It’s a rare moment in December. With reports that Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins will be the new head coach at Temple, every FBS head coaching vacancy which has been made publicly known has been filled. The silly season is, for the moment, not that silly.
That makes this a good time to look at what has happened so far, to name some entirely too early winners and losers.
South Florida. Charlie Strong was never the right guy for Texas. He was never comfortable with the politics and glad-handing that go with coaching the biggest sport at the biggest school in the biggest state in the college football landscape. He now returns to the state where he recruited many of his best players not just in Gainesville but in Louisville. If Strong can hire a competent offensive coordinator and get his team to play Charlie Strong quality defense, things in Tampa could get good quickly.
Texas. The Longhorns got a guy with two years of head coaching experience for just a bit more money than they would have paid for him two years ago without proof of concept. Some believe Tom Herman is the next Nick Saban or Urban Meyer. I’m less convinced, in large part due to some of the flat performances we saw from his Houston team this season. But I certainly don’t see things going backward in Austin on his watch. The question then becomes how high Herman can take that program, and how much patience a famously rabid Texas fanbase will have for him when inevitable missteps occur. Key to Herman’s long term success will be something totally out of his control: how Kevin Sumlin, Bob Stoops, and Ed Orgeron do, and whether that gives Texas back primacy in Texas recruiting.
Florida Atlantic. Lane Kiffin will do a better job for FAU now than he would have done ten years ago. If you’ve watched Lane Kiffin during his time in Tuscaloosa it’s clear that he’s not quite as brash or overconfident as he was when he was being handed jobs in the NFL and SEC based more on potential and pedigree than proven results. Florida Atlantic hasn’t had a winning season in eight years, so getting the program back to respectability may be all that’s required for Kiffin to burnish his resume for his next big name job.
Purdue. Is Purdue allowed to win stuff? I’m not sure, but I know that I like the hiring of Jeff Brohm. Brohm has won ten games per season at Western Kentucky, all while playing exciting, innovative offensive football. If anyone can make Purdue football something that Purdue fans actually want to watch again, it’s Brohm.
LSU. I think Ed Orgeron is going to be a pretty effective coach in Baton Rouge. I think he’s easily going to eclipse his prior .420 career winning percentage. But Les Miles was also a pretty effective coach. I am not convinced that LSU isn’t going to wander in the wilderness after this hire, because I am not convinced that Ed Orgeron is really going to take this team further than Les Miles did. My experience is that 7-5 is about what you can expect in year one when you fire a longtime coach who won 75% of his games and replace him with a hotshot assistant known for his recruiting acumen and home state ties.
Cincinnati. After a messy parting with Tommy Tuberville in which the school’s own sports information department kicked dirt on the guy on the way out the door, the Bearcats now turn things over to former Ohio State interim coach Luke Fickell. Fickell was 6-7 as interim head coach before Urban Meyer’s hiring in Columbus. The Buckeyes then went 12-0 in Meyer’s first season. Maybe Fickell was dealt a bad hand. Maybe he laid the groundwork and Corch Myers got all the glory. Either way, hiring a career defensive coach is unlikely to fix an offense that finished 11th in a 12 team conference and had a lot to do with the last guy getting the ax.
Florida. Geoff Collins’ hiring to replace Matt Rhule at Temple isn’t great news for the Gators. The former Mississippi State assistant coordinated back-to-back top ten defenses for Jim McElwain while the head coach/offensive mastermind’s offense sputtered. The Gators may find a guy who can deliver the same results, but this (and some personnel losses going into 2017) will intensify the pressure for McElwain to figure things out on the offensive side of the ball.