15 January 2011

2011 College Football Coaching Carousel: Grading The Hires

Twenty-one college football programs have hired a brand new coach, including some of the big names in college football such as Michigan, Miami (FL), and Florida. How did these programs do in their hires?
My grades of the new hires are after the jump.

21. Bill Blankenship - Tulsa
Tulsa's head coach Todd Graham left for Pittsburgh so the Golden Hurricane decided to hire their 54 year-old wide receivers coach Blankenship to take over. Blankenship only has had four season of coaching experience in college football nor if he a particularly young guy either. A mediocre hire.
Grade: D+

20. Jon Embree - Colorado
Embree has no head coaching experience nor any coordinating experience and was previously the tight ends coach for the Washington Redskins. Colorado was simply looking for a guy that was a former Buffalo but this is simply not a very good hire. The university could have done at least a little bit better.
Grade: D+

19. Hugh Freeze - Arkansas State
It's always an odd hire when you promote an assistant from the staff of a head coach that just got the axe but that is what's been done here. Freeze has some experience as a coach as he served as recruiting coordinator under Ed Orgeron at Ole Miss and was previously was a very successful high school coach in Memphis. But as North Texas has shown, it is very difficult for a top-flight high school coach to have success at a Sun Belt job.
Grade: C-

18. James Franklin - Vanderbilt
Franklin did a really nice job as the offensive coordinator at Maryland last season and is an energetic and young coach with some NFL coaching experience. But Vanderbilt is definitely one of the toughest jobs in the country and I do not think Franklin has had the resume to succeed at Vandy.
Grade: C

17. Steve Addazio - Temple
Addazio was a great recruiter and offensive line coach at Florida but the offenses sputtered when he was offensive coordinator. Addazio is an East Coast guy with experience as an assistant in the East and Midwest but I'm not sold on him, yet.
Grade: C

16. Pete Lembo - Ball State
After breaking through in 2008, Brad Hoke left for San Diego State, Ball State hired Stan Parrish, and the program has been terrible the last two years. Lembo had a lot of success at Elon and Lehigh but he does not have a lot of experience in the Midwest.
Grade: C+

15. Mark Hudspeth - Louisiana-Lafayette 
For a Sun Belt program, this is a pretty solid hire. Hudspeth had success at Mississippi State as the receivers coach and passing-game coordinator plus had success at Division II North Alabama, compiling 66-21 record. This is an underrated hire for a team that has struggled to find any success in the Belt.
Grade: B-

14. Dave Doeren - Northern Illinois
For a top MAC team like Northern Illinois, hiring one of the top coordinators in the Big Ten makes a lot of sense. Doeren's defenses at Wisconsin have been extremely consistent and pretty good the last several seasons. The question is whether Doeren can keep up the amount of success that Jerry Kill had.
Grade: B-

13. David Shaw - Stanford
This hire makes sense when thinking about the short-term. The Cardinal had to keep things as continuous as possible from the Jim Harbaugh regime with Andrew Luck returning for his senior season if they wanted any shot at a National Title. For a long-term hire, this is not as good because how much was the offense under his control with Harbaugh calling the plays? We'll wait and see but for a short-term hire this makes sense.
Grade: B-

12. Paul Pasqualoni - Connecticut
Pasqualoni had success when he last coached in college at Syracuse until he got the axe after the 2004 season when the program was slipping. He has not been in the college game since, working in the NFL, and he is 61 years old. This hire might keep UConn competitive in the short term but it is not a great hire beyond that.
Grade: B-

11. Darren Hazell - Kent State
Kent State has had very little success over the years but hiring a top assistant from the best program in the state is a strong hire. Hazell has been a top lieutenant for Jim Tressel over the past couple of years and he might be the guy to turn Kent State into a decent program.
Grade: B

10. Rocky Long - San Diego State
Long was the defensive coordinator for the Aztecs before being promoted once Brady Hoke left for Michigan but before that had a lot of success over the years at New Mexico. Long is not young but he should be able to keep San Diego State at a high level for the years to come.
Grade: B

9. Don Treadwell - Miami (OH)
Treadwell has been one of the top assistant coaches in the nation at Michigan State and he did a terrific job with the offense this season as the Spartans tied for the Big Ten championship. Don't forget how well he did when he took over against Wisconsin after Mark Dantonio had a heart attack and led them to a victory. For a MAC program, this is as good as it gets.
Grade: B+

8. Todd Graham - Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh was able to save face from the Mike Haywood debacle by hiring Graham. Graham coached one of the better mid-majors at Tulsa and before that coached Rice to a winning season. Graham also has Big East experience from working at West Virginia from 2001-2. It's pretty safe to say that the Panthers did a better job the second time around this offseason as Graham is a strong hire.

Grade: B+

7. Dan McCarney - North Texas
Remember when Gene Chizik had no success at Iowa State. Well the man before him, Dan McCarney finished 29 games below .500 but by the time he was fired in Ames, found consistent success at what was previously a downtrodden Big XII program. McCarney has worked at South Florida and Florida since being fired and the amount of success he had with the defensive line as well as recruiting shows that he is a very good coach. For the Mean Green, this is a terrific hire.
Grade: A-

6. Kevin Wilson - Indiana
Wilson has coordinated some of the top offenses in the nation over the last few years at Oklahoma. Before that he had a lot of success under the late Randy Walker at Miami (OH) and Northwestern and coached some great offenses. Indiana has struggled to find consistent success over the years in the Big Ten but Wilson just might be the guy to turn the Hoosiers into a competitive football program.
Grade: A-

5. Randy Edsall - Maryland
Edsall did a lot with a little at Connecticut and continued the building that Skip Holtz started and took the Huskies from the FCS up to a couple of Big East championships (2007 was shared with West Virginia). With the facilities at his disposal plus the recruiting base that he has now, do not be surprised if Maryland makes appearances in the ACC championship game in the near future, especially after the surprising 8-4 season they had this year.
Grade: A-

4. Jerry Kill - Minnesota
Kill was not the rock star that some in the program wanted but he is a hell of a football coach. He has won with a variety of small schools in the Midwest, and most recently built one of the top mid majors in Northern Illinois. He has a similar resume, in my opinion, to current Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly and I think this is a tremendous hire for one of college football's perennial underachievers.
Grade: A

3. Will Muschamp - Florida
This is a total boom or bust hire but I still love it. Muschamp has been considered to be one of the finest, if not the finest, assistant coaches in the nation. He has coached great defenses over the years at LSU, Auburn, and Texas and his fiery style makes his a terrific recruiter and a great communicator. While he has not had prior head coaching experience, this is a tremendous hire.
Grade: A

2. Brady Hoke - Michigan
The Maize and Blue needs a major turnaround and that is precisely what Hoke specializes in. He built Ball State up to a magical 2008 season and has made the underachieving San Diego State program into a eight win season this past year. Hoke was also a terrific assistant for Lloyd Carr when Michigan won their last national title. Yes he may look like Jeff Garlin or Mike Golic but Hoke is a tremendous coach and I think he can win a conference title within the next five years.
Grade: A

1. Al Golden, Miami (FL)
Another hire in which people were looking for a big name. The U wasted time trying to court Jon Gruden when he was using them for publicity but eventually found a great coach in Golden. Golden built an awful Temple program into a consistent MAC contender and proved himself to be a very strong recruiter and motivator. Randy Shannon proved to be in way over his head as his team consistently underachieved, as they had in the late years of the Larry Coker tenure, but Golden is the guy that can get the 'Canes to be a national contender again and I believe he will do just that.
Grade: A


  1. I don't think the grade of "B" for Paul Pasqualoni matches up with the summary, which I agree with, but other than that I like this list. As an IU grad, I am encouraged by the rating for Kevin Wilson. Agree with the comments on you Golden, Hoke, and Muschamp as well.