[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image source="featured_image" img_size="large"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Every season there is a coaching carousel. Coaches are fired, a few more are thrown into the mix, the music plays, stops, and everyone races to get a seat. This leaves some as the odd man out, and others with a brand new opportunity. Head coaches will leave their old school to head to what they see as greener pastures, assistants who have bided their time finally get a crack, and even the occasional NFL assistant will jump to the college ranks. This offseason (or in some cases during the season) was one of the craziest renditions of the coaching merry-go-round in history.
Oklahoma - who had not lost a head coach to another university since 1946 - found themselves in the fray when Lincoln Riley shocked the world to head to USC. Brian Kelly, who many thought was a few years away from retirement, packed up early with his 11-1 team in playoff contention and chose to head to LSU. Let's take a look at six key "New Coach" situations in College football.
Mario Cristobal left Oregon after winning a couple of Pac 12 Championships to come back home to Miami. Cristobal is a former Hurricane offensive tackle. Things in Corral Gables have been shaky to say the least over the last 2 decades and he is charged to solve problems that few could. Miami does not have its own stadium and is not exactly flush with cash at the moment. However, the Hurricanes have a brand bigger than their cash flow and circumstances would indicate. Still, it is in good hands because more than anything they needed to hire someone who gets and loves Miami.
Cristobal is the perfect match, and former coach Manny Diaz has not left them bare of talent. The 'Canes hold the most talented roster in the Coastal division according to high school recruiting rankings. They were second in their division a season ago, and the winner Pittsburgh lost their offensive coordinator, quarterback, and Biletnikoff winning wide receiver. Miami travels to A&M in the non-conference, and takes on Clemson on the road. However, Pittsburgh and Florida State are home games. Tyler Van Dyke is a great luxury to have at quarterback which gives the Canes their greatest hope.
Tim's Projection: 9-3
Oklahoma has been one of the most consistent programs in college football since the turn of the century. In fact, no other program has won more games or more conference championships. The Sooners went through a coaching change just five seasons ago, when Bob Stoops stepped down and handed the keys to the Ferrari to Lincoln Riley. With Riley having gone to the Pac 12 Oklahoma turned to former long-time defensive coordinator Brent Venables.
Venables has been at Clemson as DC for the last decade and has been a major factor in two national titles. Some thought Venables would never choose to be a head coach, but the perfect opportunity finally came that he just couldn't say no to. Oklahoma is loaded with NFL talent and are favored to win the Big 12. The Sooners lost both Spencer Rattler and Caleb Williams to the transfer portal but brought in veteran Dillon Gabriel from UCF. You won't mistake Gabriel as the talent of those two, however, his experience, particularly with Jeff Lebby, will be a big key to allowing OU to stay at the forefront of offensive production. Venables should bring in defense, Oklahoma fans will not be holistically patient. The ingredients to win right away are there. Oklahoma's schedule is also not all that imposing. The OU fan base has been revigorated.
Tim's Projection: 11-1
Lincoln Riley had a boat load of success at Oklahoma. He won four Big 12 championships, a New Years Six game and went to the CFP twice. He never lost more than two games in any given season and over his five seasons accumulated a 55-10 record. Riley looks to replicate, and possibly enhance that in Los Angeles. With the new era of the transfer portal and NIL, you can recreate a roster pretty quickly.
Riley has, adding the likes of Jacobe Covington, Travis Dye, Caleb Williams, Mario Williams, Jordan Addison and many others. USC has the expectations to compete for a Pac 12 Championship right away and should. USC will probably drop a game to the likes of Utah, or Maybe Oregon in the Pac 12 championship game. Lincoln was notorious for dropping one he shouldn't in Norman. USC also has Notre Dame on their schedule don't like their odds there.
Tim's Projection: 10-2
Brian Kelly is coming to LSU after successful stints at Cincinnati and Notre Dame. Kelly led Notre Dame to a National Title appearance in 2012, and two playoff appearances (2018, 2020). He has registered three undefeated regular seasons in that span, and was 11-1 last year as the head coach of the Irish who finished 5th in the CFP rankings. LSU has been through a storm, and though they have been successful in the portal I would not say he has been as effective as Oklahoma or USC there. We are still relatively unsure of who the QB will be, and while I like what I see at WR I have more questions than answers. Not sure about the Kerry Cooks hire as DB coach, nor the firing of strength coach Tommy Moffitt.
Kelly has tremendous experience but the cultural fit feels forced. But certainly the Tigers cannot have a worse season than last year right? The Florida State game is no gimme, I am sure I will get laughed at for that like I was when I said UCLA wouldn't be a cakewalk in 2021. The SEC west is an interesting division, and a cross division game with Tennessee has caught my eye. LSU improves, leading to 2023 hype.
Tim's projection: 8-4
The Ducks have a talented roster, arguably the most talented in the Pac 12. They have the undisputed top linebacker duo in Sewell and Flowe. Dan Lanning is a total unknown having never been a head coach before unlike most of the other coaches that have previously been discussed. That being said, Lanning was commodity - a lot of programs had serious interest in Lanning and for good reason. He has a deep, diverse football understanding of the defensive side of the ball, but is also young, energetic and a tremendous recruiter.
Lanning has the ability to take the Ducks to the next level over time. I worry about Bo Nix, and his inconsistent history as a starter. The Ducks had to replace Travis Dye who joined Lincoln Riley at USC. The schedule is certainly manageable its the Pac 12 after all. However, the non conference is a juicy one, as Dan Lanning takes on his former boss in Kirby Smart in Atlanta. Then a date with BYU.
Tim's Projection: 9-3
The fighting Irish have been a top six program over the last five or six seasons. They are currently coming off an 11-2 season which ended with a loss to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl, which also happened to be Marcus Freeman's first game as a head coach. The energy for Notre Dame is already there, and it is showing in recruiting. The Irish certainly do not have an easy schedule, though that is not unusual. They open the season against the Buckeyes, they also take on Clemson and USC. They host Clemson, but play the other games on the road. BYU and Boston College who could both be sneaky good are on the schedule, so if they were to return to the CFP what an accomplishment that would be.
Marcus Freeman just needs to power through and set his culture and foundation. This season will have ups and downs. Perhaps even a blow out loss to start the season. However it plays out the way the team carries themselves and improves will tell us a great deal about Freeman
Tim's Projection: 10-2