With signing day now a month old and most coaching staffs now fully complete, it’s time to rank the new head coaching hires for the upcoming season.
I evaluated prior head coaching experience, familiarity with the school and surrounding recruiting area while also taking into consideration the state of the program and realistically, who they could have hired in their current state of affairs.
1. Jeff Brohm, Purdue. The Boilers are trying to go back to their winning ways of the offensively successful Joe Tiller era. Brohm was an ultra-successful 30-10 the last 3 years at WKU and is known for his high-powered offenses. He added some really good assistants and we think Purdue hit a home run here. Grade: A
2. Charlie Strong, USF. While Strong had three unremarkable seasons in Austin, he has great ties to the state after serving on the Florida staff from 2003-2009. He also compiled a 37-15 record as head coach at Louisville and is known as an excellent recruiter. This hire was about as good as it gets for a Group of 5 program. Grade: A
3. PJ Fleck, Minnesota. After a disastrous 1-11 first season in Kalamazoo, Fleck led Western Michigan to a combined 29-11 record his last 3 years including 13-1 and a Cotton Bowl berth last year. Known as a master motivator and great recruiter, Fleck inherits a solid program in the much easier Big Ten West division. Grade: A-
4. Lane Kiffin, Florida Atlantic. Some in the media have panned this hire, but call us huge fans of the move. FAU gets an experienced Power 5 head coach and one of the best play-callers in the game. Sure, Kiffin is a PR gamble but he’s already signed the best recruiting class in CUSA and inherits a very experienced team. Grade: A-
5. Tom Herman, Texas. While most view this as a home-run hire for Texas, we’re a bit more cautious. Obviously, Herman was very successful as OC at Ohio St and has in-state ties. He did a remarkable job at Houston in 2015 leading the Cougars to a 13-1 record but despite wins over Oklahoma and Louisville last year, we felt Houston underachieved a bit. Still this was very good hire. Grade: B+
6. Willie Taggart, Oregon. While he doesn’t have any school ties, Taggart did a solid job rebuilding WKU and USF and is off a 10-2 season. He is a great recruiter and made two outstanding hires at the coordinator spots getting Mario Cristobal (former FIU head coach) at OC and Jim Leavitt (former USF head coach) at DC. Grade: B+
7. Mike Sanford, Western Kentucky. A coach’s son, Sanford has plenty of OC experience at Boise St and Notre Dame. At only 34, he is the youngest coach in the FBS but is viewed as a rising star by many in the industry and we agree. Grade: B+
8. Matt Rhule, Baylor. Rhule compiled a respectable 28-23 record at Temple including back-to-back 10-win seasons. He could be the best coach on this list but all of his experience was on the East Coast and this isn’t the easiest place to sell right now on the recruiting front with all the allegations. Grade: B
9. Ed Orgeron, LSU. The general consensus is that the Tigers “settled” for Orgeron who had a failed stint as the Ole Miss head coach in 2005-2007 (10-25) but was a combined 14-4 as an interim at USC (2013) and here last year. He made an outstanding hire in Matt Canada (OC) and kept DC Dave Aranda on staff. Grade: B
10. Luke Fickell, Cincinnati. Fickell obviously has long-term ties to the state after playing at Ohio St and then being the DC there since 2005. He was the interim at Ohio St in 2011 (6-7) and made a couple of really good hires including Mike Denbrock (OC) and former Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips (WR). Grade: B
11. Jeff Tedford, Fresno St. Tedford returns to his alma mater (played QB) and was also the OC for the Bulldogs in the mid-90s. His first 8 seasons at Cal were very successful (67-35) but the last 3, he only went 15-22 and was fired. Still Tedford has experience, school ties and is still relatively young at 55. Solid hire. Grade: B-
12. Justin Wilcox, California. Wilcox has no prior head coaching experience. However, most of his DC experience came in the Pac-12 and he made two solid hires at coordinator in former Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin (OC) and former Fresno St head coach Tim DeRuyter (DC). Grade: B-
13. Major Applewhite, Houston. Applewhite obviously has a lot of ties to the state of Texas after being a QB and OC for the Longhorns. He is familiar with the Houston personnel after being the OC here the last two years but has no prior head coaching experience and has some big shoes to fill. Grade: B-
14. Butch Davis, FIU. We originally liked this hire a lot. However, whatever recruiting edges Davis had in the South Florida area were negated by strong hires by USF and FAU. Davis was a proven winner at Miami, Fl and North Carolina but has NCAA baggage and hasn’t coached since 2010. Grade: B-
15. Geoff Collins, Temple. While Collins fielded some solid defenses at Mississippi St and a couple of great D’s at Florida the last two seasons, he doesn’t have any school ties and doesn’t have any prior head coaching experience. He also has some big shoes to fill as Temple is off their best 2-year stretch in school history. Grade: B-
16. Shawn Elliott, Georgia St. Elliott was the interim coach at South Carolina in 2015 (1-5). He has no ties to the school but was long-time assistant at Appalachian St so he is familar with the region and expectations. Grade: B-
17. Tom Allen, Indiana. Allen has no prior head coaching experience and was on the Indiana staff for just one season as DC. However he was greatly responsible for the Hoosiers massive improvements on that side of the ball last year as the Hoosiers allowed 10.4 ppg and 129 ypg less than what they did in 2015. Grade: C+
18. Brent Brennan, San Jose St. Brennan has no prior head coaching or coordinator experience. He does have strong ties to the school after serving as an assistant there from 2005-2010 and had a successful stint as the Oregon St WR coach. Grade: C+
19. Randy Edsall, Connecticut. We’ve never been huge fans of Edsall who does return to the place where he was the head coach from 1999-2010 compiling a 74-70 record. He was in over his head at Maryland for 5 years (22-34) and outside of Bill Snyder’s return to Kansas St, these 2nd stints usually don’t fare well. Grade: C+
20. Jay Norvell, Nevada. Norvell has solid experience as a Power 5 OC but has no prior head coaching experience nor any school ties. Grade: C+
21. Tim Lester, Western Michigan. Lester obviously has some school ties after leaving as the all-time passer (11,299 yards) in 1999. He doesn’t have a lot of coaching experience and was hired late in the process. Has some big shoes to fill. Grade: C
Brad Powers – Former lead CFB writer for Northcoast’s Power Sweep | Homepage
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Way to get an early jump on college football, Brad! Good stuff.
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Great stuff Brad..Solid info
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