2020 College Football: who gained and who lost in FBS coaching changes?

Did you know that nearly one-in-five teams in the FBS changed coaches in the past year? Several had three coaches in one season and Colorado had three in less than two months.

We published a preview of all 130 coaches two months ago and you can see that preview here.  Today my goal is to take a closer look at only those coaches who are new to their teams this season.

Of course, it’s relatively easy to predict things when teams hire guys who have head coaching experience at the FBS level.  But, what about those who don’t?  And what about teams like Colorado that settled on Karl Dorrell who hasn’t head coached anything for nearly a half-decade?

How do you rate them?  Is it even possible?

Actually, it is.  There are scores of clues and methods that can build a reliable resume’ for coaches who seem to have none.  We can talk about that methodology at a later time.  For now, let’s take a look at every new coaching hire in the FBS.

Appalachian State,  Shawn Clark  — success projection:    better than average

If Shawn Clark had been hired elsewhere, the prospects for his success would be rated quite low.  However, ASU is tagged by our Savvy Index as a “program” that has a history of winning regardless of coaching changes, quarterback changes, injuries, etc.  Clark also gets a bump up because he has been a coordinator here for two years and instrumental in ASU’s tremendous recruiting momentum.

Arkansas,  Sam Pittman   —  success projection:    less than average

Sam has been coaching college football for more than 30 years but he has never been a college head coach nor even a coordinator.  His only time learning under an elite was a brief stint as line coach at Georgia.  He’s off to a good start in hiring coordinators, but he’s learning the administrative part on-the-fly.

Baylor,   Dave Aranda —   success projection:    Excellent.  “Can’t miss.”

This is Dave’s first hc job and he is ready. A great hire with an elite background taking over a fast-rising program. In short, he can’t miss.  Aranda knows how elite programs function and he’s taking over an enviable load of talent in Waco.

Boston College,  Jeff Hafley  —  success projection:      better than average

Jeff has nearly 20 years as a defensive secondary specialist at the college level and with the NFL.  He served one year as co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State.  After being hired at Boston College, he held together the best Eagles’ recruiting glass in the past four years.  He is a better-than-average hire who will finally bring BC better-than-average results.

Colorado, Karl Dorrell—   success projection:    very good but a tough situation

Karl has 30 years as an offensive coach at both the college and professional levels.  He was the head coach at UCLA for five years and produced a 35-27 record and was PAC-12 coach of the year in 2005.  If Colorado is patient, Dorrell will return the Buffs to competitiveness.

Colorado State,  Steve Addazio  —   success projection:    solid but not spectacular

Former head coach at Temple and Boston College with a 57-55 record.  Addizio will bring the Rams up in 2020 but he doesn’t rate as a long-term counterweight to CSU’s massive facility expenditures.

Florida Atlantic,  Willie Taggart —  success projection:      poor

Willie’s over all record has more losses than wins.  He has never trained under elite coaches and seems to still be trying to figure things out.  His success in coaching teams with histories of success leaves much to be desired.  He has enough talent at FAU to be successful in 2020, but wins and recruiting will erode sooner than later.

Florida State,   Mike Norvell  —  success projection:      better than average

Mike was 38-15 as head coach at Memphis.  He is a proponent of high octane offenses which he learned while at Tulsa.  He left Memphis with great momentum and he will make an immediate and lasting impact at FSU.  But, can he make inroads to elite recruits who flock to other ACC powers?

Fresno State:   Kalen DeBoer — success projection:     less than average

Kalen has a head coaching record of 67-3 but all of that was at the NAIA level.  He has three years of FBS experience, none as head coach.  Credit must be given for winning three NAIA national championships but history tells us that moving up just one division seldom translates into success that is much above average.  DeBoer is moving up two divisions.

Hawai’i,   Todd Graham — success projection:     excellent

Although Todd hasn’t been an FBS head coach for a few years, he is an excellent fit at Hawai’i.  Savvy Index projects that Graham will elevate the Hawai’i program, put plenty of points on the board, get the Rainbows to bowl games, and probably leave for a mainland program within three years.  There was no coach on the market that Hawai’i could have hired who would fit better and do more than Todd Graham.

Memphis,  Ryan Silverfield —   success projection:     average

Ryan has been a position coach at the FBS and NFL levels since 2006 but he has never been a coordinator or a head coach.  Savvy analytics are saying that he will start fast and finish near or above double-digit wins but his lack of experience in running a college program puts 2021 and beyond in question.

Michigan State,  Mel Tucker  —   success projection:       better than average

When Mel was hired at Colorado, Savvy predicted he would be a success.  He immediately increased the Buffs’ recruiting but Colorado dropped noticeably in competitiveness.  That one season is not enough to disqualify his excellent resume’, but it certainly diminishes the wisdom of once again labeling him as an excellent hire.

Mississippi,   Lane Kiffin  —   success projection:      outstanding

Lane is an ideal fit here because both he and Ol’ Miss have substantial histories of conflict and scandal.  He has since spent time under Nick Saban at Alabama and that has made him a better coach and administrator.  He is taking over a team that has plenty of talent and he is likely to take the Rebels from four wins in 2019 to a bowl game in 2020.  I’m not a Lane fan, but he should do well here.

Mississippi State,  Mike Leach   —   success projection:        very good

Leach builds winners every place he goes.   He also infuriates assistant coaches, players, and fans, the latter of which has already happened in Starkville.  He must win at least 16 games in his first two seasons because MSU admins are trigger-happy. He will start fast because quarterback K.J. Costello has transferred in from Stanford and the September schedule is filled with underdogs.

Missouri,  Elijah Drinkwitz  —   success projection:    average

Everyone loves Elijah and he is a unique coach.  However, he has only one year of coaching experience in the FBS which makes him a curious hire for any SEC team.  With the talent he inherits, he should get Missouri to a bowl game in 2020 but he has no indicators to suggest he will lead Mizzou to the top of the SEC East.

New Mexico, Danny Gonzalez  —   success projection:       poor

Danny has a long history of success as a defensive coordinator but none with elites and none as a head coach.  New Mexico is as short on talent as Gonzalez is on resume’.   He was forced out at Arizona State and the cupboards are bare in New Mexico.

Old Dominion,    Ricky Rahne  —  success projection:    outstanding

The Monarchs won just one game in 2019 so Ricky has a low bar to reach.  The good thing for ODU is that Rahne has the background to know how to efficiently and rather quickly build a program.  Expect the Monarchs to be tougher in 2020 and continue to rise thereafter.

Rutgers,   Greg Schiano —  success projection:       outstanding

Greg has a lot of work to do to rebuild this depleted program.  However, he has already attracted eight Power Five transfers so the Scarlet Knights should look better in 2020.  Schiano has a great resume’ and his return to Rutgers will be as successful as before.  This was a great hire for Rutgers.  As Jim Rome might say, “Good Knight now!”

San Diego State,   Brady Hoke  —  success projection:     outstanding

Brady has been around the block and back again and it’s made him a better coach than when he was here before. Recruiting is on the up-trend and he has a new stadium coming very soon.  Things look bright for the futures of Hoke and SDSU.

UNLV,   Marcus Arroyo  —  success projection:         very poor

Marcus has no elite training and his recent stint as offensive coordinator at Oregon ended amid speculation that he was forced out.  UNLV has struggled to win five games in any season and only won four last year.  There is nothing here to suggest that this is going to work.

USF,   Jeff Scott —   success projection:     “May be the most effectual hire of 2019”

Jeff has a tremendous background and has studied under Dabo Swinney at Clemson for five years.  He’s an excellent recruiter and has attracted qualified assistants.  He is going to turn the Bulls around and, in time, lead them back into the national rankings.  Then, he’ll leave for a respectable Power Five.  This may be the most effectual hiring of 2019.

UTSA,   Jeff Traylor — success projection:     better than average

If you just did a quick scan of Jeff’s college experience, you would likely conclude that five years as an FBS position coach is not enough to think he is the answer for the Roadrunners.  However, Savvy-analytics say that he will improve wins in the short term while recruiting at the top of Conference USA to build a solid program for years to come.

Washington,  Jimmy Lake — success projection:   better than average

Lake has spent most of the past 20 years as a defensive backs coach in college and NFL programs before becoming defensive coordinator at Washington in 2018.  Although it seems most analysts believe he is a great hire for Washington, our system projects him as only a little better than average.  Lake will return energy to a program that was losing momentum.

Washington State,  Nick Rolovich — success projection:     solid

Nick didn’t need much time to turn Hawai’i around and he will do well in The Palouse.  But, the PAC-12 North is getting stronger so he will have his hands full.  He’s resourceful enough to lift this program but not enough to go Duck hunting anytime soon.

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