for the locals to get behind.
South Florida hires Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott Grade: C+
I'm always a little weary of offensive coordinators who either don't coach the quarterbacks or don't call plays. Scott did neither at Clemson - Tony Elliott is the program's quarterbacks coach and primary play caller -, so that's the strike. But Scott is an excellent recruiter and frankly in the American Conference, it's usually the team with the best athletes wins because the programs all run the same stuff - outside of Navy.
As long as Scott can get talent in South Florida, he'll win. Jim Leavitt got talent at South Florida and won, and Willie Taggart got talent at South Florida and won. Skip Holtz and Charlie Strong didn't get talent to go to South Florida and both lost. It seems pretty simple. Since Scott doesn't coach quarterbacks, he would be wise to keep former NFL quarterback Shaun King on staff at South Florida. King, who has been both quarterbacks and running backs coach at South Florida, has been the program's best and most loyal staffer for the past five years.
Old Dominion hires Penn State Offensive Coordinator Ricky Rahne Grade A-
Now, I LOVE this hire. I was very critical of Old Dominion and the way things transpired with outgoing coach Bobby Wilder, but I think the same group hit a grand slam with Rahne. An offensive coordinator who coaches quarterbacks and actually handles the offense from a major Power Five program down to an upstart mid-major is a heck of a coup. But more than that, I watched a lot of Vanderbilt and Penn State football when Rahne was the offensive coordinator and I love his scheme. He is also an excellent recruiter and does well pulling kids from that beltway area where Old Dominion is going to need to get recruits. I believe this is a perfect fit and Old Dominion will be able to recruit and rebuild under Rahne.
Auburn hires former Arkansas coach Chad Morris as OC Grade A-
Someone said that the SEC is like Hotel California - "you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave". Of the three major hires done by SEC programs recently, this was probably the best because Morris has been super successful in this position with Clemson. Gus Malzahn calls the plays, which might not change, but Morris has the capability of calling plays and contributing more to the game plan and more out on the recruiting trail. Auburn is good landing spot for Morris, who will need to rehab his name before getting another head coaching job.
Georgia hires former Ole Miss coach Matt Luke as OL/Associate Head Coach Grade B
Luke is an offensive lineman by trade and has plenty of experience coaching the position, so he'll be fine in this role replacing Sam Pittman, who took the head coaching job at Arkansas. Luke will be losing some top talent off that line at Georgia, but Pittman recruited what was considered the best offensive line class in the nation in 2019 and is headed toward that same distinction in 2020. The good thing is Luke has some familiarity with the signees recruiting because they all had offers from Ole Miss . That should help in his effort to retain all of them and get a start on 2021 prospects.
South Carolina hires former Colorado State head coach Mike Bobo as offensive coordinator Grade: B
When Bobo took the Colorado State job, it was expected he'd return to the SEC eventually, but most of us thought it would be as a head coach. Instead, he left Colorado State after five seasons and will help Will Muschamp. Bobo had 15 years as an assistant in the SEC, all at Georgia, and 13 years as an on-field assistant. South Carolina has a promising quarterback in Ryan Hilinski and a top quarterback recruit in the 2020 class - Luke Doty - plus lots of good, young talent. If Bobo can turn the Gamecocks' offense around quickly, he'll be on someone's list to be a head coach in 2021.
Florida State hires Memphis coach Mike Norvell. Grade: D+
This is a split grade. The hire of Norvell is a C, nothing great, nothing bad. Norvell was on the list of coaches who was deserving of a Power Five opportunity. The coaching search done by Florida State is a pure F because the school fired Willie Taggart in early November with the hopes of hiring former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops or an established coach from another Power Five program. Florida State failed at the search if those were the criteria. It is as simple as that. Much like I thought Miami made a mistake by hiring Manny Diaz instead of putting all its chips on the table and going after Mario Cristobal, I believe Florida State should've went harder after Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck or Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops, who is a former Florida State defensive coordinator. When USC decided to retain Clay Helton, Florida State was the biggest job on the market, and after a month of other coaches getting contract extensions and sending letters to boosters begging for an additional "one-time" 20% raise on their contributions, the idea wasn't to hire Mike Norvell.
As a coach, Norvell brings a lot of good things to the table, but he's unproven as a roster builder, and in college football, you're only as good as the talent on the field. He has 10 days to salvage an once top-10 recruiting class that has been on a downward spiral since Taggart was fired. Norvell doesn't have to win big right away, but Florida State can't afford to throw away the 2020 season either, not with rival Florida settled into 10 wins per year under Dan Mullen and conference rival Clemson playing the championships annually. Florida State fans have been on the outside looking in for a few years now and patience isn't long in Tallahassee.
Arkansas hires Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman Grade: B-
The Razorbacks went swinging for the fences again with overtures to Mike Leach, Lane Kiffin and, depending on who you ask, Josh Heupel from Central Florida. Leach got an extension to stay at Washington State; Kiffin took the Ole Miss job; and Heupel isn't ready to leave Disney World yet. But Pittman isn't a bad fall-back candidate, and Arkansas could've done a lot worse than one of the top recruiting and assistant coaches in the SEC. Pittman has recruited some very good players to Georgia and some of the most impressive offensive line classes of all time. Believe me, when I say Arkansas was eyeing some of those prospects and hopes a few will jump ship to play under Pittman at Arkansas. The bottom line is the Razorbacks have an identity of big offensive lines and strong smash-mouth football. They got away from that with Chad Morris, and it was a disaster. Pittman has the coaching makeup to help Arkansas get back to its style of football.
Missouri hires Appalachian State coach Eli Drinkwitz Grade: B+
You look at the tree of coaches Drinkwitz has learned under: Malzahn, Chiziki and Harsin. Drinkwitz was with Gus Malzahn at Springdale High School and went to Auburn to become the offensive quality control coach for Gene Chizik on Auburn's national championship team of 2010. Drinkwitz then took an on-field coaching position with Malzahn again at Arkansas State and staed there for the transition to Bryan Harsin. Drinkwitz then went with Harsin to Boise State as the offensive coordinator before coming back east and working as the offensive coordinator at N.C. State for a successful run. Wherever Drinkwitz goes, he wins, and that included his 12-1 season at Appalachian State which saw wins over North Carolina and South Carolina. It's certainly fair to say that Drinkwitz was a bit of a carpetbagger at Appalachian State as Scott Satterfield left him a great situation, but so far Drinkwitz's pattern is to make good situations even better. Missouri is a tough gig, but it's not impossible to win or recruit there. I think the Tigers needed a new look and a different perspective in the program, and Drinkwitz will provide that along with a lot of experience despite his 36 years of age.
Ole Miss hires Florida Atlantic coach Lane Kiffin Grade: B+
The Lane Train is back in the SEC baby! I give the Ole Miss Rebels credit for one thing: They don't care about outside noise or perception. They want to win; they want to be in the discussion; and they are willing to take the risk to get there and they don't care what you think about it. And I think this is a perfect match because Kiffin is going to give the Rebels all the red meat they want. He's going to talk trash about Nick Saban; he's going to recruit the top players; and he's going to be the subject of rumors about his personal life because he's single these days.
Finally, the Rebels got a true rebel to lead their football program. Kiffin's brother, Chris Kiffin, was accused of NCAA violations while at Ole Miss and had a show-cause penalty imposed on him by the NCAA in 2017. Yet the powers that be at Ole Miss STILL hired Lane Kiffin. And once you get beyond the smoke, this is a good hire. Lane Kiffin might've gotten too much too quickly earlier in his career, and he took a lot of lumps. But he's a much better coach now than he was 10 years ago. He rebuilt his career as the offensive coordinator at Alabama, and he stayed at Florida Atlantic two years longer than most people thought he would and won two C-USA titles. As a fan, I'm excited to see Lane Kiffin back in the SEC and eager to see what kind of impact he'll make. And mark your calendars because Ole Miss plays at Tennessee in 2021. Oh, boy.
Jeff Tedford steps down from Fresno State due to health reasons. Grade: UGH!
This stinks. Tedford has been a great college coach who really looked like he was in a happy place at Fresno State, his alma mater, and was ready to settle in and coach the Bulldogs until his retirement. Unfortunately, Tedford will have a second heart procedure and it looks like his coaching days might be over. Tedford returned to college in 2017 and led Fresno to 10-4 and 12-2 records before slipping back and going 4-8 this year with a pretty young team. A good coach and a good man; on a personal level, I just hope he's healthy and has many years ahead of him, maybe in an athletic director role or something off the field.
USC decides to retain Clay Helton Grade: D
And the roller coaster will continue for another year. Helton didn't do a bad job this season at USC, but he's still viewed as a placeholder for a fanbase that doesn't want him. For most of the season, it was thought that barring double-digit wins and a division title, Helton was a goner and Urban Meyer would be his replacement. With the recent hiring of athletic director Mike Bohn, it was expected Bohn was going to make a change. But the Trojans had a decent season and Helton, along with offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, did a great job of handling injuries at the quarterback position and building around promising freshman Kedon Slovis. It was enough to get another year, but Helton should look at this as a lifeline rather than a vote of confidence. The Trojans fanbase believe he's under-qualified for the job, and in the recruiting circles, USC's class is on the back half of recruiting classes in the Pac-12 - a terrible position to be for a program that routinely lands top-10 classes. Helton will have to deal with another year of questions and speculation, and it's going to be difficult for him to establish stability at USC with all that outside noise.
Mike Bobo agrees to deal, steps down from Colorado State Grade: C
Bobo had marginal success at Colorado State, going to bowl games in his first three seasons with matching 7-6 records. The Rams went 3-9 last season and 4-8 in 2019. Colorado State was thought to be a stepping stone for Bobo, much like it was for his predecessor Jim McElwain, who went from Colorado State to Florida. Bobo didn't have the same success as McElwain and will take about $1.8 million in a buyout to leave and seek other opportunities. Bobo is expected to be a prime candidate for an offensive coordinator position at an SEC program and could also be in play for the Arkansas job despite his 28-35 overall record. Before going to Colorado State, Bobo coached for 14 years at Georgia, where he was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He also played for the Bulldogs in the mid-'90s.
Chris Petersen will step down from Washington after the bowl game and defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake will become the Huskies' new head coach Grade: A-
Petersen is a proven winner. He won 10 or more games in seven of eight seasons at Boise State, going 92-12 and winning the Fiesta Bowl in 2007 and 2010. He left Boise State after the 2013 season to go to Washington, and in six seasons, he led the Huskies to a playoff semifinal appearance in 2016 and 10-win seasons in 2017 and 2018, going 54-26 overall with two Pac-12 championships. The word around Petersen's resignation is that he'll have an official advisory role at Washington and wants a little time to re-charge. If Petersen decides to return to coaching in 2021, he would probably be the top coach on the market.
Lake is one of the more highly regarded coordinators in the nation. He turned down Willie Taggart to become the defensive coordinator at Florida State in 2018, and the general belief was that his next job would be a head coaching job somewhere. It should be a smooth transition with Lake taking over for Petersen after spending several years as his primary assistant. Lake is a product of the area. He played college football at Eastern Washington and has coached in the state for 12 years. He also has NFL experience as a defensive backs coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Detroit Lions.
Bobby Wilder resigns from Old Dominion Grade: D+
This is a situation of a program and top-level decision makers failing a coach instead of a coach failing a program. Old Dominion, a program 11 years old, moved up too fast and is now stuck in FBS purgatory with no sign of escaping anytime soon. Wilder has been the program's only coach. He took the reins in 2007 and spent the first two years on the trail to prepare for the first season in 2009. Old Dominion was successful in the FCS, going 9-2 and 8-3 as a provisional independent and then making the FCS playoffs in 2011 and 2012 as a member of the Colonial Athletic Association.
Old Dominion began its transition to the FBS in 2013 and became a member of Conference USA in 2014. The Monarchs went 10-3 in 2016 with a senior-laden roster, but it's the program's only winning season in six years of FBS. In 2019, Old Dominion went 1-11. The Monarchs should still be in the FCS developing a great rivalry with nearby James Madison University and competing for FCS championships. The program wasn't ready for the FBS, and the talent pool isn't deep enough for Old Dominion to rely on in-state recruiting to stay competitive. Wilder, who went 77-56 at ODU, had decided he would resign if things didn't improve from 2018 when the Monarchs went 4-8. He kept his word, but the Monarchs' struggles are not his fault.
Ole Miss fires head coach Matt Luke Grade: D for Dirty
Man, college football can be a dirty business. Luke walked into a pretty tough situation, taking over for disgraced former head coach Hugh Freeze and shouldering the responsibility of navigating the program through NCAA sanctions that included scholarship reductions and a postseason ban. Luke got the Rebels to 6-6 in the 2017 season, but with their postseason ban extended to the 2018 season, they lost numerous players to immediate transfers, including quarterback Shea Patterson to Michigan, safety Deontay Anderson to Houston, wide receiver Tre Nixon to Central Florida, wide receiver Van Jefferson to Florida, and offensive lineman Jack DeFoor to Georgia Tech. Ole Miss went 5-7 in 2018 and 4-8 in 2019.
The end of 2019 was a loss to Mississippi State when Ole Miss missed an extra point after wide receiver Elijah Moore drew a 15-yard penalty for a touchdown celebration. It seemed like Luke would get another year with a decent recruiting class coming in to build around freshman quarterback John Rhys Plumlee, but it wasn't to be.
Boston College fires head coach Steve Addazio Grade: B-
Addazio was very consistent at Boston College, but never got the Eagles past the seven-win plateau. An offensive line guy by trade, Addazio's teams at Boston College were big, physical and tough. They were competitive and rarely got blown out. But he needed to win a few more games and losses to programs like Kansas and a struggling Florida State team seemed a little more inexcusable than other years. There's no question about what Addazio stood for - he is a good man who ran a clean, respectable program and his players competed hard for him every week. But his ceiling at Boston College was clear.
Addazio should be highly coveted as an offensive line coach by any program. Boston College isn't located in a college football-crazy environment, but the school has such rich history and plenty of success in the past to sell to a coach eager for an opportunity at a Power Five school.
South Florida fires head coach Charlie Strong Grade: B+
When Strong took the South Florida job in 2017, he walked into one of the best situations in the country. Former head coach Willie Taggart had completely flipped the roster, and the Bulls were coming off of 8-5 and 11-2 seasons with the majority of the roster returning. The expectations were that South Florida could go undefeated and make a New Year's Six Bowl. The Bulls started 7-0 in 2017 before losing to Houston at home and Central Florida in the season finale. Even though the Bulls recovered to win the Birmingham Bowl and finish 10-2, the roster was going to have holes the following season.
Despite that, South Florida started 7-0 in 2018 as well before dropping the final six games. The six-game losing streak took a lot of the shine off of Strong's tenure at South Florida, and the 49-0 loss to Wisconsin to open the 2019 season felt like the beginning of the end.
UTSA fires head coach Frank Wilson Grade: D+
This doesn't seem to be a great move because Wilson has secured the best recruiting classes in Conference USA over the past two seasons and would've likely had an opportunity for a comeback with those players being juniors and redshirt sophomores now. Wilson had a couple of six-win seasons there coaching teams heavy with upperclassmen. After the 2017 season, he had to flip the roster, and by all accounts, he did in prepping for a hopeful run at the C-USA title in 2020 and 2021. Wilson will be highly coveted as an assistant. UTSA pays pretty well for C-USA jobs, so the program will definitely get someone hungry for an opportunity.
Rutgers hires Greg Schiano to be its next head coach Grade: A-
This is called winning a power struggle, and it might spell the beginning of the end for Rutgers athletic director Pat Hobbs. Word traveled over the summer that Schiano had left a job as defensive coordinator with the New England Patriots to get back to New Jersey and be close to the Rutgers program knowing that Chris Ash, who was the Rutgers head coach at the time, was on the hot seat. Ash got fired midway through the season, and from that point on, it seemed like a reunion with Schiano was going to happen.
Last week, word leaked that Hobbs couldn't get a deal done with Schiano, outraging the Rutgers community. Hobbs took it on the chin from newspaper columnists, boosters and even Rutgers ambassador Eric LeGrande. By the end of the week, reports were that Hobbs and Schiano were negotiating again, and early Sunday morning it was reported that Schiano had signed an 8-year, $32-million contract to return to Rutgers. Credit Schiano for being savvy enough to plead his case through the media and a community that wanted him back.
On the football side, Schiano brings credibility. He led Rutgers to a 68-67 record in 11 seasons from 2001-11 and six bowl games in his final seven years. He understands the program; he understands the challenges; and he gives Rutgers the best chance to get competitive in the Big Ten.
Things will be a little different his second time around though as Schiano used satellite camps and heavy advertising in Florida to assist with his recruitment. Satellite camps are much more limited and regulated now, so he'll have to be creative to maintain recruiting in roads in Florida. But he has always recruited New Jersey and Pennsylvania well, plus his time as a defensive coordinator at Ohio State opened more doors for him. Schiano will bring Rutgers much-needed direction and focus.
Missouri fires head coach Barry Odom Grade: C+
There had been all kinds of rumors swirling around that Odom was on a hot seat, but it was hard to believe after he had an 7-6 season in 2017 and improved to 8-5 in 2018. The transfer of quarterback Kelly Bryant should've kept the Tigers in the eight-win range in 2019, but Bryant dealt with injuries for most of the season and the Tigers had a five-game losing streak. It was Odom's third five-game losing streak during his tenure at Missouri.
For Missouri to make this move right now, the power brokers have to feel like they have a plan in place. Central Florida head coach Josh Heupel seems like a popular name to throw around, but with all the success Heupel has had in two seasons at Central Florida, he might not want to leave. It's a good situation for him where he makes a lot of money. The general belief is the right coach can keep Missouri in the mix in the SEC. The fact that the Tigers have won the SEC East in 2013 and 2014 supports that statement.
Bob Davie and New Mexico agree to part ways Grade: B
This decision seems somewhat mutual. Davie is 63 and missed a couple of games early in the season with medical issues, so it's possible that the former Notre Dame coach is ready for retirement or at least a return to the TV booth, where things are much less stressful. Davie's best run at New Mexico came with back-to-back winning seasons in 2015 and 2016. The Lobos went 16-10 during those two seasons and won the 2016 New Mexico Bowl, the second bowl win in the program's history - and surprisingly Davie's only bowl win as a head coach. Davie's overall record at New Mexico was 35-63 in eight seasons. That's not good, but he took a program that was completely destroyed by Mike Locksley and will leave it a lot better than he found it.
New Mexico should be in the top half of mid-major programs, but the Lobos administration proved to be its own worst enemy when they ran out Rocky Long after the 2008 season. In 10 seasons at New Mexico (1999-2008), Long went 65-69 with six .500 or better seasons and five bowl appearances. Long was forced to resign, and Locksley was hired with the expectation he would take New Mexico to the next level with his abilities as a recruiter. Instead Locksley was a disaster, going 2-26 in less than three seasons. Long took over San Diego State in 2011 and has gone 79-38 with the Aztecs over nine seasons. Whoever is making the next decision for New Mexico has to find a coach who is comfortable recruiting in Texas but can also land players through alternative means like the transfer portal.
UNLV fires Tony Sanchez after five seasons Grade: B+
This goes in the folder of "worth a try, but failed". Sanchez was a great high school coach at local Las Vegas powerhouse Bishop Gorman, where he went 85-5 and won state championships all six seasons. Sanchez was also the driving force behind convincing the Fertitta brothers - former owners of the Ultimate Fighting Championship - to invest in a new football complex for the UNLV program, with the $35-million Fertitta Football Complex opening last month. Sanchez, who went 19-40 in five seasons, left the program far better than he found it, and years from now, his moves to secure the foundation may have his tenure looked back upon fondly. The new coach will have major upgraded facilities and the Raiders moving into the city next year. While Sanchez struggled with the on-field production, he gave the program an identity that the next coach can capitalize on.
BYU signs head coach Kalani Sitake to a 3-year extension Grade: A-
After breaking down Nebraska's extension to Scott Frost, which didn't make much sense, I now come to BYU extending Sitake, which makes too much sense. Terms were not disclosed for the extension, but it covers Sitake at BYU until the 2023 season.
Let's start out with the obvious - BYU is a hard place to recruit to and have success at because of the demands placed on the student athletes, the school's commitment to the LDS honor code, and finding the kids who can thrive in that culture and understand it. That's why the Cougars have only had four coaches since 1972. For 11 seasons, BYU had found the perfect guy in Bronco Mendenhall; he checked off all the boxes and accumulated a 99-43 record from 2005-2015. When Mendenhall left to coach Virginia, BYU went hard after Naval Academy coach Ken Niumatalolo, but he decided to stay with the Midshipmen.
Sitake, a former BYU standout at fullback in the early 2000s, understands the culture. With the Cougars already committed to going to the Hawaii Bowl, he will have taken BYU to bowls in three of his first four seasons. BYU plays an independent schedule, and it's not an easy one to navigate, but the Cougars beat Tennessee on the road and beat USC and Boise State at home this year.
It's a tough roster to navigate too. Sitake might recruit prospects who will have to do 2-year LDS missions before enrolling or he might lose to current player on the roster to a mission, which stunts development and could create tough depth issues on the roster. So when BYU finds a coach who can navigate through all of these things and win football games, the school have an obligation to keep them. My feeling is Sitake, 44, will be running BYU's football program for a long time.
Nebraska gives Scott Frost a 2-year extension Grade: Eh?
I guess I can see what Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos is doing with this. He just saw Willie Taggart and Chad Morris get fired from Florida State and Arkansas respectively before the end of two years. Taggart had a better win-loss record at Florida State than Frost has at Nebraska over the same sample size and both signed similar contracts. Still, I don't agree with firing coaches after two years without off-the-field cause, and in Taggart's and Morris' cases, they probably didn't get the necessary resources to have the chance to succeed in the first place.
Frost came to Nebraska after going 19-7 at Central Florida in two seasons, including a 13-0 season in 2017 with a victory in the Peach Bowl. I had the opinion at the time that the move was a mistake by Frost. He had a lot of parts returning for him to repeat an undefeated feat at Central Florida and Nebraska wasn't left in a good situation by previous coach Mike Riley. The expectations for Frost, who is from Wood River, Nebraska, and quarterbacked the Cornhuskers to a share of the 1997 National Championship, would be out of control. After all Nebraska fired Bo Pelini, who went 67-27 in eight seasons (2007-2014) because he didn't win enough to satisfy them. Well, Frost has struggled at Nebraska as expected. He lost his first six games in 2018, but the Cornhuskers won four of their final six to make people believe that in Frost's second year, they would be looking at a bowl and possible challenging in for the Big Ten West. Instead, they are 4-6 - 2-5 in Big Ten - and will need to beat Maryland and Iowa to get to a bowl. That is not impossible, but it is not the Year 2 that fans were hoping for.
By extending Frost's contract - originally a 7-year deal for $35 million -, Moos is telling recruits that he's committed to Frost for at least two more years. I have no doubt that Frost made the suggestion that recruiting targets were openly wondering if Frost was going to be at Nebraska past this season. This extension assures that of happening. Whether it's the right decision or not remains to be seen, but at least it sure keep Frost's recruiting efforts intact for the current class of prospects.
Arkansas fires head coach Chad Morris Grade: A
Last week, I thought Florida State might've pulled the plug on Willie Taggart too early. If anything, Taggart had proven with two previous stops that he wins in his third season. On the flip side, Arkansas probably jumped on Morris a little too early and should've looked elsewhere or kept Bret Bielema if this was the program's best option to replace him.
Morris came to Arkansas from SMU, where he was hired after a successful run as an offensive coordinator at Clemson. At SMU, Morris went 14-22 in three seasons, finishing 7-5 in his third season. Arkansas hired Morris hoping his long-time experience as a successful high school coach in Texas combined with his three seasons at SMU would help the Razorbacks on the recruiting trail in and around the Lone Star state. And yes, Morris is quite a good recruiter, definitely about average. His recruiting class at Arkansas was around the top 25. But the on-field product was bad. Morris went 2-10 in his first year. That's understandable. And the Razorbacks were competitive in losses to Ole Miss, Texas A&M and LSU. But it seemed like the Razorbacks regressed in Year 2, and they lost their last four games under Morris by a combined score of 198-60. They were 0-14 in SEC games under Morris, which is bad enough, but the end truly came on Saturday when Sun Belt program Western Kentucky, led by Arkansas transfer quarterback Ty Storey, beat the Razorbacks 45-19.
After Saturday's game, Morris' game-day coaching and his staff's ability to develop players came into question. It had to end. Morris couldn't capably coach another game at Arkansas after that debacle. Morris leaves with a 4-18 record, with his wins coming against Eastern Illinois, Tulsa, Portland State and Colorado State. It's hard to see Morris getting another head coaching job for a while; his tenure at Arkansas was that much of a disaster. I do believe his connections in Texas and his success at Clemson will put him in line for another coordinator job down the road.
Florida State fires head coach Willie Taggart Grade: B-
And just like that, the first major domino of the 2019-20 College Football coaching carousel has fallen. Florida State dismissed Taggart a day after a 27-10 loss to Miami and with a 9-12 record over 21 games. There's little question that Taggart inherited a bad situation from Jimbo Fisher on the field with some of the worst personnel at key positions and off the field with a staggeringly low APR. Fisher bowed out 11 games into the 2017 season, going 5-6 and taking a $75 million contract from Texas A&M. The Seminoles finished 7-6 that season but went 5-7 in Taggart's first year and are currently 4-5, needing a win this weekend against Boston College to avoid missing a bowl for the second consecutive year. The Florida State football program is at a major crossroads. Fisher left for money, but also because he was frustrated about the program's decision makers being a little deliberate in keeping up with the facility upgrades happening at the top programs like Clemson and Alabama. Fisher's frustration led to complacency in his final season after winning 10 or more games in six of his first seven seasons, with a BCS Championship in 2013. With the hiring of Taggart, the Florida State decision makers assumed the job wasn't a rebuild, but a reload. Well, now the facts are out there. Florida State is every bit as bad as its record on the field. The Seminoles don't have quality personnel at key areas. The recruiting misses at quarterback and offensive line are 4-5 years deep now. The next head coach has to understand it's going to be a full rebuild and should not set expectations too high too early. Taggart was a convenient and frequent target for fans, local media and national media. And it was becoming evident that while he wasn't responsible for the mess in Tallahassee, he didn't have the right answers to fix it as quickly as the Seminoles faithful wanted.
Defensive line coach Odell Haggins was named interim coach for the second time in three years. Haggins, a former Seminoles All-American and veteran coach on the staff is considered the steward of the program. His goal will be to galvanize the current roster to play hard for the rest of the season and try to get to a bowl game. Haggins isn't expected to be a candidate for the head coaching position, and it's not certain that he'd would even want the position. But there are many advocates for him around the program. Otherwise the top names for the job will be Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck, Baylor head coach Matt Ruhle and Clemson offensive coordinator Jeff Scott. Taggart will get a significant buyout - around $18 million - and will likely land somewhere in 2021 season. His record isn't completely indicative of his skills as a coach. He took over programs at Western Kentucky, South Florida and Oregon that were coming off of historically bad seasons and turned them into bowl teams. Whoever decides to take the job at Florida State will have major work to do but will still have the brand of an historical powerhouse.
Arizona fires DC Marcel Yates, promotes analyst Chuck Cecil Grade: B
Arizona head coach Kevin Sumlin didn't hire Yates; he inherited him from Rich Rodriguez's staff, and it was a bad mix from the start. The Wildcats haven't exactly been known for great defenses over the past few years, but this year, they are historically bad, ranking 118th in points allowed - 35.0 PPG - and 119th in yards allowed - 469.9 YPG. Without looking at the Wildcats' roster, I'm going to assume they have better talent than what the numbers show. Arizona made a decent run on defense during the middle of the season, giving up 14 points to Texas Tech and 17 to UCLA, but in the past four games, Arizona has yielded 163 points for an average of nearly 41 points per game. A team can't win like that, and giving up 41 points to a struggling outfit like Stanford this past weekend was all Sumlin could take. Cecil, a former 8-year NFL pro who spent 15 years coaching in the NFL, primarily with teams coached by Jeff Fisher. Cecil was the defensive coordinator with the Tennessee Titans in 2009-10, and he'll be a different voice for a defensive unit that's struggled. Whether or not this is a permanent switch remains to be seen. The Wildcats are 4-4 and need to go to a bowl after finishing 5-7 last season. If the Wildcats can't win two of their final four, Sumlin will be on the hot seat as well.
Kansas fires offensive coordinator Les Koenning, promotes analyst Brent Dearmon Grade: B
This could be a higher grade if head coach Les Miles allows Dearmon do his thing, but I'm not going to fully buy in into I see that Miles fully buys in. Koenning was Miles' second offensive coordinator since he took the Kansas job because his original hire, Chip Lindsey, only lasted a month before taking a head coaching job at Troy. Koenning appeared to be more of a communicator than a coordinator, and, as it has been pointed out in local outlets or by anyone who watched Kansas this season, Koenning was often deferring to Miles for the final call. Kansas' offense under Koenning was anything but consistent. The Jayhawks were doing RPO stuff at times and spread concepts at times. Eventually, they settled into Miles' comfort zone - power running and, unsurprisingly, that conservative approach didn't work in the wide-open Big XII. The Jayhawks were last in the conference in scoring offense at 22.8 PPG. Dearmon is considered one of the most well-versed coaches in the RPO concepts. He wrote a book on the offense, and his Twitter account often had cool videos explaining play-calling and how to manipulate defenses. If Miles allows Dearmon to be the coach he's capable of being, this should be a great hire. Dearmon has been to Auburn and Arkansas Tech and took a head coaching job in 2018 at NAIA Bethel University, where his team averaged 55 points per game. This is a hire that might not pay dividends immediately; but it could be one that helps the Jayhawks secure some more explosive offensive talent on the recruiting trail at the end of this cycle and in the 2021 class.
Rutgers fires head coach Chris Ash Grade A-
I'd give Rutgers an 'A' for this if they had done it in December. Instead, the school let Ash continue to toil around with no sign of improvement on the horizon and two more shutout losses in Big Ten play. Ash was, by all accounts, a disastrous hire who will leave with an 8-31 record and losing his last three games by a combined score of 112-16. Rutgers offensive coordinator John McNulty was also shown the door, and tight ends coach Nunzio Campanile will be the interim coach for the remainder of the season. It would be easier to write what went right with the Ash hire, which was basically nothing, than to list the many ways it wasn't ever going to work out. Jerry Carino from the Asbury Park Press wrote a scathing column painting Ash as a know-it-all who thought he was too good for the job and a complete failure at getting anyone on his side. By all accounts, Rutgers is going to hop in the time machine and try to hire Greg Schiano. Schiano went 68-67 at Rutgers over 11 years, and he's a New Jersey guy who seemed to understand and embrace the unique challenge that building a football program at Rutgers entails. His first go around was aided by satellite camps - Rutgers had many in the state of Florida - and used it as a great recruiting tool. If not Schiano, I could see Al Golden being an interesting hire. He re-built the Temple program and then went to Miami, where he was 32-25 despite dealing with all kinds of NCAA sanctions during his time there. As for Ash, the former defensive coordinator at Ohio State, another position or coordinator job will probably be waiting for him during the 2020 coaching carousel, but he'll have to learn from this experience if he ever wants another opportunity as a head coach.
Florida State hires Jim Leavitt as "quality control analyst": Grade B+
When Willie Taggart was hired by Florida State from Oregon, he wanted to bring along coordinators Mario Cristobal and Jim Leavitt with him. Cristobal was promoted by Oregon to be the head coach in 2018 and Leavitt, the defensive coordinator, was given a big raise to stay with the Ducks. Leavitt was released from Oregon after the 2018 season and given a $2.5 million buyout. He was around the Florida State program in the spring and presumably had input on helping the Seminoles' implement a new 3-4 defensive scheme. The program posted a position for a "quality control analyst" on Monday, and on Wednesday evening, Bruce Feldman from The Athletic announced that Leavitt was taking the job. It is hard to tell what Leavitt can and can't do in this analyst role, but this feels like the beginning of the end for current Florida State defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett. Florida State's offensive is averaging 38 points and over 500 yards per game, but the defense is among the worst in the nation. Leavitt's presence in the program should help with game planning and execution if nothing else. It would be a surprise if Leavitt wasn't eventually the defensive coordinator at Florida State whether it happens this season or after the season.
Here are list the grades for the FBS head coaching hires going into the 2019 season.
Louisville hires Scott Satterfield: A Grade
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this hire. Satterfield won 40 games in his final four seasons at Appalachian State, and he's the type of strong-character coach who Louisville needs after selling itself out to Bobby Petrino. That situation was bound to go poorly the second time around, which it did. Satterfield, however, will provide a nice fresh start. He'll recruit good, hard-working players, and they will win for him. 2019 might be a transitional year, but I wouldn't be surprised if Satterfield has Louisville pushing double-digit wins by 2020.
Kansas hires Les Miles: A- Grade
For a bottom-feeding program like Kansas to get a coach like Miles, who has a BCS championship to his name and won 77 percent of his games at LSU (114-34) is nothing short of a coup. Now, this move fulfills the needs of two desperate parties. Kansas AD Jeff Long needed a coach who could bring legitimately credibility to the program, and Miles wanted a job with a Power 5 program. Miles' old-school offense with multiple tight ends and a fullback might be a little outdated for the Big XII, or any conference that plays football, but he'll get some talented players, and they will fight for him. If he can get Kansas to a 7-5 season, he'll be a hero.
Georgia Tech hires Geoff Collins: A- Grade
Collins will have to overhaul much of the roster, which was filled with position players and linemen who are built to fit the triple option that former coach Paul Johnson employed, so the first couple of years might be a little rough. But Collins is a good coach who evaluates talent well and has attention to detail. He also understands that there's a LOT of football talent around the Atlanta metropolitan area, and he wants to get some of them in his program. Collins might not be a dynamic personality, but he is a solid football coach who can raise Georgia Tech's profile a level.
West Virginia hires Neal Brown: A- Grade
If the Mountaineers are to make a challenge at the top of the Big XII, they need to do a better job of managing and closing games. Former coach Dana Holgorsen was horrible at this aspect of coaching. Brown jumped on the scene as a hot prospect after Troy upset LSU in 2017. He decided to go through an entire class at Troy and won 31 games in the past three seasons. One thing that impressed me about Brown's teams at Troy was their play in the fourth quarter. They kept slim leads and showed great awareness of the clock and situational football. That quality could help the Mountaineers reverse many of those close losses they had under Holgorsen.
Kansas State hires Chris Klieman: A- Grade
A well-connected friend of mine wondered why Klieman would leave an FCS powerhouse for a program that it's harder to recruit at and a team that his former team probably could have lined up and beaten last year. Klieman has been part of seven national titles this decade at North Dakota State and went a ridiculous 57-4 in his four years as the head coach. Kansas State isn't an easy place to win. There has only been one coach who managed to do it, Bill Snyder, and he stayed for as long as possibly could. To replace him with a coach who knows how to win in a state/region that isn't exactly crawling with talent is a home run for the Wildcats.
Ohio State hires Ryan Day: B+ Grade
The 39-year-old Day looks like he could be in Columbus for a while, and he already had a nice introduction to the head coaching position when he was named interim coach to start the 2018 season when Urban Meyer was suspended for his failure to act on the transgressions of former wide receiver coach Zach Smith. Right away, Day seemed like he was comfortable, and the players responded positively to him as the head of the program. Time will tell if Day can have anywhere near the success that Meyer did at Ohio State - 83-9 in seven years-, but it was the right time for the Buckeyes to make the move.
Texas Tech hires Matt Wells: B+ Grade
It's hard to imagine it being easy to win at Utah State, but Wells managed 44 of them in six seasons, with five bowl appearances and two 10-win seasons. Wells also got good players to Utah State, whether it was finding recruiting gems late in the recruiting cycle or getting bouncebacks from junior colleges or Power 5 programs. Getting players to Texas Tech should prove to be easier. Moreover, he's offensive minded, but his Utah State teams played with a toughness on defense that I appreciated as a fan. He's going to try to slow down some these Big XII offenses rather than just rely on outscoring them.
Appalachian State hires Eli Drinkwitz: B+ Grade
This a solid replacement for Appalachian State after losing a quality head coach like Scott Satterfield. Drinkwitz has a lot of star potential, and he ran an excellent offense at N.C. State. To get a top-level in-state assistant from a Power 5 conference is quite the coup for the brass at Appalachian State, and it speaks to what coaches around the Southeast region think of the opportunity presented to them at the Sun Belt school. Drinkwitz has good coaching lineage, having been part of successful programs at Arkansas State and Boise State as well.
East Carolina hires Mike Houston: B Grade
Houston, a North Carolina native, had an interesting December to say the least. While finishing his tenure at James Madison, he was courted for the job at Charlotte. He apparently agreed to take the job at Charlotte, but backed out when the East Carolina and Appalachian State jobs opened. Eventually, East Carolina won this in-state tug of war, and as long as he can pull the Pirates out their recent skid, no one will care if he burned a bridge or two to get there. All that being said, Houston is a very successful coach who has won everywhere he has been and even managed to snag an FCS championship in the era of North Dakota State dominance.
Colorado hires Mel Tucker: B Grade
Tucker, with a decade of NFL experience and defensive coordinator stints at Ohio State, Alabama and Georgia under his belt, had been waiting for a Power 5 opportunity and got one with Colorado. In a coaching world of fancy, up-tempo, offensive guys, Tucker is a guy who has produced defenses that routinely stay in the top 20. Colorado is still trying to recapture the days when the program had some juice in college football. Tucker is a guy who is going to build a roster the right way and put teams on the field that place a premium on physicality.
Maryland hires Mike Locksley: B- Grade
I'm torn here. I think Locksley is an A-plus assistant coach and an A-plus recruiter. His deep roots in the Beltway should pay off big dividends at Maryland. That being said, he was a disaster at New Mexico on and off the field. He did, however, graduate from the Nick Saban school of rehabilitating coaches, so he has earned a second chance. Locksley doesn't walk into a terrible situation, and give some credit to former offensive coordinator and interim head coach Matt Canada for weathering the storm that former coach D.J. Durkin caused during his short, but tumultuous, tenure. Locksley will get the players; if he can get them to perform and learn from his previous mistakes, Maryland will be better for it.
Troy hires Chip Lindsey: B- Grade
Lindsey, who was the offensive coordinator at Auburn for two past two seasons, was probably smart to get off the Plains while he could because who knows how the hot-cold relationship between the Auburn faithful and head coach Gus Malzahn will run from year to year. Lindsey is an Alabama native who played football at North Alabama in the early '90s and has spent all but a few of his 22 years coaching around the state. His familiarity with the state should allow the Trojans to land some gems in recruiting. The Trojans had three consecutive 10-win seasons under Neal Brown, so Lindsey will need to hit the ground running.
Miami hires Manny Diaz: C+ Grade
This reeks a little bit of panic and a situation in which the powers to be at Miami were caught napping when Mark Richt retired. Diaz, who had left his defensive coordinator position at Miami to take the head coaching job at Temple 18 days prior, is familiar with the program and recruiting in the talent-laden neighborhoods of South Florida. But so was Randy Shannon, and that didn't turn out well. Shannon, like Diaz, was also a long-time defensive coordinator at Miami before he was promoted. Diaz is saying all of the right things, but so did Shannon. I believe the Hurricanes should have done whatever they could to get Mario Cristobal from Oregon and let Diaz cut his teeth at Temple, but that might have proven to be a tough task. This grade would be lower if I didn't buy into to Diaz's plan just a little. He's a good salesman. He's trying to bring back the "old Miami" but he'll need more than a good pitch because Russell Maryland, Ed Reed and Michael Irvin ain't walking through that door.
Liberty hires Hugh Freeze: C Grade
Well to Liberty's credit, the program clearly doesn't give a damn about outside perception. If you get past Freeze's many scandals and transgressions - and, oh boy, there are a LOT of them -, he is an exciting coach who has shown a knack for recruiting - let's not get into details. Liberty wants to make athletics a priority and move up on the college football food chain. Freeze can win ball games; he hasn't always done it honestly, and he might want to invest in a burner phone, but he does win. And for Liberty, winning is everything.
North Carolina hires Mack Brown: C Grade
Well, anything was going to be an improvement from the disaster that Larry Fedora was, but is Brown really the right person for this job at this time? Some will point to his age - 67 -, but I'm not worried about that. Brown was a GREAT coach for a long time. He won 10 or more games 11 times from 1996 to 2009 at North Carolina and Texas. No one was more consistent than Brown in the 2000s. But how does that play with recruits who were eight years old when he was last on a big stage? And his last four years at Texas were a product of burn out and lazy recruiting. It's a risky hire for a program that has the potential of North Carolina.
Houston hires Dana Holgorsen: C- Grade
Holgorsen was going to get run out of West Virginia sooner or later, so he smartly took a pretty fat contract to go to Houston and be the highest-paid coach in the "Group of Five" conferences. Holgorsen has been all around Texas; he was previously the offensive coordinator at Houston under Kevin Sumlin and spent time at Texas Tech under Mike Leach. The offense will be fun to watch and will put up a lot of points. But Holgorsen's teams at West Virginia had an issue closing out games. Houston, which is used to being in the discussion for top "Group of Five" team, might be taking a step back.
Utah State hires Gary Andersen: C- Grade
You always wonder about a guy who'll leave a great situation in Wisconsin to go to Oregon State, where he proceeded to go 7-23 over two-and-a-half seasons before resigning. At least Andersen decided to go full circle with the reset button, heading back to a place where he was 26-24 as head coach from 2009-2012. It's clear Andersen, a Utah native from Salt Lake City, is comfortable in that region, and hopefully, his comfort will bring success again.
Central Michigan hires Jim McElwain: D Grade
McElwain isn't a bad coach by any stretch, but what's his motivation at this point? He had one of the best jobs in the nation at Florida and lost it because he struggled with handling the pressure of a smothering fan base and possibly lied about receiving death threats. He was Michigan's wide receivers coach last year, but did anyone notice it? Utah State might've have been a better fit for McElwain, while I thought Central Michigan should have went a different route and got someone who might have brought a little more excitement with him to campus.
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