Every college football offseason comes with coaching changes. It’s the nature of the business and with that comes expectations for these coaches in their first year at the school. Here is a rundown of some of the major programs who have new coaches and what their outlook is for the season.
Arizona Wildcats: Kevin Sumlin
Sumlin was on the hot seat at Texas A&M for the last few years and the Aggies finally decided to pull the trigger. This happened to be the perfect thing for Arizona, who was in a bind after firing Rich Rodriguez due to workplace misconduct.
While he doesn’t have much experience in the Pac-12, Sumlin is about a good of a coach that Arizona could have hoped for. He has been battle-tested in the SEC and had some solid seasons in the tough SEC West. For his career, he has an 86-43 record.
The Wildcats will be expecting to compete for the Pac-12 South this season. They have 16 returning starters, which includes possible Heisman candidate Khalil Tate. If Sumlin can work with Tate like he did with Johnny Manziel and Ryan Tannehill, they could be playing in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Arizona State Sun Devils: Herm Edwards
Todd Graham was fired from another one of his dream jobs and Herm Edwards has decided to step back into coaching. Edwards was formerly an NFL coach before joining ESPN. He will have a lot to do to get ready to coach again, especially because he will have to relate to kids who may not remember the last time he coached.
The man who has a 54-74 NFL head coaching record will have a solid team, but they will need some molding. Only nine starters return from the team that went 7-6 last season. He will specifically need to improve the defense, which ranked 104th in points allowed. A bowl appearance should be the goal, but even that could be tough.
Arkansas Razorbacks: Chad Morris
The Razorbacks went to Texas (SMU) to hire Morris, who is a former great high school football coach in the state. Morris posted a 14-23 record at SMU, but rebuilt the program. That is something he will have to do at Arkansas, who went 4-8 last season. He will take over for Bret Bielema, who was fired immediately after the final game of last season.
He is known for his offensive coaching abilities, as he led SMU to be the 12th best scoring team in the country. They’ll need to outscore opponents, as their defense ranked near the bottom of the FBS in most categories. There will be some talent that was retained from last season with 15 starters coming back. Morris’ goal should be to make a bowl with their brutal schedule in the SEC West.
Florida Gators: Dan Mullen
Florida hasn’t had a good offense for years, so they fired Jim McElwain and brought in the last great offensive coordinator they had in Dan Mullen. Mullen was with Urban Meyer at Florida and helped them win two national championships. The Gators nabbed Mullen from fellow SEC team Mississippi State, where he posted a good 69-46 record.
Mullen takes over the 108th ranked scoring offense in the country from last year, but does have 10 returning starters to work with. The defense wasn’t a normally good Florida defense last year. With a better offense, the defense will be more rested and ready for the challenge this season. The Gators should be expecting to get around seven or eight wins this season and be put back on track to compete in the SEC in the future.
Florida State Seminoles: Willie Taggart
When Jimbo Fisher left for Texas A&M, Florida State had to get another coach that could keep the program nationally relevant. They hired Taggart from Oregon. Taggart only spent one year at Oregon, but has plenty of experience.
During stops at Western Kentucky, South Florida and Oregon, Taggart has a 47-50 record. He turned around Western Kentucky (in their first years in the FBS) and South Florida so that record is better than it looks.
There is always talent at Florida State, so Taggart will have that. They will not have a lot of experience though, which is something Taggart will have to figure out. Contending for the ACC may be a little out of reach, but the Seminoles should comfortably make a bowl if everything goes as planned.
Ole Miss Rebels: Matt Luke
Matt Luke took over as the interim coach after Hugh Freeze resigned due to a “concerning pattern of phone calls”. He did a successful job as the interim coach going 6-6, however, Ole Miss was imposed a self-ban on postseason play to limit NCAA sanctions that happened under Freeze.
He’ll have experience returning at six positions on both offense and defense. There is a bowl ban for this season imposed by the NCAA, but they should be favored to win six or so games this season.
Mississippi State Bulldogs: Joe Moorehead
Mississippi State lost Dan Mullen and replaced him with another offensive-minded coach, Joe Moorehead. Moorehead was the offensive coordinator at Penn State and used Saquon Barkley to his fullest potential to be the seventh-ranked scoring offense in the country.
With 15 returning starters and Nick Fitzgerald in his senior year at quarterback, the Bulldogs can win nine games yet again. They will have tough games against Auburn and Alabama, but should be favored in most matchups.
Nebraska Cornhuskers: Scott Frost
The hottest coaching candidate on the market was Scott Frost, after he led UCF to an undefeated season. Nebraska wanted Frost to take over for Mike Reilly because he was a Cornhusker as a player and is a phenomenal coach.
After a 4-8 record last season, the hopes shouldn’t be too high for Nebraska. With 15 starters retained, they should still be able to make a bowl game.
Oregon Ducks: Mario Cristobal
Oregon hired Willie Taggart thinking he’d be there for the long term, but had to replace him after his first year. Mario Cristobal was named the interim coach for the Las Vegas Bowl, where the Ducks lost to Boise State 38-28. He does have head coaching experience at FIU, but this is a huge step up.
Cristobal has 14 returning starters from a 7-6 team. With the improvement of quarterback Justin Herber, the Ducks will want to compete for the Pac-12 North, but that’s a tall order for a new head coach. They will be able to make a bowl game and get close to double-digit wins.
Oregon State Beavers: Jonathan Smith
Gary Anderson’s decision to leave Wisconsin for Oregon State has come into the question and it ended up being a bad decision, as he was fired after a 1-11 season in Corvallis. Smith played at Oregon State, but got the job due to his work as Washington’s offensive coordinator.
Although there are 13 returning starters, Smith will be lucky to get to three wins in his first year. How does he get welcomed to his new job? Smith and the Beavers take on Ohio State in Columbus the first game of the season.
Tennessee Volunteers: Jeremy Pruitt
The Volunteers finally rid themselves of Butch Jones (who coincidentally works as an assistant at Alabama now) and hired Jeremy Pruitt. Pruitt was Alabama’s defensive coordinator for the past two seasons helping rank as the best scoring team last season.
There was always ranting and raving over how good the recruiting classes were under Jones, even though they were never able to live up to expectations. Pruitt may be able to get the most out of the 13 returning starters though. A bowl game is plausible with anything more than that being a welcomed surprise.
Texas A&M Aggies: Jimbo Fisher
Fisher surprisingly left Florida State, where he won a National Championship, for Texas A&M. He is getting treated like royalty though, as the boosters wanted an elite coach to take over for Kevin Sumlin. Fisher is one of the best in the business and will have to recruit Texas hard now to be successful.
He has 14 returning starters to work with, so Fisher should expect a solid season, but anything more would be a stretch. Their schedule features games against Clemson, Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi State, Auburn and Ole Miss, which would be tough for him even if he had been at Texas A&M for years building his program. Making a bowl game in year one would be great to build off of for the future (especially with that schedule).
UCLA Bruins: Chip Kelly
Jim Mora didn’t get his players to reach their full potential and UCLA hired a coach who formerly dominated the Pac-12 competition at Oregon. Kelly may not have lasted in the NFL, but in college football he turned Oregon into a national contender. He will be tasked with the same thing at UCLA.
It would have been fun to see Josh Rosen play for Kelly, but he’s on the Arizona Cardinals now. Kelly has a lot of responsibility because he only has three returning starters on offense. That’s a tall order even for such a good offensive coach. On the defensive side of the ball, they return seven starters, but allowed 36.6 points per game last season. Kelly is another coach in his first year at a school that will want to, and have the capability, to make a bowl game, but not be able to do much more.