Friday, January 28

College Football Coach Hire Rating: USC Earns ‘A’ for Lincoln Riley; LSU gets left behind with Brian Kelly


After an average of 10.4 coach changes at the Power 5 level over the past five years, that number increased nearly 40 percent to 14 changes during and after the 2021 season.

How did athletic directors fill those vacancies and learn lessons from the previous five hiring cycles?

SN studied where the 52 new hires came from over the past five years and determined which avenues were most successful and which tended to have the highest failure rate. Promoting from within had the highest hit rate, as Ryan Day, Lincoln Riley and Mario Cristobol were among the ‘home runs’ during that five-year span, all of which rose from their current staff. Poaching for another Power 5 coach, including a coach fired in the same cycle (Arizona signing Kevin Sumlin) had the highest failure rate. Willie Taggart and Dan Mullen were the other mistakes.

So where did the 14 new coaches of 2021 come from and how does it compare to the previous five years?

BENDER: Why the National Signature Day should be changed

New hiring 2017-21 2022
P5 Head Coach 5 (10 percent) 3 (21)
Promoted 8 (15 percent) 2 (14)
Coordinator P5 9 (17 percent) 4 (29)
Assistant P5 2 (4 percent) 1 (7)
G5 Head Coach 18 (35 percent) 4 (29)
Other* 10 (21 percent) 0 (0)

* – Includes NFL assistants, soccer coaches or FCS coaches

Despite the shaky history of hiring Power 5 coaches, there was a jump in that category for the 2022 season. But all three in this cycle (Brian Kelly, Riley, Cristobol) played for national championships or conference championships at their last stop. Clearly there was an improvement in goals in this cycle.

The other category that saw a jump was Power 5 coordinators. The recent track record there has been pretty solid, with Jeremy Pruitt in Tennessee being a notable blackout and Texas pick of Steve Sarkisian looking bad after one season. ugly. Baylor’s Dave Aranda has been a home run to date.

The group of 5 coaches was not such an important target, and two of the most prominent, Matt Campbell of Iowa State and Luke Fickell of Cincinnati, stood still.

It’s notable that no one looked at the NFL or coaches outside of football in this cycle, which has been fairly common for the past five years (Chip Kelly, Karl Dorrell, Herm Edwards, to name a few).

Here are SN’s ratings for the 14 new Power 5 hires for the 2022 season.

Duke – Texas A&M def. coord. Mike elko

Elko, 44, has been highly regarded in his last two stops as a defensive coordinator at Texas A&M and Notre Dame. His Aggies defense was third in the nation in points allowed this season. Elko also has ACC experience as a defensive coordinator at Wake Forest. It was a matter of time before he had his chance.

GRADE: B-plus

Florida – Louisiana coach Billy Napier

The 42-year-old Napier took over a Louisiana show that had three losing seasons in a row and proceeded to put together a 40-12 record in four years. The Ragin ‘Cajuns went 10-1 last season and 12-1 this year, with the only loss in the opener at Texas. Napier worked for Nick Saban from 2013 to 2016 and was part of the legendary Alabama staff from 2015 that included Kirby Smart, Lane Kiffin, Mario Cristobal, and Mel Tucker (plus Dan Lanning as a graduate assistant). Napier immediately hit the roads with a better-than-expected transfer class in December.

GRADE: A-minus

LSU – Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly

This was a surprise. There were virtually no rumors that Kelly, 60, was looking to leave Notre Dame after 12 seasons, and his ties to Louisiana and the SEC are non-existent. Kelly has the most wins in Notre Dame history, but also the most losses, and ranks eighth at Notre Dame in winning percentage among 12 coaches who lasted five years in South Bend. Kelly was second to none at best behind Texas A & M’s Jimbo Fisher, and the fact that he didn’t bring any of his staff with him to Baton Rouge may make his immediate transition that much more difficult. .

MORE: Kelly’s Daughter Teases Father’s Decision

GRADE B

Mario Cristobal, Miami-Oregon Head Coach

The Miami student had long been considered a potential candidate to return home, but once he got things started in Oregon, there were questions about whether he would be willing to return to South Florida. A 10-year, $ 80 million deal won him over and the Hurricanes made the awkward transition after letting Manny Diaz remain as head coach while they chased after Cristóbal. Cristóbal, known for his recruiting prowess, has finished first, second and first in the Pac-12 North the past three seasons, but has also suffered road problems to Stanford, Cal, Oregon State and Arizona State that ruined possible seasons of great advance.

GRADE: A-minus

Notre Dame – Notre Dame def. coord. Marcus freeman

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A 48-hour whirlwind took the 35-year-old to the coveted first place in South Bend, seemingly garnering universal approval among players, the fan base, and much of the national media. Known as a tireless recruiter, Freeman spent just one season as ND’s defensive coordinator after leaving the same position at Cincinnati and was the fifth Irish No. 9 in points allowed. Freeman managed to keep ND’s staff and much of the top 10 recruiting class in his hectic first two weeks. How you will handle aspects of the CEO job and the overall management of the game are the big unknowns.

MORE: Why Freeman is the Right Man at the Right Time for ND

GRADE: A-minus

Oklahoma – Defeat Clemson. coord. Brent Venables

Venables first became a head coach in one of the sport’s blue bloods at age 50 after turning down several opportunities early in his career. Venables was defensive coordinator at Oklahoma from 1999 to 2011 and then at Clemson from 2012 to 2021, where he helped win national titles in each program. He stabilized OU after Lincoln Riley unexpectedly left for USC and was able to save some of his first recruiting class. Venables will have the added challenge of navigating the OU’s move to the SEC, but he brings instant credibility and his ties to OU are strong.

GRADE: B-plus

Oregon – Georgia def. coord. Dan Lanning

The head of the most successful unit in college football in 2021, Lanning replaces Cristóbal after four years in Georgia, the last three as defensive coordinator. Georgia ranked No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense in two of those three years. Lanning, 35, spent two years with Arizona State as a graduate assistant and then as a recruiting coordinator in 2012-13, but since 2015 he has been to Memphis, Alabama and Georgia. Lanning’s is taking over a program that it has recruited very well under Cristóbal.

GRADE B

TCU – SMU Trainer Sonny Dykes

Dykes produced three consecutive winning seasons at SMU, something no other coach can claim since the Mustangs received the NCAA ‘death penalty’ in 1987. This is Dykes’ fourth head coach stop after stints at Louisiana Tech. , Cal and SMU. He served as an analyst for a season at TCU in 2017 after being fired by Cal and is the son of former Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes. Dykes is tied with Texas and will take over a program that has slumped in the past four seasons after Gary Patterson led the Frogs to six Top 10s in a 10-year span.

GRADE B

Texas Tech – Joey McGuire

McGuire, 50, has only been in the college game as an assistant at Baylor since 2017, but his successful career as a Texas high school coach convinced Texas Tech that he was the right man to replace Matt Wells. UTSA took a similar route with Jeff Traylor, leading the Roadrunners to a 12-1 mark this year in just their second season. Traylor was actually TTU’s main target before signing an extension. McGuire believes he will recruit well through his Texas connections, but he will learn on the job how to run a Big 12 program.

GRADE B

USC – Oklahoma Lincoln Riley Coach

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Riley has been one of the best coaches in the nation since he replaced Bob Stoops at Oklahoma in 2017 at the age of 33. He was 55-10, made the college football playoffs three times and had a team ranked in the top 10 in first place. four years (OU is No. 14 entering his bowl game this season). Riley is expected to stem the brain drain from California and bring USC to where it was when Pete Carroll was winning national titles.

GRADE A

Virginia – Clemson out. coord. Tony elliott

Another longtime Clemson coordinator finally decided to leave Dabo Swinney’s nest. Elliott, 42, has been with Clemson since 2011 and offensive coordinator or offensive co-coordinator since 2015. From 2015-2020, Clemson had a top-10 offense in five of six years, but fell to No. 95 this time. season. His entire playing career (Clemson) and his coaching career has been in the state of South Carolina. He takes over a program on a steady footing after Bronco Mendenhall’s six years at the helm.

GRADE B

MORE: Riley to Bring Elite Quarterback Game to USC

Virginia Tech – Penn State def. coord. Brent pry

Pry, 51, has been co-defensive coordinator or defensive coordinator with James Franklin for the past 11 seasons at Vanderbilt at Penn State. This is your first job as a head coach. He recruited heavily from the state of Virginia during his time at PSU, which is a bonus for a program that hasn’t protected its turf on the recruiting front in recent years. Pry is one of the more unknown names among those hired and is taking over a program that he is listing.

GRADE: B-less

Washington – Fresno State Coach Kalen DeBoer

DeBoer has had a strong five-year career, serving as offensive coordinator at Fresno State from 2017-18 (22-6), offensive coordinator at Indiana in 2019 (8-5) and then as head coach at Fresno State 2020-21 (12 -6). The season at Indiana is the only one at a Power 5 school, and IU finished that season second in the Big Ten in total offense. DeBoer, 47, takes office after a brief but messy tenure from Jimmy Lake.

GRADE: B-plus

Washington State – Washington State def. coord. Jake dickert

Dickert, 38, unexpectedly took over as interim coach when Nick Rolovich was fired for refusing to get vaccinated. He led the Cougars to a 3-2 record, including a 41-14 beating of rival Washington. Dickert’s résumé is meager in terms of experience at the FBS level. He was an assistant in Wyoming for three years before joining Rolovich’s staff as defensive coordinator in 2020. Recruiting for Washington state, a big challenge for every coach, is a big question.

GRADE: C-plus




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