Pick 6: Coaches on rise, and on the hot seat
By RALPH D. RUSSO
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | August 17,2014
Now that Chris Petersen has left Boise State for Washington, college football needs another coach from outside the so-called Big 5 conferences that will have his name come up for almost every big job.
Six coaches whose names are likely to come up often when the jobs start coming open this season.
Matt Campbell, Toledo:
At 34 years old, Campbell begins his third full season as the Rockets’ coach and is still one of the youngest head coaches in the country. The former quarterback at Division III powerhouse Mount Union is 17-9 with the Rockets, who are expected to contend for a MAC title again. If he’s not coaching in a Big 5 conference before he’s 40, it’ll be surprising.
Doc Holliday, Marshall:
It’s taken a few years for Holliday, a native of Hurricane, West Virginia, to sort things out at Marshall but he’s got it rolling now. The Thundering Herd went 10-4 last season and is primed for another big year in Conference USA. The 57-year-old former Mountaineers player and assistant coach also did a stint at Florida under Urban Meyer. If West Virginia were dive back into the coaching market, Holliday seems like an obvious candidate.
Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana:
Hudspeth has put up three straight 9-4 seasons in Lafayette, Louisiana, and become something of a social media sensation for his impressive work in the weight room — he bench presses about as much as a linebacker. The Ragin’ Cajuns are poised for another big year and with his roots in the south, he seems like a natural to eventually land in the SEC.
Pete Lembo, Ball State:
Wake Forest and Connecticut both gave Lembo a look after last season. It was a long look from Wake Forest. The 44-year-old Lembo has won everywhere he has been, including 25-13 in three years at Ball State, a program that had cratered before he took over. Lembo signed a new contract this offseason that makes him the highest-paid coach in the MAC. An even bigger payday might not be far away.
Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State:
The Bulldogs had lost their way. In two years, DeRuyter (20-6) has helped them find it again. Things get tougher this season with quarterback Derek Carr gone and one of the toughest nonconference schedules in the country. If DeRuyter can navigate through those two obstacles and lead Fresno State on another Mountain West title run, interest will be high for the 51-year-old former defensive coordinator.
Willie Taggart, South Florida:
Taggart’s first season with the Bulls started so poorly, he never could dig out. Coming off 2-10 season, some of the shine is off the former Stanford assistant under Jim Harbaugh. Still, the 37-year-old appears to have a bright future and a quick turnaround could put him back on the fast track to bigger things.
And on the other end ...
Coaches often say they are always on the hot seat. That might be true, but some seats are hotter than others.
Last season, Southern California and Texas changed coaches and created a cascade of corresponding moves.
A similar situation could play out this season, with a few coaches in high-profile positions heading into 2014 very much in need of winning records and quality victories.
Six coaches entering pivotal seasons for their job security.
Will Muschamp, Florida:
Muschamp had a mediocre first season (7-6), a great second season (11-2) and a terrible third season (4-8) with the Gators. Injuries played a big part in ruining 2013, but oh that offense was ugly. Kurt Roper was hired away from Duke to be the coordinator. Roper plans to spread things out more, up the tempo at times, and benefit from the return of quarterback Jeff Driskel, who missed most of last season with a knee injury. Muschamp has plenty of talent to work with on the defensive side. Another losing season would not be tolerated in Gainesville. The question is just how big of a turnaround does Muschamp need?
Brady Hoke, Michigan:
While Muschamp’s time at Florida has been up and down, Hoke’s three-year stint with the Wolverines has been a steady decline. Eleven victories. Eight victories. Seven victories. It’s one thing for the Wolverines to chasing Ohio State. But Michigan State, too? Hoke is also banking on a new offensive coordinator to fix some of his problems. He hired Doug Nussmeier, whose offenses put up big numbers at Alabama even though they weren’t quite what Nick Saban was looking for. The Wolverines have a roster loaded with highly rated recruits, but short on experience. It looks like a team set to blossom next season. Hoke might not be able to wait that long.
Charlie Weis, Kansas:
The Jayhawks have improved in two seasons under Weis, going from one victory to three last season, including their first Big 12 win since 2010. Improved is still a long way from good. The Jayhawks are loaded with experience and should have their best team under the former Notre Dame coach. But will another small step forward be enough?
Mike London, Virginia:
London’s had one winning season in four with Virginia, including last season’s ugly 2-10 that ended with nine straight losses. Virginia decided to give London another year instead of eating a big chunk of contract. He’ll add some blue chip recruits to an experienced defense, but with games against UCLA, BYU, Florida State and Louisville, a major turnaround will be difficult.
Kyle Flood, Rutgers:
A record of 15-11 in two seasons with the Scarlet Knights shouldn’t put a coach on the hot seat, but a nine-win season followed by a six-win season has the arrow pointed in the wrong direction. And now Rutgers moves into the Big Ten to face a brutal schedule (Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Nebraska). Add to that the fact that athletic director Julie Hermann, who has had some of her own problems since arriving at New Jersey’s state university, didn’t hire Flood, and it’s a volatile mix. Did we mention that for Rutgers coach Greg Schiano is available? Volatile.
Tim Beckman, Illinois:
Like Kansas under Weis, Illinois improved from Year 1 to Year 2 under Beckman, going from two wins to four. Bringing in Bill Cubit to run the offense worked wonders last season, but the Illini still couldn’t stop anyone. And February’s recruiting class was ranked last in the Big Ten by Rivals. Another bowl-less winter would be a tough sell in Champaign.
Extra point: Others getting toasty include: Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia; Norm Chow, Hawaii; Troy Calhoun, Air Force; and if Nebraska takes a step backward, it’d be interesting to see what happens with Bo Pelini.