We have 24 new head coaches in Division I-A football. Some will succeed early. Some will struggle early.
Among veteran coaches, there are a number of who enter this season very much on the hot seat.
So with the start of season just eight days away, it is a good time to look at our coaches on the hot seat, the new coaches who will succeed and the new coaches who will struggle.
This is just one man’s opinion. If you have others to add to these lists, please do so:
FIVE VETERAN COACHES ON THE HOT SEAT
1. Rich Rodriguez, Michigan: The problem for Rich Rod is that regardless of how many games he wins, there are just a lot of people who don’t want him to be the coach at Michigan any more. NCAA investigations at both his current and former (West Virginia) employers don’t help Rodriguez with a proud Michigan fan base.
2. Dan Hawkins, Colorado: When Hawkins came to Boulder from Boise State, folks thought the Buffs would become a Big 12 force again. Instead they are 16-33 in five seasons. Colorado is going to the Pac-10 either in 2011 or 2012. Will Hawkins be the coach?
3. Ron Zook, Illinois: The Zooker got the Illini to a Rose Bowl in 2007 but things have not been good since with seasons of 5-7 and 3-9. He shook up his coaching staff in an effort to get back to a bowl. Another losing season could be Zook’s last in Champaign.
4. Les Miles, LSU: Normally, a guy who is 51-15 with a national championship (2007) doesn’t belong on this list. But the closer you get to the LSU program the more people try to convince me that Miles has to make something happen after going 8-8 in the SEC the past two seasons. He’s picked to finish fourth in the SEC West. A win over North Carolina on Sept. 4 is very important. Miles’ buyout, media reports have said, is about $16 million.
5. Dennis Erickson, Arizona State: Erickson, who won two national championships at Miami, led the Sun Devils to 10 wins and a share of the Pac-10 championship in his first season (2007) in Tempe. The past two seasons Arizona State has won a total of nine games. Erickson shook up his staff bringing in Noel Mazzone to install the spread offense. He needs a winning season.
FIVE NEW COACHES WHO WILL HAVE EARLY SUCCESS
1. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame: Based on what he did at Cincinnati and Central Michigan, Kelly is an offensive genius who really knows how to coach quarterbacks. I think the schedule is set up for 8-9 wins.
2. Lane Kiffn, USC: Depth and recruiting are going to be issues down the road for Kiffin but the Trojans could still win a lot of games this season. In fact, I’m looking at 9 or 10 wins on that schedule.
3. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State: No one questions the offense, which returns a veteran line and a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback (Christian Ponder). A Sept. 11 trip to Oklahoma should tell us a lot. I have Florida State winning the ACC’s Atlantic Division over Clemson.
4. Skip Holtz, South Florida: Holtz has proven what he can do with a mobile quarterback and he has a good one in B.J. Daniels. Road trips to Florida, Miami and West Virginia will temper expectations but the Bulls can be a factor in the Big East.
5. Butch Jones, Cincinnati: Jones takes over for Brian Kelly, who won a pair of Big East championships. The Bearcats won’t win the conference again but they will continue to be very competitive with a proven quarterback in Zach Collaros..
FIVE NEW COACHES WHO WILL STRUGGLE
1. Derek Dooley, Tennessee: Dooley inherited a bad situation that has gotten progressively worse with injuries and other issues. The schedule is brutal. Five wins would be a very good season.
2. Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech: Tuberville will try to change the culture established by Mike Leach, which means Tubs will try to run the ball and play better defense. In the short term this has a chance to be ugly until Tuberville can get his recruits in place.
3. Mike London, Virginia: London won a Division I-AA championship at Richmond but begins his time at Virignia with a roster that is very, very thin. The Cavaliers are in the ACC Coastal, which will be one of the toughest divisions in football.
4. Robbie Caldwell, Vanderbilt: Caldwell got the job when Bobby Johnson suddenly retired in July. The Commodores were going to struggle this season regardless of who was the coach. Nine of the 12 teams on the schedule went to bowls last season.
5. Turner Gill, Kansas: The Jayhawks are only three years removed from a 12-1 season and an Orange Bowl appearance. But the former head coach at Buffalo has a lot of work to do to get Kansas back in the mix in the Big 12 North, which is pretty weak this year.
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