At the conclusion of college football‘s regular season in early December, the annual coaching carousel initiates. A time of great stress and pressure tests each schools’ ability to interview and hire candidates as quickly and as effectively as possible, while also maintaining their fan bases’ sanity level as well as their incoming recruiting class. The worst part is that there are no guarantees in this process and a school likely won’t know if they made the best possible hire until at least next season. Let’s give credit where credit is due in the top five college football hires so far.
Note: Ranking is based on the hiring potential of the school in addition to the quality of coach.
1. The Home Run Hire: Scott Frost, Nebraska
You gotta love a guy who can turn around a less fortunate program. Just two seasons ago, University of Central Florida didn’t win a single game in their 2015 campaign. After Frost took over the helm, he led the Knights to an undefeated regular season in 2017, making for the greatest two-year turnaround in NCAA history. A native of Lincoln, Nebraska and former two-time national champion quarterback for the Huskers in the 90’s, Scott Frost bleeds Nekraska through and through. Prior to UCF, Frost was also the offensive coordinator for Oregon during the school’s best recent years with Marcus Mariota at quarterback. Nebraska made the absolute best possible hire here.
2. Willie Taggart, Florida State
Jimbo Fisher’s abrupt exit from Florida State opened up the Seminoles’ head-coaching job for the first time since before Bobby Bowden in 1975. While Taggart leaving Oregon after one season can come off as suspect, there’s a reason the coach took this job. A Bradenton, Florida native and FSU fan growing up, to pass on this job being open for the first time in his life would be a huge missed opportunity. Taggart has a very impressive resume of turning around lackluster programs:
- Western Kentucky: 2-22 in two seasons prior to his arrival. 14-10 in the two seasons after.
- South Florida: 3-9 before Taggart in 2012. 10-2 in Taggart’s last season in 2016.
Also at USF, Taggart proved his ability to recruit the state of Florida and develop players as the Bulls averaged 43.8 points per game in his last season with them. On short notice, FSU handled adversity with prowess. They will be just fine.
3. Chip Kelly, UCLA
Combine Chip Kelly’s offensive mind that led Oregon to national title contention with the premier recruiting talent of Southern California and you likely get a handful of PAC-12 championships in the coming years with shots at going all the way. UCLA hasn’t been in a serious national title contending position in a long time, but the hire of Kelly immediately puts them back in the mix. The Bruins should have an exciting offense to watch in the coming seasons.
4. Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M
Active head college coaches with a national title under their belt: Fisher, Urban Meyer, Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney. Fisher’s departure from Tallahassee certainly comes at a surprise, but the Aggies were willing to offer the most lucrative contract in college football history at $75 million guaranteed. While the team’s facilities and level of booster money are on the higher end of things, Fisher will now have to deal with the likes of Auburn, Alabama and LSU on an annual basis in the SEC West.
5. Dan Mullen, Florida
Mullen is one of the college game’s best quarterback coaches, as he’s maximized the potential from a number of players in his career. Beginning at Utah with Alex Smith, who became the no. 1 NFL draft pick in 2005, to Tebow winning the Heisman to vastly improving the games of Dak Prescott and Nick Fitzgerald at Mississippi State. Mullen, unlike Will Muschamp and Jim McElwain, seems to have what it takes to fix the woes that have ailed Florida recently. The Gators finally make the right hire by giving the nod to a coach who was vital to their most recent national titles.