College Football Predictions: 2011's Surprise Coaches of the Year

Kraig LundbergAnalyst IIIJune 19, 2011

College Football Predictions: 2011's Surprise Coaches of the Year

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    LOUISVILLE, KY - SEPTEMBER 04: Charlie Strong the Head Coach of the Louisville Cardinals gives instructions to his team during the game against the  Kentucky Wildcats at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on September 4, 2010 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The modern, ever-changing world of college football sees coaches rise to the top every year.

    With a lot of hard work, strong recruiting skills, a little luck, and that "it" factor, a few coaches each season shatter expectations and are instantly considered among college football's elite.

    While the 2011 season will be no different in that regard, the mystery that remains is which fast-rising coaches the year will belong to.

    Here are five coaches who will surprise the college football world by having unexpectedly good seasons.

     

    Sources: ESPN.com, Wikipedia.com 

Dabo Swinney, Clemson

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 31:  Head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers reacts to his teams 31-26 loss to the USF Bulls during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 31, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Ima
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Third-year Clemson Tigers coach Dabo Swinney has yet to have a great season. In his first two seasons, Swinney went 9-5 and then a disappointing 6-7.

    But even after a losing season that consisted of some heartbreakingly close losses (one being to eventual BCS title winner Auburn), Swinney raked in an incredible recruiting class that included four five-star players according to Rivals.com

    If this recruiting class pans out at all, Clemson will be a very formidable opponent and may be on the winning end of some close games this time around.

    2011 might be Dabo's year to break out and become one of the nation's best coaches.

Jimbo Fisher, Florida State

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    ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31:  Head coach JimboFisher of the Florida State Seminoles is doused with water in the final seconds of their 26-17 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks during the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl at Georgia Dome on December 31, 2010 in Atlan
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    After going 10-4 in 2010, Florida State Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher has risen up the proverbial ladder in coaching rankings.

    And after pulling in one of the nation's best recruiting classes and returning several key starters, Fisher's Seminoles are being pegged as the ACC's best team going into 2011.

    Stacked on both offense and defense, Jimbo Fisher may be one of the hottest coaches next season.

    That would be a very comforting feeling for a guy that replaced one of the game's all-time greats in Bobby Bowden.

Will Muschamp, Florida

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    GAINESVILLE, FL - APRIL 9:  Coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators directs play during the Orange and Blue spring football game April 9, 2011 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Former Texas coach-in-waiting Will Muschamp was regarded as one of the nation's premiere defensive minds before being hired as Florida's head coach.

    After hiring Charlie Weis as offensive coordinator, Muschamp's staff is loaded, and Florida could experience a quick turnaround from their disappointing 2010 campaign.

    The Gators already have loads of talent and brought in yet another strong recruiting class to bolster the depth chart.

    Muschamp has a good chance at instantly being one of the nation's top coaches.

Charlie Strong, Louisville

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    LOUISVILLE, KY - SEPTEMBER 04: Charlie Strong the Head Coach of the Louisville Cardinals gives instructions to his team during the game against the  Kentucky Wildcats at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on September 4, 2010 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    After leading a purely dominant Florida defense during the Tim Tebow years, former Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong was hired at Louisville to lead the Cardinals into relevance.

    In just his first year, Strong led Louisville to a 7-6 record behind a defense that was ranked 18th in the country in points allowed.

    That's a pretty impressive feat for a coach's first year.

    In a what projects to be a relatively weak Big East, Strong and the Louisville Cardinals could establish themselves as one of the conference's best teams in 2011 before the addition of TCU in 2012.

    Consequently, expect Strong to be one of the nation's surprise top coaches in '11.

Rick Neuheisel, UCLA

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    PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 11:  Head Coach Rick Neuheisel of UCLA yells at the referee during the second quarter against Stanford at the Rose Bowl on September 11, 2010 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Whoops... Not sure how he got in here...