2014-15 NCAAF Head Coaching Reviews & Predictions

Hiring Reviews (14): 

SMU (June Jones): Chad Morris, Clemson Offensive Coordinator

The Mustangs went ahead and made the right coaching call-  Chad Morris, Clemson’s offensive coordinator, is a Texas native who can come in with a top-notch offensive scheme and ties to many high schools in the state. I see this as a win-win for both, as SMU has quite a bit to offer to Morris, a first-time head coach.  GRADE: A

Troy (Larry Blakeney): Neal Brown, Kentucky Offensive Coordinator

Finding the successor to Larry Blakeney, the greatest coach in Troy’s football history, is a daunting task to say the least. Hiring Brown, who served on his staff for four years, shows the importance of in-house ties to the search committee. I’m not gonna criticize the hire much- for Brown is a darned good coach who has impressed everywhere he gone. His ties to the current staff also must’ve aided his candidacy. However, I would’ve been more intrigued by Kevin Wilson (LSU RB’s) or Shane Beamer (Virginia Tech OC).  GRADE: B+

Buffalo (Jeff Quinn): Lance Leipold, Wisconsin-Whitewater (D-III) Head Coach

Many were surprised when AD Danny White fired Quinn in mid-October. He clearly wanted to bring a higher-quality coach to what he calls “The State University of New York”. He landed on Lance Leipold, a perennial winner at the Division-III level. I think Leipold is a good coach- has done an impeccable job coaching at his alma mater, Wisconsin-Whitewater. However, I’m very wary of the transition Leipold is about to make. Division I-A (FBS) is a game unlike any other, and I’m sure there will be growing pains for him. With that said, he is worth the risk– and I’m glad a high-quality, winning coach will get his first crack at D1 Ball.  GRADE: A-

Florida (Will Muschamp): Jim McElwain, Colorado State Head Coach

It was no surprise to see Will Muschamp let go after his disappointing season this year. However, the Gators are going to take a turn for the worse by hiring McElwain. He did a mediocre job running Alabama’s offense (as compared to Kiffin and Nussmeier), and has done a good, not great job running Colorado State’s football program. There were plenty of better options available to Foley as well. I think McElwain will struggle early on, especially with three underclassmen already declared for the draft.  GRADE: C

Nebraska (Bo Pelini): Mike Riley, Oregon State Head Coach

Everything about the last week has been surprising regarding the Nebraska football program. Bo Pelini’s firing was unexpected, as he wasn’t let go last season and won an exciting game to end the season. The hiring of Mike Riley was even more surprising: his name was not associated with the job. Riley is a good coach who was getting worn out in Corvallis. I have doubts about his ability to recruit for the program, and as to whether he can lead the program to a championship. However, he is definitely on-par with Pelini as a coach, and this is not a bad hire.  GRADE: B

Kansas (Charlie Weis): David Beaty, Texas A&M

With no reports of him interviewing, this does come as a surprise to me. With that said, he’s a dauntless recruiter who helped recreate a football culture down in College Station. However, position coaches don’t make good head coaches for FBS programs, so I have doubts as to whether this hire will pan out. GRADE: B-

UNLV (Bobby Hauck): Tony Sanchez, Bishop Gorman (H.S.) Head Coach

Of course the day I switch my prediction away from Tony Sanchez is the one he gets named as head coach.. Anyways, I’m pretty sure this will be the worst hire of the offseason. There were thirty more qualified candidate they could’ve gone with, and clearly this is a power booster move. Can’t see a high school coach doing well at the D-I game.  GRADE: D

Oregon State (Mike Riley): Gary Anderson, Wisconsin Head Coach

Wow. Quite a shocker that Gary Andersen is leaving Wisconsin for Oregon State. Two years ago, I thought it was a splashy hire for the Badgers when they plucked Anderson from Utah State. Surprised to see him take a lesser job at Oregon State (although they are upgrading facilities). Good hire for Beavers– and says a lot about the state of Wisconsin’s football program.  GRADE: A

Tulsa (Bill Blankenship): Philip Montgomery, Baylor Offensive Coordinator

With Mike Norvell pulling out of the coaching search, it seems like a mere formality that Philip Montgomery will be named Tulsa’s next head coach. It should happen sooner rather than later. With that said, this is another excellent hire. I was under the impression that Montgomery would aim for Houston’s job, but instead he is taking the top job at Tulsa (not as good a fit). As I’ve said, he’s an impeccable offensive coordinator with a great track record under Art Briles. Huge fan of this hire– he will be a very good head coach.  GRADE: A-

Wisconsin (Gary Andersen): Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh Panthers Head Coach

Surprised to see the Badgers hire a new head coach so quickly. Chryst is pretty good fit for the program, having served as offensive coordinator just a couple years ago. With that said, he’s done a barely mediocre job at Pitt (19-19). He’ll need to step it up once he becomes formally announced as the head coach.  GRADE: B

Houston (Tony Levine): Tom Herman, Ohio State Offensive Coordinator

Solid hire. Houston wants someone who can fix their offense, which Herman (2014 Broyles Award Winner) can do. Expect him to change things around quickly, a top-notch coach who is beloved in the industry. I question his ability to recruit in-state, but other than that he’s a very good hire for this team.  GRADE: A-

Colorado State (Jim McElwain): Mike Bobo, Georgia Offensive Coordinator

This seems very similar to when Jim McElwain was hired three season ago. Mike Bobo is also an established offensive coordinator who can bring an established game plan to Colorado State. I think there were better hires out there for sure, as Bobo doesn’t seem like a good cultural fit never having left Georgia for basically his whole career. With that said, it seems like they know what they’re doing.  GRADE: B

Pittsburgh (Paul Chryst): Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State Defensive Coordinator

Pat Narduzzi finally lands his first head coaching job after being a marquee coordinator for quite some time. Glad for him, as he gets a great fit coaching in the northeast (his recruiting territory) and will be coaching a power program. Like the hire for Pitt as well, for they’re getting a great ball coach and instructor who will build a strong staff around himself.  GRADE: A-

Michigan (Brady Hoke): Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers Head Coach

This is going to be the best hire of the coaching season if you put finances aside. I’m shocked Michigan was able to lure a coach of Harbaugh’s quality to the collegiate level. This hire shows they are completely committed to bringing championships back to Ann Arbor, as they’ve now got one of the best in the game (at the highest salary in the world). Good job.  GRADE: A

Correct Predictions:

  • Chad Morris, Clemson OC to SMU
  • Jim McElwain, Colorado State HC to Florida
  • Tom Herman, Ohio State OC to Houston
  • Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh HC to Wisconsin
  • Mike Bobo, Georgia OC to Colorado State
  • Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State DC to Pittsburgh
  • Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers HC to Michigan

Incorrect Predictions:

  • Frank Wilson, LSU RB’s to Troy (Neal Brown)
  • Rob Ambrose, Towson HC to Buffalo (Lance Leipold)
  • Troy Calhoun, Air Force HC to Nebraska (Mike Riley)
  • Tim Beck, Nebraska OC to Kansas (David Beaty)
  • Jim Fassel, former Giants HC to UNLV (Tony Sanchez)
  • Beau Baldwin, Eastern Washington HC to Oregon State (Gary Andersen)
  • Rhett Lashlee, Auburn OC to Tulsa (Philip Montgomery)

Reports: Jim Harbaugh expected to accept Michigan head oaching post

San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh is expected to leave the NFL at the season’s end and accept the Michigan Wolverines’ head coaching post.

This might come as a surprise to some, but for the last few weeks there have been many reports indicating this might happen.

It is surprising that Harbaugh thinks his craft is better suited for college football, given the fact he led the Niners’ to a Super Bowl appearance. With that said, this is a good hire for Michigan assuming this follows through.

Assuming that (A) Kyle Whittingham returns at Utah and (B) No NFL team hires a college football coach, both fairly good assumptions, there will be no more coaching changes at the NFL level. So the “page” of predictions will be converted into an NFL Predictions (coaching) page for the next month or so.

Reports: Kyle Whittingham on the Hot Seat

Utah-based radio show analyst Hans Olsen (@975Hans) tweeted earlier today that it seems highly improbable that Kyle Whittingham will return as the head coach of the Utah Utes.

Should he not return, it would add to the rumors of anger between Whit and AD Chris Hill, both respected men in the college athletics industry. The feuding between the two seems to root to assistant coach salaries, as Whit has lost three members of his staff over what AD Hill’s resistance to offer them multi-year contracts.

Whit’s contract ends after the 2016 season, although it will be interesting to see if he lasts that long. This report seems to indicate that he won’t despite being the winningest coach in Utah Utes football history.

Should Whit not return, it would be interesting to see if he is lured to become an assistant coach at Florida or Michigan. He could also be a candidate to bump up to the pros as an assistant coach as well.

Potential candidates for a Utah head coaching vacancy would include Jay Hill, the long-time RB’s coach and alum who left last season to become head coach of Weber State (FCS). Dennis Erickson, the team’s current running backs’ coach, would also be an internal candidate considering his extensive experience as head coach (Oregon State, Arizona State, San Francisco 49ers).

Candidates to Fill Open Coordinator Vacancies

Here’s my update on the many power-five conference coordinator vacancies, as well as general industry notes associated with the topics.

Colorado Defensive Coordinator

Kent Baer recently left his high-paying job as Colorado’s top assistant for the lesser-paying defensive coordinator job at UNLV. This is a serious indicator that McIntyre might not last beyond next season, considering the long-lasting relationship between the two. The top candidate could be Clancy Pendergast, who was USC’s defensive boss before the coaching change after last season. Another candidate could be David Gibbs, an alum who has impressed running Houston’s defense for the past couple seasons.

Georgia Offensive Coordinator

With Mike Bobo and Will Friend taking off for leadership roles at Colorado State, there’s an opening at Georgia for the position of offensive coordinator. It seems most likely that Mark Richt (Head Coach) or Bryan McClendon (Running Backs) will take over the play-calling duties. As for the next quarterbacks coach, they could target someone such as Chris Leak (Florida WR’s) or Randy Sanders (Florida State QB’s) if they choose to promote from within. If they look to hire a new offensive coordinator, candidates could include Lincoln Riley (East Carolina OC), Seth Littrell (North Carolina OC), and Billy Napier (Alabama WR’s).

Kansas Offensive Coordinator

David Beaty is looking to find the right staff, as he took a lower salary to create a wider pool for his assistants. It wouldn’t surprise me if he targeted Tim Beck (Nebraska OC) to become his next offensive coordinator. Although Beck wasn’t chosen for the head coaching job, he could look to join Beaty’s “team of rivals” if the salary was right. Another candidate could be Dave Baldwin (Colorado State OC), who is probably not going to be retained by the new coaching staff at Colorado State. Another option would be Beaty holding the play-calling duties himself, although he didn’t hold these responsibilities as an assistant at Texas A&M.

Michigan State Defensive Coordinator

Michigan State will hire from within for this one, as there are rarely openings on Dantonio’s staff. Harlon Barnett (DB’s) and Mike Tressel (LB) are two candidates to watch for the opening, although there’s a chance one (or both) might be poached by Narduzzi at Pitt. An external candidate to watch is Chuck Bullough (Syracuse DC), whose ties to the school might be enough to grant an interview.

Mississippi State Defensive Coordinator

The top name associated with this opening is Manny Diaz (Louisiana Tech DC), who was the former defensive coordinator (c. 2010) under Mullen before leaving for Texas three years ago. He didn’t do well in Austin, but has redeemed himself in his first year running LA Tech’s defense. Another option could be Bill Clark (former UAB H.C.), who just lost his job with the closing of UAB’s football program. He did a remarkable job as head coach of UAB and Jacksonville State, and should be under serious consideration for the opening. Don’t rule out Tony Hughes (DB’s) as an internal candidate for the opening.

Nebraska Offensive Coordinator

The top name associated with the opening is Danny Langsdorf (New York Giants QB’s), who was Riley’s top assistant at Oregon State for several years before leaving last season for the pros. With all the turmoil in New York, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he wanted to rejoin Riley in Lincoln. Another strong candidate for the opening is Tom Rathman (San Francisco RB’s), a proud alum who might be looking for a new job with all the controversy surrounding Harbaugh and his staff. Outside-the-box candidates include Jeff Tedford (fmr. Tampa Bay OC & Cal HC) and Billy Napier, as both are well-traveled coaches who run systems similar to what Riley has in the past.

Oregon State Offensive Coordinator

Andy Ludwig (Wisconsin OC) is the top candidate for the job, as he is a candidate to move with Andersen to his new staff in some capacity. Another internal option is T.J. Woods (OL), who has already been announced as an assistant and could assume play calling responsibilities. There are also rumors that Beau Baldwin (Eastern Washington HC), a name associated with the head coaching job, could move to become the second-in-command under Andersen. Not the most ridiculous idea if he wants to be a real contender for an FBS head coaching job in the future.

Pittsburgh Offensive & Defensive Coordinators

Pat Narduzzi was just announced as head coach, so we are in the early stages of learning who will be apart of his staff. Offensively, the top candidate for play-calling duties is surely Tim Beck (Nebraska OC), who he recently followed on twitter. Another candidate could be Joe Rudolph (Pittsburgh OC), if he is interested in staying aboard as the lieutenant as opposed to returning to Wisconsin. Defensively, the top candidates for play-calling duties are Mike Tressel (Michigan State LB’s) and Harlon Barnett (Michigan State DB’s). Both might come aboard in some capacity if the proper funds are allocated.

Texas A&M Defensive Coordinator

This vacancy has been open for way too long. This is getting out-of-hand, and I’m shocked that Sumlin hasn’t found his man for the job yet. With that said, the frontrunner for the opening right now is D.J. Durkin (former Florida DC), who was not retained on McElwain’s staff at Florida. He could always look to David Gibbs (Houston DC) for the job, although it seems he’s more interested in other vacancies.

Texas Tech Defensive Coordinator

David Gibbs (Houston DC) has been interviewed for the job, and is the frontrunner for the opening. It could be a matter of time before he is announced as the new hire. Another name associated with the job is Craig Kuligowski (Missouri DL), who has done a great job over the last couple years with his D-Line (i.e. Kony Ealy, Shane Ray among others).

Utah Offensive & Defensive Coordinators

There’s been great turnover on this staff, as Dave Christensen left for A&M (OL Coach) and Kalani Sitake left for Oregon State (Defensive Coordinator). Offensively, this will be Whit’s third coordinator in three years. The top internal candidate could be Dennis Erickson (RB’s), a former head coach at Arizona State and Oregon State as well as in the pros for the San Francisco 49ers. Another candidate could be Andy Ludwig (Wisconsin OC), who might not join Gary Andersen’s staff in Corvallis. He left for California several years ago to become the lead play-caller, but this might be his best opportunity if he wants to run an offense. Defensively, top candidates could be Lance Anderson (Stanford OLB’s) and Brady Hoke (former Michigan HC) if they want to pursue new stages of their careers. Other candidates could be Clancy Pendergast (former USC DC) and Ed Orgeron (former USC HC), as both are out of jobs at the moment.

Vanderbilt Offensive & Defensive Coordinators

There have been several names associated with Vandy’s offensive coordinator opening, such as Brad Salem (Michigan State RB’s) and Mike Sanford, Jr. (Boise State OC). However, it appears both have turned the opportunity down. Not necessarily sure where they turn next, although they could make a run at Lincoln Riley (East Carolina OC) and Mike Bloomgren (Stanford OC/OL) if they have the proper funds. Defensively, Jason Tarver (Oakland Raiders DC) has ties to Mason and could emerge for the job. It is also entirely possible that Mason takes over play-calling duties himself and trains a protege.

Washington State Defensive Coordinator

The top name for the opening is Nick Holt, who has served as Western Kentucky’s defensive coordinator for the past couple of years. He could be looking for a bigger opportunity, and has ties to the west coast from his time at USC. It is also possible that he looks from within, as Joe Salave’a (DL) could be a candidate for the opening.

West Virginia Offensive Coordinator

Dana Holgorsen will almost definitely take over play-calling duties, and name a new quarterbacks coach to train under his wing. Not sure who he will name, although it will probably be someone with a background in the spread offense or with strong recruiting ties. I’d watch for Jeff Scott (Clemson WR’s) or Zach Smith (Ohio State WR’s) if they go for the second route.

Wisconsin Offensive Coordinator

The supreme front-runner for this vacancy is Joe Rudolph (Pittsburgh OC), who has coached in Madison beforehand and seems loyal to Chryst, the new head coach. If he chooses another job, other candidates could be Thomas Hammock (Baltimore Ravens RB’s) or Thomas Brown (Wisconsin RB’s) as they have ties to the team.

Mock Drafts

Another function of this website (blog) is to talk about the NFL Draft, and prediction which college players will go where. Once the season of hiring head coaches ends (which it will soon), the page will be turned into a “mock draft” page in which I will post my latest predictions.

FWIW here is my first mock draft of the season (+ wk. 17 predictions):

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-14) Marcus Mariota, QB- Oregon

2. Tennessee Titans (2-14) Jameis Winston, QB- Florida State

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13) Leonard Williams, DE/DT- Southern Cal

4. New York Jets (3-13) Amari Cooper, WR- Alabama

5. Oakland Raiders (3-13) Randy Gregory, DE/OLB- Nebraska

6. Washington Redskins (4-12) Shane Ray, DE/OLB- Missouri

7. Chicago Bears (5-11) Landon Collins, S- Alabama

8. New York Giants (6-10) Brandon Scherff, OT- Iowa

9. St. Louis Rams (6-10) Trae Waynes, CB- Michigan State

10. Carolina Panthers (6-9-1) Ereck Flowers, OT- Miami (FL)

11. Cleveland Browns (7-9) Devante Parker, WR- Louisville

12. New Orleans Saints (7-9) Dante Fowler, DE/OLB- Florida

13. Minnesota Vikings (7-9) T.J. Clemmings, OT- Pittsburgh

14. Cleveland Browns (BILLS)** Eddie Goldman, DT- Florida State

15. San Francisco 49ers (8-8) Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB- Oregon

16. Kansas City Chiefs (8-8) Kevin White, WR- West Virginia

17. Houston Texans (9-7) Danny Shelton, DT- Washington

18. Miami Dolphins (9-7) Jaelen Strong, WR- Arizona State

19. Baltimore Ravens (10-6) Shaq Thompson, OLB- Washington

20. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) Kevin Johnson, CB- Wake Forest

21. Atlanta Falcons (7-9) Vic Beasley, DE/OLB- Clemson

22. San Diego Chargers (10-6) Melvin Gordon, RB- Wisconsin

23. Cincinnati Bengals (10-5-1) Alvin Dupree, DE- Kentucky

24. Detroit Lions (11-5) Andrus Peat, OT- Stanford

25. Indianapolis Colts (11-5) Cedric Ogbuehi, OT- Texas A&M

26. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) Markus Golden, DE/OLB- Missouri

27. Arizona Cardinals (11-5) Malcom Brown, DT- Texas

28. Dallas Cowboys (12-4) Mike Bennett, DE/DT- Ohio State

29. Green Bay Packers (12-4) Denzel Perryman, ILB- Miami (FL)

30. Denver Broncos (12-4) Benardrick McKinney, ILB- Mississippi State

31. Seattle Seahawks (12-4) La’El Collins, OT- Louisiana State

32. New England Patriots (13-3) Devin Funchess, WR- Michigan

Michigan & Pitt Predictions

Changing my Michigan prediction to Jim Harbaugh, which represents all I’ve been hearing over the past week. Will be intrigued to see what kind of staff he bring with him should he take the job.

Changing my Pittsburgh prediction to Pat Narduzzi, who has reportedly been interviewed for the job. You’ve gotta think he will take one sooner rather than later.

Jim Harbaugh & Michigan

Jim Harbaugh is not worth $8 million annually. The only coach who is worth that kind of money is Nick Saban, a perennial champ of the game. With that said, it’s good that Jim Hackett is going after the best option available.

I don’t see this happening, although I think there is substance to the report that it was offered and he is considering this. He’s too involved at the pro game now, and I’d have to think he would want a Super Bowl before leaving for a return to the college game.

I’m sticking with my prediction of Dan Mullen, because I’m of the believe that they will do whatever it takes to get a winner up in Ann Arbor. He would be a solid third option behind Miles and Harbaugh.

New Prediction: Pittsburgh Panthers & CSU Rams

Due to reports that Pitt will be aiming for a former or current head coach after firing AD Steve Pederson, I’m changing my prediction from Pat Narduzzi (Michigan State DC) to Greg Schiano (former Rutgers HC), who would definitely be interested in returning to run a football program with newly committed funds.

I’m starting to believe that the next CSU Rams coach will either be Tony Alford (Notre Dame RBs), Mike Bobo (Georgia OC), or Dave Baldwin (interim H.C.) unless Vance Bedford (Texas DC) or Scott Frost (Oregon OC) had an incredible interview. Since they seem to be interested in hiring from outside the team, I’m switching my prediction to Mike Bobo. He seems next-in-line for a coaching job, as he’s applied for several before and should get one sooner rather than later. He’s a very good offensive coordinator who could bring a good staff in, and seems similar to Jim McElwain from the time he was hired.

Dec 15: Assistant Coaching Moves

At Nebraska, it is understood that Charlton Warren will be retained as DB’s coach. Not a surprise for those familiar to the program, he’s done an incredible job recruiting during his one season in Lincoln.

Brent Brennan will be retained as Oregon State’s wide receivers coach. Smart move by Gary Andersen, as Brennan was intact with several key recruits.

Tom Herman is expected to add Drew Mehringer (James Madison Co-OC) and Major Applewhite (former Texas OC) to his new staff at Houston. Also expected to retain David Gibbs as defensive coordinator should he not leave for another job. Smart moves.

South Florida has hired Tom Allen (Ole Miss LB’s) to become the team’s new defensive coordinator. Ole Miss’ defense was top of the line this year– interested to see how this pans out.

D.J. Durkin is reportedly being targeted by Larry Fedora to become the next defensive coordinator at UNC. Although his current job technically has more prestige, I think it might not be a bad move to go to Chapel Hill especially if he gets a pay upgrade.

Barry Odom is reportedly being targeted to replace Dave Steckel as Missouri’s defensive coordinator. He’s a great coach- was almost a Broyles Award finalist. Would be a great win for both sides.

Sources: Tom Herman to Houston

Per Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports, Ohio State Offensive Coordinator & QB’s Coach Tom Herman will become the next head coach of the Houston Cougars football team.

Herman is incredibly bright, and is known to be a member of Mensa International. His experience at Rice gives him familiarity with the Houston area.