Predicting the 2014 Win-Loss Record for Every New College Football Head Coach
Last winter, the coaching carousel was a bit quieter than normal. Although several major positions (Penn State, Southern California and Texas) opened up, only 20 FBS institutions will boast new head coaches when preseason practice opens up next month.
With conference media days and the opening of fall practice just around the bend, speculation will begin on just how well (or how poorly) these coaches will perform in their inaugural seasons at their respective institutions. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and that’s exactly the opportunity these coaches will have in 2014.
We decided to take a look at just how each new coach will fare this fall. Here’s our shot at predicting the 2014 win-loss record for every new college football head coach.
Blake Anderson, Arkansas State
If nothing else, Arkansas State knows how to hold an introductory press conference by now. When Anderson, formerly North Carolina’s offensive coordinator, arrived, he became the Red Wolves’ fifth head coach in as many seasons.
The program has been a launching pad for coaches like Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and Boise State’s Bryan Harsin. ASU hopes Anderson sticks around for a while, signing him to a contract that includes a $3 million buyout after the first season and $2 million for the next two seasons.
He inherits a solid core. While junior quarterback Fredi Knighten is a new starter, he was the GoDaddy Bowl MVP, and junior tailback Michael Gordon is a punishing runner. Do-everything junior wideout J.D. McKissic should be one of the Sun Belt’s most exciting players, and the defense returns eight starters (it ranked third in the Sun Belt in scoring defense a year ago at 26.2 points per game). The core is there for Anderson to succeed early and build on it, if he sticks around.
Dino Babers, Bowling Green
Babers inherits an excellent situation at Bowling Green. Dave Clawson left for Wake Forest following a 10-4 record and a Mid-American Conference championship, and a healthy core returns. Babers is kicking the Falcons’ offense into high gear with a fast-paced offense that is Babers’ specialty: Eastern Illinois led the FCS by averaging 589.5 yards and 48.2 points per game.
Junior quarterback Matt Johnson (3,467 yards and 25 touchdowns) returns, as does junior tailback Travis Greene, who rushed for a program-record 1,594 yards a year ago. Also returning are experienced receivers and three offensive linemen.
The core of the MAC’s top-rated scoring defense returns, although senior free safety Ryland Ward is the only returning starter in the secondary. Still, there’s plenty of reason to expect early success for Babers in Bowling Green.
Craig Bohl, Wyoming
Craig Bohl is a proven winner. He led North Dakota State to three consecutive FCS national titles with a 43-2 record over his last three seasons. Bohl steps into a solid foundation in Laramie. The Cowboys are not necessarily a reclamation project. They were 5-7 a year ago and return 14 starters, eight on defense. One issue will be finding a starting quarterback, with senior Colby Kirkegaard the leading candidate.
Wyoming is transitioning on both sides of the ball, going from the spread attack that former coach Dave Christensen favored to a pro-style scheme and moving from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense. The Cowboys won’t challenge for a Mountain West title this season, but they could pull off an upset or two along the way.
Jeff Brohm, Western Kentucky
When Bobby Petrino bolted for Louisville after just one season, Jeff Brohm was a natural choice to replace him as Western Kentucky’s new head coach. Brohm learned as Petrino’s offensive coordinator and led a high-powered attack that averaged 30.8 points per game.
Tailback Antonio Andrews (who was the nation’s leading rusher over the past two seasons) is gone, but six offensive starters return, led by senior quarterback Brandon Doughty, who passed for 2,857 yards last fall. Bigger challenges await on defense, where only two starters return, one of whom is All-Sun Belt cornerback Cam Thomas (five interceptions in 2013).
A year ago, the Hilltoppers were snubbed for a bowl following an 8-4 record. Their schedule will be harder in their first season in Conference USA but a bowl bid wouldn’t be out of the question.
Bill Clark, UAB
UAB is one of the tougher jobs in college football, with lagging facilities and competing for attention with Alabama and Auburn in football-mad Alabama. And former Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee simply wasn’t a good fit for the Blazers, and it’s likely that few tears were shed on either side when he rejoined former boss Bobby Petrino in Louisville.
UAB made a smart hire in grabbing Jacksonville State coach Bill Clark, who led the Gamecocks to an 11-4 record in his first season as a collegiate head coach. Clark, a longtime head coach at prep power Prattville (Alabama), knows the state’s landscape and how to succeed in the Yellowhammer State.
The Blazers return 12 starters overall but need to find a starting quarterback. Sophomore tailback Jordan Howard and senior wideout Jamarcus Nelson are solid offensive pieces. UAB must improve defensively after allowing 43.8 points per game a year ago, No. 119 nationally. This is a long-term project, but the Blazers could be better than a 2-10 team this fall in Conference USA.
Dave Clawson, Wake Forest
Sometimes, you just know it’s time. That’s the way Jim Grobe felt at Wake Forest. After leading the Demon Deacons to an ACC title in 2006, Grobe settled into a malaise and finished his Wake career with five consecutive losing seasons, including last fall’s 4-8 mark. Enter Dave Clawson, who arrives following an excellent stint at Bowling Green, including last fall’s 10-4 record and a MAC title.
Progress might not be immediate under Clawson’s watch. Wake returns only three offensive starters, all on the offensive line, following the departures of quarterback Tanner Price and prolific receiver Michael Campanaro.
On the defensive line, Wake must replace All-ACC defensive tackle Nikita Whitlock, but does return five starters. Wake must go to Louisiana-Monroe, Utah State, Louisville and Florida State in the season’s first six games. Expect a step back this fall.
Chris Creighton, Eastern Michigan
Eastern Michigan is one of college football’s toughest jobs. The Eagles have not had a winning record since 1995 and have won just four games over the past two seasons. A quick fix is not likely. Enter Creighton, who has never coached at the FBS level but has a 139-46 record over 17 seasons, most recently at Drake.
Senior tailback Bronson Hill (1,101 rushing yards in 2013) and sophomore quarterback Brogan Roback are a solid backfield duo, but a defense that returns only five starters from a group that gave up 45.2 points per game a year ago (No. 121 nationally) must improve, and that won’t happen overnight. Incremental success this season would be a big story in Ypsilanti.
Bob Diaco, UConn
Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco has been given the keys to a program that has slipped into the bottom half of the American Athletic Conference, winning just 13 games over the last three seasons.
The Huskies return 10 starters but must find a starting quarterback amid a three-QB competition. Diaco hopes to improve a defense that allowed 30.3 points per game last fall, No. 85 nationally. A talented secondary will lead the way, but depth must improve in the front seven.
James Franklin, Penn State
James Franklin walks into an improving situation in Happy Valley. Franklin, a Pennsylvania native, doesn’t have to be the guy who follows Joe Paterno and the immediate aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
That job went to Bill O’Brien, who left after two successful seasons for the NFL’s Houston Texans. Penn State is still banned from postseason play for the next two seasons but the NCAA is gradually restoring the scholarships it stripped from the Nittany Lions over the next two seasons.
Penn State returns only three offensive starters (one on the offensive line) but one is sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who threw for 246.3 yards per game as a freshman. Six defensive starters return. The schedule, outside games against Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan, is not terribly challenging, and Penn State could have a solid debut under Franklin’s watch.
Willie Fritz, Georgia Southern
The theme of Georgia Southern’s 2014 season is change. The Eagles (who gained attention with a November upset at Florida) are moving from the FCS into the FBS ranks and joining the Sun Belt, and they’ll do so with a new coach, Willie Fritz. Fritz replaces Jeff Monken, who became Army’s head coach.
Fritz will move away from the triple option that Monken favored into more of a spread option attack. He’ll be breaking in a new quarterback in sophomore Kevin Ellison: Georgia Southern returns nine starters overall. GSU travels to N.C. State and Georgia Tech while playing a Sun Belt slate, so expect an initial step back this fall.
Bryan Harsin, Boise State
When Chris Petersen left for Washington, Bryan Harsin was a natural fit to replace him at Boise State. Harsin is a former Broncos quarterback and spent nine years as a BSU assistant, including four as an offensive coordinator. Over Harsin’s last four seasons, the Broncos finished no lower than 18th nationally in total offense. He spent one season as Texas’ offensive coordinator and a season as Arkansas State’s head coach, where he went 7-5 with a Sun Belt title.
Harsin will run a pro-style offense that will operate out of the shotgun and be uptempo and fun to watch, led by returning starter Grant Hedrick, who accounted for 22 total touchdowns a year ago.
Fifteen starters return, led by wideout Shane Williams-Rhodes (77 catches, 702 yards, six touchdowns in 2013). Boise opens in the Georgia Dome against Ole Miss but has its toughest Mountain West tests (Colorado State, BYU, Fresno State, Utah State) in Boise, which will be a huge boost.
Chuck Martin, Miami-Ohio
Miami is known as the “Cradle of Coaches,” and if Chuck Martin becomes the latest to carry on that line, it’ll be an impressive feat. The Redhawks are down significantly. A year ago, they went 0-12 and lost games by an average of 25.9 points. Enter Martin, who was most recently Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator but also won a pair of Division II national championships at Grand Valley State.
Miami returns seven starters offensively and also adds quarterback Andrew Hendrix, who followed Martin from Notre Dame. The Redhawks were last in the MAC in scoring offense, total offense, rushing offense and passing offense a year ago. They also allowed an average of 35.7 points per game (No. 106 nationally). For a team that endured what Miami did a year ago, any sense of progress would be welcome.
Derek Mason, Vanderbilt
James Franklin left a strong legacy behind despite spending only three seasons at Vanderbilt. Before departing for Penn State, Franklin changed the Commodores’ culture, making three consecutive bowl trips with back-to-back nine-win seasons, finishing 2012 and 2013 with bowl wins.
He leaves a great foundation for Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason. Mason and new offensive coordinator Karl Dorrell will run a pro-style system led by sophomore Patton Robinette, who led a bowl victory after starter Austyn Carta-Samuels was sidelined by a torn ACL. All-SEC offensive tackle Wesley Johnson is the only loss on the offensive line, which helps. Vandy must find a replacement for star receiver Jordan Matthews, but tailback Jerron Seymour (13 touchdowns in 2013) is a nice piece.
Defensively, Vandy is led by linebacker Darreon Herring, who made 84 tackles a year ago. Another key piece is defensive end Caleb Azubike (4.0 sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss in 2013). All four starters from the 2013 secondary must be replaced. However, Vanderbilt’s schedule is favorable: the Dores don’t draw Alabama, Auburn or LSU from the SEC West, and Florida and South Carolina visit Nashville.
Jeff Monken, Army
Jeff Monken seems like an excellent fit at Army. Following a 38-16 four-year stint at then-FCS Georgia Southern, he was hired to breathe life into a program that has won eight games over the last three years. He’ll do so by using the triple option, which the Black Knights have used in the past.
Senior tailback Raymond Maples should be a workhorse in the backfield, and Monken must choose between senior Angel Santiago or junior A.J. Schurr as the starting quarterback.
Army needs defensive improvement, as the Black Knights allowed 213.3 yards per game on the ground last fall, No. 103 nationally. Army returns seven defensive starters, but none in the linebacking corps. A schedule that features two FCS teams could allow room for improvement, but this could be a longer-term project.
Charlie Partridge, Florida Atlantic
Florida Atlantic survived a traumatic 2013 that included the midseason resignation of coach Carl Pelini for alleged drug use to become bowl-eligible at 6-6. Now in Conference USA, the Owls have a chance to grow under new coach Charlie Partridge with a new stadium in talent-rich South Florida.
Partridge won’t have an easy start: FAU’s first two games are at Nebraska and at Alabama. But after that, a weaker Conference USA that is essentially a beefed-up Sun Belt gives the Owls opportunities for success.
Partridge must pick a quarterback between reigning C-USA Newcomer of the Year Jaquez Johnson or sophomore Greg Hankerson, but FAU returns 10 starters overall. If the Owls can find answers on an offensive line that returns just one starter from a year ago, they could get bowl-eligible again this fall.
Chris Petersen, Washington
Some national observers wondered what job (if any) would be the one that would lure Chris Petersen away from Boise State. The answer? Washington. When Steve Sarkisian left for Southern California, Petersen decided it was time to advance his career as the Huskies’ head.
There’s plenty of talent around, too. Washington returns 14 starters but has questions at quarterback (where expected starter Cyler Miles missed spring practice following a Super Bowl night altercation, but was reinstated in May) and tailback (where do-everything back Bishop Sankey left for the NFL). In addition, junior cornerback Marcus Peters is the only returning starter in the secondary. Senior Kasen Williams is bouncing back from a broken leg, and junior Jaydon Mickens will be one of the top targets for whoever emerges at quarterback.
Petersen didn’t take over a rebuilding project and could have big success early in Seattle.
Bobby Petrino, Louisville
Bobby Petrino hopes the second verse is as good as the first in Louisville. The nomadic sideline general had an amazing run as the Cardinals’ head coach from 2003-06, piling up a 41-9 record with an 11-win season and a 12-win season capped by an Orange Bowl win and a pair of top-10 finishes. Following controversial exits from the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and Arkansas, Petrino rehabbed his image last fall with Western Kentucky, leading the Hilltoppers to an 8-4 record.
Charlie Strong jumped to Texas after leading the Cardinals to a 23-3 record over the last two seasons but left some talent in the cupboard. Sophomore Will Gardner emerged as the starting quarterback in spring practice, replacing NFL first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater, one of the Cardinals’ all-time greats. He’ll be surrounded by talent like star wideout DeVante Parker and starting tailback Dominique Brown, as well as three starting offensive linemen.
Defense is a major question for the Cardinals, who return just four starters from the nation’s No. 1 total defense (251.5 yards per game) and No. 2 scoring defense (12.2 points per game) and will shift from a 4-3 to a 3-4 system under new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Senior defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin will be a major threat on the edge. Moving to the ACC will be a big challenge: Louisville opens by hosting Miami and travels to Clemson and Notre Dame while also hosting Florida State for a Thursday night game. Don’t expect a 10-win season, but Louisville shouldn’t slip significantly.
Steve Sarkisian, Southern California
Steve Sarkisian might have taken the Southern California job at just the right time. Even while dealing with NCAA sanctions and the tumultuous exit of Lane Kiffin, USC still finished 10-4 with a Las Vegas Bowl win under the guidance of interim coach Ed Orgeron. While USC will have only 70 scholarship players this season, it is the final year of NCAA probation.
Sarkisian turned an 0-12 Washington team into a consistent postseason visitor, and he’ll have better talent to work with here.
Eighteen starters return in all. Junior quarterback Cody Kessler threw for nearly 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns, and tailback Javorius Allen had 1,027 all-purpose yards and 15 touchdowns.
2012 Biletnikoff Award winner Marqise Lee is gone, but wideout Nelson Agholor (the nation’s No. 2 punt returner) is back. He had 56 receptions for 918 yards and eight touchdowns, accounting for 1,444 all-purpose yards.
In addition, eight starters return from a defense that finished in the top 25 nationally in eight categories, including total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense and pass efficiency defense. They’re led by All-American defensive end Leonard Williams (13.5 sacks in 2013).
if the Trojans stay healthy, they could challenge for a Pac-12 division title.
USC must travel to Stanford and UCLA, but hosts Arizona State and Notre Dame. The Pac-12 road tests could be the difference between a good and great season.
Charlie Strong, Texas
Charlie Strong faces a difficult task as he begins his first season as Texas’ head coach: Living up to Longhorn fans’ tremendous expectations. Strong wasn’t the first choice to replace Mack Brown, who resigned under pressure in December, but hopes to imbue some much-needed toughness into Texas’ program. Strong went 23-3 in his final two seasons at Louisville, including a Sugar Bowl thumping of Florida.
Brown left plenty of talent for Strong. David Ash (who suffered through concussion issues last season and broke his foot in April) will return as the No. 1 quarterback, and tailbacks Johnathan Gray, Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown give the Horns a solid trio on the ground.
Texas also returns most of a defensive line that led the Big 12 in sacks last season, although defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, the winner of the Ted Hendricks Award as the nation’s top defensive end, graduated. So did wideout Mike Davis, who finished his career fourth on Texas’ all-time receptions list, fourth in receiving yards and fifth in touchdowns. The Longhorns also must replace three starting offensive linemen.
Strong is dealing with a much larger spotlight than in the former Big East/AAC, and it’ll be interesting to see how he adjusts and how his new team responds. He already dealt with a minor controversy when he stated that Texas would not win the national title this season, raising the ire of Longhorn fans.
The Longhorns will host BYU, UCLA and Baylor and travel to Oklahoma State and Texas Tech while playing the annual neutral-site rivalry game with Oklahoma at Dallas’ Cotton Bowl.
It isn’t an easy slate, but there’s room for improvement and a good start in 2014.
Mark Whipple, UMass
There’s no denying that UMass is one of the toughest jobs in the FBS. The Minutemen were 2-22 the past two seasons and have been jettisoned by the MAC (they’ll leave the league following the 2015 season). In steps Mark Whipple, who led UMass to an FCS title in his first stint as coach from 1998-2003.
UMass returns 10 starters overall and adds a valuable transfer in Marshall quarterback Blake Frohnapfel, who figures to be the starter. UMass returns only two starting offensive linemen but has a deep receiving corps. If the newcomers click, it figures to improve an offense that averaged only 11.7 points per game a year ago, No. 121 nationally.
UMass endures a brutal start to the season (hosting Boston College and Colorado before traveling to Vanderbilt and Penn State) but once in the MAC schedule, there are opportunities for victories.