*Catches Breath* I Think We’re Done. Ranking the 2015 Coaching Carousel Hires
What a year in college football’s most fun game within the game, “who should we pay millions of dollars annually to lead our unpaid athletes and appease our donors?“, AKA the coaching carousel. This year, we had it all.
Maryland barely made it to October before leading it off and canning Randy Edsall. In the same weekend, Steve Spurrier flat QUIT at South Carolina, and the real USC fired Steve Sarkisian for alcoholism (the post below, DYP 150, addresses this quite well). Finally, things hit a little too close to home the day after the season, after Mark Richt was unceremoniously let go from Georgia.
Richt already has another job. Up-and-comers like Tom Herman at Houston and Matt Rhule at Temple surprisingly stayed put. One local conference rival of Georgia’s made a hilarious hire that (spoiler) will be ranked DFL on this list. Since there are still active searches at four Group of 5 schools (ECU, BYU, Tulane, ULM) we will limit the rankings to P5.
Let’s get it! Keep in mind that all rankings are subject to their hiring schools’ present situations.
TIER 1: COACHES THAT SHOULD EXCEED PREDECESSORS
- Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech: Its been a running trend in Blacksburg for at least a decade for VT to get by on “Beamerball”, i.e. a strong defense and explosive special teams. In a way, its sugarcoated an abysmal offense for years (to increasingly terrible results). While maintaining the main tenets of Beamerball by retaining DC Bud Foster, the Hokies went out and got the best offensive mind available. Tech has its limitations, but they should be able to return to prominence under Fuente.
- Mark Richt, Miami: Like I said…”coaches that should exceed predecessors.” Da U has had diminishing returns since Larry Coker was handed an NFL roster and rode it to 23 straight wins to start his tenure. The talent is there, the attitude is in flux (administration wants to bury it, players want to revive it) and Mark Richt with a dash of Evil Mark Richt is the perfect man to balance the two sides.
- Dino Babers, Syracuse: Essentially ran a more run-oriented version of Art Briles’ Baylor spread at Bowling Green, coaches in a terrible (outside of Clemson and FSU) division, and gets to do it all in a dome (mitigating the fact that it’s Syracuse((???))) I don’t know. I have a slight Babers mancrush and think he can be the best thing to happen to the Cuse since Donovan McNabb.
- D.J. Durkin, Maryland: Speaking of guys I like…Durkin is 37, he led the resurgence of Michigan’s defense this year, and had established a sterling rep as a DC and recruiter at Florida long before that.
TIER 2: STATUS QUO, OR WITHIN A WIN OR TWO OF IT.
- Kirby Smart, Georgia: I didn’t love the firing of Mark Richt, but I’ve warmed to this hire as I’ve heard the man speak. He’s been the nation’s hottest coordinator HC candidate for…what? Five years now? If he has the wherewithal to delegate the offense to a capable OC, Georgia could bounce back BIGTIME next year. (As an aside, I know I shouldn’t bemoan this, but I wish he was coming in full-time instead of bouncing back and forth between Athens and Tuscaloosa for the next month).
- Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia: Quite possibly the most surprising hire I’ve ever seen, as Mendenhall has never coached east of the Mississippi and seemed entrenched in Provo. This is a guy who went 11/11 in reaching bowls, but with his lack of contacts in this region and a VERY unique set of circumstances at BYU, I’m a little hesitant to call this the home run that others are.
- Matt Campbell, Iowa State: Listen…I don’t know. He was good at Toledo, he’s young (36), and it’s Iowa State. I don’t know how you can do much worse or better. So he seems like a safe fit here.
- Clay Helton, USC: Another high floor hire, I’m shocked that AD Pat Haden was allowed to make this pick. I’m further shocked that Helton got five years GUARANTEED, but Troy needs some stability. USC looked better and more disciplined than it did under Sark (SHOCKER!), but nothing about him screams big, Pete Carroll-esque winner. (Sidebar: I’ll write on this later if we are still lacking an OC, but his brother at Western Kentucky is on the top of my list. Jacob Eason takes the next flight to Athens and sleeps under a staircase to put up numbers under Tyson Helton.)
- Barry Odom, Missouri: A guy who lost FOUR All-SEC D-linemen the last two years and still oversaw the nations #9 total defense? (Note: SEC East offenses weren’t really good this year.) It is still damn strong coaching and solid continuity. Best of luck against lymphoma, Gary Pinkel. We never wanted #Pinkelwatch to end like that.
TIER 3: WTF?!?
- Bill “not an ideal situation” Cubit, Illinois: Illinois has an interim president, an interim AD, and still an interim football coach. The AD said Cubit’s two year deal was “not ideal”. Okay then.
- Tracy Claeys, Minnesota: Sticking in the B1G, this is a hire I failed to acknowledge on initial draft because it was so quiet and…Minnesota. I’m sure Claeys is a capable, smart guy, but Jerry Kill was BELOVED in Minneapolis and the Gophers’ results tanked after a near-miss against Michigan. Not really feeling this one.
- Will Muschamp, South Carolina: OH HO HO! HOW I MISSED #COACHBOOM JOKES UNTIL HE WENT NUCLEAR IN THE IRON BOWL AND COST AUBURN THREE VERY IMPORTANT POINTS AND THE MOMENTUM! HE’S REALLY BACK ALREADY? REALLY? Ray Tanner had TWO MONTHS to find a new football coach, and he got (South Carolina’s third straight, btw) retread? And this time not a first-ballot hall-of-famer? Go get Mack Brown if you need guys with antiquated success. Jim Tressel may take a call. But COACH FREAKING BOOM SOLD THEM ON THE “BABY I’VE CHANGED” ROUTINE then IMMEDIATELY GOES OUT AND GETS THE FLORIDA GANG BACK TOGETHER?
Oh man, this is too good.