Ranking The Rookie Head Coaches - No. 21-28
Former Arkansas head coach John L. Smith
Former Arkansas head coach John L. Smith
Posted Dec 18, 2012

Which head coaches were best and worst this year at their new jobs?

The 2012 First-Year Head Coaches

No. 21 to 28

By Richard Cirminiello

Ranking the 2012 First-Year Head Coaches
- The stars - Top 11
- Okay ... learning on the fly. - 12 to 20
- Don't get comfortable - 21 to 28

21. Charlie Weis, Kansas
Weis must've really, really wanted to get back into head coaching because he has one of the toughest jobs in the major conference ranks.

Kansas is essentially where Kansas State was before Bill Snyder got to the program in 1989. The Jayhawks finished the season losers of 20 straight Big 12 games and 21 consecutive games outside of Lawrence. With the recent trend and talent he inherited, it's hard to pin too much blame on Weis for this year's feeble results. Kansas won the opener over South Dakota State, and then lost to Rice to kick off an 11-game losing streak. The coach and his staff will be graded a little tougher once they have a season in the vault in 2013.

22. Norm Chow, Hawaii
The Warriors will carry a two-game winning streak into the offseason. It'll help offset an otherwise trying year for the program.

Hawaii entered a new league, the Mountain West, with a new staff and entirely new systems, so a 3-9 mark was hardly unexpected. The defense was thoroughly outclassed for much of the year, especially in league games, and will get the bulk of Chow's attention during this recruiting cycle. In dire need of new blood and better talent on offense, the Warriors are hoping to get it in 2013 from Ohio State transfer QB Taylor Graham, a potentially perfect fit in the pro-style offense.

23. Charley Molnar, Massachusetts
Molnar's first season of piloting the Minutemen into the FBS is now behind him. He and his staff have a very long road ahead.

Massachusetts beat one team all year, 1-11 Akron, which was hardly a surprise or a disappointment. The new regime will have to build from the ground up, recruiting harder and getting the holdovers bigger and faster during the offseason. There were some close calls along the way, including a three-point loss to Ohio, but even by MAC standards, the Minutemen have a long way to go before being competitive now that they've left behind the FCS.

24. Terry Bowden, Akron
The challenge at Akron is every bit as daunting as it seemed when Bowden was hired a year ago.

The coach inherited a team from Rob Ianello that had gone 1-11 in back-to-back seasons; make it three straight now that the Zips lone win came against FCS Morgan State on Sept. 15. This is a process that's going to take a lot of time and player development, both of which this administration expects to get. Akron was rather potent in the passing game, drawing 25 touchdown passes and 3,387 yards out of Stephen F. Austin transfer Dalton Williams.

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25. Tony Levine, Houston
Prior to this season, Levine had never held a job higher than special teams coordinator. It looked that way this year.

This was clearly not the same Houston team that flirted with a BCS bowl game in Kevin Sumlin's final year at the helm. Sure, you don't get better after losing QB Case Keenum to graduation, but below .500 is no longer acceptable for this program as it sets sail for the Big East. The Cougars set the tone by losing at home to Texas State, a school beginning life in the FBS on a provisional basis. There was a 72-42 implosion to SMU, a sharp decline in passing efficiency and the firing of offensive coordinator Mike Nesbitt after one game. Levine gets a mulligan, but must direct Houston back on the rails in 2013.

26. Tim Beckman, Illinois
Beckman will get a second year to turn things around in Champaign. But that might be all he gets if the Illini don't take a quantum leap forward next fall.

Nothing went right for the former Toledo coach, who failed to ingratiate himself to the locals or the Big Ten at large. Illinois appeared to have bowl-eligible talent, especially on defense. However, it beat just two teams, Western Michigan and Charleston Southern, and will carry a nine-game losing streak into 2013. Beckman has already begun to load up on junior-college transfers, the sign of a coach whose finger is approaching the panic button.

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27. Ellis Johnson, Southern Miss
Who lasts one season, especially at a school not known to have an itchy trigger finger?

Johnson was booted out of Hattiesburg less than a year after being hired. And it's not as if he got embroiled in some NCAA scandal or tryst with a staff member. He was just flat-out awful on the job. The defending Conference USA champs began 2012 with a run of 18 straight winning seasons. Yet, it was the only FBS program to go winless this fall, the worst season in school history. From 12 wins a year ago to 12 losses this season, Johnson piloted Southern Miss into a mess that Todd Monken will now attempt to clean up.

28. John L. Smith, Arkansas
Yeah, Smith entered a uniquely difficult situation, succeeding fired Bobby Petrino on the fly in April, but he sure didn't make the most of it.

His years of experience on the sidelines and knowledge of the Razorbacks were zero help. Smith was hired to be the caretaker of a talented team that began the year ranked No. 10 and with aspirations of an SEC crown. Instead, the Hogs imploded, going 4-8 and losing to Louisiana-Monroe, Rutgers and Ole Miss. Smith was canned on Nov. 24, and will be succeeded by Bret Bielema. In retrospect, the long-time coach should have just remained at Weber State rather than chase a dream in Fayetteville.
Ranking the 2012 First-Year Head Coaches
- The stars - Top 11
- Okay ... learning on the fly. - 12 to 20