Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Coaches on the Hot Seat: 2014 Preview

As we head into the summer season, there's no time like the present to take a look at which coaches in college football will be feeling the heat in 2014. Several coaches survived the firing squad last fall, but many of those who skated by last fall won't be so lucky this season. Let's see who makes the list this time around:

Troy Calhoun, Air Force
Calhoun isn't a bad coach. He's done some nice things at the academy, but the real truth is that the program is trending downward in a hurry. Year eight of the Calhoun era should be a make or break season. Expectations are that the Falcons will finish at about .500 in 2014, but if they Finish with 9 losses or more, Calhoun's overall record falls below .500. Something else to note... Air Force hasn't won a league title in 29 years.

Bret Bielema, Arkansas
Nobody is saying that Bielema is going to get canned after just his second season in Fayettville, but believe me, the heat is on for him in year two after a season that was an abject disaster. Bielema walked into a chainsaw taking this job on the heels of the disastrous end to the Bobby Petrino era and the mistake that was the one year John L. Smith disaster. That being said, he will need another year to get the Hogs close to returning to their winning ways of old. However, I have seem few guarantees that those days are anywhere close. Unlike many of the coaches on this list, at least Bielema has a major weapon in the form of Alex Collins on offense.

Dan Enos, Central Michigan
Enos has gone just 19-20 in four seasons at CMU. He has not shown a propensity of moving up by beating anyone of note in or out of conference play. This is seriously his make or break season, as the Chippewas play seven games at home, have nine returning starters on offense, and six on defense. If that experience cannot get CMU to seven wins or more this season, with the skill he has on the roster, then Enos will be a dead pooler by season's end. That is a guarantee.

Will Muschamp, Florida
Most folks in Gator nation wanted Muschamp to end up as Gator bait over the winter. It did not happen. There are about seven million reasons why that didn't happen, but the number may not mean a damned thing in 2014 of Florida doesn't show serious improvement on both sides of the football. That loss to Georgia Southern last fall was a massive embarrassment, and Muschamp doesn't have the chips in his corner that come with a shining personality that can talk your way out of a bad year or two. Most people (fans and media alike) are not fans of his, and if Muschamp doesn't lead the Gators to at least a serious shot at the SEC East Divisional title this season, he may be shown the door.

Ron Turner, Florida International
There were several people who felt that Turner was a mistake hire and wanted him gone after just one season. That would have been a bit hasty, but who can blame them when his overall record in college is just 42-70. I wasn't a fan of the Turner hire at FIU, and obviously, others felt the same way. Turner's 1-11 season in year one bought him zero goodwill, so another repeat of that, especially with nine returning starters on offense coming back, may get him an early axe.

Mark Richt, Georgia
Richt is perennially on the hot seat at Georgia, but really and truly, his teams have underachieved more than overachieved during his tenure. The Bulldogs lost five games last season, and that was with Aaron Murray at QB until his season ending injury late in that season. Murray isn't walking through that door anymore, and the replacements aren't up to his ability yet. Todd Gurley will have the load squarely on his shoulders, and he'll be running behind a rebuilt line. There could be some grumbling in Athens this fall.

Trent Miles, Georgia State
Miles has never known a great deal of success as a head coach on the FCS level, and the Panthers went 0-12 in his first season in 2013. Miles doesn't have a stocked cupboard in 2014, and has only five returning starters in 2014 on offense. With an overall coaching record of 20-48, it would stand to reason to believe that Miles won't be lasting long at this post.

Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
After consecutive seven win seasons, Tech fans are expecting more in 2014. The staff remained intact (which is a surprise), and recruiting has stepped up, but how much can we expect of the Jackets this fall? They have to win close games, and find a way to beat Georgia. Tech had the Bulldogs on the ropes before blowing the game and losing in double OT. Losses like that are bad for business, and the fan base is starting to have some demands. Johnson has to turn a corner in year seven in Atlanta.

Norm Chow, Hawaii
Chow is 4-20 in his first two seasons at UH, and his tenure has been largely a disaster of epic proportions. Sure, they lost several close games last fall, but they finished 1-11, and went winless in conference play last fall, and Rainbow fans aren't used to this kind of thing. The schedule won't provide any early favors this season, and another repeat will show Chow an exit to retirement earlier than expected.

Tim Beckman, Illinois
Beckman was on his way out late last season, but managed to pull it together just enough to save his position with the Illini at the 11th hour. Beckman will be under immense pressure to turn it around this fall, and it's to be expected that Illinois must win at least six games in 2014 to keep Beckman in his job.

Paul Rhoades, Iowa State
Coming off of a 3-9 season, Rhoades is now just 27-36 while entering his 6th season at the helm of the Cyclones. ISU breaks in a new QB, and welcomes OC Mark Mangino, but will it be enough to get the Cyclones in the upper division of the Big 12? If you look at the schedule, I'm thinking not, as they could be 0-6 through mid October. That may be enough to get Rhoades his walking papers.

Charlie Weis, Kansas
Weis had access to more talent at Notre Dame, and barely got by, which got him ousted. Kansas has never really been what I would call a football hotbed, and so even though he has landed several very decent transfers, The high water mark was three wins. Weis is just 4-20 in two seasons, and will need to push at least .500 this season. I don't see where those six wins will come from.

Randy Edsell, Maryland
Edsell turned a bit of a corner by winning seven games in 2013, but the stakes are a little bit higher, as the Terps move into the Big 10 to try and "increase their profile". If you can't win regularly in the ACC, then how will they win bigger in the Big 10? I don't see it. Edsell is 13-24 in three seasons, so 2014 may be make or break for him.

Justin Fuentes, Memphis
Memphis actually took a step back in year two under Fuentes in 2013, falling to three wins from four in year one. He is 7-17 in two seasons, and it's that year three thing where it's time to show major progression. I believe that Fuentes may be in over his head at a program who hasn't won a conference title since 1971 (Missouri Valley).

Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
Mullen is likely not in real trouble, having compiled a 36-28 record in five seasons. The real issue is that at some point, I have to wonder when winning six or seven wins won't be enough anymore. Missouri and Texas A&M have far surpassed MSU in their own conference, as has South Carolina. It's kind of sad when you think about it in those terms.

Bob Davie, New Mexico
Davie is building at New Mexico, and they are moving upward. There is more depth than ever right now, and the team could move up from three wins to five or six this season. That's great, but a fall back would be terrible. If Davie can keep this train moving in the right direction, even to just five wins, than we aren't having this conversation anymore.

Doug Martin, New Mexico State
Martin has never been a great coach. He has a career record of 31-63, and let's face it...the only reason he has the job is that he was the only one who wanted it after DeWayne Walker left. This is probably one of the two worst jobs in the country. Martin went 2-10 in his first season, and changed a ton of staff after the season. If it doesn't pan out, there isn't any other place to look but at the top. Moving to the Sun Belt won't help much.

Larry Fedora, North Carolina
I have never been overly impressed by Fedora, who has never stayed anywhere long enough to get a good feel about. With several major losses as far as personnel is concerned, and a tough schedule, it could be a six win season again. That's not enough to make me dump all over UNC, but they should be better than this. I give him two years before I really turn up my heat dial.

Mike Riley, Oregon State
Riley has been ok in tour two in Corvallis, but talent is diving, and after Sean Mannion loses Brandin Cooks, does he have other talent to make up for his loss? Does a lacking running game improve enough to help settle the difference? Can the Beavers make a mark in the ultra competitive Pac-12 North? Riley has his hands full, and he may not be able to push this team as hard as they need to be pushed.

Kyle Flood, Rutgers
Flood has not matched the success of Greg Schiano, and moving to the Big 10 may be a massive mistake for the overmatched Knights. Rutgers could barely scrape by in the Big East/AAC, so what makes them think that they could have a place of supremecy in a much tougher conference? Flood has a ton to prove, and not much time to prove it.

June Jones, SMU
I really felt that Jones could have been on the way out after last fall, but a strong finish held the wolves at bay. SMU absolutely needs a push in 2014, and they may have some talent at QB, despite the loss of the massively overrated Garrett Gilbert. They will have to slow down the offense to succeed, but the offense was only sped up to help Gilbert. Jones is just 36-41 at SMU, and the fan base was really grumbling last fall. Time to put up or get out.

Larry Blakeney, Troy
Blakeney has been at Troy forever, but the program has grown stale on his watch. Blakeney has an overall record of 175-104-1 record in 23 seasons, but he has obviously forgotten how to coach a team that plays defense. All everything QB Corey Robinson is also gone. How do you recover from that? I don't know, but this ship is sinking, and new blood is needed.
Bill Blankenship, Tulsa
I've never been a fan of this hire, and if Tulsa can't win more than three games in 2014, than Blankenship will be under .500. 2013 was abysmal at Tulsa, and if there isn't a serious turnaround in 2014, Blankenship may not survive.

Bobby Hauck, UNLV
Hauck hasn't had a winning season at UNLV, and now the Rebels have lost bowl eligibility due to APR issues. Academics is what you do. You should never fail to reach postseason play over academics at a university in this country, and it's Hauck's cross to bare, as is the loss of Caleb Herring and Tim Cornett. It may be a difficult year in the desert.

Mike London, Virginia
London should be gone already. Simple as that. Virginia has been horrible, and the schedule doesn't allow for much better in 2014. I'm just shocked that he got 2014.

Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech
Beamer is slipping. He has been at Tech forever, but it's time to pass the torch. Players aren't responding, and the talent level isn't what it should be, as evidenced by the blowout loss in the Sun Bowl. The QBs weren't good in the spring, so the Hokies offense has no answers heading into fall camp.

Dana Holgorson, West Virginia
Remember when he was going to build WVU into a power in the rebuilt Big 12? Hasn't happened, and isn't going to happen this season either. WVU looks like a mess right now, and I don't see a clear path moving forward.

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