As of December 5th, 21 different head coaching jobs have opened at the FBS level. Louisville became open today with Scott Satterfield accepting the position at Cincinnati. Kent State also opened after Coach Prime hired Sean Lewis to be his offensive coordinator at Colorado. We are going to look at some of the hires today and we will continue to evaluate the decisions as the coaching carousel comes to a close.
Wisconsin, Luke Fickell (Grade: A) – Luke Fickell has been the best hire of this off-season and Wisconsin fans are going to love him. Fickell helped Cincinnati make the College Football Playoffs and gave Alabama more of a fight than many expected. Cincinnati became one of the best programs in the AAC and will be moving to the Big 12. Fickell was 57-18 across six seasons as the Bearcats’ head coach including two conference championships. He recorded at least nine wins in five of his six seasons in Cincinnati. The only concern I have about Fickell is his lack of coaching outside the state of Ohio. He spent time at Akron, Ohio State and Cincinnati. He has helped recruit all over the country so this likely will not be an issue.
Colorado, Deion Sanders (Grade: B+) – It was only a matter of time before a power five program took a chance on Coach Prime. Deion Sanders helped Jackson State go 23-2 over the past two seasons. He has recruited at a high level and landed the number one recruit in the country last year. Sanders will continue to use his name recognition to stack his roster. He has already stated he will be actively using the transfer portal and Boulder will become one of the most sought after destinations. Sanders had more talent at Jackson State so it remains to be seen how he will fare against teams who have equal or more talent.
Auburn, Hugh Freeze (Grade: B) – Hugh Freeze is the biggest wild card on this list. He is a proven winner in the SEC and has beaten Nick Saban. He resigned after an investigation proved numerous academic and recruiting violations resulting in a loss of scholarships and a postseason ban. Freeze took the job at Liberty and helped them amass a 34-15 record over four seasons. Freeze understands what is needed to win in the SEC and has shown he will win at all costs. The Auburn boosters can be tough to please so starting off the 2023 season strong will be important. Freeze is likely to be aggressive in the transfer portal to help land the best players and help Auburn contend in the SEC east.
Arizona State, Kenny Dillingham (Grade: C) – Kenny Dillingham could work out in the long term but this feel like a stretch hire to me. Arizona State could have NCAA sanctions coming in the near future after Herm Edwards committed recruiting violations. Dillingham is the youngest head coach in college football at just 32 years old. He has experience as an offensive coordinator at Memphis, Florida State, Auburn and Oregon before landing the job with Arizona State. Dillingham helped the Ducks have one of the most explosive offenses in the Pac-12 but he would have been in position for a better job if he waited a few years. His alma mater is Arizona State so it likely played into his decision.
Nebraska, Matt Rhule (Grade: A-) – Matt Rhule has experience building programs from the ground up making this a fantastic hire. Rhule helped Temple win 10 games in consecutive years for the first time in program history after totaling just eight combined wins in the two years prior. Rhule then took over at Baylor after the scandal with Art Briles. The Bears won just one game in his first season. Rhule’s third season saw the program finish with 11 wins including a Big 12 championship and an appearance in the Sugar Bowl. History tells us the first year is going to be bumpy. The second year they will see progress and the third year is where the program will begin to thrive.
Cincinnati, Scott Satterfield (Grade: C) – Scott Satterfield was on the hot seat before the season began and he finished well enough to keep his job but not well enough to get off the hot seat. Cincinnati stated they wanted to hire someone with head coaching experience but it still feels as though the program settled. Satterfield was incredibly successful at Appalachian State from 2013-2019 amassing a record of 51-24. His Louisville tenure was the complete opposite finishing with just a 25-24 record. Satterfield could pan out but with Cincinnati transitioning to the Big 12 you can say I am skeptical.
Florida Atlantic, Tom Herman (Grade: B) – Florida Atlantic has become a school for rehabbing coaching careers. Lane Kiffin used the job to catapult back into the SEC. Willie Taggart attempted to rehab his career after an unsuccessful tenure at Florida State. Tom Herman will return to the sidelines after taking a few seasons off. Herman was a good college coach but the Texas job was too much pressure for him. Herman was wildly successful at Houston in his two seasons before leaving. He recruited well and south Florida will offer him opportunities to find talent once again.
Liberty, Jamey Chadwell (Grade: A) – Jamey Chadwell is arguably the best hire of this group. Chadwell helped Coastal Carolina become one of the most recognizable brands among the group of five schools. Coastal Carolina won 31 games over the last three seasons including finishing in the top 25 for the first time in program history. The 2020 season was viewed as a magical season but Chadwell proved the Chanticleers were here to stay. He followed up his 11 win season with another 11 win season. He won nine games this past year and is scheduled to play in their third consecutive bowl game. Chadwell joins an established program and can help contend for a spot in the top 25 on a yearly basis.
Coastal Carolina, Tim Beck (Grade: D) – Coastal Carolina made a panic hire after Jamey Chadwell accepted an offer from Liberty to be their head coach. Tim Beck has been the offensive coordinator at NC State since 2020 and has been average. Beck spent the three years prior as the Texas offensive coordinator under Tom Herman. He also coached under Urban Meyer at Ohio State and was essentially fired after a 31-0 loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoffs. Beck’s scoring offense ranked inside the top 30 just twice over the six year span. Beck could become a successful head coach at Coastal Carolina but his offense has left more to be desired.
UAB, Trent Dilfer (Grade: F) – Bill Clark retired from UAB in the summer before the season began. The Blazers went 6-6 with Bryant Vincent leading the program on an interim basis. I understand the program wanting to do a full search for a head coach but I do not understand picking a coach who has no experience past the high school level. Trent Dilfer was a Super Bowl winning quarterback who had an up and down career in the NFL but nothing has shown us he can be a successful college coach.
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