Dec 3, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Steve Sarkisian (center) poses with Southern California Trojans president C.L. Max Nikias (left) and athletic director Pat Haden at a press conference to announce his hiring as football coach at John McKay Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Charlie Strong and Steve Sarkisian Headline This Season's Coaching Carousel


Jan 6, 2014; Austin, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns president Bill Powers (left) and head football coach Charlie Strong (center) and athletics director Steve Patterson (right) speak at a press conference in the Centennial Room of Belmont Hall at Texas-Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 6, 2014; Austin, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns president Bill Powers (left) and head football coach Charlie Strong (center) and athletics director Steve Patterson (right) speak at a press conference in the Centennial Room of Belmont Hall at Texas-Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

After a mammoth 31 changes at the top last year, the coaching carousel took a breather this offseason, with a mere 19 new head coaches. Charlie Strong to Texas and Steve Sarkisian to USC are the big name signings, but are they the top pickups?

 

Blake Anderson, Arkansas State

Replacing:

Bryan Harsin, gone to Boise State.

Who is he?

A long-time offensive assistant who was most recently offensive coordinator under Larry Fedora at both Southern Mississippi and North Carolina. The Tar Heels broke numerous team records under his tutelage last season.
Can he succeed?

Sure. Since Steve Roberts resigned at the end of the 2010 season, all 3 of the Red Wolves (full-time) head coaches have gone onto higher profile gigs – after a season each. Granted, they have been higher profile names than Anderson, but he’s been successful as a coordinator and takes over a talented Sun Belt program. He may not be one-and-done, but keep an eye on him.

 

Jeff Monken, Army

Replacing:

Rich Ellerson, who was fired after 5 seasons and a 20-41 record. More importantly, he was 0-5 against Navy.
Who is he?

A scion of the Monken coaching tree (cousin of Todd), Monken has learned his trade under Paul Johnson, and was most recently the head coach of FCS power Georgia Southern, who posted a 38-16 record in 4 seasons with Monken at the helm. The Eagles made the FCS semifinals in each of his first 3 years.
Can he succeed?

Good track record? Check. Runs the triple option successfully? Check. Inside knowledge of Navy? Check. Monken has his work cut out for him, and instant success may elude him, but he has the acumen to dig Army out of “guaranteed win” status He needs to recruit better speed, but Ellerson has left him a bevy of decent triple-option players to work with. Who he signs as defensive coordinator (Jeff Bateman of Ball State?) may define his career here.

 

Bryan Harsin, Boise State

Replacing:

Chris Petersen, off to Washington.
Who is he?

A former Boise State offensive coordinator who parlayed his success here into a co-offensive coordinator gig in Texas. After 2 years, jumped onto the Arkansas State head coaching production line. When Petersen headed west to Washington, Harsin jumped at the chance to return to his spiritual home.
Can he succeed?

Harsin went to school here; spent most of his coaching career here; and now he’s returning home. He knows better than anyone, except maybe Petersen, what Boise football is all about, and he will do everything he can to get the Broncos back to where they think they should be. The question is, are Boise State regressing, or just missing their old offensive coordinator from their peak years?

 

Dino Babers, Bowling Green

Replacing:

Dave Clawson, the new man at Wake Forest.
Who is he?

A long-time assistant coach and sometime offensive coordinator, Babers took over the head coaching job at Eastern Illinois in 2012 and led the Panthers to the playoffs in his 2 seasons, finishing 19-7. Baber’s forte is offense, and likes to throw the ball a lot. His quarterback at EIU, Jimmy Garoppolo is making a name for himself with NFL scouts.
Can he succeed?

Clawson did a good job turning the Falcons into a championship team, riding on the back of a stingy defense. However, the offense at times left much to be desired. Luckily, this is Baber’s forte, and BGSU have some good players to work with. Maintaining the dominant defense is a priority. The MAC is a tough little conference though, and sustained success is rare, in no small part due to regular coaching change. Chalk this one down to “wait and see.”

 

Bob Diaco, Connecticut

Replacing:

Paul Pasqualoni, who was fired midseason, and interim coach TJ Weist, who finished 3-5.
Who is he?

Diaco was most recently the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame, where he created a stingy unit that has been the strength of the team the last couple of years. Diaco won the 2012 Broyles Award (top assistant) for crafting a unit that carried the Fighting Irish all the way to the National Championship game.
Can he succeed?

UConn was a decent program not so long ago, with a string of 4 straight 8+ winning seasons under Randy Edsall. The defense was the spearhead through this streak, and even as the team struggled under Pasqualoni, the defense played tough. Diaco has something to work with here, but the offense has been mediocre are best for most of the Huskies 15 years in the FBS. Better make it a point of emphasis.

 

Chris Creighton, Eastern Michigan

Replacing:

Ron English, who was fired after going 11-46 over 5 years, with 6 wins coming in one season.
Who is he?

Creighton has been a successful head coach at NAIA, Division 2 and FCS levels, with a combined record of 139-46, and is taking a foray into the big leagues. Creighton led Wabash to the D2 playoffs 4 times, and shared the Pioneer league title twice at Drake.
Can he succeed?

With his track record, it’s hard to bet against him, but Eastern Michigan has proven to be a tough place to win at over the last 25 years or so. Even English’s 6 wins in 2011 included 2 victories over FCS programs. Creighton has a good reputation among coaching circles, and has shown a firm hand in running his programs. If he can’t turn the Eagles around, better start calling Nick Saban.

 

Dec, 28, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Wisconsin Badgers co-defensive coordinator Charlie Partridge at press conference for the 2013 Rose Bowl at the L.A. Hotel Downtown. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

Charlie Partridge, Florida Atlantic

Replacing:

Carl Pelini, who was fired for unbecoming behavior, and interim coach Brian Wright.
Who is he?

Partridge is a defensive line coach who has been a part of Bret Bielema’s staff with both Wisconsin and Arkansas, and prior to that he worked with Dave Wannstedt at Pittsburgh. He has plenty of experience as an assistant, including 2 years as co-defensive coordinator with the Badgers, and as a native of Florida (Plantation), he showed his mettle as a recruiter in the state.
Can he succeed?

Well, he won his first victory when Wright decided to stick around. The coordinator has seen the Owls offense improve under his tutelage, and led the team to a 4-0 record as interim coach. He and Partridge should work well together. Partridge’s recruiting acumen should help mine the hidden gems littered throughout the state of Florida, something his predecessors failed to do. The Owls could be on the verge of taking a big step forward.

 

Bobby Petrino, Louisville

Replacing:

Charlie Strong, heading to Texas.
Who is he?

If you don’t know who Bobby Petrino is, welcome to planet Earth. Petrino coached here from 2003-2006, with the team finishing ranked 6th in the AP polls twice (2004 & 2006). He finished with a 41-9 record, winning the conference twice. He left Louisville less than a year into a 10-year contract to coach the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.
Can he succeed?

Absolutely yes, he’s a proven winner in the college ranks, but how much will his reputation weigh him down in his second stint with the Cardinals? He’s now known as a want-away coach, always searching for greener grass, which may be problematic in recruiting. There’s also the intern scandal, and Petrino will have to work hard to keep his nose clean. If he can win over those who matter (fans, trustees, recruits), the ACC had better watch out.

 

Mark Whipple, Massachusetts

Replacing:

Charley Molnar, who was dismissed after a finishing 1-11 in each of his two seasons.
Who is he?

Whipple is a former head coach here at Amherst, from 1998-2003, and led the team to the FCS (then D1A) national championship in his first season. He tied for the Atlantic 10 conference 3 times, making the playoffs each year. Prior to that he was a coach at Division 2 New Haven and Ivy League school Brown and his overall record is 121-59. New Haven made the D2 playoffs in each of his last two seasons. He is also credited with the development of Ben Roethlisberger at Pittsburgh, but has been out of football since 2012.

Can he succeed?

His last two stops with the Miami Hurricanes and Cleveland Browns didn’t end well, but Whipple has proven he can win at the lower levels, and the MAC should be within his power. However, UMass has only recently jumped to the FBS level and still need to improve their talent to properly compete at the MAC level. He needs to be given time, as the Minutemen could be 4 years away from competing consistently. With his track record though, it may take a complete meltdown for him not to be given a fair crack of the whip.

 

Chuck Martin, Miami (Ohio)

Replacing:

Don Treadwell, who was dismissed after an 0-5, and interim coach Mike Bath, who had even less success, finishing 0-7.
Who is he?

Martin was most recently the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Notre Dame, but also coached defensive backs prior to that. He was also head coach at Division 2 Grand Valley State from 2004-2009, making the playoffs each year and winning the national title twice. His overall record with the Lakers was an outstanding 74-7.
Can he succeed?

Martin has a good track record, both as a head coach and coordinator, and he could be the key to consistent success they have lacked since Terry Hoeppner stalked the sidelines. He has experience on both offense and defense, and Oxford has a fine tradition to build upon on the recruiting trail. The Redhawks were just terrible last year, and may need some rebuilding, but if Martin succeeds, how long will he stay at Miami, nicknamed the “Cradle of Coaches?”

 

Jan 11, 2014; State College, PA, USA; James Franklin is announced as the Penn State Nittany Lions new head coach during a press conference at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O

James Franklin, Penn State

Replacing:

Bill O’Brien, the new head coach of the Houston Texans.
Who is he?

Another coach who doesn’t need much introduction, Franklin is the man responsible for Vanderbilt’s recent success, going 24-15 over his 3 years there, with a 2-1 bowl record. He had an 11-13 record in the SEC, including 5-3 in 2012. Prior to his stop with the Commodores, he was an assistant at both the FBS and NFL levels, and was an offensive coordinator at Kansas State and Maryland.
Can he succeed?

I would be stunned if he didn’t. The only concern is whether the allegations of a rape cover-up show some truth. They are only allegations at present, but the case isn’t quite closed. If they prove false, Franklin and Penn State should have a good relationship, at least until he heads for the NFL.

 

Charlie Strong, Texas

Replacing:

Mack Brown, who resigned, or was forced out, depending on who you ask.
Who is he?

Another big-name coach, Strong was a former Florida defensive coordinator and assistant head coach who led Louisville back to the top of the Big East/AAC. He has a 37-15 record, 3-2 in bowls, and twice shared the conference crown. He also led the team to that famous BCS victory over Florida in 2013, cementing his own reputation as a head coach.
Can he succeed?

Had the game passed Brown by? It’s not for me to answer, but Strong will be a breath of fresh air for a program that was growing stale. He did a good job at Louisville with Big East talent, let’s see how far he can take the Longhorns.

 

Bill Clark, Alabama-Birmingham

 

Replacing:

Garrick McGee, who followed Bobby Petrino to Louisville.

 

Who is he?

The former defensive coordinator of South Alabama, who took Jacksonville State to the FCS quarterfinals in his only season last year. He was also a head coach at Prattville High School in Alabama, and led the Lions to a 106-11 record, including 2 state championships.

 

Can he succeed?

UAB is a notoriously difficult school to win at, and Clark will have his work cut out for him. Their facilities are among the worst in the FBS, and McGee left for Louisville due to their refusal to improve their status. That being said, Clark is an Alabama boy born and bred, and knows the high school layout due to his coaching days there. However, the Blazers will always have an uphill struggle until their facilities join the 21st century.

 

Steve Sarkisian, Southern California

 

Replacing:

Lane Kiffin, who was fired after a 3-2 start, and interim coach Ed Orgeron, who resigned in protest at not being offered the head coaching job.

 

Who is he?

Sarkisian is a former USC offensive coordinator who spent the last 5 years at Washington, where he posted a 34-29 record, 2-2 in bowls. While his record may seem pedestrian, he took over a team that was 0-12 the year prior to his hiring.

 

Can he succeed?

Forget the Lane Kiffin comparisons, most people who are pissed at Sark live in the Seattle area, as opposed to the much-maligned Kiffin. Sarkisian did a good job at Seattle, and has pulled plenty of talent north from the California area. Expect him to recruit even more successfully for the Trojans, with the backing of their name and athletic department. The sanctions end next year, so expect the Trojans to be back to full strength sooner rather than later.

 

Derek Mason, Stanford

 

Replacing:

James Franklin, who takes over at Penn State.

 

Who is he?

Most recently Mason was the defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach for Stanford from 2010-2013. The Cardinal defense has been dominant in his tenure, and it was only a matter of time before a head coaching job came his way. Mason has 20 years coaching experience on both sides of the ball, ranging from JUCO to the NFL.

 

Can he succeed?

Mason has never been a head coach at any level, but he’s worked for enough good ones to have some idea of what he’s doing. Of course, this means little in the real world, but I have the feeling Mason will do well. Most importantly, he’s familiar with the ordeal of balancing high academic standards with recruiting talent, and Vanderbilt’s recent success should help him pull in the players he needs.

 

Dave Clawson, Wake Forest

 

Replacing:

Jim Grobe, who resigned after his 5th consecutive losing season.

 

Who is he?

Most recently, Clawson was the head coach at Bowling Green, but has also served in the same capacity at Fordham and Richmond, and has a 90-80 career record. Last season, BGSU finished 10-4 and won the MAC title. Clawson brings 25 years of coaching experience to the Demon Deacons.

 

Can he succeed?

Grobe had some success here, but struggled to maintain it at one of the smallest schools in the FBS. Clawson will face many of the same problems, and it’s unlikely he can rely on his defense like he did at Bowling Green. Also, despite being an offensive guy, Clawson’s Falcons teams generally lacked any real offensive identity until last season. Still, he has rebuilt every other team he has coached within 4 years at most – he will not be daunted by the ACC.

 

Chris Petersen, Washington

 

Replacing:

Steve Sarkisian, headed to Southern Cal.

 

Who is he?

The man who took Boise State from strong non-automatic qualifier to BCS contender. Since taking over the Broncos in 2006, Petersen has posted a fantastic 92-12 record, 5-3 in bowls, including 2-1 in BCS bowls. Petersen has turned down offers for bigger jobs before, so Washington must have something to successfully draw him west.

 

Can he succeed?

This is the $64,000 question – Petersen has had great success in the WAC and Mountain West, but that was with the most talented team in the conference. Now, he’s taking over a Husky team that is middle-of-the-pack at best, and has lost some key players to graduation and the NFL. After 8 years at the helm, Petersen has a system in place, and while it may take some time to implement it, it should work. Maintaining, or improving upon, the solid recruiting of Steve Sarkisian will be a bigger challenge.

 

Jeff Brohm, Western Kentucky

 

Replacing:

Bobby Petrino, who did his vanishing act to Louisville.

 

Who is he?

A former Louisville and long-time NFL backup quarterback, he was an assistant at Louisville under Petrino. When Petrino went to the NFL, Brohm stuck around for a year, then bounced around the FBS for a few seasons before rejoining Petrino in Western Kentucky, as offensive coordinator and assistant head coach. When Petrino left, the Hilltoppers administration promoted Brohm to solesolehead coach.

 

Can he succeed?

Brohm has been around some good coaches such as Petrino and Howard Schnellenberger, and it’s hard to believe some of their mojo hasn’t rubbed off on him. The WKU offense was good last season with Brohm and Petrino running the show, so more of the same can be expected. Brohm made a smart move by keeping defensive coordinator Nick Holt on campus – the WKU defense has been a big part of their recent success – and tagging him as assistant head coach. For when Brohm goes to a bigger gig.

 

Craig Bohl, Wyoming

 

Replacing:

Dave Christensen, who was fired after 5 years and a 27-35 record.

 

Who is he?

A long-time defensive assistant at the FBS level, Bohl took over NDSU just before their transition to the FCS. And what a transition! The Bison have had just one losing season under Bohl (3-8 in 2009), and have made the FCS playoffs the last 4 years, winning the title each of the last 3 seasons. That figure could have been higher if not for 4 years of ineligibility for playoff action during the transition. With nothing left to prove in Fargo, Bohl takes his 104-32 record to Wyoming.

 

Can he succeed?

The Cowboys had some success under Christensen, but haven’t had a sustained run in the 21st century. That could be about to change under the watchful eye of Bohl, who won’t be daunted at the thought of recruiting to distant Wyoming. If Bohl’s formula works in Laramie, Boise State may need to step aside.

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