There will be plenty of big name coaches guiding major programs in 2019. Mack Brown at North Carolina, Les Miles at Kansas and Dana Holgorsen with Houston.
They certainly will be a few of the coaches to watch in 2019. But there are more relatively, noteworthy names that will be at Group of 5 schools who might have gone unnoticed when they were hired in recent weeks.
Not all of them are household names, but some could be. Some have up-and-coming potential, while others are prominent names the casual college football fan might have forgotten.
here’s a look at five coaches, at some smaller programs, to keep an eye on in 2019.
Rod Carey, Temple
Carey is not the coach Owls fans expected to run the program when Geoff Collins decided to leave for Georgia Tech. Especially after Manny Diaz said yes to Temple.
By now, we know all about the Diaz saga and his return to run things at Miami. That left the Temple brass searching for a quick replacement – again. Carey is far from a marquee name, but he’s probably worthy of the hire. Though, some see it as a lateral move from his former gig at Northern Illinois.
With the Mid-American power Huskies, Carey went 52-30, won four division titles and two league championships (2014 and ’18). His NIU teams also beat the likes of Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern and BYU during his tenure. However, he went 0-6 in bowl games.
Hugh Freeze, Liberty
Now, this should be interesting.
He’s the coach who quickly brought Ole Miss to prominence earlier in the decade, and an even faster decline amid NCAA rules violations, that included academic and recruitment issues. Freeze didn’t help matters by being cited for calling an escort service from a university-issued phone.
Freeze left Mississippi in the summer of 2017 and now resurfaces at tiny Liberty, which employs an athletic director with his own baggage that he’s trying to shed. The Flames will enjoy full FBS status for 2019 and be eligible for a bowl while playing as an independent.
For the moment, it’s time to believe Freeze has seen the errors of his ways and rehabbed himself into a better person looking to help young men become successful football players and people.
Will Healy, Charlotte
Healy’s name is probably foreign to most college football fans, but that might not be the case for long. The Tom Cruise look-a-like wasn’t the 49ers’ top choice for the position, but he has the potential to be the right one.
After going 0-11 in his first season at FCS Austin Peay, Houson went 13-10 over the next two seasons. That’s significant because the Governors won one game from 2013-’16. He was the FCS coach of the year in 2017
Healy gets his players to believe the impossible is possible, and has blossomed into a sharp offensive mind. It will be fun to see what he can do with a Charlotte program that’s yet to enjoy a winning season since joining the FBS in 2015.
Mike Houston, East Carolina
Houston was that first choice at Charlotte, but he felt this gig with the Pirates was too good to pass up.
At FCS James Madison, Houston went 37-6 and led the Dukes to the subdivision’s national title following the 2016 season. They got back to the championship game the next season, but fell short of the repeat.
Houston’s teams at JMU were balanced on both sides of the ball and he was considered one of the great motivators within the FCS. East Carolina has suffered four consecutive losing seasons since making its last bowl appearance in 2014.
Jim McElwain, Central Michigan
Similar to Freeze, though minus the violations, McElwain is looking to revive his head coaching career. This is an interesting place for him to land and almost a full circle coaching run for McElwain.
Following success at Colorado State, McElwain guided Florida to back-to-back SEC East Division crowns. However, he and the Gators split after the team started 3-4 in 2017.
After spending time on Jim Harbaugh’s staff at Michigan, McElwain will stay in the state of Michigan to run a team. He takes over a MAC program that is coming off a 1-1 campaign following four consecutive seasons with a bowl appearance.