2017-18 FBS Coaching Carousel: Dec. 13 Update

Well, it’s all bowl games and the College Football Playoff now in FBS. And the coaching carousel is starting to slow down a bit. So, let’s get you up to date with hiring news and analysis for head-coaching moves as of Dec. 13.


Jeremy Pruitt

Tennessee: Finally, a head coach. Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt accepted the job just after my last update went to the site. He is southern through and through, having started his coaching career 20 years ago as a graduate assistant at Alabama after playing his final two seasons of college football with the Crimson Tide. He worked his way up through the high school ranks, coaching defense at legendary Hoover (AL) High before moving to the college ranks, first as an assistant at Alabama, then Florida State (where he became a defensive coordinator), Georgia and back to Alabama in 2016. He knows the conference, he knows the recruiting landscape and he knows the expectations. This feels like a good hire for the Vols. Pruitt will coach the Tide’s defense in the CFP, but he’s already making waves on the recruiting trail and something tells me he’ll handle the balancing act better than Lane Kiffin did last year.

Oregon: The Ducks promoted Mario Cristobal to head coach shortly after naming him the interim head coach to replace Willie Taggart. It’s been a long road back to being a head coach after his firing at FIU after the 2012 season, a firing I felt was premature. Even though he was 27-47 at FIU, he had done amazing things with that program, leading them to bowl games in back-to-back seasons in 2010 and 2011. Cristobal found a great landing spot in Alabama, coaching the offensive line at Alabama for four years before he slid over to be the co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Oregon under Taggart. He was also named national recruiter of the year in 2015, and with a year in the Pacific Northwest there should be little learning curve. This becomes a win-win if Cristobal and the Oregon brass can convince defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt to stay and not follow Taggart to Florida State. The Ducks have a great deal of talent returning, including QB Justin Herbert, so a winning season should be no problem in Year 1. Cristobal now gets to prove he can be successful when he has all the resources in the world, and he’ll certainly have that at Oregon.

Sonny Dykes

SMU: Sonny Dykes will replace Chad Morris at SMU and will coach the Mustangs in their bowl game next week. Dykes, the former Louisiana Tech and Cal coach, was an offensive analyst for TCU this past season. Some have pooh-poohed the hire, saying Dykes is a retread and SMU players were pulling for their interim coach, Jeff Traylor, to get the job (Traylor, a respected former high school head coach at Gilmer, Texas, worked his way up from that position to associate head coach at SMU under Morris in just four seasons and appears on a Morris or Gus Malzahn track to be a head coach. However, he has never been an offensive coordinator at the college level). Dykes’ record looks middling (41-45), but he’s had success at the Group of 5 level before, taking La Tech (oddly enough SMU’s bowl opponent next week) to seasons of 8-5 and 9-3 in 2011-12, along with a Conference USA title game appearance, before moving on to Cal. And his tenure at Cal wasn’t a disaster. He took them to a bowl game with 8 wins in 2015. His offensive philosophy should fit in well at SMU. He’s already lured Trey Haverty to his staff, a young coach who has already spent time with TCU, Texas, Texas Tech and Lamar, along with having roots in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He should be an immediate help in recruiting. I don’t see this being a huge dropoff for the Mustangs, honestly.

UTEP: The Miners lured Kansas State offensive coordinator Dana Dimel to take over the Miners for 2018. This is not Dimel’s first rodeo as a head coach. He led Wyoming from 1997-99 and Houston from 2000-02. He has a 30-39 career record, but he had a much better time of it at Wyoming (22-13 in three seasons) than Houston (8-26 in three years). So it’s not clear what to expect. He spent nearly a decade with Bill Snyder at Kansas State, so will Dimel install a similar offense or go for something more, shall we say, modern? If the Miners get the Dimel from Wyoming, this is a great hire. If the Miners get the Dimel from Houston, well uh-oh.

South Alabama: After a search that took Jaguars brass to several interviews with FBS coordinators, they decided to hire away Central Arkansas head coach Steve Campbell to take over the Jags. Campbell went 33-15 in four seasons at UCA, taking over for Clint Conque. He did a great job of maintaining the Bears as a quality FCS program and a contender in the Southland Conference. The last Alabama FBS program to tap the FCS ranks for a head coach was UAB (Bill Clark). That worked out pretty well. If Campbell can get the Jaguars contending for a bowl game in Year 1, that’s a win. What was likely most attractive to the Jags was Campbell’s ties to the Mississippi Junior College community, one of the most fertile juco recruiting grounds in the country. Campbell had been a head coach at two of those schools, so expect some juco transfers in Campbell’s first recruiting class.


Louisiana: Jeff Horchak of KLFY-TV reported that the search is down to three coaches — Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry, former Florida offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada. My money is on Canada.

Kent State: FootballScoop.com is doing some great reporting here, but there are plenty of names connected to the job, including South Dakota head coach Bob Nielson and Garrett Riley, the younger brother of Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley (the younger Riley is at Kansas). The Golden Flashes are still looking as of this writing.


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 Colin Ferrell (interim)
Louisiana Mark Hudspeth TBA
Ole Miss Hugh Freeze Matt Luke
Mississippi State Dan Mullen Jim Moorhead
Nebraska Mike Riley Scott Frost
Oregon Willie Taggart Mario Cristobal
Oregon State Gary Andersen Jonathan Smith
Rice David Bailiff Mike Bloomgren
SMU Chad Morris Sonny Dykes
South Alabama Joey Jones Steve Campbell
Tennessee Butch Jones Jeremy Pruitt
Texas A&M Kevin Sumlin Jimbo Fisher
UCF Scott Frost Josh Heupel
UCLA Jim Mora Jr. Chip Kelly
UTEP Sean Kugler Dana Dimel


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