With just the Army-Navy game this weekend, the FBS Coaching Carousel for 2017-18 is spinning out of control. More jobs have been filled, but that also means that more jobs are coming open as big-time programs put a premium on sitting head coaches. So, let’s get you up to date with hiring news and analysis for head-coaching moves as of Dec. 6.
Texas A&M: Jimbo Fisher resigned from Florida State last Friday and took the Texas A&M job, as had been widely reported for several days leading up to his resignation. For Texas A&M, it’s a great hire. They’re getting one of the few coaches in the nation with a national championship on his resume. Fisher led the Seminoles to the 2013 national title in the final year of the BCS system. Overall Fisher went 83-23 at FSU, winning three conference titles along the way. A&M paid through the nose to get him, giving Fisher the richest contract in the college game — 10 years, $7.5 million per (on average). The implication is clear — the Aggies want to win, they want to win now and they want to contend for SEC titles (which should, ultimately, lead to berths in the College Football Playoff). Into this lion’s den of impatience goes Fisher. First things first — he must find a quarterback. The Aggles are coming off an 8-win season that didn’t save Kevin Sumlin’s job. That’s the floor as Fisher begins his work in College Station.
The Seminoles didn’t need long to replace Fisher …
Florida State: FSU announced on Tuesday that it had hired Willie Taggart away from Oregon. This returns Taggart to the state of Florida, where he was head coach of South Florida and returned the Bulls to prominence in their conference. With Oregon Taggart took the Ducks to a 7-5 record and a bowl game. This will be Taggart’s fourth head-coaching job and he carries a 47-50 record with him to Tallahassee. But he’s a Bradenton, Florida, native, so it probably wasn’t a tough sell to lure Taggart back. He’s a solid recruiter, especially in Florida, but keep in mind that he’s only had one 10-win season in eight seasons as a head coach.
Former FIU head coach Mario Cristobal will be the interim head coach as Oregon prepares for its bowl game. That could make him a candidate to replace Taggart. One former Ducks coach that won’t be replacing him is …
Nebraska: This was widely considered to be Scott Frost’s job to lose, and on Sunday the Huskers hired their former quarterback to put them back to the road to respectability (which in Husker-speak is national prominence). Frost just wrapped up a 12-0 season with UCF, where he led the Knights to an American Athletic Conference championship. That’s two seasons after the Knights were just horrible. So, Frost is 18-7 at UCF and he and his staff will coach the Knights in the Peach Bowl, so he’ll be burning some midnight oil preparing the Knights for their bowl game and recruiting for Nebraska. Frost has done this the right way. He’s worked his way up the ranks, going from position coach to Oregon offensive coordinator to UCF head coach to the face of his alma mater. On paper, this looks sensational for all parties. But Frost is taking over a 4-8 Nebraska team. A bowl game in his first season is a good place to start.
As for who replaces Frost…
UCF: The Knights hired Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Heupel to take over as head coach in 2018. Like Frost, Heupel worked his way up the coaching latter after leading Oklahoma to a national title in 2000. After a short stint in the NFL Heupel went back to his alma mater as a graduate assistant and worked his way up to offensive coordinator. When he left OU after the 2014 season he spent one season in a similar position at Utah State before going to Mizzou. His reputation is on the offensive side of the football and in tutoring quarterbacks. To help him with defense the Knights hired Randy Shannon, who was the interim head coach at Florida after Jim McElwain was fired. This is a good hire for UCF and Heupel has a solid cupboard of talent to work with. We’ll see if he can build on that and make UCF a consistent power in the American Athletic Conference.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks — which just hired Houston’s Hunter Yurachek to be their athletic director — hired SMU head coach Chad Morris on Wednesday to replace Bret Bielema. Now, Morris has a losing record at SMU — 14-22 — but he’s considered one of the game’s true rising stars as a head coach. He helped recruit Deshaun Watson to Clemson and comes highly recommended by both Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn (in fact, Malzahn recommended Morris to Arkansas after he turned them down on Sunday). Morris made his bones as a Texas high school football coach, entered college football as an offensive coordinator at Tulsa in 2010 and needed just eight seasons to land a head-coaching job in the SEC. Expect him to hit the recruiting trail in Texas and Arkansas hard right away and to get the Razorbacks back to a bowl game in Year 1. His brand of offense is a lot of fun. His selection at defensive coordinator is critical.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils hired former New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards on Monday. This was a surprise. Edwards hasn’t coached at the college level since 1989 and hasn’t coached period since the Chiefs fired him after the 2008 season. As a person and as a coach people have great respect for Edwards. But is he ready for this job? Athletic Director Ray Anderson used to work for the NFL, so he’s familiar with Edwards. But whether Edwards’ style will work in college football remains to be seen. His defensive background will come in handy in the Pac-12. But his hires on the offensive side of the ball will be key.
Rice: The Owls hired Mike Bloomgren, the offensive coordinator at Stanford. This completes a gradual ascent for the former Florida State player, who has worked his way up from a graduate assistant position at Alabama to the Rice job, his first as a head coach. His fingerprints are all over the offense for the Cardinal, having served as the run game coordinator, offensive line coach and offensive coordinator at various times. This season he also served as assistant head coach, so the Owls are basically getting David Shaw’s top lieutenant. This is a better hire than I expected for the Owls. But Rice’s athletic director, Joe Karlgaard, is a Stanford grad and a former Stanford athletic official. So, he’s well connected in Palo Alto. If Bloomgren is able to turn Rice into another “House of Intellectual Brutality,” as some have dubbed Stanford, then the fan base will be thrilled.
Louisiana: The Ragin’ Cajuns let Mark Hudspeth go after their final regular-season game (it was lost in the unveiling of the College Football Playoff field). Hudspeth leaves UL with an overall record of 28-38, which isn’t inviting to teams with head-coaching openings (Hudspeth is 94-59 overall, when you include his seven years at North Alabama), . At one time, he was considered a hot coaching name after leading UL to four straight bowl games in his first four seasons (some considered him a ready replacement for Dan Mullen at Mississippi State, should Mullen ever leave, as Hudspeth was an assistant at MSU before leaving for UL). But UL vacated 22 wins, two bowl games and a Sun Belt co-championship after recruiting violations were discovered during Hudspeth’s first four seasons. After that UL went to one bowl game and never had a winning season in his final three years. UL is probably looking for a Group of 5 assistant coach or an FCS head coach. The last Sun Belt team in Louisiana to have an opening, UL-Monroe, tapped McNeese State’s Matt Viator.
Kent State: The Golden Flashes finally pulled the trigger on Haynes, who hadn’t done much of anything in five years in Kent. Haynes won just 14 games in five seasons and that pretty much says it all.
Tennessee: Ah, high drama in Rocky Top. After going through at least four head-coaching candidates that we know of — Greg Schiano, Mike Gundy, Jeff Brohm and Dave Doeren — Tennessee fired athletic director John Currie last Friday and replaced him with Phillip Fulmer, the former Vols head coach. Fulmer will shepherd the department on an interim basis and try to find a coach willing to overlook this dumpster fire of a coaching search. Reportedly former LSU head coach Les Miles, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele are on Fulmer’s shopping list for interviews. Given how toxic this job has become — and the reported desire on Fulmer’s part that he be “present” in the program — any hire will have Fulmer looking over their shoulder.
Oregon: The Ducks must look for a head coach for the second time in two years. Unfortunately for them a pair of great options with Oregon roots, Chip Kelly and Scott Frost, are off the market. This job is good enough to attract a current head coach. If I had to make a suggestion I would ring up Memphis head coach Mike Norvell.
SMU: Jeff Traylor will reportedly be the interim coach with Morris’ departure to Arkansas. Expect SMU players to lobby hard for Traylor, who like Morris was a highly-successful Texas high school football coach in Gilmer, Texas, before moving to join Charlie Strong’s staff at Texas in 2014. After Strong was fired Traylor joined the SMU staff. He’s an offensive-minded coach with rich recruiting ties in the state of Texas.
UTEP: Nothing on this front as new AD Jim Senter gets his ducks in a row.
South Alabama: The USA search committee has conducted no interviews yet, per AL.com. But Auburn offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey has been connected to the job. Sports Illustrated’s Bruce Feldman reported that Austin Peay head coach Will Healy could be a candidate as well.
2017-18 FBS COACHING CAROUSEL
|Arizona State||Todd Graham||Herman Edwards|
|Arkansas||Bret Bielema||Chad Morris|
|Florida||Jim McElwain||Dan Mullen|
|Florida State||Jimbo Fisher||Willie Taggart|
|Georgia Southern||Tyson Summers||Chad Lunsford|
|Kent State||Paul Haynes||TBA|
|Ole Miss||Hugh Freeze||Matt Luke|
|Mississippi State||Dan Mullen||Jim Moorhead|
|Nebraska||Mike Riley||Scott Frost|
|Oregon||Willie Taggart||Mario Cristobal (interim)|
|Oregon State||Gary Andersen||Jonathan Smith|
|Rice||David Bailiff||Mike Bloomgren|
|SMU||Chad Morris||Jeff Traylor (interim)|
|South Alabama||Joey Jones||Kane Wommack (interim)|
|Tennessee||Butch Jones||Brady Hoke (interim)|
|Texas A&M||Kevin Sumlin||Jimbo Fisher|
|UCF||Scott Frost||Josh Heupel|
|UCLA||Jim Mora Jr.||Chip Kelly|
|UTEP||Sean Kugler||Mike Price (interim)|
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