Breaking down the college football coaching hires

This was an exceptionally busy offseason on the coaching carousel, with 26 new coaches hired.

[Related: College football coaching carousel]

Here’s a breakdown of the hirings.

Good hire, expect success
New coach: Rich Rodriguez
Former job: CBS College Sports analyst
The buzz: Rodriguez had great success at West Virginia, and while he’s not likely to necessarily reach BCS-level heights at Arizona, he should make the Wildcats an annual bowl contender and a program that occasionally challenges for the Pac-12 crown. That he was able to lure Jeff Casteel away from West Virginia to be his defensive coordinator was a master stroke. RichRod’s failure at Michigan was because his teams couldn’t play defense – well, that and the fact that a faction of the fan base never would accept him because he wasn’t a “Michigan man.”
More on Arizona:
New coach: Gus Malzahn
Former job: Auburn offensive coordinator
The buzz: The biggest question here is why Malzahn was … well, willing to take a Sun Belt job. He takes over a program that is the reigning league champion and one that has some nice offensive players in place. What seems likely is that he has two or three good seasons, then moves on to a bigger job.
More on Arkansas State:
New coach: Urban Meyer
Former job: ESPN analyst
The buzz: A home run hire, assuming Meyer doesn’t burn out too quickly. He is too good a coach – and too good a recruiter – to fail. The question is how long he can last in another pressure-cooker job.
More on Ohio State:
New coach: Paul Chryst
Former job: Wisconsin offensive coordinator
The buzz: Pitt has been a jumbled mess for the past 13 months, but Chryst should provide them with much-needed stability. Frankly, that Pitt was able to hire a “hot” coordinator says a lot about the future of the program. The offensive personnel on hand, though, will be going through another scheme change, to an offense that is more like Dave Wannstedt’s than Todd Graham’s.
More on Pittsburgh:
New coach: Mike Leach
Former job: Radio host
The buzz: Washington State has garnered more publicity since hiring Leach than in the previous three seasons. In short, he makes them relevant. He’s not going to win Pac-12 titles in Pullman, but Leach will make the Cougars fun to watch and return them to respectability. Plus, he’ll liven up the Pac-12 coaches’ teleconferences.
More on Washington State:
Likely a good hire, but …
New coach: Tim Beckman
Former job: Toledo coach
The buzz: Beckman has a solid background as an assistant in the Midwest and quickly got Toledo turned around. But while he has a background on defense, the offense was the reason for Toledo’s success. He’s a good coach, especially when his team has equal talent as the opponent. But will his staff be able to recruit that type of talent?
More on Illinois: Orange&
New coach: Larry Fedora
Former job: Southern Miss coach
The buzz: This sure looks like a good hire. But UNC’s rather tepid football history gives one pause. For whatever reason, this program never has had sustained success. Can Fedora change that? Or will he, like Mack Brown, move on once UNC starts going well.
More on North Carolina:
Southern Miss
New coach: Ellis Johnson
Former job: South Carolina defensive coordinator
The buzz: Johnson is one of the nation’s best defensive coordinators, and the talent on that side of the ball means the Golden Eagles will be annual contenders in Conference USA. But his offensive staff looks underwhelming, and that could be his undoing.
More on Southern Miss:
New coach: Kevin Sumlin
Former job: Houston coach
The buzz: Actually, Sumlin is a good hire. But he might not have much success. Sumlin supposedly had a shot at the Arizona State job – and he should’ve taken it. It’s easier to win with the Sun Devils than it will be with the Aggies in the SEC. Sumlin has all the necessary ingredients to be a successful coach: He is smart and personable, has a varied background, knows how to recruit. But he and his staff have a tough task ahead of them with A&M moving to the SEC. While A&M made a good hire, it’s hard to see Sumlin having enough success in the school’s new league to keep critics at bay.
More on Texas A&M:
New coach: Matt Campbell
Former job: Toledo offensive coordinator
The buzz: Toledo officials wanted to maintain the program’s momentum, so it makes sense to promote from within. Campbell oversaw an extremely potent offense, one that led the Rockets to a 10-win season. But Campbell is just 31 and is a first-time head coach. Can he handle the pressure? If so, expect him to stay at Toledo two or three seasons, then move on to a “bigger” job.
More on Toledo:
Wait and see
Arizona State
New coach: Todd Graham
Former job: Pittsburgh coach
The buzz: As weird as this may sound, I would’ve given this hire higher marks last year, when Graham would’ve been coming off a successful run at Tulsa. His one year at Pitt was extremely uneven. He antagonized some Pitt people even before he bolted after less than a year on the job. Graham talked big in Pittsburgh, but he was more hot air than results. Arizona State is a better job than Pitt; can Graham get the right kind of players for his offense to be successful? The Pac-12 underwent a lot of change in the past year in terms of coaches, and Graham has a lot to prove.
More on Arizona State:
New coach: Jim McElwain
Former job: Alabama offensive coordinator
The buzz: It’s not often a school of Colorado State’s stature is able to hire an offensive coordinator who has earned two national title rings in the past three seasons. Indeed, it’s a bit surprising that McElwain couldn’t get a more high-profile job. Don’t necessarily focus on the offense he oversaw at Alabama; he won’t be as conservative with the Rams. His problem: This is a school that has had success under only one coach, Sonny Lubick. Can McElwain change the culture?
More on Colorado State: Gold&
New coach: Tim DeRuyter
Former job: Texas A&M defensive coordinator
The buzz: His defense at A&M had all sorts of issues this season. But his work at A&M in 2010 and at Air Force before that proves he knows what he is doing on that side of the ball. But he faces an uphill climb: He is replacing a highly successful coach (Pat Hill) whose talent level fell in the past few seasons. And Fresno is leaving the WAC for the Mountain West, which is a tougher league.
More on Fresno State:
New coach: Charley Molnar
Former job: North Dame offensive coordinator
The buzz: Molnar had coached under Brian Kelly since 2006, at Central Michigan, Cincinnati and Notre Dame. Now he’ll be a head coach for the first time – and at a school making the jump from middling FCS program to the FBS ranks. UMass will play in the MAC. Kelly is given a vast majority of the credit for the high-powered offenses at Central Michigan and Cincy, and while Molnar might be a budding offensive genius, it’s hard to imagine him having much success at a program that shouldn’t be making the move up to FBS.
New coach: Justin Fuente
Former job: TCU co-offensive coordinator
The buzz: Fuente was the play-caller for the Horned Frogs. While TCU has a reputation of being defense-minded, the Horned Frogs’ offense had become more explosive of late. Fuente has the necessary Xs and Os skill. But Memphis is a bad program with outdated facilities in a mediocre league. Plus, it’s a basketball school that soon will be hiring a new athletic director. Fuente’s predecessor, Larry Porter, was fired after just two seasons. How much time will Fuente be given by an athletic director who didn’t hire him?
More on Memphis:
New coach: Curtis Johnson
Former job: New Orleans Saints wide receiver coach
The buzz: Johnson never has been even a coordinator, and he has a tough job ahead of him. No one cares about Tulane football in New Orleans, but perhaps Johnson – given his ties to the Saints and to the city (he is a native) – can create some energy. He is known as a good recruiter (he was the main recruiter at San Diego State for Marshall Faulk, who also is a New Orleans native), and Tulane needs a big-time infusion of talent. But this is a bad program.
More on Tulane:
New coach: Garrick McGee
Former job: Arkansas offensive coordinator
The buzz: There are some similarities between McGee and Justin Fuente, Memphis’ new coach. Both played quarterback at Oklahoma; Fuente began his career there before transferring, while McGee finished at OU after beginning at Arizona State. And like Fuente, McGee has taken over a bad program with outdated facilities in a mediocre league. While McGee was offensive coordinator at Arkansas, it was Bobby Petrino’s offense. McGee should bring some excitement, but it may not last long.
More on UAB:
New coach: Jim Mora
Former job: NFL Network analyst
The buzz: At first blush, this looks like a “Are you serious?” hire. Mora hasn’t been in the college game since 1984, when he was a graduate assistant at Washington. His four seasons as an NFL coach produced a 32-34 overall record. But recent history with another L.A.-based program makes you want to hold off on the “bad hire” proclamation. USC hired Pete Carroll following the 2000 season after a four-year run as an NFL coach produced a 34-33 record. Carroll was 49 when he was hired by the Trojans; Mora is 50. And Mora has put together a solid staff. UCLA is starved for a winner. Can Mora deliver?
More on UCLA:
Questionable hire
New coach: Terry Bowden
Former job: North Alabama coach
The buzz: Bowden had success at North Alabama, a Division II school. But he hasn’t coached in the FBS ranks since 1998, when he resigned from Auburn at midseason. Do current recruits have any idea who he is? That seems extremely doubtful. Plus, his success came at a big program in the South, and he’s now at a bottom-feeder in the MAC. Does he have the stomach for a massive rebuilding job?
New coach: Carl Pelini
Former job: Nebraska defensive coordinator
The buzz: While Pelini had the title of DC at Nebraska, it’s his brother’s defense. Plus, Pelini never has coached in the Southeast. His staff isn’t overly impressive, but there is a new on-campus stadium that just opened and FAU is in a recruiting hotbed.
More on Florida Atlantic:
New coach: Norm Chow
Former job: Utah offensive coordinator
The buzz: Chow grew up in Honolulu and is beloved on the island. But the school lost momentum when it hired a veteran assistant (Greg McMackin) following the departure of June Jones, and it’s taking a gamble of sorts by hiring Chow, who will be a 65-year-old first-time head coach. Truth be told, he hasn’t overseen an exciting offense since his days at USC (2001-04).
New coach: Tony Levine
Former job: Houston inside receiver coach
The buzz: Houston has a ton of momentum as it readies to move from Conference USA to the Big East. The school gambled when it hired Art Briles out of the high school ranks. It made a shrewd hire when it nabbed Kevin Sumlin to replace Briles when Briles left for Baylor. Now the school has gambled again by promoting Levine. Thing is, why gamble again at this juncture of the program’s history?
More on Houston:
New coach: Charlie Weis
Former job: Florida offensive coordinator
The buzz: Weis couldn’t get it done as the coach at Notre Dame – with all its inherent advantages – and he is going to have success at Kansas?
More on Kansas:
New coach: Hugh Freeze
Former job: Arkansas State coach
The buzz: Ole Miss has won one SEC game in the past two seasons, and school officials have turned to a guy who three years ago was coaching Lambuth, an NAIA school in Jackson, Tenn. From NAIA to the SEC in three seasons; that’s quite a jump. Freeze is a former Ole Miss assistant but under Ed Orgeron, whose tenure was a bad one. Freeze also has one of the more interesting contracts in college sports: He gets a $100,000 bonus for each SEC win. Gee, isn’t winning league games sort of a requirement for a coach?
More on Mississippi:
New coach: Bob Davie
Former job: ESPN analyst
The buzz: Davie did an OK job as an ESPN analyst. But he hasn’t coached since the 2001 season, when he was at Notre Dame. And as with Charlie Weis, there is this question: Davie didn’t succeed at Notre Dame, and he is going to have success at New Mexico?
More on New Mexico:
New coach: Bill O’Brien
Former job: New England Patriots offensive coordinator
The buzz: This isn’t a knock on O’Brien, who has been an assistant at Duke, Georgia Tech and Maryland. It’s just that Penn State looks to be a hopeless situation for the next few seasons. In addition, he doesn’t exactly have a powerhouse staff.
More on Penn State:

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