Every year we see 20 or so coaching changes in college football, sometimes a result of the domino effect (Team A hires Team B's coach and Team B hires Team C's coach) while others are due to retirement or other issues. Obviously not all jobs are equal; some are move-in ready, and others require a rebuild. But matching up a new coach with the right situation is paramount to success.
This year we had 24 head coaching changes with most due to a firing from programs coming off subpar seasons and in search of someone to put a jolt into their teams. Others, like Baylor for example, saw their head coaches move on after becoming hot commodities thanks to their success.
Not all situations are the same, but let's rank the 24 head coaching hires in college football.
Florida State has been in a funk the last couple of years after being among the elite over four decades. The Willie Taggart era was shut down after just two seasons and now Norvell, who just took the Memphis Tigers to a New Year's Six bowl, is tasked with getting Florida State back to its rightful place. He won three division titles at Memphis and had two 10-win seasons and a conference championship in four years. He runs an exciting offense and should bring a renewed energy to FSU.
Just a year ago, I had Drinkwitz highly rated as the new head coach of the Appalachian State Mountaineers. All he did was go 12-1, lead the 'Neers to the New Orleans Bowl (he left before they won the game) and end the season ranked 19th in the AP poll. He was instantly a hot candidate for a Power Five job and ended up in the SEC. Missouri has been mediocre at best for the last five seasons and needs a jolt like Drinkwitz to revitalize the program.
Aranda takes over a Baylor program that was near death a few years ago before Matt Rhule nearly had it in the College Football Playoff this season. Aranda is coming off an impressive run as LSU's defensive coordinator where his Tigers did a number on Clemson in the national championship game. Baylor has hung its hat on defense of late, and Aranda looks to continue that trend.
Is this Kiffin's last real shot at a big time coaching job? After heading up the Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Volunteers and USC Trojans, Kiffin has sort of been radioactive to Power Five schools (at least iin terms of a head coaching job). He did well at FAU, and now Ole Miss (which has had a checkered recent past) is taking the plunge. Will Kiffin and all of his baggage fly in Oxford? Well, probably if the Rebels start winning.
Sometimes it's best to just stay within the family. When Chris Petersen announced his sudden retirement, Lake was immediately named his successor. This is Lake's first shot at his own program, but he's been Petersen's right-hand man since 2012.
Let's be frank: Rutgers has been an embarrassment in the Big Ten. The Scarlet Knights have gone 9-39 over the last four seasons and 4-40 in conference play in the last five years. Greg Schiano returns to New Jersey to try to get the program back to the success it enjoyed when he last was there. Schiano, who last coached the Scarlet Knights from 2001-2011 before heading to the NFL, took them to a bowl in six of his last seven seasons in Piscataway.
It basically comes down to this: Can Mike Leach's style play in the SEC, a conference that prides itself on tough defenses and physical offenses? Leach loves a spread offense and isn't as concerned with the defensive side of things, so it will be interesting to see how this all plays out. He certainly will be quotable, and the Egg Bowl rivalry (you know, the one that left off with a player miming a dog peeing in the end zone) will go to another level with Leach and Lane Kiffin going at it.
Scott has been running one of the best offenses in the nation during his 12-year stint at Clemson. Whether in the Deshaun Watson era or the current Trevor Lawrence one, as co-offensive coordinator he has helped build the Tigers offense into a national force. Now he gets his own program in South Florida — one that was seemingly on the verge of breaking out a few years ago — and will instantly put his strong recruiting skills to use.
DeBoer is an outstanding hire for Fresno State after Jeff Tedford abruptly retired for health reasons. DeBoer was Tedford's offensive coordinator in Fresno before taking over Indiana's offense last season. All the Hoosiers did was have one of their greatest offensive seasons in program history. He has previous head coaching experience at Sioux Falls where he took the Cougars to four straight NAIA championship games, winning three.
How interesting is this situation? Taggart will be the head coach of his fourth different school in five years. He takes over a program after Lane Kiffin — a coach known for his tendency to switch jobs almost as often — left for the SEC. Taggart saw his last real success back in 2016 as the head coach of South Florida, so coming into a program that's currently enjoying success will be a much-needed break for him.
Well, that was fun. After hiring Eli Drinkwitz a year ago to take over the football program, it had to undergo another coaching search after Drinkwitz left for Missouri. App State kept things in house by promoting associate head coach Shawn Clark. Clark served under both Scott Satterfield and Drinkwitz (and played there), so he understands what this program has built.
Memphis has been kind to head coaches of late, as it is one of the better Group of Five conference jobs. Silverfield has been with the program for four seasons, so he's familiar with the challenge. The players love him, and he's obviously earned the faith of the administration.
For you Cougars fans who loved Mike Leach's high flying offense...you'll get to see it under former Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich. The Rainbow Warriors had one of the most prolific passing attacks in the nation under his watch, so he should plug in rather seamlessly in Pullman. He's as close to a Leach copy as the program could have hired.
Colorado was caught in a tough situation. The Buffaloes felt they had hired their perfect coach last season in Mel Tucker only to see him leave for Michigan State a few weeks ago. The Buffs were forced to look for a new coach after the coaching carousel had already spun and died down, missing out on high-profile names like Eric Bieniemy and Steve Sarkisian. They chose Dorrell, a safe pick who had a decent run at UCLA that included five bowl appearances in five seasons during the 2000s, plus he was the receivers coach at Colorado during the 1990s. He won't be the slam dunk fans may have hoped for, but he could provide the stability the program needs right now.
Arroyo has had success leading up to his first head coaching gig. He left San Jose State with many passing records before embarking on his coaching career. He has worked for his alma mater as well as for Wyoming, Prairie View, California, Southern Miss, Oklahoma State and Oregon and even had a brief stint in the NFL with the Buccaneers. He's worked with Mario Cristobal, Mike Gundy, Lovie Smith and Willie Taggart. Arroyo is heading up a new era for UNLV, which will share a new stadium with the relocating Las Vegas Raiders.
An interesting marriage of coach and school. Hafley did a great job as the defensive coordinator in his lone season at Ohio State, which came after a seven-year stint in the NFL. He is known for his defensive prowess as well as for being a great recruiter, and he has worked for and alongside coaches like Chip Kelly, Kyle Shanahan, Greg Schiano and Dave Wannstedt. There is a clear opening to be a foil to Clemson in the ACC Atlantic Division, and Hafley would love to get his Eagles to that point.
A year ago, I previewed Tucker's hiring at Colorado and he turned in a topsy-turvy 5-7 season. There are a lot of layers to this hiring (why Mark Dantonio left; how this coaching search went; what Tucker left behind). What is interesting is that Tucker initially turned down the Spartans job before the school threw more money his way to land him. His salary is significantly more than that of his predecessor, which leads to some uneasiness about the hiring. Football-wise, Tucker has an impressive resume as an assistant in both college and the NFL but certainly didn't wow anybody in his lone season in Colorado.
Traylor has spent a lot of time in and around Texas where he played high school and college ball and was an assistant coach in high school and at the University of Texas and SMU before spending the last two seasons at Arkansas. Traylor will try to get the Roadrunners out of the mediocrity they've been in since starting their program 10 years ago. His high school coaching stints also could be his key to recruiting.
Hawaii is going with the experienced coach route with this hire. Graham is 95-61 over 12 seasons with four different programs. We last saw him at Arizona State where he stumbled after two 10-win seasons. He did a great job at Tulsa, which is a program akin to what he'll deal with at Hawaii.
This isn't the most inspiring hire. Addazio was literally average during his seven-year stint at Boston College where he went 44-44 and won either six or seven games in six of those seven seasons. While Addazio may be a pleasant change for the Rams, going out west is a big change for him. Colorado State got a good coach but seemingly nothing more.
The Bob Davies era finally ended in Albuquerque after some lean seasons and controversial moments. In comes Danny Gonzales, who played at New Mexico and was on its coaching staff for 10 years. He's spent the last two seasons serving as Herm Edwards' defensive coordinator at Arizona State. He knows the school and the area of the country well and hopefully can turn around a program that has lost 23 of its last 25 conference games.
Rahne was the quarterbacks coach at Penn State before being moved to tight ends coach and then taking over as offensive coordinator over the last two years. The offense regressed a bit under Rahne, though that could be attributed to losing Saquon Barkley one year and Trace McSorley the next. He'll be asked the kickstart the ODU offense, which has struggled a bit since joining the FBS.
Pittman may be a good coach, but at 58 he has never had a coordinator job. He is known as a good recruiter, which is sorely needed at Arkansas. While Ole Miss and Mississippi State made splashy hires in a division that already has Nick Saban, Ed Orgeron, Jimbo Fisher and Gus Malzahn, Arkansas did not.
Hoke certainly takes advantage of his opportunities. After going 22-37 in five years at Ball State he turned a magical 12-1 season into his first stint at San Diego State. Then a 9-4 season with the Aztecs turned into the Michigan job. The Wolverines floundered under his watch, and he was fired after four seasons. He lost both games he coached at Tennessee on an interim basis. Needless to say this isn't an energetic hire but more of a comfort fit.
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