Saturday, January 7, 2017

Grading the FCS Coaching Hires For 2017

With all but one FCS vacancy filled, here are my current grades for the coaching hires made for the coming 2017 college football season:

Abilene Christian
Adam Dorrel
Dorrel is a 3 time All-Bilo D2 Coach of the Year at Northwest Missouri State. Dorrel was promoted to that job under difficult circumstances, and quickly molded the program back into a championship winning program in short order, without ever missing a beat. ACU needed an upgrade, and they certainly got one in this hire. This was a grand slam in my opinion.
Grade: A+

Tom Arth
Arth is coming off of a national semifinal appearance at John Carroll, and so you can understand the appeal of hiring a coach who stole a conference title away from perennial power Mount Union. That being said, it is a huge jump from D3 to D1 (just ask Lance Leipold at Buffalo). Arth will certainly have an adjustment to make, but former coach Russ Huesman built a winning atmosphere here, so it was a good job to land.
Grade: B

James Perry
Perry was the OC at Princeton last season, when the Tigers pulled an upset and won the Ivy League title. The Tigers averaged 34.6 points per game, and Perry elevated the offense into one of the best in the nation. The problem is that Bryant was OK on offense. The defense, on the other hand, was a wreck. Perry probably will need to get his Bulldogs to score plenty until he fixes that defense.
Grade: B

Danny Rocco
This hire was a bit of a surprise to me, as I am not all that certain why Rocco would leave a top 10 program for a rebuilding project at Delaware. That is not to say that Delaware is a bad job, because it is an absolutely great job. Both programs are in the Colonial, and Rocco will have to coach against his former players. That said, Rocco is a winner. He turned Liberty into a winner, taking the Flames from a 1 win program to 8 wins in 2 seasons. He is coming off of a 3 year run of taking Richmond to the FCS playoffs. He has a 90-42 record as a head coach. In short, Delaware gets a winner who can bring the Blue Hens back to their glory days.
Grade: A+

Curt Cignetti
Rich Skrosky left to join the new staff under Butch Davis at FIU, but who knew that Elon would gain by attrition? Cignetti has worked for Nick Saban at Alabama, so you know what his pedigree is. He has a 53-17 record as head coach at D2 IUP, and has only once lost more than 2 games in PSAC play. In short, he is a winner, and Elon needs a winner. Other than coaching at Alabama, he has a ton of FBS experience, which is rare for a D2 head coach.
Grade: A+

Clay Hendrix
Hendrix is a 30 veteran of the world of assistant coaching in college football, with stops at NC State, a 20 year stint at Furman, and another decade at Air Force. He was a previous assistant head coach at Furman, so he knows the turf. My only concern is why, after 30 years, has he not been a head coach before?
Grade: C+

Mike London
London has an FCS championship under his belt from 2008 as coach at Richmond. He also has a national FCS coach of the year award, an ACC coach of the year award, and has won on the FCS level. His time at Virginia ended in disaster, but he can coach. He knows the region, and honestly, has the best overall resume of any coach in the MEAC in the last decade. He was a seriously good get for this moribund program.
Grade: A

John Garrett
Garrett is the brother of Dallas Cowboys Coach Jason Garrett. His offense scored 401 points this season at Richmond, and instead of heading to Delaware, he takes a job up the road with the Leopards, who have been a mess in recent seasons. This is a winnable situation. He has an amazing family pedigree, a ton of NFL experience, and was highly successful in his one season as OC at Richmond. The recruiting is fertile in the area, so it all starts there. Garrett can fix this.
Grade: B+

Mike Schultz
Schultz is another career assistant who after 35 years finally becomes a head coach. He has known lots of success as an assistant, and was OC at TCU when he coached Ladanian Tomlinson and And Dalton, but again, the question bodes, why has he never been a head coach? He has tons of relationships in the Texas high school ranks, and that could help. It's a decent hire, but is it to the level of Dorrel at Southland rival Abilene Christian? Not really.
Grade: C

Tommy Spangler
Spangler is a former Blue Hose head coach, where he went 42-24 from 2001-06. He has been at several stops throughout the south, and knows the program and region well. He came back to PC in 2013, and had been serving as DC. He was promoted to replace Harold Nichols, who never could figure out how to win. Spangler has won here before, but the Blue Hose were a D2 program then, so there is a question as to how Spangler can get things rolling as the head guy, when the team struggled with him as DC. However, if anyone can get this on track, it has to be him.
Grade: B

Russ Huesman
After several middling years at Chattanooga, Huesman finally pulled the Mocs into being a reliable winner in 2013, and is 36-16 since then. Remember, however, that the Southern Conference lost some real heavy weights during that time with the departures of Appalachian State and Georgia Southern. Huesman takes over a winning program, so he lands in a soft spot. Despite scoring 445 points in 2016, the Mocs finished 6-2 in SoCon play, and despite being the favorite to win the SoCon, they did not. Those are some considerations.
Grade: B+

UC Davis
Dan Hawkins
Coach Hawk is one of those Boise State curse guys. He won big with the Broncos, and then when he branched out to go to Colorado, he fell flat. He certainly is not alone in that. He was a huge winner at NAIA Willamette, where he finished 40-11-1, with one national title game appearance, so he knows how to win at a small school locale. He finished 53-11 at Boise State, which propelled him to Colorado, where he stumbled to a 10-27 record. He has not coached since 2010, and has been working in media. This is a big chance for Hawkins to rebuild his coaching profile, but he will be stuck in a bottom dwelling program in the Big Sky, and climbing the ranks there will be a tough go. This was a still a major name grab for the Aggie program.
Grade: A-


Indiana State
Mike Sanford left the program, and no hire has yet been made. I will update once this has happened.

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