Stats LLC and ESPN Magazine have noted that as of November 1, eight FBS programs will play out 2015 with different coaches than they began it with — one more than the in-season exits of the past three years combined. Maryland, USC, Miami, South Carolina, Minnesota, and Virginia Tech have all begun searches for their next head football coach. I will go on the record and say there will be many more vacancies to fill. Rumors at LSU, UGA, and other schools leave fans wondering “what if our coach is fired or let go” and “if this occurs, who is the best candidate to take the helm?”
Presidents, boosters, alumni, students, and fans all have a say in deciding who should be their beloved school’s next coach. System preferences, style of play, and a host of other situational factors surround the hiring process. But ultimately, it is the athletic director (AD) who makes the call. An AD’s job security often hinges on his or her ability to hire the right football coach.
I am going to place myself in the shoes of a college athletic director and I am going to tell you what I would be looking for on my Christmas college football coach wish list. I will rank available coaches and give you my reasoning behind the rank. Where do I begin? Well, when you hire a Power 5 (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC) coach, you first look to the Group of 5 (American Athletic Conference, Conference-USA, Mid-American Conference, Sun Belt Conference, Mountain West Conference). That is, if you want to roll the dice on some rookie upstart coach (for ex., Memphis’s Justin Fuente, Houston’s Tom Herman, Temple’s Matt Rhule). The next most popular place to scour is the Power 5 and their assistant coaches (Alabaman’s Kirby Smart and Virginia Tech’s Bud Foster to name a few). The least popular hire for Power 5 schools over the past five years has been to bring in a NFL, FCS, or some other type of coach (remember that last year, UNLV hired a coach out of high school).
So without further ado, let’s look at the wish list of potential FBS new head football coaches:
- Justin Fuente: Hottest Group of 5 coach available (A -)
- Tom Herman: Has worked wonders in Houston (B)
- Matt Rhule: Temple hasn’t been in the Top 25 since ….. (B+)
- Kirby Smart: Can recruit, coached under Saban, but can he coach offense? .… think Will Muschamp (B)
- Bud Foster: Paid his dues, A Hokie through and through, Defensive mastermind, Virginia Tech should make this hire …. (A)
- Rich Rodriguez: same old, same old (B+)
- Chip Kelly: exciting offense yet questionable personality, great for the college game (A+)
- Pep Hamilton: Left the Colts on Nov. 3, likes the Stanford offense (A)
- Bill O’Brien: see Rich Rod, same results, different league (B+)
The wild card in the hiring process is the Power 5 head coaches who are willing to leave their program or who will be fired in the near future.
- Les Miles: LSU would be foolish to fire the mad hatter as they currently hold the #1 recruiting class for 2016, an experienced SEC coach (A)
- Mark Richt: see Les Miles, Georgia fans want more than can be given to them (A)
- Jimbo Fischer: I think Jimbo is looking for opportunity to jump ship (A-)
- Dabo Swinney: I do not see Dabo leaving Clemson as Tigers are currently #1 (A)
- Mike Gundy: Good experience, would be a nice fit at South Carolina (A-)
- Mark Dantonio: Offensive manger, defensive guru, great coach (A+)
- David Shaw: A Harbaugh protégé, gets the most out of his players, complex offense (A+)
- Jim Mora: Has NFL experience and team is coming on (B)
- James Franklin: Has excellent command but has not captioned a big time program (A-)
- Greg Schiano: Tough-nosed coach, would be good fit up north (B+)
- Gary Patterson: Can coach offense, defense, special teams, and can recruit, most well-rounded coach in the field (A+)
The top three coaches on my wish list are Chip Kelly, Gary Patterson, and James Franklin in that order. My dream pick is Jon Gruden but even at Christmas, you do not get everything you ask for.
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