The regular season of college football has completely concluded (Army-Navy notwithstanding), and coaching silly season is well underway. As of December 4, 18 head coaches have left their positions (either by resignation or being fired), and 9 schools have already announced their new head men. Here are my thoughts on the hires made as of December 4, 2017.
UCLA:: Out: Jim Mora, In: Chip Kelly It would’ve been difficult to handle it any better than UCLA did. Mora did a credible job in Westwood (47-30 in 6 season), but he committed the unforgivable sin of wasting Josh Rosen (18-19 in 3 years), and the program was stagnant. Chip Kelly’s foray into the NFL was forgettable, but 46-7 in 4 seasons at Oregon is something special. There are valid concerns: perhaps the rest of college football has caught up to Kelly’s offense, maybe he won’t handle the politics of UCLA football well, maybe they should’ve focused on a younger, up-and-coming coach (such as Boise State’s Bryan Harsin). But Kelly’s record at Oregon should ease much of those concerns. Great Hire.
Texas A&M:: Out: Kevin Sumlin, In: Jimbo Fisher A week ago, if you had told me Jimbo Fisher would leave Tallahassee, where he went 83-23 and won the 2013 national title, for the opportunity to perpetually bicker with A&M’s boosters, I’d have told you to quit smoking immediately. Kevin Sumlin is a good coach; Fisher is an excellent coach. The only concern here is that many of A&M’s boosters belong in mental health clinics, which may not mix well with Fisher’s infamously prickly personality. Oh, and they gave him 10 years and $75 Million in guaranteed money. Excellent Hire, but Jesus Christ that’s a lot of money.
Florida:: Out: Jim McElwain, In: Dan Mullen When Jim McElwain was (deservedly) fired mid-season, I wrote an article stating that Florida couldn’t do better than Dan Mullen, and, oddly enough, THEY ACTUALLY LISTENED! Mullen knows how to win in Gainesville, which he did an awful lot of as Offensive Coordinator under Urban Meyer, and has coached record-setting quarterbacks at every stop (Alex Smith at Utah, Tim Tebow at Florida, Dak Prescott at Mississippi State). This is all without mentioning that he led Mississippi State, the hardest job in the SEC West, to 8 straight bowl games. Fantastic Hire.
Nebraska:: Out: Mike Riley, In: Scott Frost Mike Riley is pure class, but he was never the right guy for the job. Frost is now the third former quarterback to return to his alma mater in the Big Ten in the last three years (after Jim Harbaugh and Paul Chryst), and of those three, he’s the only won to win a national title. Tom Osborne’s last quarterback has only two years of head coaching experience, but before that, he called plays for some quarterback named Marcus Mariota at Oregon. As a head coach, the last time he lost a game Barack Obama was still in office. Excellent Hire, made even better by the fact that Nebraska negotiated a buyout of a mere $5 Million, NEBRASKA ACTUALLY DID SOMETHING RIGHT!
Mississippi State:: Out: Dan Mullen, In: Joe Moorhead Dan Mullen worked out quite well, so it wasn’t unreasonable for Mississippi State to hire a coach from a similar template. When Mullen was hired, his strength was the development of Tim Tebow. Joe Moorhead may not have coached a Heisman winner as Offensive Coordinator at Penn State, but the job he’s done with Trace McSorley is no joke either. With Moorhead calling plays the last two years, the Nittany Lions blew up scoreboards, won the Big Ten in 2016 and have now earned two consecutive New Year’s Six berths. Mississippi State lost a great coach, but Moorhead’s resume isn’t all that different. Good Hire.
Oregon State:: Out: Gary Andersen, In: Jonathan Smith Jonathan Smith was the quarterbacks coach at Boise State during Chris Petersen’s final years, and has been his Offensive Coordinator since they arrived in Seattle. He may not be as reputable as Mullen or Moorhead, but Washington’s offense has been quite strong these last two years. Smith, only 38, should not be expected to do much initially, as Andersen was a disappointment and Mike Riley’s last few years weren’t great either. He’s gone back to his alma mater to build a program long-term, and if he’s up to the job (six years under Petersen is good learning experience), there’s no reason he can’t. Good Hire.
Ole Miss:: Out: Hugh Freeze, In: Matt Luke Ole Miss is in a tough spot. With an investigation hanging over their heads, and Hugh Freeze being forced to resign for not being smart enough to understand that there are some things you really shouldn’t use your work phone for, their hiring options were limited. Matt Luke made the most of a tough situation, leading Ole Miss to six wins despite a self-imposed bowl ban, and was rewarded with the full-time job, though I don’t think they had much of a choice. It’s easy to root for him, but he’s never been a head coach, and the SEC West is not getting any easier. Not a Great Hire, but they probably couldn’t do any better.
Arizona State:: Out: Todd Graham, In: Herm Edwards HERM F***ING EDWARDS? SERIOUSLY? Herm Edwards hasn’t coached in college since 1989, hasn’t been a coach AT ALL since 2008, and has a career record of 54-74. I’m not quite sure what made Ray Anderson think Edwards was their best option, and I’m even less sure what led Anderson to accompany the hire with possibly the most pretentious press release I have ever read (“New Leadership Model” my ass). I have nothing outstanding against Edwards and I hope he does well, but ASU aimed way too low. Underwhelming Hire, but if Edwards' introductory press conference is any indication, it should be entertaining while it lasts, unless you're an ASU fan.
Georgia Southern:: Out: Tyson Summers, In: Chad Lunsford The only Group of 5 School to have filled their coaching vacancy, Georgia Southern, like Ole Miss, promoted their interim head coach to the full-time job. Lunsford only went 2-4 as head man, but that doesn’t properly do justice to how much better they were under him than under Summers. Many people around the college football world, myself included, wanted Georgia Southern to hire a bona fide triple option coach, and I’m honestly not quite sure why they didn’t. Ivin Jasper, Navy’s Offensive Coordinator, probably wasn’t realistic, as he has things more important than football to worry about currently.However, former Southern and current Army Offensive Coordinator Brent Davis would’ve been a fine hire. That said, Lunsford can motivate his players (go watch his locker room speeches immediately). If he can fully commit to the option offense (damn near mandatory in Statesboro), then Southern certainly has something. Tough Hire to Judge at this moment.
Look for more posts of this nature as more coaches are hired.