College Football Predictions: First-Year Coaches
by Trevor Whenham - 8/31/2010
There are 120 teams in the FBS in college football. Given that number it’s truly remarkable to think that there are 23 coaches making their debut with a new team this year. That’s over a fifth of all teams. College football coaches are supposed to have much more stability and a much longer time frame to work with than their peers in the NFL, but that kind of turnover is truly NFL-like.
Many times a coaching change also signals a wide-scale change in the coaching staff, and often a change in the philosophy that guides the team and the schemes that they use. More often than not, a new coach is also taking over a team that has it’s share of troubles - there wouldn’t have been a coaching change otherwise for many teams.
With so much changing this year, here’s a look at how the new coaches break down – and my college football predictions for those likely to succeed quickly, those with a chance for good things, and those destined to struggle:
Ready To Fly
Brian Kelly, Notre Dame - Kelly is under a microscope and faces massive expectations. He has done a good job of taking over teams in the past, though, and he has far more talent to work with this year than in the past. He also has the advantage of working with a new starting QB. That’s easier than having to break the habits of an established starter.
Butch Jones, Central Michigan - He has already taken over for Kelly once, so he knows he can do it. He also has a very nice QB to work with, and more talent than he is used to. He won’t do what Kelly did last year, but he’ll still make some noise.
Skip Holtz, South Florida - Holtz knows how to win, and he’ll have his players far more focused on what they need to do than the team has been in the past. He also has a nice QB with massive upside to work with in B.J. Daniels. Holtz is going to find a lot of success in the Big East, and this will be the first taste of that.
Doc Holliday, Marshall - Holliday is a talented guy who will be happy to finally get a chance, and he has a senior QB and a good defense. He can win eight or nine games.
Lane Kiffin, USC - Kiffin is a total moron, but he is lucky to have some very good coaching talent around him. He’s also got a lot of talent to work with at USC - even if it is largely unproven - and a conference that isn’t particularly intimidating. Kiffin could win 10 games.
Could Be Decent
Sonny Dykes, Louisiana Tech - He’s an offensive wild man with one of the most intriguing stories in football in QB Steve Ensminger. Magic likely won’t happen, but it could.
Ruffin McNeill, East Carolina - He loses a lot of talent from last year, but there is a good foundation built in this program, and McNeill is going to be hungry to succeed after his shabby treatment at Texas Tech.
Dan Enos, Central Michigan - A new QB will cause some issues, but this is a solid program in a weaker conference.
Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech - He says he’s not going to change the offense a lot, and he can’t help but make the defense better.
Jimbo Fisher, Florida State - I’m not as optimistic about this team as some because I really don’t love the defense. The transition for Fisher should be seamless, though - he has essentially been coaching for a couple of years already - and he has a strong offense.
Joker Phillips, Kentucky - He’s been with the program for five years, so he’ll take over without missing a beat. He should have a very strong offense, so if the defense is better than it could be then he could make a bit if noise - like seven or eight wins.
In For A Long Year
Turner Gill, Kansas - I couldn’t respect Gill more, and in the long term he was a brilliant hire. There is just a total absence of established talent on offense, though, so it’s going to take a while for Gill to show what he can do.
Charlie Strong, Louisville - He’s another brilliant hire who will do great things, but he has almost nothing to work with on offense.
Larry Porter, Memphis - I love when a team brings a former player back to coach - especially one with some experience and skills. Porter has almost nothing to work with, though, so it will be two or three years before we can see what he can do.
Robbie Caldwell, Vanderbilt - This is a team without talent, and July is not exactly the best time take to take over a program. This season will be a total loss - if he wins three games they should make a statue in his likeness.
Jeff Quinn, Buffalo - Seven road games and no talent makes for a long year. I am not convinced that Quinn was the right man for the job, either.
Ron Ianello, Akron - He’s going to totally overhaul the team here strategically, and that takes a while and causes some pain in the short term.
Bobby Hauck, UNLV - It’s been a long while since UNLV has done anything to get themselves noticed. I’m not sure this hire will change that, but even if it does it won’t happen quickly.
Todd Berry, Louisiana-Monroe - It’s not a great team that he’s taking over, and much of what was even a little impressive last year has changed.
Mike MacIntyre, San Jose State - His first two opponenets are Alabama and Wisconsin. Welcome to the new job, coach.
Mike London, Virginia - I love this hire because of what he did at Richmond, but he is left with empty cupboards and a pathetic attitude at Virginia, so he is starting almost from scratch.
Derek Dooley, Tennessee - Dooley will get things turned around in the long run, but he has to deal with the wreckage left behind by Kiffin. There are a lot of holes, and it could be ugly.
Willie Taggart, Western Kentucky - The newest team in the FBS is also the worst team. They didn’t win last year, and despite hiring a good coach they will be lucky to win one this year.
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