Ranking the Best Coaching Moves After the 2019 CFB Season
Games are never won on paper, but filling a coaching vacancy with a seemingly ideal candidate is always worth some praise.
Identifying the right head coach is most important, since he's responsible for the entire team. Coordinators can also change the direction of a program, though.
We've highlighted the best new head coaches after covering five of the best hirings among assistants.
Factors include the coach's past success, expected fit within the conference, recruiting ability and likelihood of bettering the program. The final point is admittedly subjective, but success is a sliding scale. What Rutgers expects is not the same as Washington.
Best Coordinator Hires
Kenny Dillingham, Florida State OC
Dillingham previously worked with Mike Norvell at Memphis and Arizona State, and they've reunited in Tallahassee. Dillingham most recently served as the offensive coordinator at Auburn, which averaged 33.2 points per game (28th nationally) with a true freshman quarterback in 2019.
Sean Gleeson, Rutgers OC
Last season, Oklahoma State ranked 20th nationally at 6.4 yards per snap. Gleeson oversaw that offense after helping Princeton set multiple Ivy League records in two years as a coordinator. For Greg Schiano to pull Gleeson from the Big 12 is a massive win.
Rhett Lashlee, Miami OC
Miami wasted yet another elite defense as Dan Enos' inefficient pro-style offense ranked 128th in sacks allowed and 129th in third-down conversion rate out of 130 FBS teams. Lashlee, however, brings a legitimate spread attack to Miami. Under his guidance last season, SMU averaged 41.8 points—the nation's seventh-best mark.
Joe Moorhead, Oregon OC
Four years ago, Moorhead turned Penn State from an unimpressive offense into a top-25 attack and a national contender. While his stint as Mississippi State's head coach ended unceremoniously, Moorhead can repeat that success as a coordinator in Eugene.
Barry Odom, Arkansas DC
Though he managed a 25-25 record as head coach at Missouri, Odom left the program in a strong position to thrive defensively. Within three years, the Tigers improved from 93rd nationally in yards allowed per play to 18th last season. Memphis had a similar rise with Odom as the defensive coordinator, moving from 116th in the 2011 season before his arrival to 10th in 2014.
7. Nick Rolovich, Washington State HC
While the transition from Mike Leach to Nick Rolovich won't be seamless, Washington State doesn't need to worry about a dramatic personnel shift. Only LSU collected more passing yards than WSU and Hawaii—Rolovich's former team—in 2019.
While Leach's quirks are enjoyable, his recruiting philosophy left much to be desired within the state. Washington isn't a hotbed, true, but WSU was a near non-factor for that talent.
Keeping up with Oregon and Washington within the Pac-12 North will be a challenge, and there's little shame in nine-win seasons. If Rolovich can accomplish that and improve the program's presence locally—and in California, yes—his tenure will be a success.
6. Greg Schiano, Rutgers
Bringing back Greg Schiano isn't about a Big Ten title or even the notion he'll return the program to nine-win seasons with regularity.
Rutgers has four conference wins in the last five seasons, including zero in both 2018 and 2019. Whatever you'd like to label the Scarlet Knights—doormats, cellar dwellers, cupcakes—it is likely undeniably true based on the most recent Big Ten results.
At the worst, Schiano can reshape the perception of Scarlet Knights football in a highly competitive Big Ten.
5. Dave Aranda, Baylor HC
As the Big 12 leans heavily on offensive firepower, Baylor might soon be built as the counter to the conference-wide style.
Over the last 10 seasons, Dave Aranda has climbed the coaching ladder as a defensive coordinator at Hawaii, Utah State, Wisconsin and LSU. His defenses have ranked in the top 30 nationally in yards per play allowed for eight straight years.
"Dave's a tremendous coach," Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said in November. "Just look at the film. Those guys are tremendously sound, and he's very creative."
Baylor must replace much of its defensive production—including James Lynch, who led the Big 12 in sacks—but Aranda has a record of immediate improvement and long-term success.
4. Kalen DeBoer, Fresno State HC
Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford stepped down because of health concerns, but his replacement is about ideal as it gets.
Kalen DeBoer spent two seasons as the offensive coordinator under Tedford. Fresno State posted a 22-6 record during those years, and DeBoer helped the scoring attack improve from 17.7 points per game the season before his arrival to 27.1 and 34.6.
He headed to Indiana to coordinate the offense in 2019, and the Hoosiers ranked fifth in the Big Ten in both yards per play and points per game. The previous year, they were 10th in both categories. Indiana posted eight wins for the first time in 26 years.
If DeBoer thrives, he likely won't be at Fresno State long. From the school's perspective, that should be perfectly OK.
3. Jimmy Lake, Washington HC
Whether he made the right choice at offensive coordinator is up for debate, but Jimmy Lake himself is a tremendous and highly respected coach.
Lake followed Chris Petersen to Washington from Boise State, starting as the defensive backs coach before serving as the coordinator in 2018 and 2019. Under Lake's guidance, UW has consistently fielded an elite pass defense over the last half-decade.
John Donovan must improve a lackluster offense, but strong defense is enough to have a contender in the Pac-12. The foundation for Lake to have success in Seattle is present.
2. Jeff Scott, USF HC
Clemson grad Jeff Scott spent 12 seasons at his alma mater and helped Dabo Swinney build a national powerhouse. He was always the receivers coach but also served as the recruiting coordinator until taking on the co-offensive coordinator role.
Scott's recruiting acumen will be especially valuable at South Florida, a program located within the country's best recruiting state.
"In my opinion, Scott's scouting ability is the most underrated aspect of him as a recruiter and maybe as a coach overall," Anna Hickey of 247Sports said after he left Clemson for USF.
He's not suddenly going to steal 5-stars from Alabama or Clemson or LSU, but identifying the overlooked prospects can turn USF from a competent team into a perennial AAC threat.
1. Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss HC
Lane Kiffin is a perfect exploration of how perception of a coaching hire can change quickly because of what the coach does next.
Ole Miss' hire of Kiffin is exciting. The USC castaway has successfully rehabbed his image, winning a national championship as a coordinator at Alabama before claiming two Conference USA titles in three seasons at Florida Atlantic. He can turn Ole Miss into a threat within the SEC West again, which is immensely impressive.
That's why he's here.
We also acknowledge the frustration and resentment that followed his decision to hire D.J. Durkin as an assistant coach. While that particular move will and should be monitored strictly, Kiffin has earned this position and recognition.
Follow Bleacher Report CFB writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.