The Biggest 2023 Offseason Priority for Every New Power 5 CFB Coach
Whenever a college football team makes a coaching change, the new boss probably has dozens of responsibilities to address.
But there's always a highest-priority topic.
Perhaps the roster has a certain position that's lacking known contributors. Depth at another position might be perilously thin. Or, hey, maybe the program flat-out needs more talent overall.
Among the 24 changes, 11 happened at Power Five schools—including Cincinnati, which is making the leap to the Big 12. We're taking a look at the most pressing task at each of those 11 programs.
Brent Key, Georgia Tech: Develop, Develop, Develop
Georgia Tech certainly needs an influx of talent to compete at a high level in the ACC. However, the Yellow Jackets are off to a decent start, with quarterback Haynes King (Texas A&M) and wideout Christian Leary (Alabama) headlining the incoming group of transfers. But that's a slim portion of the roster; the greater step for Brent Key and his staff will be developing what Tech otherwise returns. The program last reached a bowl in 2018.
Jeff Brohm, Louisville: Be a Factor in Kentucky Recruiting
Although the state isn't known for a surplus of blue-chip talent, Kentucky still has plenty of 3-star talent to offer. The problem is Scott Satterfield rarely made an in-state dent. During his four complete recruiting cycles, Louisville only landed two prospects ranked in the state's top 10. That, quite simply, cannot be acceptable for the Cardinals.
Big 12 Team
Scott Satterfield, Cincinnati: Go South, Young Man
Hey, speaking of Satterfield, you know how Kentucky consistently outrecruited him when he was at Louisville? Well, now he needs to fight with Ohio State, Notre Dame and others for premier talent in the Buckeye State.
On the bright side, the Bearcats now have unprecedented access to a flood of Power Five-caliber prospects in Florida and Texas. While UC has been a player for some Florida talent, the program's appeal should rise with a power-conference label. The Bearcats have signed only three players from Texas in the last decade.
Cincinnati needs to win local battles, sure, but there's overflowing opportunity in two of the nation's most talent-rich states.
Big Ten Teams
Matt Rhule, Nebraska: Change the Identity
If you hire Matt Rhule, you should know what to expect: He will overhaul the roster and build the program his way. This method works far better in a fluid college game—sorry about that, Carolina Panthers—but Rhule successfully tore down programs at Temple and Baylor prior to winning an AAC title at the former and setting up a Big 12 Championship Game appearance at the latter.
Ryan Walters, Purdue: Load Up the Offense
Given what Ryan Walters achieved as a defensive coordinator at Illinois, the future of Purdue's unit on that side of the ball is promising. But the Boilermakers must replace quarterback Aidan O'Connell, wideout Charlie Jones and tight end Payne Durham. Transfer QB Hudson Card (Texas) is a potential replacement, and receiver Milton Wright may return from academic ineligibility. That's not enough to rebuild an offense; Purdue should be all over the transfer portal in May.
Luke Fickell, Wisconsin: Get Those Receivers Ready
The culture shock of Phil Longo's Air Raid offense at pro-style Wisconsin should be entertaining to watch. Fear not, good people of Madison: The shift will be effective soon. While landing quarterback Tanner Mordecai (SMU) was massive, UW basically has to double its number of regular contributors at receiver. Two key transfers—Bryson Green (Oklahoma State) and CJ Williams (USC)—bolster optimism, but the Badgers need to crush this offseason process.
Kenny Dillingham, Arizona State: Stabilize the Roster
The previous staff left a total mess at Arizona State, which has faced the threat of sanctions and been a complete non-factor on the recruiting trail for a couple of years. It's no coincidence that ASU has 20-plus outgoing and incoming transfers. Kenny Dillingham must heavily use the transfer portal this offseason (and likely next) with the intent of steadying a program with a volatile recent history.
Deion Sanders, Colorado: Stock the Defense
Colorado went 1-11 last season with the worst defense in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Yeah, the Buffs swiped 5-star cornerback Cormani McClain from Miami. Sure, Deion Sanders' staff has snagged defensive transfers from a handful of Power Five programs and brought a Travis Hunter-led group from Jackson State. And still, Colorado can hardly add too many defenders.
Troy Taylor, Stanford: Reinvent the Offense
When the Cardinal had Christian McCaffrey or peak Bryce Love sprinting into the open field, the run-heavy offense was pleasing to watch. Ever since 2019, though, Stanford has been unappealing, inefficient and powerless. Contrast that to Sacramento State, which boasted two of the program's best-ever offenses in Troy Taylor's three seasons. Stanford has run spread concepts, but Taylor's high-tempo philosophy will create a brand-new look on The Farm.
Hugh Freeze, Auburn: Figure Out the QB
Recent years haven't provided much progress at the most important position on the field. Bo Nix had a solid freshman year but didn't improve much at Auburn after 2019 coordinator Kenny Dillingham's departure. T.J. Finley straddled the line of subpar and inefficient, and Robby Ashford fit a similar mold. Finley and Ashford return alongside Holden Geriner—and possibly a transfer addition. No matter the winner, the immediate future of AU's offense hinges on development at QB.
Zach Arnett, Mississippi State: Brace the Program
Coaching changes happen. I have plenty of experience talking about a vacancy caused by a promotion, dismissal or other comparable factors. Death is, for me, a new one professionally. There is no playbook. Zach Arnett has to replace his former boss Mike Leach, who died at 61 in December. The players must adjust to a reality with context that doesn't exist at any other program. Forget the wins and losses; get through the spring, and move forward from there.