The onslaught of conference media days over the last week can only mean one thing: College football is right around the corner.
With another season coming up, it’s time to look around the sport and dissect the offseason’s coaching carousel. Twenty-two head coaching changes were made, which means 22 coaches will lead their team through the tunnel for the first time come September.
Here are my rankings of each hire made. For the sake of time, we’ll just run through hires 22 through 11 then take a deep dive into the top 10:
22. Randy Edsall, Connecticut
21. Brent Brennan, San Jose State
20. Mike Sanford Jr., Western Kentucky
19. Jay Norvell, Nevada
18. Tim Lester, Western Michigan
17. Tom Allen, Indiana
16. Jeff Tedford, Fresno State
15. Geoff Collins, Temple
14. Major Applewhite, Houston
13. Willie Taggart, Oregon
12. Butch Davis, Florida International
11. Luke Fickell, Cincinnati
10. Justin Wilcox, California - Wilcox, who was Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator, is on the opposite spectrum of predecessor Sonny Dykes, who was known for his aerial attack. Wilcox has been proving himself as an up-and-coming coach ever since he was Tennessee’s defensive coordinator under Derek Dooley. If he can bulk up the Golden Bears’ defense to match its potent offense, his first head coaching gig could be a successful one.
9. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma - The two major knocks on Riley are youth and inexperience, being he’s only 33 years old and never been a head coach before. He is, however, considered one of the top offensive innovators in the game today, and his time as an assistant at Texas Tech, East Carolina and Oklahoma were all marked with success. Bob Stoops shocked everyone by resigning, but odds are he would have objected to Riley’s promotion had he felt he was not ready.
8. Ed Orgeron, LSU - There’s no questioning Orgeron as an interim coach, as he’s gone 12-4 in stints stepping in at USC and LSU. There are questions about his sustainability, however, considering he went 10-25 in three years at Ole Miss. To be fair, his time as Rebels head coach ended 10 years ago, and Orgeron has spoken of how much he’s changed since then. Time will tell if Coach O’s second stint in the SEC goes smoother than his first.
7. Matt Rhule, Baylor - Rhule has no ties to Texas but did an excellent job at Temple, amassing a 20-7 record in his final two seasons. Rhule inherits a Bears program encompassed in scandal but has said all the right things so far. Winning the press conference has come easily for Rhule; Will claiming victories on the field prove the same?
6. Shawn Elliott, Georgia State - Steve Spurrier thought enough of the Gamecocks offensive line coach to name him the interim head man when he stepped away during the 2015 season. Elliott has coached exclusively in the Southeast in stints at Appalachian State and South Carolina, so he knows exactly what it takes to recruit the local area. There’s no reason to suggest Elliott can’t eventually build a Sun Belt contender in Atlanta.
5. Lane Kiffin, Florida Atlantic - Kiffin gets his third college head coaching job after a productive-yet-polarizing stint as Alabama offensive coordinator, which ended before the Crimson Tide’s championship loss to Clemson. Kiffin can repair his reputation as a head coach with the Owls, which would lead to a bigger job. The catch is it will take work and time to make Florida Atlantic competitive, two characteristics not often associated with Kiffin.
4. Charlie Strong, South Florida - Some coaching hires just don’t work for whatever reason, which many feel was the case for Strong at Texas. He had plenty of success at Louisville before heading to Austin, and Willie Taggart has left the cupboard at USF fairly full. The Bulls are legitimate contenders in the American Conference, and given Strong’s penchant for recruiting the Sunshine State, this pairing may prove the most productive of any on this list.
3. PJ Fleck, Minnesota - Fleck was patient in waiting for the right job to take him away from Western Michigan, a program that won one game his first year but only lost one in his final season. At 36 years old, Fleck is the charismatic young coach who could help the Golden Gophers excel in the Big Ten’s manageable West division. Expect Minnesota to successfully “Row the Boat” just like Fleck’s Broncos did the past four years.
2. Jeff Brohm, Purdue - Purdue has been mediocre at best since Joe Tiller stepped away following the 2008 season. That could change with Brohm, a former Louisville and NFL quarterback and Bobby Petrino disciple. Brohm took the reigns from Petrino at Western Kentucky in 2014 and promptly won 30 games in three seasons. The Boilermakers need a shot in the arm to keep up in the Big Ten. Considering the Hilltoppers scored 40 points or more 11 times in 2016, Brohm may bring just what they needed.
1. Tom Herman, Texas - Herman made Houston a true playoff contender in his two seasons, making his proposed “H-Town Takeover” a reality with victories over No. 9 Florida State, No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 3 Louisville. LSU did its best to lure Herman to Louisiana, but he instead opted to return to Texas, where he was a graduate assistant from 1999 to 2000. The Longhorns have plenty of talent returning in 2017, and considering the uncertainty involving most teams in the Big 12, Herman could win big quickly.