By: McKinley Nelson
Compared to 2015 the 2016 coaching carousel has been relatively quiet. So far only six power 5 schools have decided to move in a new direction compared to the thirteen last season. While it is way too early to tell how each hire will work out, I believe you can judge each hire off of their past and their fit to their current program.
LSU – Old Coach- Les Miles -New Coach – DL and Interim HC Ed Orgeron
Coming into the season many believed Les Miles was on the hot seat. Never being able to develop QBs and not being able to beat Alabama plagued his program in the recent years. With preseason Heisman favorite Leonard Fournette and a schedule with Alabama at home, this was the year for Les to turn it around. Unfortunately, Les didn’t live up to LSU’s expectations. After starting 2-2 with losses to Auburn and Wisconsin Les Miles was canned. Ed Orgeron took over as interim head coach and led the tigers to a 7-4 record and a Citrus Bowl bid. After whipping Texas A&M in the season finale 54-39, LSU decided to sign Coach O as the full-time HC. Personally, this hire raises many questions for me. I fully believed Les Miles would have been able to lead LSU to a 7-4 record and maybe have even beaten an injured Florida squad to be 8-3. LSU also seems to have struggled to develop a QB and I put some of the blame on their offensive style. Top QB prospects are committing to spread schools that throw the ball a lot like FSU, Oregon, OU, and Ohio State. LSU runs a heavy one back system that is all about running the ball. The offensive M.O. at LSU is about ball control and running, not passing. With Coach O missing out on hiring Lane Kiffin as the offensive coordinator one must wonder if LSU will change their offense. If nothing changes the tigers may have just paid Les a 12.9-million-dollar buyout to get a copy of the same coach. I know the tiger faithful love Coach O. He is a born and bred Cajun that has said numerous times that LSU is his dream job, but many schools around the nation, like Iowa State with Paul Rhoads, know that having a likable coach does not translate into being the best coach. I personally believe LSU was the second-best job that opened this season and that they settled for a copy of their old coach and hired a HC where at his last non-interim job went 10-25 at Ole Miss.
Indiana – Old Coach – Kevin Wilson – New Coach – DC Tom Allen
Not much to say about this hire. Kevin Wilson rebuilt Indiana into a bowl team and after back to back bowl trips Wilson decided to resign. Citing philosophical differences Wilson and Fred Glass the Hoosier’s AD decided to part ways for the future of the program. The DC Tom Allen was offered the full-time job with a 6-year contract. Tom Allen was the popular choice with fans, players, and IU recruits. Tom Allen has never held a head job before but working as an assistant he has helped turned around many defenses from the SEC to the Big 10. Nothing very flashy about the hire, but a good safe hire.
Baylor – Old Coach – Art Briles – New Coach- Temple HC Matt Rhule
Last off season the Baylor football program was rocked by a sexual assault scandal that led to Baylor’s most successful head coach, Art Briles, being fired. Baylor elected to hire Jim Grobe as an interim for the 2016 season, so they could wait for the 2017 offseason to hire a new head man. Baylor found their new coach in former Penn State linebacker Matt Rhule. Rhule helped build Temple into an AAC football powerhouse and won the AAC this 2016 season. He has experience in turning around Temple from a two-win team to back to back ten win seasons. There are some big concerns about Rhule though. For one thing, Matt Rhule has never coached in Texas nor outside the Northeast besides a small stint at UCLA. To fix this Rhule has hired Texas High school coaches to his staff to help build connections for recruiting at Baylor. This sounds like an easy strategy, but this harkens back to what former Temple coach Al Golden did when he took over at Miami. Golden didn’t have any Miami connections so he hired a staff of high school coaches, similar to what Rhule is doing, to help with recruiting the area. While it did help recruiting the coaches were ill prepared for the pace and skill of the college game. The second big concern for HC Matt Rhule is his offensive play calling. Rhule likes to run the ball with two TEs on the field and throw short passes to help move the chains. At Temple Rhule relied on having a strong defense to help shorten the field for the offense. One has to worry in such an explosive offensive league will Baylor be able to put up enough points and have the talent to stop teams from scoring?
While those concerns may raise alarms there is no question that Matt Rhule is a winner. Baylor has the facilities to match anyone in the Big 12 and with a new stadium, it can still be an attractive place to play football. Matt Rhule has a chance to revive the Baylor name that has been tarnished by Art Briles and get a large payday out of it.
Oregon – Old Coach – Mark Helfrich – New Coach – USF HC Willie Taggart
Without question, it looked like Oregon was trending in the wrong direction when Chip Kelly left for the NFL in 2013. Offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich was handed the keys to the sports car and was told not to crash it. Unfortunately, Helfrich crashed it. It took him three seasons to take the ducks from playing for a national championship to missing the post season. Problems seemed to stem from ineffective recruiting and horrible defense. In steps Willie Taggart from USF. The former WKU QB has experience in turning around his struggling alma mater when it transitioned to the FBS and fixing a USF program that went through Skip Holtz. Taggart has always been a coach that adjusts his program to the players he has and has also been a very strong recruiter. Taggart comes from the Jim Harbaugh coaching tree, and the Pac 12 north knows what Jim did at Stanford. While Willie Taggart only had one job on the west coast he should be able to make strong gains in the recruiting scene with the Nike backing of Oregon. I expect Oregon to be a player in the North again next year with the strong hires of Taggart and DC Jim Leavitt and with players like RB Royce Freeman and LT Tyrell Cosby coming back for their senior season.
Purdue – Old Coach – Darrell Hazell – New Coach – WKU HC Jeff Brohm
Darrell Hazell had an abysmal record of 9-33 with the Boilermakers that led to him being let go. New HC Jeff Brohm comes in to grab the reins to help resurrect the cradle of quarterbacks. If there is a coach that Jeff Brohm may remind you, it is Joe Tiller, Purdue’s all-time leader in wins. Brohm is an offensive mastermind just like Tiller was when it comes to football. Brohm’s WKU teams ranked towards the top of offense each year and he helped build upon what Willie Taggart left when Willie went to USF, leading the Hilltoppers to back to back double digit win seasons. Purdue does have some football tradition their fans can reminisce over, but in recent years they have been in the cellar of the Big 10. Jeff Brohm has never had to rebuild a program which could cause some hesitation since Purdue is one of the worst P5 jobs right now and he has recruited the in the South instead of the Midwest for recruits while at WKU. Even with those small concerns, I believe if Brohm can bring his offense with him the Boilermakers can turn into spoilermakers for many programs in the Big 10.
Texas – Old Coach – Charlie Strong – New Coach – Houston HC Tom Herman
After Charlie Strong could never get over the six-win hump with the final straw being a loss to Kansas, Texas knew it was time to move on. The burnt orange reeled in Houston’s Tom Herman who was arguably the hottest coaching name in the market. Herman is no stranger to the Texas and the Big 12 though, having worked at both Rice and Iowa State. Later he learned from Urban Meyer at Ohio State and in 2014 he took over the Houston Cougars where he led them to two successful seasons and a NY6 bowl win. After the 2016 season, the Cougar HC left for Austin. Herman is not walking into a grim situation at Texas though. Charlie Strong was a solid recruiter that filled up Texas’s cupboard and under the right system, those players will shine. Texas also has the largest budget in the nation so Tom Herman does not need to worry about the price tag on assistants. While Herman was the number-one coach on the market he does come with some hiccups. For one, many believe Herman has a very thin skin. He is known to not take criticism lightly and even called out Houston fans for questioning his play calling and for their tendency to not attend games. He also seemed to struggle when his team was not an underdog. When it came to beating OU and Louisville Herman could do it, but he struggled with SMU and Memphis. Many UH fans thought this year they could make it to the playoffs, but those expectations were revealed to be too high.
Take nothing away from Herman though. Texas gets their hand-pick of the Texas talent every year and the Longhorns are still a top-three coaching job. If Herman can do the same act that he did at Houston it will be a large improvement over Charlie Strong and He could find himself in the playoffs.