What makes a good coaching hire? Signing a guy with a great track record? The next big thing? A seasoned coordinator taking over at a school with a strong talent base? All of the above?
With 31 schools - almost a quarter of next year's FBS - signing new head coaches, every single scenario mentioned above has been put in place. But which schools look like they have done well, and who'll be back to the drawing board in a couple of years?
Order will be from number 31 though to 1, with a brief outline of each new coach. feel free to agree or object in the usual fashion in the comments below. Enjoy!
31. Trent Miles, Georgia State
Miles gets the bottom spot as he takes over the FBS new boys who won just 1 game last season under (the) Bill Curry. He's a veteran assistant who was on the verge of turning around FCS Indiana State before jumping at the chance to take a job in the big league.
30. Sean Kugler, Texas El-Paso
Kugler's a respected offensive-line coach, but he's never even been a coordinator, and he's taking over a school where it's notoriously difficult to win. Heck, even an experienced HC like Mike Price couldn't succeed there.
29. Matt Rhule, Temple
Another long time assistant, Rhule has some experience as an OC, but he's stepping into a job where the talent is suited to the MAC, but playing in the Big East. He'll need time to get the team rolling, but he has to show progress from the start.
28. PJ Fleck, West Michigan
After long-time HC couldn't get the job done with some fine teams, the administration decided to go in a different direction. I'm not so sure Fleck, a career WR coach who was a graduate assistant as recently as 2006, is the right direction.
27. Paul Petrino, Idaho
Petrino last stop at Arkansas may not have been his finest moment as an OC, but he is a good, experienced coach who has earned an HC gig, despite his brother's shenanigans. Why isn't he higher up the list? He's at Idaho, which is in such a mess right now no conference would pick them up when the WAC dissolved.
26. Ron Caragher, San Jose State
I could be way off the mark here, Caragher was a fine recruiter at Kentucky and did a good job as HC at non-scholarship San Diego (34-13), but I think Mike MacIntyre raised the bar at SJSU with a tremendous season, but may have struggled to maintain it a move to the Mountain West looming.
26. Scott Shafer, Syracuse
This is a good signing in terms of continuity, but apart from 2010, the defense hasn't been spectacular under Shafer. He's still a decent coach, but the move to the ACC should have necessitated a bigger name. The first recruiting class didn't smack of success either.
24. Paul Haynes, Kent State
Do you see a trend here? Another career position coach who gets a shot at a mid-level coaching job, Haynes did a stint as Arkansas' DC last year, but it was hardly of note. The Flashes may have been a one-hit wonder after previous HC Darrell Hazell got them to the MAC championship. Let's see if Haynes can sustain that success.
23. Brian Polian, Nevada
It's asking a lot to replace a school legend like Chris Ault, who retired at the end of last season (again), but surely they could have found someone with a stronger resume than career special teams (mostly) coach Polian, even if he does have a famous and respected dad. Nevada are loaded though, so he's higher up.
22. Matt Wells, Utah State
Wells is an Aggies alumnus and coached their the last two years, including last year as OC which saw their offense take off. He's a solid choice to replace Gary Andersen, but USU are moving to the Mountain West and have lost their star RB.
21. Rod Carey, Northern Illinois
Another school promoting from within, Carey is another odd choice. He's been an OL coach for most of his career, with very brief stints as a co-OC, but he's not exactly my first choice to take over the MAC powerhouse.
20. Doug Martin, New Mexico State
The last signing of the year when previous HC DeWayne Walker jumped ship to the NFL, but he may turn out to be okay. He hasn't exactly distinguished himself as a HC or OC, but he has tons of experience at both, and the Aggies need a strong hand to turn them around.
19. Steve Addazio, Boston College
Addazio's offense may have struggled last season with Temple, but he was playing with MAC talent in a BCS league; his time with Florida showed he's capable of getting the job done. However, he's never been a head man before (well, an assistant HC), and BC needs a lot of work, particularly that stagnant offense. He has his work cut out for him.
18. Ron Turner, Florida International
Turner is a long time coach who led Illinois to a Rose Bowl berth and has been an offensive coordinator at both Collegiate and pro level. He's replacing Mario Cristobal who's leaving some talent for him at FIU, but the Panthers are moving up to Conference USA, and it could be a struggle.
17. Skip Holtz, Louisiana Tech
So which Skip Holtz do the Bulldogs get? The one who was a success at Connecticut and East Carolina, or the one who took over a talented, potential conference champion and sank it to bottom-dweller in just three seasons. Previous coach Sonny Dykes left LT in good shape, I hope Holtz can regain some of the respect he worked hard to earn.
16. Bobby Petrino, Western Kentucky
This would be an awesome hire and number one on my list IF this was a coach who I thought for one second would stay in Bowling Green longer than five minutes. Unfortunately, rolling stone Petrino will be gone at the first whiff of a better job. While he's there, let's see what impact he can make at a school that's worked hard at showing it belongs in FBS.
15. Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati
See previous coach. Tuberville gets the nod because he's at a bigger school, not necessarily because he's a better coach.
14. Bryan Harsin, Arkansas State
Harsin took Boise State's offense to new levels of success, then lit up Texas last season. Now he gets a chance at recent Sun Belt monster Arkansas State, who have seen their last two HCs pick up SEC jobs. Can Harsin maintain this success? He has the pieces, and he knows offenses - only time will tell.
13. Butch Jones, Tennessee
It's hard to ignore negative press, so while Butch Jones has a good track record, he's been successful on the heels of Brian Kelly. Still, he's 50-27 and with four conference championships to his name, and he won 10 games last season with Munchie Legaux as his QB for most of the season. I think he will do well here too, but he will need some time.
12. Todd Monken, Southern Mississippi
Last season was a disaster in Hattiesburg - after one of the best seasons in school history, life was meant to carry on under new coach Ellis Johnson. Instead, the Eagles not only failed to win a game, but weren't even competitive. Out goes Johnson and in comes Oklahoma State OC Todd Monken, who orchestrated one of the nation's best offenses despite using three different freshmen at QB. Being a good coordinator is by no means a guarantee of success at HC (just ask Johnson) but the talent is there at Southern Miss to win from day 1.
11. Darrell Hazell, Purdue
Hazell did an excellent job in just two seasons at Kent State, adding an explosive running attack to an already staunch defense. Now he gets to run with the big (Ten) boys, as he takes over a Boilermaker team that was slowly turning it around under Danny Hope. Sadly for Hope, he failed to meet his goals and was relieved of his duties, but he's leaving some talent for Hazell to work with.
10. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado
MacIntyre was impressive in turning around an NCAA-sanctioned San Jose State, going from just one win in 2010 to ten last season. He's taking over at another school that's in a mess too, but it's going to be a tougher job to turn around in a hurry. However, he's shown a good eye for talent and knows what holes to plug in a hurry.
9. Mark Stoops, Kentucky
The more I think about this pick, the more I like it. Stoops come from an obvious coaching pedigree, and has had success both coaching and recruiting in SEC country. The big concern is how much rope the administration allow him - Kentucky may never be an SEC power - how good is good enough for Stoops to stick around?
8. Gary Andersen, Wisconsin
Andersen made his name as a DC for Utah, then turned around a moribund Utah State team into a tough unit that won 11 games and probably the last ever WAC football title. He takes over a Wisconsin team that has tons of talent in has played in the last three Rose Bowls, meaning this is a reloading, not a rebuilding job. Success will be expected straight away, but Andersen should deliver.
7. Mark Helfrich, Oregon
Helfrich made his name as a developer of QBs and even made Colorado's offense competent in a stint as OC there before joining the Ducks. Little needs to be said about his impact with Oregon, and he has won a number of awards for his work there, particularly with different QBs. Now he gets to take over HC Chip Kelly who has left for the NFL. Nothing needs fixing in Eugene, this was one of the season's smartest hires.
6. Sonny Dykes, California
The Golden Bears offense has been mediocre at best of the last few years, despite some quality talent patrolling the campus. With that in mind, they brought in Dykes, a protege of Hal Mumme and Mike Leach, and an offensive mind in the same vein. Expect some fireworks at Cal this season, but Dykes needs to pay attention to the defense too, something he has been accused of overlooking in the past.
5. Dave Doeren, North Carolina State
Doeren's track record speaks for itself - 23 wins in two seasons and a BCS game - and it would be a surprise for him not to have some degree of success here. But his predecessor Tom O'Brien was expected to improve upon his BC record and barely matched it. I believe Doeren will exceed TOB's reign.
4. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech
What better man to restore some confidence in a jilted school than a favorite son? With Tuberville off to Cincinnati, Kingsbury returned to Lubbock after an apprenticeship under Kevin Sumlin, first at Houston and then at Texas A&M. As QB coach as well as OC, he was a major factor in the development of Heisman winner Johnny Manziel. What part of this arrangement can go wrong?
3. Wille Taggart, South Florida
With the talented Bulls slide from grace under Skip Holtz, it was obvious they lacked toughness, so what better choice than a coach who turned FBS Western Kentucky into a Sun Belt contender in a couple of seasons, focusing on a strong running game and defense. Taggart had his pick of plum jobs, but Tampa will be a nice spot to build his reputation some more.
2. Brett Bielema, Arkansas
The man who took Wisconsin to new levels with three consecutive Rose Bowls found Arkansas' offer too good to spurn and looks to turn around a school that went from national title contender to laughing stock in less than half a season. Bielema's power running and tough defense is a perfect fit for the SEC, although he'll need to reload a little after some key losses to lost season's squad.
1. Gus Malzahn, Auburn
On the subject of favored sons, Malzahn was a major factor in the Tigers' championship season, both as an influence on star QB Cam Newton and orchestrating the offense that rolled over everyone along the way. With Chizik gone, there wasn't any better choice to restore the Tigers to recent successful ways.