College Football head coaching jobs are sort of like the ice cream truck on a summer day. You may have to wait a little while, but eventually they present themselves. So is the case in 2012 where 26 new head coaches will take to the sidelines for their debut seasons with their programs. Some names may look familiar as former high-profile assistants or even head coaches at other schools. Some names you may not recognize at all and some will leave you scratching your head wondering how on earth he got another job. Still, with new beginnings taking part all around the country, lets take a look at 10 of the highest profile coaching changes this offseason and what we can expect from these guys in their first year on the job. Comments or feedback are encouraged, feel free to leave it at the bottom down below or get at me on Twitter: @BDohertyTSHQ1.
As a follow up if you’re new to the website or just missed stuff prior, you can check out my post National Signing Day Top 25 by following any of the following links:
Also Parts 1 and 2 of the offseason preview that preceded this one can be found below:
Here’s 10 coaching changes that I’ll be watching this upcoming season as well as the other 16 jobs that have replacements:
New Coach: Rich Rodriguez (Former Michigan Head Coach)
Replacing: Mike Stoops
Rich Rodriguez is the guy your daughter brings home to meet you and impresses the hell out of you, then once he’s gone you’d swear he was the worst boy your daughter ever met. I apologize for getting therapeutic on you all but for the love of God, does Rich Rod know how to leave on a bad note or what? After offensive coordinator gigs at Tulane and Clemson, he got his first prime time head coaching gig at West Virginia where he proceeded to lead West Virginia to 4 conference titles (including shares) and two BCS games. Despite those accomplishments he’s best remembered for his final game, a 13-9 loss to rival Pittsburgh that kept the Mountaineers out of the national title game and immediately after he left for the Michigan job, cutting out on his Alma Mater and turning a lot of fans off in the process. Once Rodriguez and West Virginia settled their buyout dilemma he was off to Michigan where he would struggle to find success each of his 3 years, going 2-7 against Michigan’s 3 main rivals: Ohio St, Notre Dame and Michigan St and never beating Ohio St or Michigan St. In his 3rd and final season the Wolverines limped to a 7-6 record and were blown out in the Gator Bowl by Mississippi St by 38 points, the largest bowl loss in Michigan history. Rodriguez would leave Michigan as the least successful coach in program history. That’s quite the accomplishment for one of the oldest programs in the country. So now he takes on an Arizona job that is looking to revive the glory days of the mid-late 90′s. After years of futility, it appeared that Mike Stoops was on the right path with back to back 8-win seasons in 2008 and 2009 and another bowl trip in 2010. However, after a disastrous 2011 season, Stoops was fired midway through the season. The Arizona team Rodriguez inherits is far from ideal and may be a year or two from being a contender in the PAC-12 again, but the Wildcats do have a very strong athletic department and great resources. In a league with minimal defense Rodriguez should be able to come in and play the shootout type of games he couldn’t win in the Big Ten. Matt Scott will take over as the starting QB and be asked to run Rodriguez’s spread offense, though he doesn’t possess the leg threat of past Rodriguez QBs. Nonetheless, Wildcats fans are excited for the Rich Rod era to begin and after USC, there’s not any program in the PAC-12 south they shouldn’t be able to compete with year-in and year-out in the coming years.
Arkansas St. Red Wolves
New Coach: Gus Malzahn (Former Auburn Offensive Coordinator)
Replacing: Hugh Freeze
2012 marks the debut of Guz Malzahn as a head coach on college football sidelines after establishing himself as one of the premier offensive coordinators in the nation. After a masterful high school head coaching run he spent time at Arkansas and Tulsa turning some of the Tulsa offenses int0 some of the best in the country. However, it was his work at Auburn with Gene Chizik and most notably Cam Newton in 2010 that pull Malzahn on the top of AD’s lists for head coaching positions. Despite rumors swirling after 2010 about where he could end up following Auburn’s national championship season, he hung around for 2011 and the offense couldn’t overcome the turnover from the year prior as the inexperience at QB plagued them all season in blowout losses to the likes of Alabama, LSU and Georgia. It was after 2011 that Malzahn was able to land his first head coaching job and take the Arkansas St. job after head coach Hugh Freeze left to take the Ole Miss job. Malzahn takes over for a team who surprised some by coasting through the regular season to the tune of a 10-2 record and unbeaten league mark to win the Sun Belt conference and earn a spot in the GoDaddy.com Bowl where they jumped out to a 13-0 lead but ultimately fell to Northern Illinois 38-20. Despite the accolades of the team in 2011, 2012 could be a challenge for Malzahn in his first crack at coaching as the Red Wolves return only 3 defensive starters from the 24th ranked defense a year ago. Malzahn will have an experienced senior QB in Ryan Aplin back to run his offense and of course it’s well known he is bringing heralded running back Michael Dyer with him from Auburn. Dyer has put himself in the news recently for his confirmation and testimony in a robbery case involving former teammates at Auburn who supposedly borrowed Dyer’s gun on a night they indulged in drugs and alcohol. At this time nothing suggests he won’t be a part of the Arkansas St. football program. Nonetheless, Malzahn gets a chance to show his credentials at the head coaching level and what better way to start than with a season opening road game vs Chip Kelly and the Ducks in Eugene.
Colorado St. Rams
New Coach: Jim McElwain (Former Alabama Offensive Coordinator)
Replacing: Steve Fairchild
Jim McElwain may not be the flashy hire that others have been this offseason and may not have a track record of endless success as other coordinators who have taken head coaching jobs in recent years, but the Colorado St Rams have enough faith in his ability to grant him the head coaching position for their program heading into 2012. McElwain was the offensive coordinator for Alabama the last 4 years that saw NFL talents such as Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Julio Jones and even put Greg McElroy on an NFL roster. While those Crimson Tide teams undoubtedly flourished under their defense the past few seasons as well as the exceptional coaching of Nick Saban, the Tide had more than reliable offenses spearheaded by their running games that did a very good job of mixing in play action. In fact, part of Alabama’s success in the national title game came from McElwain’s great gameplan of throwing on first downs and utilizing TE Brad Smelley on short and intermediate routes which kept the LSU Tigers guessing. Leading up to the game McElwain joked with the media that he clearly didn’t know what he was doing given the way the first matchup played out. However it was McElwain who got the last laugh with his brilliant offensive gameplan in the national title game. While McElwain’s offenses were above average at Fresno St., they weren’t elite and so it speaks volumes to his abilities that he was offered a job on Nick Saban’s staff. With two national titles in his time at Alabama, it’s clear Colorado St. is getting a guy who is ready to take on the challenge of a head coaching job. McElwain will have a lot to work with in 2012 with one of the highest returning starters totals in the country with 9 offensive and 8 defensive starters. Still despite the amount of starters returning, this is a team that won only one league game and lost to…(gulp)…UNLV. The Rams are at least a year or two away most likely, but McElwain I feel is a good hire and will get the Rams back into contention, especially once Boise St. is gone from the conference after next season.
New Coach: Charlie Weiss (Former Florida Offensive Coordinator)
Replacing: Turner Gill
The master of the 3rd and 1 streaks play, Charlie Weis returns to the college football head coaching ranks taking over the Kansas program after a couple unsuccessful seasons under Turner Gill. Weis, the former New England Patriots offensive coordinator who was on duty for each of my Patriots’ three Super Bowl championships eventually took over the head coaching job at his alma mater Notre Dame where he had mixed results. After two consecutive BCS bowl appearances Weis fell on hard times with three seasons in a row of no more than 7 wins, including two non-bowl seasons. He was eventually fired and returned to the NFL for a year to be the Kansas City Chief’s offensive coordinator but made his way back to the college game as Florida’s offensive coordinator under Will Muschamp. To put it lightly, Weis was a complete flop at Florida. Despite the obvious QB issues the Gators had, the thought process was he could make it work with the talent in the backfield of Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps. It never came to fruition however as the possessed one of the most inept offenses in all of college football, ranking 87th in the passing game and 69th on the ground. After the first two league games vs Tennessee and Kentucky, it was all down hill and Weis came under heavy scrutiny for his play selection, something as a Patriots fan I’m all too familiar with. When he was announced as the Kansas Jayhawks replacement, there were a lot of raised eyebrows at the hire considering the moderate success Weis enjoyed during his stints at Notre Dame and Florida in the college ranks. Still with his NFL pedigree, it’s not stunning he was given another chance. Weis already has transfers from Dayne Crist coming in this season and will have immediate eligibility for him given his undergraduate requirements were met. The following year QB Jake Heaps from BYU will be set to take over at the QB spot so Weis has done a good job of getting players to run his system. Ultimately Kansas is at the bottom of the Big 12 totem pole and has a ways to go to get away from that designation. The talent isn’t in the cupboard and they really weren’t all that competitive with what they have coming back next year. Weis has struggled at his past two stops with superior talent to what he possesses now. We’ll see if he can turn his college reputation around with his new opportunity with the Jayhawks.
New Mexico Lobos
New Coach: Bob Davie (Former Notre Dame Head Coach)
Replacing: Mike Locksley
Of all the offseason hires in 2012, none caught my eye and raised an eyebrow quite like the hiring of Bob Davie. The former Notre Dame coach who had been away from the sidelines agreed to return to college football in 2012. Yet, it wasn’t just any program he agreed to return to for the 2012 season….it was New Mexico. Not to be confused with one of the worst FBS programs in CFB for the last few years. Their last coach Mike Locksley was a train wreck who lasted as long as he did mostly because of the financial burden it would be to fire him. Davie had moderate success at Notre Dame with two 9-win seasons including a Fiesta Bowl appearance (although they were promptly blown out by Oregon St), surrounded by a few mediocre seasons culminating in a 35-25 mark. Since then he’s been up in the booth as a commentator for ESPN and by all accounts I think most thought he was done coaching football. Yet he has decided to take over the New Mexico program whose best unit last season was their 78th ranked pass defense. Their offense 98th in the run game and 90th in the pass for an overall ranking of 109th nation-wide. Defensively they were 113th against the run to accompany the secondary, good for 114th nationally. New Mexico is a college football program that is at the among the bottom rung of the CFB totem pole and is likely years away from being legitimately competitive at the FBS level. Despite 8 offensive starters and 6 defensive starters returning, there really isn’t all that much to feel good about heading into 2012. The Mountain West may not be a power conference but there’s enough talented teams to keep New Mexico near the bottom again. Bob Davie has his work cut out for him. He’ll be given a long leash because of the lack of success in the program, but ultimately if he ever wants to experience success at New Mexico he’ll have to start by changing the losing culture that has engulfed New Mexico for years upon years.
Ohio St. Buckeyes
New Coach: Urban Meyer (Former Florida Head Coach)
Replacing: Luke Fickell
We’ve covered the Urban Meyer to Ohio St. hiring quite a bit this offseason between the post National Signing Day Top 25 as well as earlier parts of the preview. So at the expense of repeating ourselves, we’ll touch more on what his signing means long term as opposed to just this year coming up. For the Buckeyes and Urban Meyer 2012 will be a test trail of sorts. Meyer who was a dominant winner at both Utah and Florida in his past two jobs takes over for a Buckeyes program who will look to come flying out of the gates in 2013-2014 when they get off their postseason ban. Meyer led Utah to an unbeaten season and Fiesta Bowl win at Utah and followed him up with two national titles at Florida before taking time off for family reasons and a brief stint as ESPN commentator. With Ohio St, he’s already shown part of his prowess in the recruiting field by coming in his first year and building up a great freshman class for the Buckeyes including the sweeping up of numerous prospects who were believed to be heading elsewhere in the Big Ten which led to some uproar from fellow Big Ten coaches. I’ve said it previously this offseason and I’ll say it again. I believe Urban Meyer will DOMINATE at Ohio St. and will eventually have this team perennially in the top 5 again with stellar recruiting and great teams on the field. I think the majority of the Big ten will be fighting for second place for a while starting in a few years and the floor for this team most years should be a BCS bowl. Meyer was the best hire of the offseason, he has a great resume’ coming in, and with the resources the Buckeyes program will afford him, I don’t see anyway he fails at Ohio St. I think they have top ten potential immediately this season with all the talent they have coming back.
Penn State Nittany Lions
New Coach: Bill O’Brien (Former New England Patriots Offensive Coordinator)
Replacing: Joe Paterno/Tom Bradley
There may not be a tougher coaching job in college football in 2012. In fact there may not be a tougher coaching job in all of sports in 2012 than the Penn State football job. After a tumultuous 2011 season that started on a promising note only to end in a manner that proved to be more deflating than any losing streak, Penn St. football looks to turn the page in 2012 not only as a football team but as a university. The fallout from the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal that rocked the nation will be a constant reminder throughout the season as new coach Bill O’Brien, the man in charge of replacing Joe Paterno on a permanent basis tries to rally the troops. O’Brien, despite being involved in football since the early 90s when he accepted a spot on the Brown University coaching staff, has never held a head coaching position at any level. He spent his time mostly as a college assistant of sorts before agreeing to join Bill Belichick’s staff in 2007 as an offensive assistant, a place where he ultimately worked himself up to offensive coordinator. The Pats made it to 2 Super Bowls during his time on staff but fell to the New York Giants both times. For O’Brien now, the challenge is stabilizing a program that came under unimaginable scrutiny. Following the fallout at Penn St, the Nittany Lions lost a number of recruits including two HS teammates to fellow Big Ten opponent Ohio State. There was public outcry from some former Penn St. players that they wanted “one of their own” and that O’Brien was not the man for the job. Needless to say O’Brien is walking into murky waters with an offensive unit that was horrific at times last season, specifically at QB and a defense that returns only 5 starters. In a division with Wisconsin and a revived Ohio State program, there may not be many bright days in the near future for the Nittany Lions.
New Coach: Paul Chryst (Former Wisconsin Offensive Coordinator)
Replacing: Todd Graham
Paul Chryst will finally get a chance to show if he made the system or if the system made him. After years of building up his name as one of the nation’s top assistants at Wisconsin, Chryst was given the keys to a Pittsburgh program who seemingly got rid of their coaches with the overnight coffee, watching a string of guys come in and out over the last couple seasons. Chryst has spent his lifetime as an assistant going back to his earliest days as a graduate assistant with the West Virginia Mountaineers but its been his work since returning to Wisconsin in 2005 that has afforded him this new opportunity. The Badgers run game is no mystery to college football loyalists as it has represented one of the top run games in the country for seemingly forever going back to Barry Alvarez and continuing today with Bret Bielema. Last season the Badgers came within 4 rushing yards of having three 1000 yard backs and it was under the guide of Chryst that Montee Ball emerged as a major player in the Heisman trophy race with his 1923 yards and 39 total TDs. The success of the Badgers run game over the years has also led to the drafting of numerous offensive linemen into the NFL as Wisconsin has established itself as one of the most reliable front fives in the collegiate game. How will that translate over to Pittsburgh in 2012? That will go a long way to determining where the Panthers fit in the Big East race in his debut season. Ray Graham returns as one of the best backs in the conference but injuries that limited him to only 8 games a year ago will be something to watch for as he looks to regain the starting spot in the backfield. In typical Paul Chryst fashion however, the Panthers won’t be over-reliant on any one back as Isaac Bennett was doused in praise from Chryst for his work in the offseason workouts and his performance in the spring game this past weekend supported that as he went for 121 yards on 23 carries. Not to be left out of the mix is freshman Rushel Shell, a highly touted RB from local Hopewell High School who figures to fight for playing time immediately as one of the highest rated running backs nationally by a number of recruiting services. For Chryst he has to be licking his chops at the prospects of improving an offensive unit that ranked 84th in the country a year ago and 70th on the ground. I would not bet against this man very long as I expect his hire will mean big things for the Panthers program in the near future.
New Coach: Jim Mora (Former Seattle Seahawks Head Coach)
Replacing: Rick Neuheisel
The out of the blue hiring of the offseason may have been UCLA’s hiring of Jim Mora Jr, an NFL lifer without any major college experience outside of his immediate post-playing days as a graduate assistant for Washington. After only one year working with Washington, he spent the next 24 years on NFL sidelines in one capacity or another and had two head coaching gigs with the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks where he had moderate success. Beyond that he spent time as an NFL analyst contributing to some Thursday Night coverage. All in all there’s not a whole lot to make out of Mora’s hire other than the fact it seemingly came out of nowhere. Mora was never a highly successful NFL coach, he has no college track record, and no significant ties to the UCLA program other than his dad coaching there for one season. The biggest hurdle Mora (and really anyone who took the job) has to climb is the uphill recruiting battle UCLA faces. For years they’ve been criticized for not capitalizing on the rich talents of southern California high school prospects and many of Mora’s initial hires focused on individuals who have proven track records as recruiters. As such, the Bruins were able to pull in the #12 recruiting class in the country, a steep improvement from the high 40′s ranking that the Bruins were given under former coach Rick Neuheisel. The reaction to UCLA’s prowess in the coming years is met with mixed emotions. I’ve seen some project almost instant success for Mora while I figure he’s working with a 2-3 year project before they become a steady, competitive program. One way or another he has people talking about the Bruins program again and for the time being that is a step in the right direction.
Washington State Cougars
New Coach: Mike Leach (Former Texas Tech Head Coach)
Replacing: Paul Wulff
If you’re not excited about Mike Leach being back in college football, you need to find a new source of sports entertainment. The former Texas Tech coach whose claim to fame has always been his “Air Raid” offense, has consistently had among the top passing attacks in college football before he was controversially let go from Texas Tech after the fiasco surrounding Adam Jones, son of ESPN anchor Craig James. The consensus was Jones was lazy and was told to stand in the equipment room, a procedure regularly administered to Red Raiders players who could not practice. Ultimately Leach was let go and despite the lawsuits filed against Texas Tech for wrongful termination, he’s now moved on to Washington St. where he’ll look to build back up one of the weakest programs in the country over the last 6-7 years and moved on from the Paul Wulff era that saw Wazzu limp to a 9-40 record. One positive for Leach is he’ll have a passing offense in place that was already elite last year ranking 9th in the country. Despite a porous rushing attack, Leach has never relied on a balanced offensive attack and won’t need to in 2012 either. Marquess Wilson will be an appealing weapon in his offense and if they can get some results to follow the production that Wilson was putting up on a 4-8 team, Wilson may get some more accolades. I’m buying Mike Leach getting Wazzu back, I think he pulls some tricks this year and I expect one upset from them this season. I’ve said it 1000 times: Prolific offenses in college football will have success against 90% of college defenses and the 10% don’t play in the PAC-12. Leach’s teams should put up some heavy numbers in the coming years as always. It will come down to whether they can defend.
Other Coaching Replacements:
New Coach: Terry Bowden (Former North Alabama Head Coach)
Replacing: Rob Ianello
Arizona St. Sun Devils
New Coach: Todd Graham (Former Pittsburgh Head Coach)
Replacing: Dennis Erickson
Florida Atlantic Owls
New Coach: Carl Pelini (Former Nebraska Defensive Coordinator)
Replacing: Howard Schnellenberger
Fresno St. Bulldogs
New Coach: Tim Deruyter (Former Texas A&M Defensive Coordinator)
Replacing: Pat Hill
New Coach: Norm Chow (Former Utah Offensive Coordinator)
Replacing: Greg McMackin
New Coach: Tony Levine (Houston’s ST/WR Coach)
Replacing: Kevin Sumlin
Illinois Fighting Illini
New Coach: Tim Beckman (Former Toledo Head Coach)
Replacing: Ron Zook
New Coach: Justin Fuente (Former TCU Co-Offensive Coordinator)
Replacing: Larry Porter
New Coach: Hugh Freeze (Former Arkansas St. Head Coach)
Replacing: Houston Nutt
North Carolina Tar Heels
New Coach: Larry Fedora (Former Southern Miss Head Coach)
Replacing: Everett Withers
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
New Coach: Kyle Flood (Rutgers Offensive Coordinator)
Replacing: Greg Schiano
Southern Miss Golden Eagles
New Coach: Ellis Johnson (Former South Carolina Defensive Coordinator)
Replacing: Larry Fedora
Texas A&M Aggies
New Coach: Kevin Sumlin (Former Houston Head Coach)
Replacing: Mike Sherman
New Coach: Matt Campbell (Toledo Offensive Coordinator)
Replacing: Tim Beckman
Tulane Green Wave
New Coach: Curtis Johnson (Former New Orleans Saints WR Coach)
Replacing: Bob Toledo
New Coach: Garrick McGee (Former Arkansas Offensive Coordinator)
Replacing: Neil Callaway