CSD College Football Preview 2018 – Grading the Coaching Carousel Part Two


Nebraska Cornhuskers (1970 - Pres)Nebraska

Out: Mike Riley (Fired)
In: Scott Frost (Former Head Coach at UCF)

Easily my pick for the best hire of the 2017 cycle is also one of the most obvious as Lincoln native and former Nebraska quarterback Scott Frost takes over the job for Mike Riley after Riley went 4-8 in 2017. Frost is maybe the best young coach in the country, as he took UCF, a team that went 0-12 the year before he got there, to a bowl in his first year, and then a 13-0 undefeated National Championship season in just his second year. This is a home run hire for Nebraska, Frost will revolutionize the offense and fire up recruiting. Grade: A+

Oregon Ducks (1999 - Pres)Oregon

Out: Willie Taggart (Left to become Head Coach at Florida State)
In: Mario Cristobal (Previously Co-Offensive Coordinator at Oregon)

Taggart was only at Oregon for one season, but after he left for his dream job in Tallahassee, Taggart left the Ducks scrambling to find a replacement until the folks in Eugene settled on Co-OC Mario Cristobal. It is an odd fit as Crisotbal became a name in the coaching industry in the southeast, but he seemed to have the support of the players and that was a key factor in him landing the job. Cristobal has been a head coach before, a 27-47 record over six years. He recruited well for the Panthers in that time frame but never quite could put it together on the field, and I just feel that Oregon could have shot higher in this coaching search. Grade: C+

Oregon State Beavers (2013 - Pres)Oregon State

Out: Gary Andersen (Resigned)
In: Jonathan Smith (Previously Offensive Coordinator at Washington)

Honestly, this may be the most underrated hire in this cycle. Smith is a perfect fit for Oregon State, he was the team’s quarterback on their Fiesta Bowl champion 2000 team, and as a past player, he should be able to form connections with recruits and develop connections with his players. Since then, Smith has been Chris Peterson’s offensive coordinator at both Boise State and Washington where he did extraordinary work gameplanning for those teams. An interesting note here, former Nebraska and Oregon State Head Coach Mike Riley was brought in as an Assistant Head Coach for Smith. This is a very good hire for a low-level P5 like OSU. Grade: B

Rice Owls (2010 - Pres)Rice

Out: David Bailiff (Fired)
In: Mike Bloomgren (Previously Offensive Coordinator at Stanford)

This was not what I expected in a hire for Rice, but the more you look at it the better it looks for the Owls. For starters, Bloomgren was long thought to be the Lincoln Riley to David Shaw’s Mark Stoops should Shaw ever leave Stanford, so for Rice, a team that won one game in 2017 to hire him away was quite impressive. Bloomgren has experience recruiting at a place like Rice with high academic standards due to his time with the Cardinal, and the only real drawback to this is that he has no past head coaching experience. Grade: B+

SMU Mustangs (2008 - Pres)SMU

Out: Chad Morris (Left to become Head Coach at Arkansas)
In: Sonny Dykes (Previously Analyst at TCU)

Dykes, previously a head coach at Louisiana Tech and Cal, took a year to be an analyst for TCU following his late firing after a 5-7 season with the Golden Bears. As a previous Texas Tech assistant and during the past year at TCU, Dykes has cultivated relationships throughout the Lone Star State, making him an attractive hire for a G5 to break into the crowded recruiting battles in the state. Dykes will continue Chad Morris’ style of highly paced offenses and not a ton on the defensive side of the ball, but it is impossible not to see this as a downgrade. Grade: B-

South Alabama Jaguars (2008 - Pres)South Alabama

Out: Joey Jones (Fired)
In: Steve Campbell (Previously Head Coach at Central Arkansas)

In his many years as a head coach throughout the college football ranks, Steve Campbell has never once had a losing season. A previous division two and JUCO National Championship winning coach, Campbell took Central Arkansas to an 80% winning percentage over the past two seasons and a trip to the FCS Playoffs. FBS teams should be hiring FCS coaches more often, and while the Jaguars have never had a winning season since transitioning to the FBS, Campbell is the one guy with the pedigree to do it at some point in the next few years. This was my favorite G5 hire. Grade: A-

Tennessee Volunteers (2015 - Pres)Tennessee

Out: Butch Jones (Fired)
In: Jeremy Pruitt (Previously Defensive Coordinator at Alabama)

If you look past all of the controversy and scandal that surrounded Tennessee’s coaching search, one of the weirdest ever, they ended it with a pretty solid hire in Alabama DC Jeremy Pruitt. Pruitt was the DC on the 2012 Florida State team that won the National Championship before leaving for Georgia under Mark Richt and then moving up to Alabama after Richt’s firing. Pruitt will be faced with a tough test because of everything surrounding the search that led him to the job, but he has the scheme chops to make it work with Tennessee’s superb recruiting classes. Grade: B+

Texas A&M Aggies (2007 - Pres)Texas A&M

Out: Kevin Sumlin (Fired)
In: Jimbo Fisher (Previously Head Coach at Florida State)

I was not a fan of the decision to fire Kevin Sumlin at first. You don’t just fire a coach that has a winning record in the SEC, let alone the SEC West, but when it became clear who the Aggies were hiring to replace Sumlin, things started to make a lot more sense. Jimbo Fisher has won a National Championship, so it’s hard to criticize this hire, although I’ll find a way. A&M gave this guy his full contract guaranteed, making it so he could go 6-6 every year and still be owed his full salary. That is crazy and keeps this from an A rating. Grade: A-

Central Florida Knights (2012 - Pres)UCF

Out: Scott Frost (Left to become Head Coach at Nebraska)
In: Josh Heupel (Previously Offensive Coordinator at Missouri)

UCF blew an opportunity here. How can the defending National Champions not make a hire better than Josh Heupel, a guy I wouldn’t have known even existed if it wasn’t for his fun to pronounce name. Of course, I’m being a little facetious, Heupel was Oklahoma’s Offensive Coordinator under Bob Stoops and helped coach Drew Locke into one of the top prospects for 2019 during his time at Missouri, but this hire still reeks of undershooting the target. Heupel has never been a head coach, and this would be a great hire for a low-level G5, it just isn’t for the Golden Knights. Grade: C-

UCLA Bruins (1996 - Pres)UCLA

Out: Jim Mora (Fired)
In: Chip Kelly (ESPN Analyst)

Chip Kelly at the NFL just did not work out, but don’t let that fool you, during his time at the college level, Kelly was one of the most innovative coaches in the sport, and Oregon was one of the best teams compared to recruiting rankings in the past decade under his watch, speaking to how well he developed talent during his time with the Ducks. I’m not expecting the Bruins to pass USC in popularity, but this hire will certainly help in that department as well as on the recruiting trail. This is an absolute home run hire. Grade: A+

UTEP Miners (1999 - Pres)UTEP

Out: Sean Kugler (Fired)
In: Dana Dimel (Previously Offensive Coordinator at Kansas State)

I hate to end this on a negative note, but this (outside of Herm Edwards) was the worst hire of the cycle. Dimel has been an FBS Head Coach before… over 15 years ago… where he had a record of 30-39. Since then Dimel has spent time at Arizona and more recently as the signal caller for Kansas State’s offense. When you think of offensive juggernauts, does Kansas State really come to mind? This was one of the more confusing hirings of the cycle, at least he has ties in Texas recruiting from his time as Houston’s head coach. Grade: D+

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