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Analyzing the New Head Coaches ... 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jan 15, 2010


It's been a wild offseason, and now it's up to Charlie Strong at Louisville, Turner Gill at Kansas. Lane Kiffin at USC, and Skip Holtz at South Florida to shine in their new jobs. Richard Cirminiello breaks down and analyzes 2010's new head coaches.

The New Head Coaches

Introducing The Class of 2010


Richard Cirminiello

Out with the old and in with the new. The annual reshuffling of the nation’s 120 head coaches is almost complete. Flush with even more drama usual, the process created a handful of unexpected openings and some high-profile searches at Notre Dame and USC. Every new hire arrives with cause for celebration ... and concern. It’ll be years before anyone truly knows which athletic directors flourished during this cycle of new hires and which flopped.

NOTE: East Carolina will be up when a new head coach is hired.

- 2009 New Head Coaches
- 2007 New Head Coaches
- 2006 New Head Coaches
- 2005 New Head Coaches

Akron
Head Coach: Rob Ianello
Former Coach: J.D. Brookhart
Last Seen: Coaching the Notre Dame wide receivers

Reason to like the hire: Ianello has widely been considered one of the nation’s ace recruiters, a must when battling for players in the state of Ohio. He’s energetic, just 44, and has spent time at three major programs, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, and Arizona. His work with the Irish receivers the last three years has been impeccable.

Reason to question the hire: Can Ianello make the long leap from wide receivers coach to head coach? That’s a gamble the Zips were willing to take. He hasn’t even been a coordinator over the last two decades, so there’s inherent risk whether he’s the guy to guide Akron out of its recent four-year slump.

The Early Hunch: Akron is hoping it caught lightning in a bottle with a rising coach, who’ll build the program to MAC prominence and be courted by Big Ten schools in three years. His first team is ready-made for instant success, boasting 16 returning starters and young QB Patrick Nicely to build around.

Buffalo
Head Coach: Jeff Quinn
Former Coach: Turner Gill
Last Seen: Coordinating the Cincinnati offense

Reason to like the hire: Quinn was an architect of a Cincinnati offense that was one of the nation’s most prolific over the past few seasons. For the last two decades, he’s learned alongside Brian Kelly and been a part of plenty of championship teams. No stranger to the MAC, his offenses were a hit when he was the Central Michigan coordinator in 2004 and 2005.

Reason to question the hire: Sure, Quinn has hoisted a lot of trophies over the years, but will that continue now that the apron string to Kelly has been cut? Remember, it was Kelly, not Quinn, who called the plays for those Bearcat teams that piled up the yards and points. As the interim coach of the Sugar Bowl, Cincy looked ill-prepared versus Florida.

The Early Hunch: After losing Turner Gill to Kansas, this was a nice recovery for the Bulls. Quinn knows what it takes to win titles, will install a passer-friendly spread, and has prior experience in the conference. For a Buffalo program that’s had one winning season in over a decade in the MAC, you can’t argue with this hire.

Central Michigan
Head Coach: Dan Enos
Former Coach: Butch Jones
Last Seen: Coaching the Michigan State quarterbacks

Reason to like the hire: Enos has a good pulse on the region, having played his college ball and coached the last four seasons in East Lansing. More than just an Xs and Os guy, he earned his stripes for Mark Dantonio as a recruiter, especially in the Detroit area. As the Dan LeFevour era comes to an end, it’ll be good to have a former quarterback overseeing the development of Ryan Radcliff.

Reason to question the hire: Forget head coaching experience. Enos has never been a coordinator at the FBS level. After being able to focus on one task in the past, he’ll have a lot to learn about juggling responsibilities and performing the duties of an executive. The Chippewas rolled the dice and won with an inexperienced Butch Jones three years ago, but LeFevour is no longer around to flatten the curve.

The Early Hunch: It’s become awfully trendy around college football to hire young head coaches, who are strong recruiters, but otherwise relatively inexperienced. Enos is one of those examples. While he’ll help attract talent to Mount Pleasant, what happens when it gets there is a mystery.

Cincinnati
Head Coach: Butch Jones
Former Coach: Brian Kelly
Last Seen: Coaching Central Michigan

Reason to like the hire: Jones knows a little something about taking the torch from Brian Kelly and bolting with it. He succeeded Kelly at Central Michigan, leading the Chippewas to a 27-13 mark and a pair of MAC championships in three seasons. Unlike when he left West Virginia for Mount Pleasant prior to 2007, he returns to the Big East with some valuable head coaching experience and his own blueprint for winning titles.

Reason to question the hire: Was Jones honing his craft the last three years or just prospering with Kelly’s players, specifically QB Dan LeFevour? Ironically, he’ll get another chance to answer a similar question. Not only will the coach be facing a ramp up in competition, but also expectations, inheriting a team that’s won back-to-back Big East championships. Jones better be prepared for an entirely new level of pressure that didn’t exist in the MAC.

The Early Hunch: Jones has a tall order ahead of him. He survived following Kelly last time, but this time comes prepackaged with all different kinds of hurdles. He takes over a team that’s won consecutive league titles and is grappling for attention in a city that hasn’t traditionally flocked to support its football team. If the Bearcats are unable to keep the momentum going and the facilities improving, Jones is going to hear it.

Florida State
Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher
Former Coach: Bobby Bowden
Last Seen: Coordinating the Florida State offense

Reason to like the hire: Not your typical first-time head coach, Fisher has been preparing for this moment ever since being named coach-in-waiting a couple of years ago. He’s spent a decade coaching in big games and for top-shelf programs, leading the LSU offense under Nick Saban and Les Miles before coming to Tallahassee. He knows the state for recruiting purposes and is well-prepared for the huge responsibility that lies in front of him.

Reason to question the hire: In the three years that Fisher has been at Florida State, the school has gone 23-16, with not so much as an Atlantic Division title. Doesn’t the former offensive coordinator have to bear some of the brunt of the responsibility for the mediocrity? His offense showed signs of life, but also sputtered against some of the better opponents on the schedule.

The Early Hunch: It’s about time. After playing the part of the good soldier for three years, Fisher finally has an opportunity to call the shots and hire his own staff. Don’t be at all surprised if the Seminoles begin to inch back toward prominence as early as 2010. Yeah, the defense has to pick up the pieces, but the Christian Ponder-led offense was really humming last fall before the quarterback got injured.

Kansas
Head Coach: Turner Gill
Former Coach: Mark Mangino
Last Seen: Coaching Buffalo

Reason to like the hire: Gill returns to a region of the country where he was an iconic figure as a player and a successful recruiter as a Nebraska assistant. He also comes back to the Great Plains states with more than just a lot of good memories. Taking over a Buffalo team that was on life support, he led the Bulls to 20 wins in four years and the 2008 MAC championship. He also has the right demeanor for a program looking to get past a messy divorce with Mark Mangino.

Reason to question the hire: Making strides in the MAC is one thing. Naturally, doing it in the Big 12 is an entirely different objective. Instead of participating in a division with Akron and Ohio, Gill now resides in the Big 12 North alongside the likes of the Huskers and Mizzou. Big difference. Unlike Mangino, who was lauded when he got the Jayhawks to December bowl games, the new staff will be asked to raise the bar higher.

The Early Hunch: On so many levels, this looks like a great move by AD Lew Perkins. Gill knows the Big 12, proved he can coach kids up at Buffalo, and will instill the right message into the Jayhawks at a time when they need it. In the aftermath of the Mangino saga and allegations of player abuse, the Kansas kids will love playing for their new coach.

Kentucky
Head Coach: Joker Phillips
Former Coach: Rich Brooks
Last Seen: Coaching the Kentucky offense

Reason to like the hire: Phillips is a Wildcat through and through. He was a wide receiver with the program in the 1980s, an assistant in the early 1990s, and has been on staff since 2003. For the last two years, he’s worked closer than ever with Rich Brooks as Kentucky’s coach-in-waiting, helping flatten the learning curve. For Phillips, this is a dream job, and that kind of passion and enthusiasm will resonate with the fans and recruits.

Reason to question the hire: Although he doesn’t have access to the same caliber of playmakers as other SEC coaches, his play-calling has been the subject of scrutiny in recent years. Plus, the Wildcats ranked No. 10 in the league in total offense a year ago, which is hardly a ringing endorsement for a promotion. Was this the right hire or the safe hire? Only time will tell.

The Early Hunch: Kentucky went for continuity when it gave the nod to Phillips two years ago. And why not? The Wildcats have passed Louisville in the state pecking order, winning the last three in the series, and appearing in four consecutive bowl games. His first order of business will be to locate some consistency at quarterback, an issue since Andre Woodson graduated.

Louisiana-Monroe
Head Coach: Todd Berry
Former Coach: Charlie Weatherbie
Last Seen: Coordinating the UNLV offense

Reason to like the hire: In Berry, the Warhawks are getting a veteran coach, which is not always easy for a low-paying Sun Belt program. He was previously the head guy at Illinois State and Army, coordinated the ULM offense in 2004 and 2005, and was Miami’s quarterbacks coach in 2006. He certainly knows the terrain in Monroe, where he did a nice job amping up the offense for two seasons.

Reason to question the hire: Didn’t the Warhawks go down this road before, hiring a former coach of a military academy, with lousy results? Berry has experience, but that doesn’t mean it’s worth hanging on the refrigerator. At Army, he was 5-36 in less than four seasons, getting vilified for his efforts on the Hudson. Plus, his UNLV offenses weren’t exactly scary despite having decent talent at the skill positions, like WR Ryan Wolfe and RB Frank Summers.

The Early Hunch: Beggars can’t be choosers, but this has a retread sort of feel to it. Although Berry is safe and has a wealth of experience, you wonder if Louisiana-Monroe would have been better off taking a crack at a young, hot-shot assistant, who would have looked at this job as a possible launching point.

Louisville
Head Coach: Charlie Strong
Former Coach: Steve Kragthorpe
Last Seen: Coordinating the Florida defense

Reason to like the hire: The last couple of years showed that Louisville needs to become much tougher and more physical on defense. Strong could be just the guy to get it done. For almost a decade, he’s widely been considered one of the nation’s premier defensive coordinators, crafting nasty units at South Carolina and Florida. He’s got loads of big-game experience from his years in the SEC, and Sunshine State ties that could create a valuable corridor to the Commonwealth.

Reason to question the hire: There’s always risk with long-time coordinators. Until they get on board, you just never know which ones are truly cut out to be head coaches. After coaching some of the best talent in the nation at Florida, Strong will need to prove he can elevate the caliber of athlete that’s currently signing with Louisville. After the way Steve Kragthorpe ran this program into the ground, hiring someone with previous head coaching experience might have made more sense.

The Early Hunch: Strong has a big job ahead of him—and an even bigger opportunity. Before Kragthorpe, Bobby Petrino has the Cardinals atop the Big East and attracting loads of next-level talent. It’ll take some time to untangle the current mess, but Strong has a chance to bring Louisville back and make a lot of ADs look bad in the process.

Marshall
Head Coach: Doc Holliday
Former Coach: Mark Snyder
Last Seen: Working as an assistant coach at West Virginia

Reason to like the hire: Holliday knows two things really well, the state of West Virginia and recruiting. Both of those expertises will benefit a Marshall program that’s been stuck in neutral for years. If the Herd is going to get back to competing for league championships, it has to improve its speed and talent on both sides of the ball. Holliday’s connections in the state of Florida will be a great starting point.

Reason to question the hire: When a guy has gone three decades as an assistant without getting a head job, there could be a reason for it. Yeah, he can recruit, but can he do what’s necessary as the chief executive to turn Marshall around? Having never had nearly this much responsibility during his lengthy coaching career, it’s fair to wonder if he’ll be up to the challenge.

The Early Hunch: He’s a West Virginia grad, which will tweak some Herd fans, but his knowledge of the state and the region will be a plus. After that, however, Marshall is really rolling the dice here, isn’t it? Okay, so slam-dunk candidates weren’t going to consider Huntington, but the school is putting an awful lot of faith in a veteran best known for his work in February.

Memphis
Head Coach: Larry Porter
Former Coach: Tommy West
Last Seen: Coaching the LSU running backs

Reason to like the hire: The Tigers went back to their past in order to improve their future. Porter is a former Memphis running back, with the kind of youth, energy, and ability to recruit that’ll help his alma mater make a break from mediocrity. At a time when the program desperately needs a jolt, he’s capable of igniting the fan base and luring a higher caliber of athlete to these parts.

Reason to question the hire: Sure, he can recruit, but can he coach? Better yet, will he be as effective at signing kids when he’s not trying to lure them to Baton Rouge or Stillwater? It’ll be a whole different challenge for the 37-year old, who’ll have a lot to learn and will do a fair amount of on-the-job-training in his first few seasons.

The Early Hunch: Memphis is rolling the dice that Porter’s ability to raise the overall talent level will mask his inexperience as a head coach. If he can get fans excited about Tiger football again, part of the battle will be won. Patience is strongly recommended because he inherits a squad that’s short on talent and coming off its second 2-10 season in the last four years.

Notre Dame
Head Coach: Brian Kelly
Former Coach: Charlie Weis
Last Seen: Coaching Cincinnati

Reason to like the hire: He’s a winner. Period. Using the last few years as a measuring stick, there haven’t been many coaches who’ve out performed Kelly. Whether it was Grand Valley State, Central Michigan, or Cincinnati, he’s always elevated teams to higher ground. In the Queen City, he took the Bearcats to unforeseen heights, leading them to back-to-back Big East championships and big-payday bowl games. He’s a guru with quarterbacks, and one of the best offensive minds in the game.

Reason to question the hire: It’s South Bend, so you really never know if a coach is cut out for this degree of incessant scrutiny and attention. In Mount Pleasant and Cincinnati, it was easy to reside below the radar. A high-strung individual, Kelly won’t have that luxury at Notre Dame. The Irish’s biggest problem in recent years has been the play of the defense, so it’s sort of strange to see the school replace Charlie Weis with another offensive-slanted coach.

The Early Hunch: There was no better choice for Notre Dame than to hire Kelly. In fact, it probably wasn’t even that close. He has that special ingredient inherent to all great coaches, an ability to motivate and maximize the talents of his players. Compared to the last three Irish coaches, Weis, Tyrone Willingham, and Bob Davie, he’s far better prepared to bring the program back to prominence.

San Jose State
Head Coach: Mike MacIntyre
Former Coach: Dick Tomey
Last Seen: Coordinating the Duke defense

Reason to like the hire: For some, including the Spartan brass, MacIntyre is considered one of the bright young defensive minds in the country. He’s learned from a few luminaries, including his father George, Bill Parcells, and most recently David Cutcliffe. He had a positive impact on Duke over the last two seasons, leading a defense that allowed 23 points a game in 2009, the school’s lowest in two decades. A stickler for the books, he’s a wise choice at a school that’s been saddled with academic problems.

Reason to question the hire: Let’s be honest. He didn’t exactly scream out as the obvious choice to replace Dick Tomey. Potential? Sure, but he’s had a short run as a coordinator and has absolutely no ties to the West Coast. San Jose State is a large public institution with a modest history in athletics, a stark contrast to what MacIntyre grew accustomed to the last couple of seasons.

The Early Hunch: If this works, the San Jose State administration looks like a bunch of geniuses. If not, the program will sink into a deeper ditch. But if he’s going to be successful it’s not going to happen overnight. Tomey leaves a bare cupboard and no momentum after last year’s 2-10 disaster.

South Florida
Head Coach:
Skip Holtz
Former Coach: Jim Leavitt
Last Seen: The head coach of the two-time defending Conference USA champion East Carolina Pirates.

Reason to like the hire: He was one of the hot names in the mix, or at least thrown out there, for the Notre Dame job, among others. His ECU teams might not have been as thrilling as others in Conference USA, but they won and were great on the lines. He has the magical last name and he has been a winner.

Reason to question the hire: USF might be renting. Holtz is as upwardly mobile as they come, and if he has any success in Tampa he’ll be rumored for almost every big opening. As good as he was at ECU, he’s still a wee bit of a gamble; he’ll have to prove he can beat out the other Florida schools for a few of the big-name players.

The Early Hunch: After all the turmoil and all the strangeness under Leavitt, Holtz will be a 180-degree turn the other way. He’ll make USF a Big East champion within three years before going off to become the head coach at a Penn State or a place of similar prestige.

Tennessee
Head Coach:
Derek Dooley
Former Coach: Lane Kiffin
Last Seen: Leading the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs as the head coach over the last three years.

Reason to like the hire: He's young and he's hungry, but outside of that, he's sort of the anti-Lane Kiffin. He's not going to be a feather ruffler and will end up busting his tail to try to turn around the Volunteers. His Louisiana Tech teams had decent defenses, at least in the first two years, and his teams run well. In a place that's tough to win, he took Tech to a bowl game in his second year.

Reason to question the hire: It's not like he set the world on fire before taking over the Tennessee job. He's unproven as far as his upper-level coaching skills, and while he has a great family name (he's the son of legendary Georgia coach, Vince Dooley), he has yet to show anything special enough to assume that Tennessee is about to become a superpower again.

The Early Hunch: Dooley was a booby prize in the chase for a head coach and the expectations aren't through the roof. If this doesn't work out, it'll be more on the administration for not being able to land Will Muschamp or David Cutcliffe, two of the top choices. The big key will be in 2011 when Dooley has to show he can recruit at a high level; it won't be fair to judge him on this year.

Texas Tech
Head Coach: Tommy Tuberville
Former Coach: Mike Leach
Last Seen: Waiting for an AD to get him out of retirement

Reason to like the hire: Tuberville was arguably the best free agent college coach on the market. And now Texas Tech has him, making for a swift recovery in the aftermath of the Mike Leach dust-up. Unlike so many programs, which are gambling with their choices, the Red Raiders have a proven winner, who’s coached at the highest level. He spent four seasons at Ole Miss and a decade at Auburn, and will be a refreshing change to those in Lubbock who tired of Leach’s act.

Reason to question the hire: Tuberville was a former National Coach of the Year, but that wasn’t yesterday. It was six years ago, and since 2004’s perfect season, his Tigers weren’t world-beaters. He sat out last season, raising questions if he’s lost any spark at the age of 55. He has no ties in the Southwest and just one season of experience coaching in the state of Texas. Will Tuberville endure when taken out of his comfort zone?

The Early Hunch: It wasn’t that long ago that Tuberville was considered one of the most underrated coaches in America. He’s a decent, likable man, who won’t take very long to develop a following in West Texas. And, yes, he still has the passion to win titles, which will be the goal, even in a Big 12 South that contains Texas and Oklahoma.

UNLV
Head Coach: Bobby Hauck
Former Coach: Mike Sanford
Last Seen: Coaching Montana

Reason to like the hire: Considering the plight of the football program, the Rebels did well to land an established coach, who’s still peaking in his career trajectory. Despite being just 45, Hauck already has 80 career wins from his days at FCS powerhouse Montana and coached in the playoffs in all seven of his seasons with the Grizzlies. He’s spent his entire playing and coaching career west of the Rockies, a familiarity that’ll be especially useful as he recruits outside of Nevada.

Reason to question the hire: UNLV has a way of breaking quality coaches. Just ask Mike Sanford, who was a hot commodity before arriving in Las Vegas and getting humbled for a few years. In Missoula, Hauck grew accustomed to success and a lot of support from the student body and local community. He’ll have neither with the Rebels, which will qualify as a culture shock.

The Early Hunch: Although it remains to be seen if anyone can win consistently at this program, it’s hard to argue with this choice. The Rebels now have a young coach, who was on the sidelines for three FCS national championship games last decade. Some of those experiences and that success have to rub off on a school that hasn’t had a winning season since 2000.

USC
Head Coach: Lane Kiffin
Former Coach: Pete Carroll
Last Seen: Coaching Tennessee

Reason to like the hire: If the Trojans were looking for continuity from the Pete Carroll days, Kiffin is a sound option. He spent five seasons from 2001-05 as an assistant under Carroll and will run an offense that’s similar to what the program has used in the past. He and Ed Orgeron are also logical choices to salvage USC’s current recruiting class and maintain the school’s high level of attracting talent going forward. Few people have a better pulse on West Coast recruiting than Kiffin.

Reason to question the hire: Really, what has Kiffin accomplished other than landing high-profile jobs? He was a Trojan assistant when the school had as much talent as some NFL teams, had a failed stint with the Oakland Raiders, and went 7-6 in one season at Tennessee. Oh yeah, he’s also been accused of committing minor NCAA violations while in Knoxville, a bad omen as USC awaits its fate later

The Early Hunch: Is this the job that finally validates Kiffin as a coach worthy of all the attention he receives? If nothing else, he guarantees to be entertaining, a natural fit in Hollywood. Assuming he doesn’t implode or exacerbate the situation with the NCAA, he’s obviously at the right school to continue attracting blue-chippers and win plenty of football games. You know these are strange times when Rick Neuheisel gets bumped to altar boy status in Los Angeles.

Virginia
Head Coach: : Mike London
Former Coach: Al Groh
Last Seen: Coaching Richmond

Reason to like the hire: Over the last three decades as a player and a coach, London has only been outside Virginia for just five seasons. A talent-rich state, he knows every corner of it, a plus in recruiting. London paved the path to this opening over the last four seasons. In 2006 and 2007, he was the Cavs’ defensive coordinator, doing a bang-up job for Al Groh. In 2008 and 2009, he was the head coach of Richmond, leading the Spiders to a 24-5 mark and the 2008 FCS national championship. This is a natural next step in a career on the rise.

Reason to question the hire: After having almost a decade of the conservative Groh in Charlottesville, Virginia didn’t need another defensive-minded coach. The Cavaliers have been brutal offensively, ranking last in ACC scoring in each of the last two seasons. It’s incumbent upon London to get outside his comfort zone and hire an offensive coordinator that can spice up the attack and attract some of the state’s better skill position players.

The Early Hunch: This made so much sense that you could see it coming months before Groh got canned. In many ways, London is an ideal fit for a sinking UVa program, especially now that he has those two successful years as a head coach in the bank. However, he can’t ignore the calamity on offense. That side of the ball has to be addressed aggressively or any revival will be stunted.

Western Kentucky
Head Coach: : Willie Taggart
Former Coach: Dave Elson
Last Seen: Coaching the Stanford running backs

Reason to like the hire: The Hilltoppers have a steep mountain to climb now that they’re FBS members. Taggart might be just the guy to get them there. He’s a former All-American quarterback at the school and a long-time assistant before moving on to coach Toby Gerhart and the Stanford running backs. He’s young, has boundless energy, and ties to Florida that could help bring second and third-tier recruits to Bowling Green.

Reason to question the hire: At just 33, Taggart’s youth will be a blessing and a curse at times. He obviously has a lot to learn and limited resources to get him to that point. He wasn’t even a coordinator in his last stop on the Farm, so it’ll be pivotal to hire a veteran staff that can fill in some of the blanks, especially in the early going.

The Early Hunch: Why not? The Hilltoppers are going to take their lumps for a while anyway, so why not roll the dice with a young, offensive-minded coach, who admits that this school is in his DNA? It could be ugly for a while, but with a break or two in recruiting, Western Kentucky hopes to make a steady northern climb in the Sun Belt Conference.