Ups: These coaches are hot commodities.
Justin Fuente – Virginia Tech: Fuente is still maybe the hottest coach in the country after rebuilding the Memphis program. His first season at Virginia Tech brought an ACC Coastal championship and the ACC coach of the year award. Maybe the smartest thing that Fuente did upon arrival was keep long time Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster. The Hokies with their defense and Quarterback Jerod Evans took Clemson to the closing seconds of the 4th quarter before finally losing. Great days are ahead for Virginia Tech and Justin Fuente. Beamer-Fuente
Clay Helton – USC: After starting off with a huge beating by USC, and a 1-3 record, the Trojans finished the regular season with 8 straight wins and they looked good doing it. The secret may have been switching to Quarterback Sam Darnold, but the players absolutely love Helton and it shows.
When a player scores, they bring the football back to Helton. Now, my question is whether Helton can recruit lights out and bring this storied program back to the top where it has been so often over the years.
PJ Fleck – Western Michigan: Fleck is a coach on the rise and the MAC has always been something of a minor league system for coaches hoping to move to the Power 5 Conference schools. No offense to the MAC. Fleck is only 36 years old and Western Michigan may not keep him much longer. Fleck led Western Michigan to a 13-0 record and a MAC championship and he is destined for greatness. He should almost be able to pick and choose which job he wants in the future.
Mark Richt – Miami: Georgia fired him last year and Miami quickly and eagerly snatched him up. The Hurricanes only finished 8-4, but the improvement on the field was obvious from the very first game. If Quarterback Brad Kaaya declares for the NFL, they might take a slight dip next season, but former Miami Quarterback Mark Richt is the real deal. The ACC is quickly moving up with new coaches like Richt, Justin Fuente and Dino Babers. Plus, the existing coaches like Dabo Swinney, Jimbo Fisher, Bobby Petrino and Larry Fedora. Alabama may be the best team in the country, but the ACC is the better conference right now.
Mark Stoops – Kentucky: Finally, Mark Stoops recruiting and hard work paid off and the Wildcats finished with a winning record and they are bowl eligible. Stoops also benefited from a weak SEC East this season. But, they finished with an upset win over rival Louisville. Will he be able to keep it going at Kentucky? Nobody else has other than the legendary Bear Bryant.The Wildcat season was made when they upset Louisville in their last game.
Ed Orgeron – LSU: Orgeron is a guy that’s always loved by his players. He was the head coach at Ole Miss and then the interim head coach at USC when they fired Lane Kiffin. He was passed over for that job, but that didn’t happen to him twice. LSU fired long time coach, Les Miles, and Orgeron got another shot at a head coaching job. He failed at Ole Miss, but he should succeed at LSU.Les Miles was fired after a 2-2 start and Orgeron led the team to a 5-2 finish with losses only to Alabama and Florida. Orgeron is an outstanding recruiter and Louisiana is a loaded state.
Chris Petersen – Washington: A long time Boise State coach, Petersen’s name was mentioned with
so many jobs over the years, but he was selective. He finally moved to Washington to take over for Steve Sarkisian. After a couple of mediocre seasons, Petersen’s team turned it up this season to finish the regular season with an 11-1 record and then they crushed Colorado to win the Pac 12 Championship. They will have a shot at a national championship with a game against Alabama and they can hope to at least improve on their 12 win season. The nation is calling the Pac 12 weak and Washington has a chance to shut people up. Petersen’s overall head coaching record is 119-25 and he is 27-13 at Washington.
Mike MacIntyre – Colorado: The Buffaloes have had a struggle in recent years until 2016. MacIntyre is a program builder and it took him a few years to build this program up. This season, the Buffaloes finished the regular season with an impressive 10-2 record and won the Pac 12 South. His name is coming up with big time programs looking for a coach.MacIntyre. His first head job was at San Jose State and that first team went 1-12. The following season was better at 5-7 and his third season was 10-2. The Buffaloes snatched him up and it was more of the same for MacIntyre. 2013 was his first season and the Buffaloes finished 4-8. Then, people must have wondered why he was hired when they dipped to 2-10 in 2014. 2015 was more of the same with a 4-8 finish. This year was his fourth season at Colorado and the Buffs shocked the nation with a 10-3 and a championship of the Pac 12 South. What we don’t know about MacIntyre is whether he can maintain a program.
Derek Mason – Vanderbilt: The former Stanford Defensive Coordinator has had his share of struggles at Vanderbilt. But, this season, the Commodores beat Georgia, Ole Miss and Tennessee to finish up 6-6 and qualify for a bowl game for the first time. Mason was hired by Jim Harbaugh at Stanford as his Defensive Backs coach and he was promoted to Defensive Coordinator by David Shaw when he took over for Harbaugh. Vanderbilt hired Mason to take over for their most successful coach ever, James Franklin. His first season, in 2014, Mason’s Commodores finished 3-9. He followed that up with a 4-8 record, but this season he led his team to a 6-6 record. If they keep improving, the Commodores could win the SEC East in a couple more seasons.
James Franklin – Penn State: Penn State fans were saying James Franklin couldn’t coach at the
beginning of the season and then they upset the Ohio State Buckeyes and advanced to finish the regular season at 10-2 and win the tough Big 10 East. Franklin spent 3 seasons as the head coach at Vanderbilt and led them to a 24-15 and three bowl games in three seasons. His first two seasons at Penn State were very average with 7-6 records in both seasons. This season was a different story with the Nittany Lions beating Wisconsin to finish 11-2.
Paul Chryst – Wisconsin: The Badgers started off the season by beating LSU and they only lost tight games to Michigan and Ohio State. Chryst was named Big 10 coach of the year.Chryst is probably a guy that will stay at Wisconsin long term and won’t be listening to job offers, Even though, the Badgers lost to a hot Penn State, they are still one off the top programs in the country. Chyrst may have coached his way into the upper echelon of coaches.
Pat Narduzzi – Pittsburgh: The Panthers had some bad days, but they had some very good days as well and they are well coached. They are the only team to beat Clemson and they beat in-state rival and Big 10 Champion, Penn State. They finished the regular season at 8-4 with heart breaking losses to North Carolina and Virginia Tech. Narduzzi has the support of the great Panthers of the past like Tony Dorsett and they should continue to improve. Their offense is really solid, but their defense is questionable which has to be painful to former Defensive Coordinator, Narduzzi.
Jeff Brohm – Western Kentucky: Lead his team to the Conference USA title game and a win over
Louisiana Tech for the championship. His name is being linked to job openings like Purdue. He is one of the best Offensive coaches in the country, but his teams tend to lack defense. The Hilltoppers finished the season with a 10-3 record with losses to #1 Alabama and a 1 point loss to Vanderbilt. Brohm’s name will continue to get mentioned with bigger school openings until something changes.
Matt Rhule – Temple: The Temple Owls beat Navy in the American Athletic Conference championship game. Rhule took over the head job at Temple before the 2013 season and promised a championship. His first year was terrible with a 2-10 record, followed up with a 6-6 record in 2014. Last year, Rhule and Temple made a move by beating Penn State for the first time since WW2 years and they finished the 2015 season with a sparkling 10-4 record. This season, he fulfilled his promise to win a championship with another 10 win season with 3 losses. Rhule was an assistant at Temple before being named head coach and he may just like it there. But, the guys from the power 5 conferences are going to come calling.
Downs: These coaches are in danger.
Bret Bielema – Arkansas: The Hogs brought Bielema from Wisconsin and he constantly puts his foot in his mouth. I have not talked to anyone from Arkansas lately, but I do believe they are growing tired of 7-5 type records. Bielema had a 68-24 record at Wisconsin, but he took over an established program. At Arkansas, he is 25-25 after 4 seasons. It may be hard to justify firing a guy after a 7-5 season, but Bielema is definitely walking on thin ice in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Butch Jones – Tennessee: On the other hand, I just spent some time in Tennessee and I did speak to Vol fans and they are tired of his under achieving teams. Davis has recruited lights out, but his teams just haven’t lived up to their potential and this past year was the prime year to win the SEC East because it is so bad and they still did not. They lost 4 games and only one of those teams was sensational. But, worst of all is that they lost to Vanderbilt to end the regular season.The Vols also had to go to Overtime to beat Appalachian State and they had their troubles with Ohio. That was not Ohio State, but Ohio of the MAC. They did, however, finally beat Florida this season after 11 straight
losses to them.
Kevin Sumlin – Texas A%M: Aggies are tired of Sumlin, They started the season at 6-0, and then lost 4 out of their last 6 games. The problem was that two of those losses were to bad teams that they should have beaten. Aggies always start out strongly and then seem to fall apart at the end. First 3 on the downs list are from the SEC and their real problem is that they aren’t Alabama.
Rich Rodriguez – Arizona: Coach Rod had much success at West Virginia and then he self destructed at Michigan. He has done well at Arizona winning the Pac 12 South a couple of seasons ago. But, the last two seasons have been down with the 2016 season a flat out disaster going 3-9. Expectations aren’t sky high at Arizona as they would be at some schools, but 3-9 is not going to cut it at any school for long. There was a time that the Wildcats were known for defense, but not under Rich Rod.
Todd Graham – Arizona State: Every season, hopes are high for the Sun Devils, and every season they seem to underachieve. Graham looked like an up and comer a few years ago, but his stock has crashed as badly as some of those in the history of Wall Street. His team finished 10-3 in 2014, but
since then even with high expectations the team has dropped off dramatically in recent seasons. In 2015, the Sun Devils slumped to 6-7 and this year again to 5-7. Graham is supposed to be a defensive guru, but his teams don’t play defense. His defense this season was next to last in the nation in total yards.
Jim Mora – UCLA: Mora came to the Bruins from the NFL and everyone thought he was the stuff. He has had some strong seasons, but this past season they disappointed with a 4-8 finish. Part of that was because of the injury to Quarterback Josh Rosen, but they were not playing well even before that. His first season at UCLA was a promising 9-5 and then there were back to back 10-3 seasons. In 2015, the Bruins fell to 8-5 and this past year they really dropped off. They have never done well against the best teams they play. A couple of years ago, Mora’s name came up often with job openings but that’s kind of gone away now.
Gary Andersen – Oregon State: Andersen had a great job at Wisconsin and chose to take the Oregon job and it has not gone well for him, so far. In his defense, he has lacked solid Quarterbacking at Oregon State, so far. His record for thee Beavers so far is 6-18. My personal beef is he has one of the nation’s most exciting Running Backs in Ryan Nall and he really didn’t feed him the ball much. The Wrecking Nall is a beast and he ran for 951 yards at 6.47 yards per carry and he should have easily surpassed 1,000 yards on the season.