Changing of the guard: Rating the new hires
Jan. 19, 2005
By Dennis Dodd
SportsLine.com Senior Writer
Tell Dennis your opinion!
Now that the desks have been cleaned out and offices redecorated, time to rate the coaching hires:
1. Urban Meyer, Florida
The shocker of the season in the college game's changing-spaces industry. Notre Dame thought it had Meyer wrapped up, then had to scramble.
Meyer liked Florida all along, and he seems a natural fit. Coming off an undefeated season, his boss is the former Utah president. He is young and with a little bit of Spurrier in him. Look for the Gators to rise again in the SEC East.
Came from: Utah.
Best-case scenario: Meyer molds some of the best existing talent in the country into an SEC champion.
Worst-case scenario: The spread option doesn't translate to quarterback Chris Leak's style. But that might be making too big a deal out of the offense that suited Alex Smith. Doesn't every coach adjust to his personnel?
2. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
Steve Spurrier takes over for retired Lou Holtz at South Carolina. (Getty Images)
This is a can't-lose hire. By his mere presence, Spurrier raises the profile of a mediocre program.
He'll surround himself with great assistants and re-shape the offense, and the Game****s will challenge Spur Dog's old team for SEC East supremacy, though not this year.
Came from: The golf course.
Best-case scenario: Game****s become a consistent bowl team and challenge for the division title every few years.
Worst-case scenario: Thirty-one other coaches have tried in 108 years of South Carolina football and produced exactly 11 bowl teams. Does the word "curse" come to mind?
3. Ed Orgeron, Mississippi
First, let's make this clear. Firing David Cutcliffe was a mistake. One year removed from a 10-victory season, the administration was way too impatient in getting rid of one of the game's best offensive coaches.
That being said, Coach O was a great replacement. This native son of the South is a master recruiter and knows how to scheme a defense. Orgeron's personality and recruiting ability should quickly get the Rebels competitive in the SEC again.
Came from: USC as defensive line coach.
Best-case scenario: Mississippi's best players stay in state, flocking around one of the best recruiters in the business.
Worst-case scenario: There are no Mike Pattersons or Shaun Codys among them.
4. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
The logical choice after Les Miles left for LSU. Gundy was Barry Sanders' quarterback, guiding one of the best offenses in the past quarter century.
More important, Gundy wants to be in Stillwater and knows the landscape having to butt heads with Oklahoma every year.
Came from: Down the hall. Gundy was promoted from offensive coordinator.
Best-case scenario: The Cowboys continue to be the biggest thorn in Oklahoma's side.
Worst-case scenario: Stuck in the hyper-competitive Big 12 South, the Cowboys stay on the 7-4/8-3, Alamo/Cotton/Houston bowl treadmill.
5. Les Miles, LSU
Miles' hiring was met with a lot of shrugs. Couldn't LSU get someone better? Not after AD Skip Bertman was determined to get someone with head coaching experience.
Miles knows how to run a program, and while his defense probably won't be as good as Nick Saban's, his offense will be better. If LSU slides, it won't be much.
Came from: Oklahoma State.
Best-case scenario: The cupboard is full. LSU should start in the preseason top five and probably will be favored to win the SEC.
Worst-case scenario: Louisiana's best players start looking elsewhere. The ability to get in-state talent was Saban's biggest asset.
6. Kyle Whittingham, Utah
A huge get for Utah, which beat out BYU for Whittingham. It says something that the former BYU linebacker chose Utah over his alma mater. That could be difference in the two programs' short-term fortunes.
Came from: Off the slopes after Meyer left. Whittingham made the easy transition from defensive coordinator.
Best-case scenario: Whittingham sustains the momentum started by Meyer. The Mountain West is using Utah's success to make a case for inclusion into the BCS.
Worst-case scenario: Whittingham is more Ron McBride than Urban Meyer.
7. Tyrone Willingham, Washington
Washington aggressively pursued Ty after the Notre Dame debacle. Good for the Huskies. By going after Willingham quickly, Washington showed that an African-American coach had entered the inner circle of trusted, veteran coaches. The search was a West Coast version of South Carolina and Spurrier.
Came from: The third year of a five-year contract at Notre Dame. He'll get more than that at Seattle.
Best-case scenario: Willingham quickly restores the Huskies to glory.
Worst-case scenario: USC has truly left everyone in the dust in the Pac-10.
8. Charlie Weis, Notre Dame
Once again ND doesn't get its first choice. This time, though, the coach might not settle in South Bend permanently until after the Super Bowl. This recruiting class is critical.
Came from: Actually, Weis hasn't left the New England sideline yet. When he does leave as Patriots offensive coordinator, Weis will have at least two Super Bowl rings at New England to flash around.
Best-case scenario: Weis' energy and personality translate to an immediate turnaround.
Worst-case scenario: The outrageous expectations, schedule, academics and lack of speed claim another coach.
9. Ron Zook, Illinois
Considering his recruiting ability and the school's recent history, Illinois is lucky to get Zook. The pressure will be less than at Florida. Success here means 7-4, not an SEC East title.
Came from: Florida.
Best-case scenario: Zook gets enough talent from Chicago and Florida to challenge Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa.
Worst-case scenario: The Snow Belt version of great recruiter/mediocre coach hits Champaign.
10. Greg Robinson, Syracuse
A year ago Robinson resigned in disgrace as Kansas City's defensive coordinator. Now he's the salvation at Syracuse. Is this a great country or what?
Robinson was good enough to help Texas to an 11-1 season that included a Rose Bowl victory. It will be a lot harder to succeed in wintry Syracuse.
Came from: The safety of what amounted to a rocking chair in Austin, where he might have been able to retire on Mack Brown's staff.
Best-case scenario: Fans and recruits care enough to come to Syracuse again. Robinson is preaching an aggressive approach. Great, but Louisville is getting ready to dominate the Big East like Miami did. Robinson doesn't have much room for error. Or much time.
Worst-case scenario: A swing and a miss by new AD Daryl Gross. He wanted a coach with a defensive background who had coached in the NFL. It worked at USC (where Gross last worked). Can it work at a program that is slipping faster than students on their way to class in frigid central New York?
11. Mike Sanford, UNLV
After waiting 27 years as a college and pro assistant, Sanford chose UNLV. That should tell you the Rebels are headed up.
Sanford, who played under John Robinson at USC, couldn't be hotter as Utah's offensive coordinator the past two seasons. Hey, a once-in-a-lifetime season happened with the Utes; why can't Sanford do it in the same conference with UNLV?
Came from: Utah as offensive coordinator.
Best-case scenario: Recruiting is going great. If Las Vegans can push away from the tables long enough, they're going to see a good product.
Worst-case scenario: Robinson initially juiced the program, but it has slid in recent years. Sanford has the energy to make UNLV a mid-major factor.
12. Frank Solich, Ohio
Frankie is at a good place after showing interest in several jobs over the past year. He landed at a beaten-down mid-major, but so what?
In Athens, the former Nebraska coach will be welcomed as a savior. This Ohio native can still run the I-option and rehab his image. Don't expect to find any Ahman Greens, though, Frank.
Came from: Kinko's, where he had been copying resumes. Fired at Nebraska after the 2003 season.
Best-case scenario: The Bobcats contend in the MAC.
Worst-case scenario: Solich somehow does worst than 11-35, which is what Brian Knorr's record was the past four seasons.
13. Dave Wannstedt, Pittsburgh
This hire impresses who? Wannstedt is almost at the retread stage having made his bones long ago as a University of Miami and Dallas defensive assistant. The one good thing, supposedly, is that Wanny is a Pittsburgh grad and knows the landscape.
Came from: The unemployment line after resigning following a 1-8 start with the Dolphins in 2004.
Best-case scenario: Pittsburgh takes control of the Big East, something Walt Harris was never able to do.
Worst-case scenario: The closest the Panthers get to Steelers excellence is the practice facility the two teams share.
14. Walt Harris, Stanford
Sorry, but Harris never struck anyone as the patient, academic type who welcomes the administration building telling him who he can recruit.
Came from: Pittsburgh.
Best-case scenario: Harris restores his, and Stanford's, quarterback legacy.
Worst-case scenario: Stanford keeps losing fans and games at a rapid pace. The Buddy Teevens hire was a mistake. AD Ted Leland can't afford to whiff again.
15. Dick Tomey, San Jose State
The winningest coach at Arizona and Hawaii gets the head coaching retirement job he wanted.
Came from: Texas, where he was an assistant coach overseeing defensive ends.
Best-case scenario: At age 66, Tomey does the impossible, making the Spartans competitive again.
Worst-case scenario: The school decides to drop football.
16. Hal Mumme, New Mexico State
This is what's left for Mumme after he left Kentucky disgraced and on probation.
Came from: Southeast Louisiana.
Best-case scenario: Mumme reads an NCAA Manual and, better yet, adheres to it.
Worst-case scenario: Mumme goes renegade -- again.
17. Terry Hoeppner, Indiana
Does anyone else think that Hoeppner actually took a step down from his old job at Miami (Ohio)?
Came from: A MAC contender. Landed at a Big Ten afterthought.
Best-case scenario: The next Ben Roethlisberger shows up in Bloomington soon.
Worst-case scenario: Indiana beats down another fine coach.
18. Bronco Mendenhall, BYU
Defense is not BYU's problem. Defense, though, happens to be Mendenhall's specialty. The program has lost its offensive identity since LaVell Edwards retired.
Came from: New Mexico in 2003. Former BYU coach Gary Crowton hired him as defensive coordinator. Two seasons later, Mendenhall replaced Crowton.
Best-case scenario: Mendenhall's "stack" defense (3-3-5) starts scoring some points.
Worst-case scenario: Mendenhall can't recruit a difference-making quarterback. It's been awhile, hasn't it?
19. Shane Montgomery, Miami (Ohio)
The 37-year-old is the youngest coach in I-A.
Came from: Down the hall to the right. Promoted from offensive coordinator.
Best-case scenario: Montgomery stays if he is successful. This seems to be a starter job for the talented coach who is credited for developing Roethlisberger.
Worst-case scenario: There are no Roethlisbergers or Terrell Owens around. Montgomery helped develop T.O. as an assistant at Tennessee-Chattanooga from 1993-2000.
20. Skip Holtz, East Carolina
Seemingly fell out of favor on his father's own staff at South Carolina. East Carolina is what was left for the former rising star at Connecticut.
Came from: South Carolina, where dad Lou Holtz ripped his play-calling duties on offense before the 2004 season.
Best-case scenario: Lou Holtz is hired as an assistant.
Worst-case scenario: The program continues to struggle mightily. It already claimed defensive guru John Thompson. Now an offensive guy gets a shot.
21. Brent Guy, Utah State
An assistant coach for the Aggies (1992-94) who helped win the school's only bowl (1993 Las Vegas).
Came from: Arizona State where he was defensive coordinator.
Best-case scenario: Guy produces a winning season. There have been only two in Logan in the past 24 years.
Worst-case scenario: How can it get worse?
22. Bill Cubit, Western Michigan
A team in need of some offensive fireworks hired Stanford's offensive coordinator?
Came from: The Farm, where he also coached quarterbacks.
Best-case scenario: Cubit brings back the magic he had in 1997-99 (as offensive coordinator) when Western Michigan finished in the top 25 in passing, scoring and total offense two consecutive seasons. Cubit inherits his son Ryan who started six games at quarterback last year after transferring from Rutgers.
Worst-case scenario: The losing trend continues. This job claimed Gary Darnell, who at one time was one of the hottest coaches in the country. The last and only bowl game was 1988, which is the last year the Broncs won the MAC.