Catching Up on All the Division I College Football Coaching Changes
The offseason and coaching carousel were a whirlwind in college football this year. I'd even argue it was the most entertaining and surprising in years. Now that spring practices and spring games are wrapping up, it seems like a good time to catch up on what changes were made at head coach.
Akron: Out- Tom Arth, In- Joe Moorehead
Arth only lasted three seasons and was fired after an abysmal 3-24 record. Moorehead has had success in various coaching roles at the college level. His past success as offensive coordinator at Penn State landed him the head coaching job at Mississippi State. He won eight games in his first season in Starkville but was fired after his second season. He resurfaced as offensive coordinator at Oregon in 2020 and now returns to Akron, where he was an assistant from 2004 to 2008. Moorehead has also been the head coach at Fordham and probably could have had a higher-profile head coaching job.
Colorado State: Out- Steve Addazio, In- Jay Norvell
I always questioned what Colorado State saw in Addazio. He does have a wealth of experience as an assistant coach in the college ranks, but there was a real lack of success in his head coaching experiences. He won nine games at Temple in 2011 but never won more than seven in any year since then. On the other hand, Jay Norvell has an accomplished resume. He's a brilliant offensive mind who has made stops coaching quarterbacks, receivers, and coordinating passing offenses at several colleges and in the NFL. Nevada hired Norvell after a successful season running Arizona State's offense, and he brought the Wolfpack to new heights during his five-year tenure. This year, Nevada is expected to have at least three offensive players drafted into the NFL. It's no wonder a conference rival who has struggled offensively wanted to hire him.
Duke: Out- David Cutcliffe, In- Mike Elko
David Cutcliffe is a renowned quarterback coach known for his work with Peyton and Eli Manning and Daniel Jones. He got his first head coaching job at Ole Miss in the late 1990s and was hired by Duke in 2008. Cutcliffe inherited one of the historically worst college football programs and made it respectable. Although his overall record was under .500, he did lead them to six bowl games--including a 10-win season in 2013. Elko comes in after leading one of the nation's top defenses at Texas A&M. He worked his way up from grad assistant at Stony Brook and has been the defensive coordinator at Hofstra, Bowling Green, Wake Forest, Notre Dame, and Texas A&M. This will be his first head coaching job, but his success in turning around bad defenses has earned him a shot.
Florida: Out- Dan Mullen, In- Billy Napier
Dan Mullen's return to the Swamp was supposed to be the beginning of a triumphant era of Florida football. After all, he was the offensive coordinator for the 2006 and 2008 National Championship teams and was incredibly successful as head coach at Mississippi State. His first three seasons in Gainesville went off without a hitch. The Gators won at least 10 games in the first two seasons, came in second place in the SEC, and went to three New Year's Six games. However, the team largely underachieved in year four, and Mullen was fired after a 5-6 start to the season. Napier is another offensively-minded coach with an extensive background at Clemson, Alabama, Colorado State, and Arizona State. Now, he comes to Gainesville after a 40-12 record and two Sun Belt Championships in a four-year stretch as head coach at Louisiana.
FIU: Out- Butch Davis, In- Mike MacIntyre
Butch Davis has been in and out of jobs at both the college and pro levels since 1979. His first head coaching job came at Miami in 1995, where he won 51 games in six seasons. That led him to become the head coach of the Cleveland Browns before resigning in 2004. His return to college football was much less successful. He went 12-23 at North Carolina and 24-32 at FIU. The Panthers hired Mike MacIntyre, who has been a head coach at San Jose State and Colorado, as his replacement. He led Colorado to the PAC-12 Championship game in 2016, but could not keep that success going and was fired in 2018. Since then, he has been defensive coordinator at Ole Miss and Memphis.
Fresno State: Out- Kalen DeBoer, In- Jeff Tedford
This is a bit of a unique situation. DeBoer was hired by Washington and will be bringing much of his staff with him from Fresno. Yet, the man replacing him is the same one who he replaced. Jeff Tedford stepped away from coaching due to health concerns following the 2019 season and will return to his old post this fall. Tedford has a long history at Fresno State as an assistant in the 1990s and has also been the head coach at Cal and spent time as an assistant in the NFL and CFL.
Georgia Southern: Out, Chad Lunsford, In- Clay Helton
Both Lunsford and Helton were among the first wave of firings in college football last fall. Lunsford had taken the interim head coaching job at Georgia Southern in 2017 and parlayed it into a permanent position for himself. The Eagles would go onto three consecutive winning seasons, but a 1-3 start in 2021 cost Lunsford his job. Helton had just been fired by USC and bringing in a veteran power conference head coach is a big hire for this program.
Hawaii: Out- Todd Graham, In- Timmy Chang
Graham worked his way up from the Texas high school ranks and made a name for himself in college football. The Hawaii job was his third head coaching position since 2011 (Pitt and Arizona State) and he boasts a 106-72 record as a college head coach. Unfortunately, the success wasn't really there this time and players accused him of mistreatment. The school decided to move on. It was pretty well-publicized that the university had trouble getting its top candidates to join the team, and it ended up hiring Nevada receivers coach Timmy Chang. Chang played quarterback for the Rainbow Warriors from 2000 to 2004 and ranks among some of the all-time best offensive players at the college level.
Louisiana Tech: Out- Skip Holtz, In- Sonny Cumbie
Skip Holtz is out as the head coach of the Bulldogs after nine years and 64 wins. He had been at the school since 2013 and was fired after a 3-9 season in 2021. Holtz moves on to coach the USFL's Birmingham Stallions and LA Tech brings in a new coach with a great background. Sonny Cumbie played quarterback at Texas Tech in the early 2000s and was one of the top quarterbacks in the Arena Football League. He joined the college coaching ranks at his alma mater in 2009 and briefly went to TCU before coming back to Lubbock as part of Matt Wells's staff. When Wells was let go last fall, Cumbie was named interim head coach, and the Red Raiders looked noticeably better under his leadership and may have earned him this permanent head coaching job.
LSU: Out- Ed Orgeron, In- Brian Kelly
"When you're winning, they love you. When you're losing, they can't kick you out of town fast enough." That seems to be the best way to summarize Ed Orgeron's tenure in Baton Rouge. As recently as 2019, he led the Tigers to an undefeated season and a national championship. Since that time, LSU has just an 11-11 record with notable regression on both sides of the ball. Now, Orgeron was still well-liked as a person and there wasn't a huge uproar over his status as head coach, but there was some pressure and the university voted to make a change. They caught a big fish in Notre Dame's Brian Kelly. Kelly had worked his way up from Division II Grand Valley State to lead the Irish to two playoff appearances and a national championship game toward the end of the BCS era. There's no question he's a good coach, but much of his background is in the Midwest. So, how well can he recruit down south?
Notre Dame: Out- Brian Kelly, In- Marcus Freeman
Putitng aside vacated wins, Brian Kelly went 92-39 at Notre Dame and no one really though he would ever leave. Freeman played for a successful Ohio State program and is largely credited with the development of the Cincinnati defense that led the Bearcats to the playoff last season. He was hired away from Cincinnati just last year and coached one of the better defenses in the country. Many, many names were thrown out in speculation, but the school went with the 35-year-old Freeman, who many say is destined for great things as a head coach.
Miami: Out- Manny Diaz, In- Mario Cristobal
Diaz was promoted from his defensive coordinator role in January 2019 and led the Hurricanes for three years. The move was seen as a positive hire at the time, but he did lack head coaching experience. That may have been the issue as Diaz's teams, despite having plenty of talent, compiled just a 21-16 record during his brief tenure. Miami now brings in a familiar face who has been a successful head coach at a Power Five program. Cristobal played offensive line at Miami in the 90s and returns after posting a 35-13 mark in five seasons at Oregon. He has also been the head coach at Florida International and spent time on the Alabama coaching staff under the tutelage of Nick Saban.
Nevada: Out- Jay Norvell, In- Ken Wilson
Jay Norvell made his name as an offensive coordinator and rebuilt a Nevada football program that had fallen on dark times. After a 3-9 debut season, he coached the Wolfpack to four consecutive winning records and developed some talented players that will hear their names called in April's draft. Now, Norvell leaves for Colorado State and Wilson steps in. Wilson is more of a defensive coach but started his career with 23 seasons on the Nevada coaching staff. Since then, he has held positions at Washington State and Oregon and was the co-defensive coordinator for a pretty good Oregon defense.
New Mexico State: Out- Doug Martin, In- Jerry Kill
Jerry Kill returns to the head coaching ranks after an interim stint at TCU last season following a mutual parting of ways with Gary Patterson. Kill has been coaching since 1985 and got his first FBS head coaching job at Northern Illinois in 2008. He led the Huskies to a 10-3 record and an undefeated conference record before losing the MAC Championship, which helped him land the job at Minnesota before retiring due to health issues. He returned to coaching in 2019 at Virginia Tech and joined TCU in 2020. Now, Kill is tasked with replacing a coach who went 25-74 in nine seasons and leading a program that hasn't won more than three games in a season since 2017.
Oklahoma: Out- Lincoln Riley, In- Brent Venables
The surprising departure of Lincoln Riley means Venables finally gets a shot as head coach. The approach may be a complete 180 as Venables is as sharp of a defensive mind as Riley is an offensive mind. That change could be good as Oklahoma-- while making some improvement-- has largely struggled on defense in recent seasons. While Venables made his name mostly as the defensive coordinator for Clemson's national championship teams, he was actually on the Sooners' staff for most of the early 2000s. Now, one of the top assistants in the game gets a shot at leading one of the programs that helped him get to where he is today.
Oregon: Out- Mario Cristobal, In- Dan Lanning
Cristobal's Oregon replacement may be an unknown to most people. Dan Lanning has risen quickly in his 11 years as a college coach. He wasn't even an official assistant until 2013 at Arizona State. He has also made stops at Sam Houston State, Alabama, and Memphis before joining Georgia in 2018 as OLB coach. In 2019, Lanning was promoted to defensive coordinator and has established one of the best defenses in college football, which will see several players drafted in round one of the 2022 NFL Draft. At just 36 years old, he's one of the younger coaches around and I would consider this a pretty big gamble. He's had other opportunities to leave for head coaching jobs and is a good recruiter by most accounts. The question is: can he still do that out West?
SMU: Out-Sonny Dykes, In- Rhett Lashlee
Sonny Dykes departs Dallas for rival TCU in Fort Worth and is replaced by one of his former assistants. Lashlee spent 2020 and 2021 as Miami's offensive coordinator but served the same role at SMU in 2018 and 2019 during the beginning of Dykes's tenure. Known as one of the top young offensive minds, Lashlee now returns to the Hilltop to try to lead a resurgent program to the next level.
TCU: Out- Gary Patterson, In- Sonny Dykes
Dykes's success at SMU has led him back to a Power Five program in the Big 12. This will be Dykes's fourth different college head coaching position. He coached Louisiana Tech and Cal before actually joining TCU as an analyst for the 2017 season. It was after that one season in Fort Worth that he was hired as head coach at SMU, where he turned the Mustangs into one of the better programs in the AAC. Dykes is known for prolific, high-scoring offenses and has an overall 71-63 record in 12 seasons as a Division I head coach.
Temple: Out- Rod Carey, In- Stan Drayton
Rod Carey earned the Temple job after a great run at Northern Illinois, but his tenure with the Owls will be remembered as a failure. Carey lasted three years and only won 12 games while seeing many of the team's best players transfer to other schools. The program needs a leader to help it regain stability, and they've picked Stan Drayton for the task. Drayton has not been a head coach before but has spent time as a running backs coach in various levels of college football and in the NFL. Most recently, he was the top assistant at Texas and oversaw the running backs and run-game coordination. People around the game hold Drayton in high regard, so the move is certainly worth a shot.
Texas Tech: Out- Matt Wells, In- Joey McGuire
This is one of the more interesting hires to me. Matt Wells was a huge success at Utah State but seemed overmatched with a bigger program. I think one of his big downfalls was failing to find a consistent option at quarterback. Meanwhile, McGuire has an interesting background. He was one of the best high school coaches in Texas before joining Baylor in 2017, where he played an intricate role in the development of Baylor's linebackers and pass-rushers, which is exactly what Tech could use on defense. It also helps that he has such good relationships because of his background in the high school ranks for recruiting.
Troy: Out- Chip Lindsey, In- Jon Sumrall
Lindsey never won more than five games in a season and was let go after three years at one of the Sun Belt Conference's more prominent programs. The team brings in another one of the younger coaches in Sumrall. He's a former Kentucky linebacker who has established himself as a linebacker coach and defensive coordinator. He was previously part of Troy's staff from 2015 to 2017 and has also made stops at San Diego State, Tulane, Ole Miss, and Kentucky. Last year's Kentucky defense surpassed expectations and helped him get a shot here.
UConn: Out- Randy Edsall, In- Jim Mora Jr
Edsall had built UConn into a respectable program before leaving for greener pastures at Maryland in 2011, where he went just 22-34. After a few other stops, he wound up back in charge of the UConn program but did not achieve the same success. His second stint saw the program continue its lull and win just 6 games in a little over four years. Edsall "retired" just two games into the 2021 season. The school hired Mora Jr, who has held several head coaching jobs and is the son of a legend. Jim Mora Sr compiled a 125-106 record in the NFL with the Saints and Colts and is perhaps most famous for his "Playoffs?" speech. Junior has had stints in the NFL but was most successful at UCLA from 2012 to 2017, where he had four winning seasons in six years before being fired. He's been in broadcasting since then but will return to the field to coach the Huskies in 2022.
Louisiana: Out- Billy Napier, In- Michael Desormeaux
After a great run with the Ragin Cajuns, Napier is now returning to Florida as the Gators' head coach. The team decided to promote form within and hired co-offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Michael Desormeaux. Desormeaux has been with the team since 2016 and has not coached at any other FBS schools. He has quickly turned around a Louisiana high school program in the past and won his only game as interim head coach for Louisiana last season.
UMass: Out- Walt Bell, In- Don Brown
UMass took a chance on Walt Bell after the 2018 season but did not get results. Bell won just two games in three years with the program. The UMass program has been struggling to compete for a few years now and will turn to one of its more accomplished former coaches to right the ship. Don Brown has become one of the more well-known defensive coordinators in college football-- earning the nickname "Dr. Blitz" for his aggressive style. But many may not remember that Brown was the head coach at UMass from 2004 to 2008 when the Minutemen were one of the top programs at the FCS level. It hasn't been easy for the team since it moved up to the FBS, but maybe Brown can spark something.
USC: Out- Clay Helton, In- Lincoln Riley\
USC may have staged the biggest coup in college coaching history. Lincoln Riley had it made at Oklahoma. Not only was he successful in leading the Sooners to championship heights, but his predecessor (Bob Stoops) stepped out of his way to give him the job. Everyone thought he was a lifelong Oklahoma guy unless the right NFL opportunity came along. We were wrong. USC was able to pull him away from Norman and bring the rest of his staff to Los Angeles as well. The Trojans have fallen from their mighty peak in recent years, and Riley is a guy who can turn that around. He has even convinced some of his former Oklahoma players to join him. This could be a drastically different and improved USC team.
Virginia: Out- Bronco Mendenhall, In- Tony Elliott
Bronco Mendenhall has retired and will be replaced by one of the top offensive assistants in the nation. In most years, teams were clamoring for Elliott as a head coach. The Clemson offense had a bit of a down year in 2021, and you heard his name come up as a candidate less and less. Still, he lands a job in the ACC. Virginia has been steadily improving over the years, and the Clemson model could be a great tool to get the Cavaliers to the next level.
Virginua Tech: Out- Justin Fuente, In- Brent Pry
Justin Fuenete wasn't bad at Virginia Tech, but the program was not at the level that it wants to be. Frank Beamer left lofty expectations for his successors, and no one has been able to live up to them. Fuenete at least studied things for the time being, but the school decided to move on. The Hokies selected an accomplished defensive coordinator in Pry, known mostly for his work at Vanderbilt and Pen State. He has been James Franlin's right-hand man for years and finally gets a chance to run his own program.
Washington: Out- Jimmy Lake, In- Kalen DeBoer
I questioned the Jimmy Lake hire from the start. It wasn't that he was a bad candidate necessarily, but he was inexperienced. A coach can overcome that with a good staff, but Washington was horrendous on offense during his tenure. In his place comes a guy who knows offense. Kalen DeBoer has been part of designing great offenses at college programs and backed it up with fantastic improvement as head coach at Fresno State. He is bringing some of his staff with him to Seattle and should be able to improve offensively. Hopefully, he learns from his predecessor and fills the rest of his staff with guys who can help his weaknesses.
Washington State: Out- Nick Rolovich, In- Jake Dickert
This is a bit of a smaller change, Rolovich was let go in the middle of last season because of his failure to comply with the state's vaccination policy for state employees. Dickert stepped in as the interim coach and posted a 3-3 record--earning him the spot permanently.