Wednesday, January 8, 2014

As the Carousel Turns: Grading the Coaching Changes

There are now just four jobs left open for 2014, and those jobs are Penn State, UMass, Georgia Southern, and Western Kentucky. With most of the limited opportunities now spoken for, let's take a look at those jobs that have been filled, and which are still open, who has scored in their hire, and who has fallen short of awe.

Arkansas State
Out: Brian Harsin (Left for Boise State)
In: Blake Anderson (North Carolina OC)
The Red Wolves are once again the bridesmaid, as they will have their fifth coach in five seasons with Anderson. Harsin couldn't resist returning to Boise State, where he cut his teeth under Chris Pedersen.
ASU went in an interesting direction with Anderson. UNC has been known for balanced offenses, with an emphasis on power running. He likely won't be a target of anyone's interest next season, as he was not highly touted for this job.
This was not a fantastic hire for ASU, but wasn't terrible either. I'm on the fence on Anderson heading into 2014.
Grade: C

Out: Rich Ellersen (Fired)
In: Jeff Monken (Former Georgia Southern Coach)
Ellersen was an Army guy, but he was falling fast, and Navy has been dominating the series as of late, and if the Cadets were ever to knock off Air Force, this season was the year, and Army fell short. Ellersen finally had to go, despite giving the Cadet program some fun times during the Trent Steelman era at QB.
Monken has been solid at Georgia Southern, but this job may be worse than had he stayed at GSU. The Eagles are moving up to FCS football shortly, and probably have more opportunities to win as a program as Army has. He's a solid coach, but was this a solid choice for him?
Monken does have an acumen in the triple option, which fits the program.
Grade: B

Boise State
Out: Chris Pedersen (Left for Washington)
In: Brian Harsin (Former Arkansas State Coach)
Petersen has been one of the most dominant coaches in the last decade in college football. He has finished the rise of the Bronco program to national stability, but the program did slide a bit this season. Pedersen finally felt that bolting was the right thing to do when Washington came calling.
Harsin was a former OC at Boise State, and is well connected at the school. That being said, He has limited experience as a head coach.
Harsin should be able to keep Boise moving forward, but that may not mean 10 to 12 wins per season, at least not at first.
Grade: B

Bowling Green
Out: Dave Clawson (Left for Wake Forest)
In: Dino Babers (Former Eastern Illinois)
Clawson did a solid but not spectacular job at BGSU. The Falcons finally turned the corner by winning the MAC this season, upsetting Northern Illinois in the process. Losing Clawson is probably not the worst thing to happen here.
Babers did a masterful turn around job at EIU, and led to one of the best seasons in history for the Panthers, including building up QB Jimmy Garroppolo to national prominence. Babers took over a program in disarray, and turned them into a contender.
Bowling Green may have seriously scored here.
Grade: A

Out: Paul Pasqualoni (Fired)
In: Bob Diaco (Notre Dame DC)
Pasqualoni was an awful hire, and he simply had to go before he did any more damage to an already barely mediocre program.
Diaco was a letdown hire after the Huskies flirted heavily with Pat Narduzzi of Michigan State. Narduzzi, and Towson coach Rob Ambrose were heavy favorites for the job, but something about Storrs turned both coaches off, and the Huskies took Diaco.
I'm not overly excited about this hire.
Grade: C-

Eastern Michigan
Out: Ron English (Fired)
In: Chris Creighton (Drake Coach)
Ron English was fired for reasons given that were completely ridiculous, such as he called his players homosexual names, and was just not such a nice guy. I call complete bull crap. He was fired because the wins weren't there, and if other reason were given other than that, then EMU is just more of a mess than I thought.
And then they hired Creighton as head coach. OK, Creighton has had some success at some smaller programs, and Drake was far from awful, but this was the best guy that EMU could hire? Jeff Wristen, who has built a D2 power, was a candidate, and others wanted the job as well. This hire came off as desperate, and probably won't improve things here immediately, or at all.
Grade: D

Florida Atlantic
Out: Carl Pelini (Fired)
In: Charlie Harbridge (Arkansas DL Coach)
Carl Pelini is a bit nutty. He was fired for admitting to doing drugs, then later said that he didn't do drugs. It was an amazing story of absolute stupidity that was worth many laughs from bystanders.
With some really high profile guys interested in the job (Luke Fickell, Ed Orgeron, successful interim coach Brian Wright, Bethune-Cookman coach Brian Jenkins), AD Patrick Chung went with Harbridge?
Wright took a terrible team and actually got them bowl eligible, even though they weren't invited anywhere. This program was a wreck, and he fixed it, and then was told he wouldn't be considered for the job. Classy.
This was a mess of a situation that then turned into a crappy hire.
Grade: F

Out: Charlie Strong (Left for Texas)
In: Bobby Petrino (Western Kentucky Coach)
Charlie Strong was an excellent coach, and did great things for a program that was a little bit broken when he arrived. Strong is as good a coach as anyone can or will find anywhere. Louisville will miss him for a bit, but bringing Petrino back was an excellent move, and an opportunity that just landed in their lap.
Petrino is rounding the turn into his second stint with Louisville, and I think that he may stay for a while this time around after a disastrous tenure with the Atlanta Falcons, followed by a personal mess that got him bounced at Arkansas. Still, Petrino is one hell of a coach, who had Louisville moving in a huge upward arc before leaving. If he stays, this could be an awesome move.
Grade: A+

Out: Charlie Molnar
In: Open
Molnar was not a hit in Amherst, and apparently never connected to the larger university community. His mismatched personality, followed by two wins in two years was enough to make the UMass program buy out his final three years to move him out.
Let me be clear...this is a terrible job. The team plays 90 miles from campus, and there is a disconnect with the program in the state, where college sports are highly unpopular.
The only way that this job can be made good is if the Minutemen go with former head coach and current Miami OC Mark Whipple, who won an FCS title in the 90's with the Minutemen. Whipple understands the culture, and knows how to get around the lack of talent in the area. He is the guy.

Miami (Ohio)
Out: Don Treadwell (Fired)
In: Chuck Martin (Notre Dame OC)
Martin has been a candidate for his fair share of jobs, and he finally lands one of his own. Martin has been a highly successful offensive assistant under Brian Kelly for a long while, and he may just have the mindset needed to turn the corner at the once proud Miami program.
Treadwell was a solid guy, but it just didn't work for him in Oxford. It's a shame, but he'll be back as an assistant somewhere before long.
Grade: B+

Penn State
Out: Bill O'Brien (NFL Houston Texans)
In: Open
This is not as great a job as many would think. First of all, if recent comments by O'Brien are true, you have to deal with the Paterno-ites. They still exist, and they still think that they control the game in Happy Valley. The bummer is that we'll probably have to wait for those morons to die out before that mentality goes away. Here's the reality...Joe Paterno wasn't a great man.
With the Paterno people still looming and believing that they have a say in all things football, and the sanctions having not fully settled in yet, this job has more negatives than positives.
Mike Munchak will likely be the guy here, or Greg Roman.

Out: Mack Brown (Fired/retired)
In: Charlie Strong (Louisville Coach)
Brown was pushed out by a myopic crowd. That's as true as it gets. Texas is a premier organization, but not a premier program. Nobody has more resources, and a better recruiting base, but other programs have risen while UT has fallen back a few steps. Strong is a guy who can remedy that problem, but the meddlers need to step back and allow him to coach.
Grade: A

Out: Lane Kiffin (Fired)
In: Steve Sarkisian (Washington Coach)
USC was turned down by everyone including Santa Claus. The Trojans were going to toss Texas like money at anyone who would sniff, and the best they could get was Sarkisian, who's high water mark at Washington was an 8-4 season. USC thinks that they are a premier program, this hire speaks volumes otherwise. Dipping into the Carroll well again may not be the right way to go.
Grade: C-

Wake Forest
Out: Jim Grobe (Fired)
In: Dave Clawson (Bowling Green Coach)
Grobe was an all around great guy per sources in the business. He just wasn't having that great a run as a coach at Wake, but it may not have been all his problem. He has since complained that after the Deacons won the ACC and went to the Orange Bowl, he expected more support from the school. He never got that help and support, and so the success wasn't sustained, and he's right, as it's a joint effort.
With Grobe resigning, Dave Clawson came over from Bowling Green after an up and down tenure with the Falcons. Clwson is a decent coach, but was hardly a splashy hire that would fire up an otherwise lackluster campus support system.
Grade: C

Out: Steve Sarkisian (Left for USC)
In: Chris Pedersen (Boise State Coach)
Pedersen did an amazing job at Boise State, but can he take that to the next level at Washington? None of his predecessors at Boise ever left and found success. It's a huge risk to make this move, and especially when Boise was showing signs of wearing this season.
Pedersen has much to prove, but could be the best hire in the nation if this works out.
Grade: A

Western Kentucky
Out: Bobby Petrino (Left for Louisville)
In: Open
This job will be filled in a few days, and will likely have someone from within the current staff. It's a solid job, with good facilities and a relatively new stadium. Willie Taggert got it going, and Petrino kept it humming to the tune of 8 wins this season.
This is one of the better lower level FBS programs

Out: Dave Christensen (Fired)
In: Craig Bohl (North Dakota State Coach)
I would have fired Christensen after 2012, but better late than never. The Wyoming administration has been a mess, but they certainly scored in hiring Bohl, a former Nebraska assistant who has dominated the FCS ranks to the tune of consecutive national titles.
Bohl will fit perfectly in the culture at Wyoming, and can turn this program around quickly. One of the best hires of 2013.
Grade: A+

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