Tim DeRuyter (Fresno State): B
DeRuyter looked like a genius last season after resurrecting A&M’s defense with the help of Von Miller. This season? Not so much. He’s still very respected and the Aggies did have a nice showing in their bowl game with DeRuyter as interim head coach. One thing that’s for sure? The Bulldogs won’t finish 106th in scoring defense next fall.
Charley Molnar (UMass): B
Hiring Brian Kelly’s protege who served as Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator can be seen as a big coup for a school entering its first season of FBS play. But wait, the Irish’s offense was incredibly average this year despite huge expectations. Hey, you try filling the Minutemen’s head coaching job.
Terry Bowden (Akron): B
A coach that went undefeated in the SEC should be able to handle the MAC, right? Yes, Bowden then flamed out at Auburn and spent over a decade out of coaching, but he did a solid job at Division II North Alabama and certainly can’t be any worse than Rob Ianello, who went just 2-22 with the Zips.
Garrick McGee (UAB): B-
With Ryan Mallett off to the NFL and Knile Davis out for the year, you had to be crazy if you thought the Hogs would finish the regular season 14th in the nation in scoring and ranked sixth in the country. But how much credit goes to offensive coordinator McGee when Bobby Petrino is the team’s real offensive coordinator? When McGee did call the plays at Northwestern, the results weren’t that great.
Everyone was pointing and laughing at KU when it hired the failed Notre Dame head coach and underwhelming Florida offensive coordinator but who’s laughing now that the Jayhawks have Dayne Crist and Jake Heaps both headed to Lawrence? At least Jayhawk football will be watchable under Weis. Gus Malzahn certainly appeared to be a much better hire, but it’s hard to knock this move too much now.
Todd Graham (Arizona State): C+
I stand by my position that Graham was a better hire than June Jones and he will be fine in Tempe. But when you hire a coach who had the same record last season as your outgoing coach, there are going to be people scratching their heads. The Sun Devils also get docked for whiffing on Larry Fedora, who would have been a big upgrade.
Norm Chow (Hawaii): C+
There was a time this hire of the Honolulu native would have gotten an A+. But a lot has changed since Chow was engineering USC’s dominant offenses under Pete Carroll. After getting fired by the Tennessee Titans and forced out at UCLA by Rick Neuheisel, Chow was offensive coordinator for a Utah team that finished 76th in scoring offense this fall. And how much does Chow have left in the tank at the age of 65?
Ellis Johnson (Southern Miss): C+
His South Carolina defense was great this season, but I could have been its defensive coordinator with the likes of Melvin Ingram, Jadeveon Clowney and Stephon Gilmore. Johnson wasn’t looking like a genius last year after Auburn put up 56 points on his unit in the SEC Championship Game. Did I mention he’s already 60-years old? And there’s also his record while coaching The Citadel a decade ago: 17-28. This looks like a big step down from Larry Fedora.
Tony Levine (Houston): C+
I have no idea if Levine is going to pan out for the Cougars, but a team that led the country in scoring offense and finished 12-1 should be above hiring a special teams and WR coach as its head man. I understand the desire to have continuity after such a great run under Kevin Sumlin but this move was uninspiring for a program on the rise that is also entering the Big East. It worked for one bowl game on Monday but, then again, so did Bill Stewart at West Virginia.
If this list was made the day after Mora’s hire, the move would have gotten a F. It’s not good when the universal reaction to your hiring is laughter, as it was for Mora. Two failed NFL gigs for someone who’s only been a graduate assistant at the college level is not a good look. But give Mora credit: He’s assembling a top-of-the-line staff and appears to be establishing a new attitude in Westwood after rightfully trashing the Bruins’ practice-skipping tradition.
Curtis Johnson (Tulane): C
Tulane certainly tried to land a big-name coach but failed repeatedly to do so. Johnson is local guy who has a history of great recruiting hauls but hiring a career wide receivers coach to run an entire program is an insane jump. This move reminds me of Jon Embree’s hiring at Colorado after being the Washington Redskins’ TE coach and how’d that turn out?
Carl Pelini (FAU): C-
You’re not going to get a top-of-the-line coach when you finish 1-11 and play in the Sun Belt. But Bo Pelini’s brother was a ticking time bomb of emotion in Lincoln whose defenses the last two years after Ndamukong Suh left weren’t anything special. There’s going to be a lot of losing in Boca Raton next season and it’ll be interesting to see how Pelini handles it.
Bill O’Brien (Penn State): D
Now two months removed from Joe Paterno’s firing, the Penn State opening turned into the coaching search from hell. I realize that there were extreme circumstances in filling this position, but how can I gave any higher of a grade to a first-year NFL offensive coordinator who didn’t fare well in his last college job as Duke’s OC? Penn State fans, brace yourselves for some lean years.
Bob Davie (New Mexico): F
What the? Davie can’t possibly do any worse than Mike Locksley, whose time in Albuquerque was a train wreck. But a failed Notre Dame head coach who’s been out of the game for a decade and is approaching 60-years old? I expect this to go about as well as Tyrone Willingham’s stint at Washington.
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