Rating and Reviewing the Coaching Hires for 2013

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by Derek Franks

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31 college football teams changed coaches this past season.

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That is a lot. We haven’t had this many new coaches since the 1999-2000 season (yeah back when we were afraid of Y2K, remember that?). An overhaul might be an understatement. Yes, essentially a quarter of the college football nation has made a transition. It’s not the best turnover rate by any means, but it sure makes for some excitement. And there are quite a few bones to pick about many of the hires. There are actually plenty of signings that are well advised, others that were poor choices. Some of these new coaches will take losing teams from a year ago to a bowl this year, while others have a lot of rebuilding to do. There were coaching changes that were surprising, like Brett Bielema, who had so much success in Wisconsin, bolting from Madison for Fayetteville to direct Arkansas, a school desperately in need of a fresh start. Also interesting to note, nearly every mid-major non-BCS school who had significant success last season lost their head coach to a team from the big dogs willing to take their chance on the Cinderella coaches. It’s difficult to gauge how smart these decisions are because many of them have little experience in the major conferences. But then again, in the past we’ve seen head coaches in that very situation do well in the BCS ranks. Just ask Brian Kelly.

Whatever the case, this coming season is sure to be a whirlwind of fascinating storylines regarding the field’s sidelines. Big changes may be ahead of us. So I found it fitting to go through each of these new hires and decide how I think they will fare. The ratings that you’ll see are actually not based on any fancy-shmancy formula and there was no real science behind it. It was just me, taking the roughest of estimated guesses and then adding the idea of a cool looking “coaching meter” to determine how I predict the new coaching acquisitions will go over for each team. So, without further adieu, here for your enjoyment: the 2013 Coaching Carousel. Hop on and enjoy the ride.

Wisconsin- Gary Anderson

Previous job: Head Coach, Utah State

Out: Brett Bielema (left for Arkansas)

It was tough losing Brett Bielema, who kept Wisconsin in its winning ways after the retired Barry Alvarez turned over the reins. But let’s not be so quick to count out Gary Anderson, who took Utah State and made them not only relevant but down right good. That’s pretty impressive to say the least. Still, there are big shoes to fill and a lot of expectations for a school whose experienced three consecutive Rose Bowls. A mediocre “rebuilding” season isn’t going to be taken very well in Badger country. Anderson will have to keep the ship’s sails straight or be gone within only a couple of years. That being said, still a smart hire by Wisconsin.

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Tennessee- Butch Jones

Previous: Head Coach Cincinnati

Out: Derek Dooley (fired)

Derek Dooley never really got the chance to prove himself. But it seems that the post-Phillip Fulmer era in Knoxville is one where there will be little patience granted for head coaches. Which is why Butch Jones, who was remarkably successful at Cincinnati, will already be on the hot seat in his first season with the Vols. If he wants to keep his job, he’s going to have to turn things around fast. Irrelevancy is not a term that sits well with the Tennessee faithful.

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Kentucky- Mark Stoops

Previous: Defensive Coordinator, Florida State

Out: Joker Phillips (Fired)

With Stoops getting his first crack at being a head coach, this is a good fit for both parties. He did a great job building the Florida State defense back to a national power.  He goes into the worst program in the SEC which will be tough to build a program.  I wouldn’t expect anything positive too quickly. This is a scenario that will have to marinate and cook slowly. Still, I think he’ll have them back into bowl contention within a few years.

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Cincinnati- Tommy Tubberville

Previous job: Head Coach, Texas Tech

Out: Butch Jones (left for Tennessee)

Oh where to begin? Really, Tommy should be scolded for the way he parted ways with Texas Tech, but then again, it’s very likely he just hated his job in Lubbock. And he wasn’t exactly treated nicely by the school he coached prior to that. So now he has a chance to take a team previously considered a mid-major into Championship contention. Sure Louisville is the favorite in the American Athletic Conference, but I wouldn’t rule Cincinnati out of this conversation. Very quietly, one of the best hires this season.

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Arkansas- Brett Bielema

Previous Job: Head Coach, Wisconsin

Out: John L. Smith (Fired)

If Tommy Tubberville is very quietly one of the best hires this off season, Brett Bielema is very loudly one of the best. It’s no secret that he churned out success year after year at Wisconsin. It may have been the most shocking coaching change last season. Bielema did some great things at Wisconsin and he seemed poised to continue that success with the Badgers. A Rose Bowl bid three years in a row is certainly something to sneeze at. But nevertheless, Bielema left for a change in scenery (and in temperature averages) by accepting the vacancy at Arkansas. This is a great hire, and a very wise career-move for Brett. The Razorbacks, fresh off of a dismal season and high expectations, even after the Bobby Petrino scandal that rocked Fayetteville, have found the perfect coach for their rebranding. If not bowl-bound this year, they will be next year, and will challenge Bama in the SEC West.

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Texas Tech- Kliff Kingsbury

Previous: Assistant, Offensive Coordinator, Texas A&M

Out: Tommy Tubberville (left for Cincinnati)

If Kliff Kinsbury takes Texas Tech anywhere close to bowl-ready, that will be considered an immediate success for a guy who is probably college football’s most obscure hire this year. While his Texas A&M squad did extremely well last season, that was only one year in which he was the coordinator and he had the Heisman trophy winner as a quarterback. In other words, it’s hard to judge how good of a hire this is. But in Lubbock, where offense is king, the Red Raiders could do a lot worse than a guy who led that very offense as quarterback just a few seasons ago. The jury’s still out, but this experiment could actually work.

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Oregon- Mark Helfrich

Previous: Assistant/Offensive Coordinator, Oregon

Out: Chip Kelly (Left for NFL)

If not the best hire of the off-season, this was certainly the smartest. Even though they didn’t have to search hard, seeing that Helfrich was promoted from the coordinator position, Oregon was very wise to pass the torch to a coach who has been running one of college football’s most successful offenses in decades. While the absence of Chip Kelly, will surely be felt, the Ducks did right by promoting from within rather than bringing in a new face. As the saying goes, if it aint broke, don’t fix it. And for Oregon, things are far from broken.

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California- Sonny Dykes

Previous: Head Coach, Louisiana Tech

Out: Jeff Tedford (Fired)

Sonny Dykes was certainly productive at LaTech. But that doesn’t mean it will transition to the very competitive conference will be easy. Cal wasn’t as bad as its 3-9 record last year would indicate. The Golden Bears did in fact play a pretty rigorous schedule last season. And it won’t be any easier this year. Ohio State lurks in the not-too-distant future. Even with all of those daunting conditions, however, don’t dismiss Cal completely. I believe this hire might actually work out. I think 6-6 and bowl bound is possible and Sonny Dykes will be an intricate part to bringing Cal back into the post season.

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Purdue- Darrell Hazell

Previous: Head Coach, Kent State

Out: Danny Hope (Fired)

Poor mid-majors, poor Kent States and Utah States and all of them! You have one great season, and like that you don’t have a coach again. No more excitement, no more high. But look what Purdue gains. Well, all right we don’t know what they gain. But many people like this hire. For me, I’m a little skeptical. It’s just that not every coach can just make this jump. And then a lot of it also has to do with what kind of team they inherit. I don’t think Purdue will be back in the post season this year. And Darrell Hazell will just have to hinge his hopes on next season.

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Western Kentucky- Bobby Petrino

Previous: Head Coach, Arkansas (2011)

Out: Will Taggart

Well if the goal is to continue the success, albeit surprising success at Western Kentucky, they’ve made a good choice. I can’t exactly commend them for choosing a guy as scummy as Petrino, but wins are all that matters for some schools. Even though this is kind of an interesting storyline, I’m still way more fascinated with Western Kentucky’s mascot. What the heck is that thing?

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