Top 10 NCAA Football coaching changes
Its the lull between spring game season and position battle stories once summer camp starts. I decided to rank the hires of college football now that there is time to do some reflecting and the hot takes are essentially frozen unless a team has another U of I moment by firing a coach the week before the season.
1. Justin Fuente VT
Virginia Tech is in the ultimate transition mode. Frank Beamer is retired and has the Hokie locker room named after him. Fuente is the prefect transitional piece for Blacksburgh.This hire is perfect for the offense after seeing the former Memphis coach with probable first round selection QB Paxton Lynch. Fuente made the right choice in keeping Bud Foster as defensive coordinator. Foster got some looks as a head coach but decided to stay with the Hokies. Foster adds some continuity from Beamer to Fuente for the current players as well as for defensive recruiting.
2. Bronco Mendenhall UVA
Virginia Tech wasn’t the only school to add a fantastic head coach. The Cavaliers (No not Lebrons Cavs) made a splash in the college football world in adding Bronco Mendenhall from BYU. Virgina fired coach Mike London after a 4–8 season. Bronco has an impressive 99–43 record in his 10 year stint as a Cougar. His style of offense fits really well in the structure of the ACC. BYU last season was 21st in the nation in passing yards.
3. Mark Richt Miami
Yes, another ACC program is on the top of the list. Mark Richt is one of the good guys in the profession. He is going back to his university to clean up what went wrong under Al Golden. Golden was just 7 wins above .500 in his four seasons at the helm. Richt knows the problems, and areas to recruit well for the U. He has a good pipeline in Georgia for a recruiting base. I’m not concerned about this hire at all. I don’t know if he can make Miami what it was in the early 2000’s, but he will get “The U” back to national relevancy and have modest success.
4. Lovie Smith Illinois
Illinois made such a splash hire…….In March. It was a Saturday when Josh Whitman made the surprise announcement about firing Cubit 3 months in to his 2 year contract. Then news breaks DURING the Cubit press conference by Ryan Baker that Lovie Smith was hired. Lovie is a great defensive mind and got a great offensive coordinator in Garrick McGee from Louisville. Lovie helps in state recruiting in a hurry. Lovie is the splash Illinois needed. Beckman made the program embarrassing and Cubit made it irrelevant. Lovie would be higher but hasn’t been in the college football landscape since the 90’s. I am interested to see how he does with young adults instead of adults making a paycheck.
5. Kirby Smart Georgia
Kirby is another coach going home to coach. His job is going to be turning great recruits into SEC champions. Georgia is always stockpiled full of recruits for the Bulldogs taking. Richt struggled with the lofty expectations and never could get that SEC title. Smart comes from the Saban lineage. He has won two assistant of the year awards in 2009 and 2012. His Alabama defenses ranked as high as 3rd last season. The question I have on this hire is if his success was mostly Saban’s instructions, or if he can truly lead a program.
6. Scott Frost UCF
I am a full fledged Philadelphia Eagles fan. I have seen how Chips team does not work in the NFL. I will admit the up-tempo style is phenomenal in the college football landscape. Scott Frost at Oregon as the OC has led the PAC-12 in offense every year at the helm. Frost will be an instant recruiting upgrade for UCF. There is palpable buzz on campus with UCF breaking a spring game record. It should really be fun to see how fast (Pardon the pun) he can get the UCF offense to running the up tempo offense too its greatest efficiency.
7. D.J. Durkin Maryland
Maryland needed a spark since joining the Big Ten, and it looks like they have got it when Maryland got the DC of Michigan and formally of Florida. His Big Ten pedigree is phenomenal by coaching under Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh. His defensive ranks have been full of NFL talent that he had a hand in recruiting. He was the “Recruiter of the Year” according to Rivals.com in 2012. Here are some names D.J. has coached: Dante Fowler Jr, Vernon Hargraves Jr. Jaylen Watkins, Jonathan Bostic. He wont be without challenges though, like stiff competition in the Big Ten East. The coaches he thrived under are now the top dogs in his division.
8. Dino Babers Syracuse
This is the natural progression for a coach like Dino. Babers is most noted for his head coaching stops at EIU where he showed off his amazing offensive prowess and at Bowling Green where he was the human embodiment of “MAC-tion”. Babers found his offensive strategy as Baylor OC in 2008. He then took a job at EIU where he led the Panthers to a 12–2 record in 2013. His high speed tempo showcased now New England Patriots QB Jimmy Garappolo who had 5,050 yards passing and 53 touchdowns in that magical ’13 season. He then took a job at Bowling Green where he coached up an offense to a top 3 offense in the MAC with 6,000 and 7,000 yards respectively. I cant wait to see what Dino can do with a power 5 budget and to see that offense in a dome no less. His attitude is contagious and his press conference skills are spectacular, all that should help in recruiting.
9. Matt Campbell Iowa State
Lets stay in the MAC shall we? Matt Campbell took over Toledo when Illinois hired away Tim Beckman from the room full of Rockets in 2011. Campbell did not have a losing record in his four full seasons as coach of the Rockets. This all culminated in 2014 when he finished first in the MAC West with a 9–4 record. He proved the 2014 campaign wasn’t a “one-hit wonder” in 2015 by winning the MAC West again and had a better record at 9–2. Matt Campbell offers the toughness that an Iowa St. program needs. His offense finished 1st in the MAC in 2014. His team also finished second in sacks that year. Iowa St. has an identity problem that Matt Campbell can fix. He is a coach on the rise for sure.
10. Chris Ash Rutgers
Number 10 was difficult between a retread I think will work (Muschamp) or a coordinator that is really green. I went with the green coordinator with the edge being the scenario. Ash is going to a really low pressure situation at Rutgers, yet Muschamp is going back into the SEC fire of South Carolina replacing “The Ole’ Ball Coach”. Ash was a great defensive coordinator for numerous power 5 programs such as Wisconsin and Arkansas under Bret Belima. He also was under Urban Meyer with Ohio St. this previous season. Ash had to have been a good recruiter to stay on Urban’s staff. There is a reason 5 defensive players were drafted in this years NFL draft, some of that credit has to go to Chris Ash.