There was quite a bit of coaching turnover in college football this offseason, with 23 schools hiring new head coaches. A few of the historically powerful programs have new leaders patrolling the sidelines, and I’ve decided to rank the hires from 1-23, in reverse order.
23. Bill Blankenship: Previous Job: RB’s Coach Tulsa; New Job: HC Tulsa
Bill Blankenship becomes a head coach for the first time at the collegiate ranks as he takes over for Todd Graham, who departed to Pitt. This is a pretty questionable move, as Blakenship has never been more than a position coach in college. He spent 22 years as a high school football coach, albeit a successful one, and spent the last four years as a position coach for Tulsa.
Blankenship will get his first college head coaching job at his alma mater, where he was a quarterback from 1975-1979, and a two-year starter for the Golden Hurricane. It’s pretty much anybody’s guess of how much success or lack thereof Blankenship will have at Tulsa.
He’s never been a head coach, or even a coordinator at this level, so you really don’t know what you’re getting. The one thing that Blankenship does have working for him is that he knows the area. He’s from Oklahoma, and is an alum of the University, so he knows the area, and should be able to recruit some solid football players.
Only time will tell if this move will work out or not, but for now, it’s a questionable move by Tulsa for a number of reasons.
22. Jon Embree: Previous Job: TE’s Coach Redskins; New Job: HC Colorado
Jon Embree wasn’t Colorado’s first choice to take over for Dan Hawkins as they gauged interest from LSU’s Les Miles, and Air Force’s Troy Calhoun. In the end, Colorado settled on Embree, and he will be the guy to take them into the Pac 12.
Embree played at Colorado in the 80’s as a tight end, and he had a number of different stints as an assistant coach in Boulder. But, that’s just it, Embree has never been a head coach before on any level, and the closest he’s come to being a coordinator was when he was the passing game coordinator for UCLA in 2004-05.
This could be the kind of hire Colorado needs though, after nabbing the big named Dan Hawkins from Boise State during their last coaching search, and seeing how that failed so miserably. It might just be that Colorado needs a lesser known coach, without the lofty expectations to bring this team back into the fold.
That’s an optimistic viewpoint, and this is another wait-and-see hire that doesn’t excite you much on paper.
21. Steve Addazio: Previous Job: OC Florida; New Job: HC Temple
Remember when Steve Addazio was one of the hottest named coordinators in the coaching ranks? Remember when he was supposed to be the interim coach for Florida last season when Urban Meyer was to take a year off?
That seems like so long ago, and now after as much as Florida’s offense struggled without Tim Tebow in 2010, it appears that Addazio was a rather overrated offensive coordinator in Gainesville.
Addazio is another guy with no head coaching experience at the collegiate level, and he wasn’t particularly impressive as an offensive coordinator with Florida or Indiana previously.
Al Golden changed the culture at Temple, and now it’s up to Addazio to continue the recent winning ways for the Owls, but I’m not sure he’s the guy that’s going to do that. Ultimately, I think this is a pretty poor hire.
20. Luke Fickell: Previous Job: LB’s/Co-DC Ohio State; New Job: HC Ohio State
It’s not likely that Luke Fickell is the long term solution as the Ohio State head football coach, barring a miraculous season by the Buckeyes, but he will serve as the team’s head coach in 2011, taking over following Jim Tressell’s resignation.
Luke Fickell has been apart of the Ohio State staff since 2002, serving as the co-defensive coordinator since 2005. Now, he sits in the boss’s seat, and will try and hold the Buckeyes football program together through all the turmoil.
Fickell has never been a head coach before on any level, and is just 37 years old. Again, this will probably just be a one year fix until the Buckeyes can conduct a national search for a new coach.
19. Darrell Hazell: Previous Job: Assistant HC/WR’s Coach Ohio State; New Job: HC Kent State
This has the feeling of a boom or bust hire for Kent State. Hazell is another guy who hasn’t been a head coach or even a coordinator in the FBS. But, Hazell was one of Jim Tressell’s top assistants at OhioState over the last seven years.
Hazell has his work cut out for him with the Golden Flashes, a team that hasn’t won more than 5 games since 2006, and hasn’t made a bowl game since the 1972 Tangerine Bowl. Yeah, it has been that long.
Kent State isn’t going to attract many big named coordinators, so this might be the best they could hope for. Again, it’s always a gamble when you bring a guy that doesn’t have head coaching experience or coordinator experience at this level, but this could turn out to be a pretty solid move in the future.
18. Rocky Long: Previous Job: DC San Diego State; New Job: HC San Diego State
Rocky Long’s coaching ability really can’t be questioned. He is widely thought of as one of the better defensive coaches in the game today, and had a pretty successful stint as the head coach of New Mexico from 1998 to 2008. He compiled a 65-69 overall record, but he led the Lobos to a 40-34 record within the conference and had a seven year stretch where the team won 6 or more games each season.
The questionable part of this hire is what Long said after leaving New Mexico. He resigned in 2008 saying that he didn’t think he was the right guy to take the Lobos to the next level. So…. What makes him the right guy to take the Aztecs to the next level after they’ve enjoyed some success under former head coach Brady Hoke?
Again, it’s not a question of whether or not he can coach, but whether or not he is going to be able to lead San DiegoState to prolonged success. Also, Long is 61 years old, the oldest coach in the Mountain West.
17. Dave Doeren: Previous Job: DC Wisconsin; New Job: HC Northern Illinois
Dave Doeren has big shoes to fill after taking over for Jerry Kill, who enjoyed a tremendous amount of success with Northern Illinois over his tenure. Doeren has never been a head coach before, and will be just 39 years old when the ball is kicked off to start the season.
Doeren is regarded as a good recruiter, and Wisconsin put together some very good defenses during his tenure as defensive coordinator from 2006-10. But, Wisconsin head coach Brett Bielema is regarded as a great defensive coach, so it really calls into question how big of an impact Doeren had for the Badgers.
This is another coaching move that could turn out to be great, or it could blow up in NIU’s faces. I think Doeren will do fine right away with the Huskies, but it will be interesting to see if he can sustain success for the long term.
16. David Shaw: Previous Job: OC Stanford; New Job: HC Stanford
David Shaw has big shoes to fill as the new head coach in Palo Alto, taking over for Jim Harbaugh, who left to take the head coaching job for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers. Shaw served as the offensive coordinator for the Cardinal under Harbaugh since 2007.
This was probably the best move for Stanford short term. This allows them to keep the stability they’ve had the last few years, and keeps star QB Andrew Luck in the same offense for his last season with the team.
Stanford should be one of the top teams in the Pac 12 this season with Shaw, but the big question is how much success can he have long term? He’s a Stanford guy, playing for the team in the 90’s, but he’s an unproven head coach, and he’s going to have a tough time maintaining the success the team enjoyed under Harbaugh.
15. Todd Graham: Previous Job: HC Tulsa; New Job: Pittsburgh
I’m sure a lot of people are higher on this move than I am, but I’m wary about ranking this much higher after the last Tulsa coach that moved on to a Big East job flamed out quickly. Steve Kragthorpe enjoyed success with Tulsa in his four seasons as head coach, but then went just 15-21 during his three years at Louisville.
It’s unfair to penalize Graham for the failures of Kragthorpe, but it’s just how I feel. Also, remember that Graham wasn’t Pittsburgh’s first option. Originally,Pittsburgh hired Miami of Ohio’s Mike Haywood. After a domestic violence charge, Pittsburgh fired Haywood and then set their sights on Graham.
There is no denying the success that Graham has had as a head coach in the Conference USA. In five years at Rice and Tulsa, Graham put together a 43-23 record, going to a bowl game in four of his five seasons as a head coach.
14. James Franklin: Previous Job: OC Maryland; New Job: Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt went for the homerun hire of Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, but after the Tigers made Malzahn the highest paid coordinator in all of college football, he decided to turn down the Commodores’ offer.
James Franklin was the offensive coordinator and head coach in waiting for Maryland, but decided to take the open Vanderbilt job. I’m not the biggest fan of Franklin, his offenses failed to impress much with the Terps, and he’s never been a head coach before.
But for Vanderbilt, this looks like a pretty solid move. It would have been better had they brought in Malzahn, but Franklin isn’t a bad second option. For Franklin, he won’t have the burden of high expectations at a school that hasn’t won much in its history.
13. Paul Pasqualoni: Previous Job: DC Dallas Cowboys; New Job: Connecticut
Paul Pasqualoni isn’t the most exciting hire this year, but it could turn out to be one of the best. He’s not the big name that some people wanted Connecticutto go after Randy Edsall left for Maryland, but he has had a lot of success before as a head coach in the Big East.
Pasqualoni was the head coach at Syracuse from 1991-2004, and he had a very successful 14-year stint. He led the Orange to a 107-59-1 record over that time, including a pair of Big East Titles. He led Syracuse to nine bowl games, and only once did the team finish below .500 during his tenure.
Syracuse fired Pasqualoni following a 6-6 season in 2004, and the team won just a single game in the following year without him on the sidelines. Since being let go by Syracuse, Pasqualoni has been in the NFL as a position coach and coordinator. The only real downside to Pasqualoni is that he will be 62 years old when the season starts, but other than that; this seems like a great move for UConn.
12. Randy Edsall: Previous Job: HC Connecticut; New Job: HC Maryland
It was a curios move for Randy Edsall, who built the Connecticut program from the ground up, to take a job that could be at best described as a lateral move at Maryland. Edsall did a terrific job in Storrs, guiding the Huskies from the FCS ranks to a Big East title last season.
In his last four seasons, Edsall led UConn to at least eight wins each year, and a share of two Big East titles. It was a curious move by the Maryland brain trust to let go of Ralph Friedgen following a nine win season this past year.
A lot of people thought Friedgen did an excellent job last season, and if they wanted to fire him, why didn’t they do it following the 2009 season, when the Terps won just two games? Anyway, I expect Randy Edsall to do a good job in College Park, but I don’t see him having that much more success than Friedgen did.
11. Hugh Freeze: Previous Job: OC Arkansas State; New Job: HC Arkansas State
Hugh Freeze is best known as Michael Oher’s high school football coach, but he’s done a terrific job as a coach at the collegiate level since he was given an opportunity by Ole Miss in 2006.
He spent two years as a position coach in Oxford before becoming the head coach for Lambuth College, an NAIA school. He took over as offensive coordinator for Arkansas State last season, and their offensive production skyrocketed. The Red Wolves averaged over 400 yards per game offensively, and 30 points per game.
The only negative for Freeze is that he’s only coached at the FBS level for three years, and spent just one as a coordinator. But, on paper, this looks like a great move for Arkansas State and don’t be surprised if he has them competing for Sun Belt titles in the near future.
10. Dan McCarney: Previous Job: DL Florida; New Job: HC North Texas
Dan McCarney spent 12 seasons as the head coach at Iowa State, and while his record of 56-85 is pretty poor, he did enjoy some success with the Cyclones. It’s never been easy to win at Iowa State (Right Gene Chizik?), but McCarney led the Cyclones to five bowl games during his 12 years as head coach, and a co-Big XII North championship in 2004.
McCarnery was let go near the end of the 2006 season, and went on to be the defensive line coach with South Florida for a year, before accepting the same position withFloridain 2008.
In my opinion, this is a great hire for North Texas. They have the means to be a perennial Sun Belt contender, and now they might have just found the man to put all the pieces together and help them to do that.
9. Don Treadwell: Previous Job: OC Michigan State; New Job: HC Miami (Ohio)
Mike Haywood led Miami(Ohio) to one of the biggest turnarounds in FBS history last season, turning a team that was 1-11 in 2009 to 9-4 in 2010 and a MAC Championship. Haywood bolted for the Pittsburgh job, and we all know what happened next.
Don Treadwell was a highly regarded assistant coach for many years, and I think he’s an excellent hire for the Red Hawks. He spent the last seven years as Mark Dantonio’s offensive coordinator with Cincinnati and Michigan State.
The only negative for Treadwell is that his only head coaching experience was two games last season as the interim head coach following Dantonio’s heart attack.
8. Pete Lembo: Previous Job: HC Elon; New Job: HC Ball State
Ball State is eager to get back to the success enjoyed under Brady Hoke, after a rough two year stretch with Stan Parrish. They made a bold move of hiring Pete Lembo, that could turn out to be one of the best hires of the offseason.
Lembo has never coached in the FBS ranks, but he had two very successful stints with the FCS’ Lehigh and Elon. He compiled a 79-36 record in 10 seasons with those two schools, including three FCS playoff apperances.
Despite not having head coaching experience at this level, Lembo has won at both of his previous head coaching jobs, and I don’t think that’s going to change at Ball State. It might take some time to get the ball rolling with this program again, but I expect him to win at Ball State.
7. Mark Hudspeth: Previous Job: WR’s Miss. State; New Job: HC Louisiana-Lafayette
The Sun Belt had more than one hire this offseason that I think was really good, but none were better than Louisiana-Lafayette’s hiring of Mark Hudspeth. Hudspeth has head coaching experience at the D-II level with North Alabama, where he spent 7 years compiling a 66-21 overall record, including five double-digit win seasons.
He joined Dan Mullen’s staff in 2009 at Mississippi State and helped him rebuild the program in Starkville. He’s thought to be an excellent recruiter, and he should be able to build up the Ragin’ Cajuns program.
It won’t be an easy job, as Hudspeth inherits a team that has never experienced a bowl game. I have a feeling that’s going to change very soon.
6. Kevin Wilson: Previous Job: OC Oklahoma; New Job: HC Indiana
For the past few years, Kevin Wilson has been one of the hottest commodities in the coaching ranks. He became the co-offensive coordinator for Oklahoma in 2002, and became the offensive coordinator fully for the Sooners in 2006. He’s helped Oklahoma put together some of the best offenses in school history.
Wilson won the Broyles award in 2008, as the nation’s top assistant coach. Prior to becoming the Oklahoma offensive coordinator,Wilson spent three previous years with the same job at Northwestern.
This is a great hire for Indiana, with the only downside being his lack of experience as a head coach. He has the tough job of making Indiana relevant in the Big Ten again, and while it will take some time, the Hoosiers shouldn’t be dwelling in the cellar too much longer.
5. Brady Hoke: Previous Job: HC San Diego State; New Job: HC Michigan
I know a lot of Michigan fans were hoping for Jim Harbaugh, but Brady Hoke is anything but a consolation prize. In the end, I believe the Wolverines made the right decision by bringing him in.
He has Michigan roots, being an assistant on Lloyd Carr’s staff from 1995-2002 before accepting his first head coaching job at his alma mater, Ball State in 2003. Hoke went just 34-38 with the Cardinals, but in his final season with the team, he led them to a 12-1 record and an appearance in the MAC Title game. He went 13-12 at San Diego State in two seasons, going 4-8 his first season, but leading them to a five win improvement in 2010.
Hoke will look to lead Michigan out of the dark Rich Rodriguez days, and back into what made the Wolverines so successful for so many years. It’s going to take a little bit of time before Michigan gets back to being a perennial Big Ten contender, but I fully expect Hoke to be the one to get them back.
4. Dana Holgorsen: Previous Job: OC Oklahoma State; New Job: HC West Virginia
Dana Holgorsen was originally brought over from Oklahoma State to become the offensive coordinator for 2011 with the incentive of becoming the head coach in 2012. After Bill Stewart’s alleged smear campaign toward the man that was to take his job in a year, West Virginia went ahead and began the Holgorsen era this year.
Holgerson’s pass heavy offenses have had a ton of success at Texas Tech, Houston, and Oklahoma State, and I don’t see any reason why it won’t at West Virginia. Holgerson has never been a head coach before, but he is widely regarded as one of the top offensive minds in college football.
Bill Stewart couldn’t replicate the success that Rich Rodriguez enjoyed in Morgantown, but I think Holgerson will and possibly even exceed it.
3. Al Golden: Previous Job: HC Temple; New Job: HC Miami (FL)
Al Golden deserves all the credit in the world for what he did at Temple. He turned a perennial doormat into a winning football team in just three years in Philadelphia. His 27-34 overall record with the Owls doesn’t tell the full story.
Temple won four games in the three years before Golden became the head coach, and after going 9-15 in his first two seasons with the team, he led the Owls to 17 wins in his final two years, which is tied for the best two-year stretch in school history.
It’s been a while since Miami has truly been a National Championship contender, but Al Golden should be able to get them back in the National spotlight in a few years. Miami is looking for a return to the glory days of the “The U”, and while that may be out of the realm of possibility, I think Golden will quite often have this team as one of the best in the ACC.
2. Will Muschamp: Previous Job: DC Texas; New Job: HC Florida
Urban Meyer had a ton of success at Florida, and I expect Will Muschamp to get the Gators back to that level of success in a short time. Muschamp is a very likable guy amongst his players, and he has been tutored by the likes of Nick Saban and Mack Brown.
He spent the last three years as the defensive coordinator for Texas, and was the head coach in waiting, but it didn’t seem like Mack Brown was headed anywhere anytime soon. So, instead he gets a job that is just as good as Texas at Florida.
Despite the fact that Will Muschamp has never been a head coach before, I still think this was one of the best hires of the offseason. Muschamp knows what it takes to build a winner, has learned under some of the best coaches in the business, and Florida shouldn’t miss a beat with him as the head man.
1 Jerry Kill: Previous Job: HC Northern Illinois; New Job: HC Minnesota
The best head coaching hire this offseason in my opinion was Minnesota nabbing Jerry Kill from Northern Illinois. Jerry Kill has a proven track record as a winner at every one of his coaching stops.
He was great at Saginaw State, and led Southern Illinoisto five consecutive playoff appearances from 2003-2007.Northern Illinois gave him his first opportunity to be a head coach at the FBS ranks, and he didn’t disappoint. He led the Huskies to a 23-16 record over three seasons, and three consecutive bowl appearances.
He led Northern Illinois to a 10 win season last year and a MAC Western Division title. Kill is a winner, plain and simple, and if anyone can resurrect the Minnesota football program, it’s him.