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Power-Five Bound: Five Coaches Destined For Big Things

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Jeff Lebby (Oklahoma, OC)

Jeff Lebby

Jeff Lebby

From the NAIA to the SEC, his genius has elevated every offense he has touched. His '17 Southeastern U #1 scoring/ #3 total offense put him on the FBS radar. His UCF wizardry with both McKenzie Milton in 2018 and the emergence of the freshman sensation Dillon Gabriel in 2019, straight through to Matt Corral in the '20 and '21 Ole Miss seasons. There's no offense in his path that he didn't improve by a high degree.

Now reunited with his 2019 QB Dillon Gabriel, who transferred to Oklahoma in the off-season, Lebby will have ample opportunity to raise his stock value in the next several seasons. In addition, look for Lebby to land a power-five head coaching gig in the next five years.

Bill Clark (Retired, former head coach at UAB)

Bill Clark

Bill Clark

The worst possible situation at UAB, a program that shut down operations for the '15 and '16 seasons, could have been the death nail in Bill Clark's career. Instead, he sat back and collected a paycheck for two years while UAB prepared to come back to Conference USA play. Who would have expected anything noteworthy from Clark or UAB once they resumed play? An 8-5 campaign for '17 was not what folks were expecting, though I'm sure the 26 wins and two Conference USA titles within the next three seasons (2018-2020) were even more surprising.

A month ago, Clark abruptly retired as UAB's head coach to deal with a chronic back issue. I'm ready to go out on a limb and predict that Clark will not stay gone very long. He'll deal with his back issues for a couple of years and pop back by 2024, probably at a better program. I still expect Bill Clark to be coaching a power-five program by age 60. He's currently 54.

Curt Cignetti (James Madison, Head Coach)

Curt Cignetti

Curt Cignetti

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Hanging around in the lower divisions, Cignetti has accumulated 100 wins already. James Madison begins FBS play this year in the Sun Belt Conference, so now his teams will be watched by more influential people. I'm calling this one close because Cignetti is already 61 years old, but I expect he will land a power-five job within the next five seasons. Probably not a top-notch program, but he will make an appearance before he retires.

Kendal Briles (Arkansas, OC)

Kendal Briles

Kendal Briles

The Veer & Shoot is alive and well in 2022, and Kendal Briles may be the most recognizable name connected to that style of offense. Unfortunately, that name is a double-edged sword; the terrible stigma left behind by his father, Art Briles, is why. Nonetheless, Kendal has made a name for himself in college football. His latest stop in Arkansas has turned many heads toward Fayetteville, with a surprising top 30 Arkansas offense in 2021.

So I'm calling it now; Briles will persevere through the lousy stigma and land a power-five job before 2027.

Deion Sanders (Jackson State, Head Coach)

Deion Sanders

Deion Sanders

Coach Prime is my most effortless entry by far. I will not go over his qualifications; that's unimportant to the subject. He has one good season under his belt and a 15-5 overall record. Once you factor in the four wins, he got in the abbreviated covid-season. Subsequently, after a couple more high-profile seasons, Coach Prime will move on to the prime real estate of a power-five program.

This will happen mainly because of the media hype it will bring to whoever hires him. Deion is a brand in itself that many of the lower-tier power programs can use to their advantage. I don't know what Deion would have to do to mess up this path, but I suspect that he won't. So look for Deion in a Power-Five job by 2025.

Outtakes

When compiling this list, I ran across more than 20 names that I decided not to include in my list. Pete Golding DC from Alabama; I'm just not feeling this one now. I'm not saying he won't get a job; maybe he will. Mike Tressel DC, from Cincinatti. Tim Banks, Tennessee DC. We'll see all these guys get power-five jobs at some point. It's nothing against any of them that I did not include them in my list of five.