This first portion of the coaching carousel is what coaches have gone where so far, and my initials reviews and grades on the hires.
Every off-season, roughly 25-30 programs in college football look to make a change at head coach. This year has been no different, but this year’s coaching carousel has been especially hectic. Every coach that has moved so far has been a sitting head coach, except four. It is interesting how few coordinators have been hired by teams to be their next coach.
Not every single vacancy has been filled so far, but this silly season has been wilder than in previous seasons. Here are the grades on the jobs that have been filled:
Old Coach – John L. Smith
New Coach – Bret Bielema
Previous Job – Wisconsin Head Coach
Why? Bielema was successful at Wisconsin, but he was also very fortunate. For example, this season Ohio State was ineligible for the B1G championship game, so Wisconsin got in with a 7-5 regular season record. The biggest concern is recruiting a QB, which was Wisconsin’s biggest Achilles heel while Bielema was in Madison. He also has very few connections to Arkansas or the South. Can he recruit the South?
Old Coach – Gene Chizik
New Coach – Gus Malzahn
Previous Job – Arkansas State Head Coach
Why? Malzahn just won the Sun Belt Championship at Arkansas State. His return to The Plains has been much anticipated. Malzahn was very successful as the OC at Auburn from 2009-2011, including winning the National Championship in 2010, but he did it with Cam Newton. Auburn has zero capable QBs on their roster, and Malzahn will need to find one in a big hurry. Will Malzahn be able to keep up with the Elite in the SEC? I think Auburn will be good, not great with Malzahn. The success of this hire will be heavily determined on who Gus hires to run the defense, and if he can recruit at an elite level. The talent on both sides of the ball, especially on offense, is in dire need of an upgrade.
Old Coach – Frank Spaziani
New Coach – Steve Addazio
Previous Job – Temple Head Coach
Why? Addazio continued the good run at Temple that Al Golden started. He won two national titles at Florida as their Offensive Coordinator under Urban Meyer. He will restore a running game to Chestnut Hill, which has been non-existent for almost half a decade, limiting their offensive ceiling. The Eagles are a sleeping giant in the ACC and one of the few east coast schools passionate about, and committed to, college football. They also have great academics and a great fan base. Addazio should improve the recruiting, which has been lacking. BC will be relevant again very soon in a top-heavy ACC. There is plenty of room for another team to establish themselves.
Old Coach – Jeff Tedford
New Coach – Sonny Dykes
Previous Job – Lousiana Tech Head Coach
Why? This is probably the most exciting hire so far this off-season. Sonny Dykes is radical change from the previous regime and will infuse much-needed energy into a lethargic program. Dykes is an offensive mastermind whose teams put up video game numbers running a frenetic no-huddle spread. Last year he was 2nd in the nation in total offense at LA Tech, averaging a maniacal 577.9 yards per game and 51.5 points (!!!!). Cal has had great defenses for almost 10 years now, but their offense has regressed. Cal will be fun to watch again, but Dykes’ success will depend on if the new staff doesn’t forget about the defense.
Old Coach – Butch Jones
New Coach – Tommy Tuberville
Previous Job – Texas Tech Head Coach
Why? I am hesitant to give this a higher grade, even with Tommy Tuberville’s history of success. His success will depend on how adaptable he is to Cincinnati’s personnel. Tuberville smartly kept the Air Raid in Lubbock, and the Red Raiders remained prolific on offense. Will he keep the spread in Hamilton County? This is an interesting move since Tuberville was clamoring for an SEC job. But Tuberville worked with the Cincy AD when he was at Auburn, so there is some familiarity. However, the success of this hire is predicated on longevity. If Tuberville stays for a little while, it will work, if he’s itchy to leave for the SEC, it will reflect on the program, and Cincy will fall.
Old Coach – Bill Curry
New Coach – Trent Miles
Previous Job – Indiana State Head Coach
Why? Georgia State will be the Sun Belt’s newest member in 2013, making the jump from the FCS. The Bill Curry hire was decent at first and tumbled to a 1-10 season this season. Trent Miles revived a moribund Indiana State program, but was unable to take them to the next level. He is relatively inexperienced, so can he successfully jump to the FBS-level? Georgia State is committed to football, so he will get a chance. His coaching and recruiting ability as well as his resolve will be tested in Hot-lanta. If the Panthers can be a perennial bowl team, and competitive, this hire will turn into an A+.
Old Coach – Robb Akey
New Coach – Paul Petrino
Previous Job – Arkansas Offensive Coordinator
Why? Paul Petrino was the conductor of high-flying, explosive Razorback offenses when his brother Bobby was there, and his teams traditionally score a ton of points. That should be a relief for an Idaho program that scored a mere 18 touchdowns last season en route to a disastrous 1-11 record. Idaho was, at one time, a good stepping-stone for successful coaches, but its facilities are severely lacking by 2012 standards. The WAC is a lame-duck conference, and the future landing spot for Idaho remains a mystery. That could play a huge role in their future success. If Petrino can recruit regardless, The Vandals will be bowl-eligible again. At the very least they will move the football.
Old Coach – Joker Phillips
New Coach – Mark Stoops
Previous Job – Florida State Defensive Coordinator
Why? Mark Stoops restored the Seminoles defense to a top-5 unit while he was in Tallahassee. Kentucky is a different animal and has been the SEC doormat for a while. The good thing is, Stoops just has to get Kentucky to bowl games and beat an SEC power once a year. He can do that, but he has to significantly upgrade the talent, especially on defense. He needs time, but this could be a solid marriage. Kentucky should immediately be better on defense. If Kentucky can score points, the improvement will be quicker than expected.
Old Coach – Tom O’Brien
New Coach – Dave Doeren
Previous Job – Northern Illinois Head Coach
Why? Dave Doeren kept the gravy train rolling in DeKalb, going a ridiculous 23-4, including an 11-1 record and a trip the Orange Bowl this year. But, winning at NIU will be different than winning in the ACC. Tom O’Brien made NC State respectable. Doeren will have to make them championship-caliber. There is talent, was it the schemes that held them back? Doeren will let us know pretty quickly. He made the Wisconsin defense great when he was their DC before coaching the Huskies. Can he up the ante in Raleigh?
Old Coach – Dave Doeren
New Coach – Rod Carey
Previous Job – Northern Illinois Offensive Coordinator
Why? Hiring an assistant from the previous regime is lazy. It also rarely works. Rod Carey was not a top candidate for any FBS coaching openings. Regardless, he gets his first chance in DeKalb. He will inherit great talent, but he is not Dave Doeren. NIU will be good short-term because of that great talent, but the long-term success is what is in question. West Virginia went this route with Bill Stewart when Rich Rod left, and was fired after three-plus years because the program was stuck in neutral. Kentucky tried to go this route with Joker Phillips, so did Purdue with Danny Hope, and, not coincidentally, both of those teams are also on this list. Carey could be great, but because of the track record of failure when administrations hire assistants from the previous regime, I have no choice but to give this a failing grade.
Old Coach – Danny Hope
New Coach – Darrell Hazell
Previous Job – Kent State Head Coach
Why? The job that Darrell Hazell did at Kent State was nearly a miracle. In his first year, Kent State was ranked next-to-last on offense, barely averaging 250 yards per game. One short year later, in 2012, Hazell brought the Golden Flashes to the MAC title game where they lost in overtime to Northern Illinois. Purdue said they wanted to keep the spread offense, but they went with an old Ohio State assistant who believes in the Pro-style. Will the marriage work? In a word, yes. He knows the Big-10 and can recruit. Purdue wants Big-10 titles. That might be wishful thinking, but if anyone can do it, it’s Hazell.
Old Coach – Skip Holtz
New Coach – Willie Taggart
Previous Job – Western Kentucky Head Coach
Why? Willie Taggart did a nice job at Western Kentucky, bringing them to two consecutive bowl games from the doldrums and was the only coach they have known since joining the FBS in 2010. But, can he win big at South Florida? The Bulls administration longs for the mid-2000s when they were a top-10 program. Taggart has some work to do to return them to that level. Taggart is not a bad coach by any means, but can he restore the glory? I am skeptical. USF’s facilities are not great and they don’t have a great fan base. But they are in fertile recruiting ground, so the talent can be had. This got a B- because Taggart will have unrealistic expectations. If USF gives him time, it could work well. But to return to being a top program? That’s a long way off, no matter who coaches in Tampa.
Old Coach – Derek Dooley
New Coach – Butch Jones
Previous Job – Cincinnati Head Coach
Why? Butch Jones won at Central Michigan and was decent at Cincinnati, but he benefitted from being Brian Kelly’s successor at both places. Is he ready for the big-time? Tennessee has become an also-ran in the SEC, and following the pedestrian and highly uninspiring Derek Dooley era, the Vols needed to make a splash to fire up some excitement among fans and alumni. They didn’t. But one of the more intriguing aspects of this search was two public rejections of this job. At least Jones wants to be in Knoxville. Jones is not a bad coach, but he is in over his head in the SEC. I give him 4 years, maximum, in this snake pit of a job. But, that’s all he will get, no matter how unfair, to win big on Rocky Top.
Old Coach – Mike Price
New Coach – Sean Kugler
Previous Job – Pittsburgh Steelers Offensive Line Coach
Why? The Mike Price era was met with a ton of hype, but fizzled into mediocrity. Some of the candidates for the UTEP job were exciting. This hire was not. It is always a deal with the devil to bring in an NFL assistant. You never know how they will recruit or what to expect. Kugler could be good, but this is an unknown. Also, will he leave his post as the Offensive Line coach of a playoff team in time to really recruit before signing day in February? This will be critical to his initial success. UTEP, believe it or not, is not a bad job. Their stadium is great. The facilities are pretty good and El Paso is actually one of the safest cities in the US. Also, Texas is a football talent gold mine, so it would seem with some effort that UTEP could be a contender in the crappy Conference USA. Kugler will need to do just that in order to stay around awhile. I am more puzzled by this hire than anything else.