As soon as the last games ended in the college football regular season the 2021 coaching cycle absolutely erupted. There have been coaches that no one would’ve thought would leave their team have. Then on the other end of the spectrum, there have been new head coach hirings that people didn’t see as a candidate. It’s been a wild cycle and here is a recap of all the hirings.
Joey McGuire: Texas Tech
McGuire has spent the last five years on Baylor’s staff as an Associate Head Coach with the linebackers, defensive ends, and tight ends. Before that, he was a high school head coach for Cedar Hill where he led them to 12 playoff appearances. McGuire is coming in to replace Matt Wells who had the third-worst winning percentage as a head coach at Texas Tech with .433. After just two seasons and not being able to recruit and keep the team motivated as Kliff Kingsbury did, the Red Raiders brought in McGuire. McGuire should be able to help this team boost their recruiting and on-field performance.
Don Brown: UMass
A trend throughout this coaching cycle was bringing defensive minds on as head coaches and that is happened with Brown. A key factor in UMass hiring Brown is he already has familiarity with the program. From 2004 to 2008 he coached the program and went 43-19. It was the winningest period in the team’s history. The last few years from 2016-2020 he would serve as the defensive coach of the Michigan Wolverines where four of the five seasons he had a top-10 ranked defense. Just this past season he was the defensive coordinator for Arizona. His ability to be a culture changer and a top-tier defensive coordinator is what led to UMass bringing Brown back to the program.
Jim L. Mora: UConn
UConn is trying to establish itself as a well-known team in the Northeast and under former head coach, Randy Edsall who over 17 seasons had a 102-136 record they were not able to do that. Edsall would announce he was retiring and the Huskies would hire Jim L. Mora in an effort to commit to their football program. With the hiring of Mora happening in November, he was able to come on the staff as their offensive assistant and get to know the staff and the players all while seeing what adjustments he needs to make. His last coaching stint was at UCLA where he had a 46-30 record, led them to a PAC-12 South title, and developed players like Anthony Barr and Takkarist McKinley. Mora will look to bring UConn their first winning season since 2010.
Clay Helton: Georgia Southern
After six years serving as USC’s head coach and a 46-24 record the Trojans fired Helton on September 13, 2021. Now Helton will get another head coaching chance at Georgia Southern to replace Chad Lunsford. Georgia Southern’s hope with the hire of Helton is to bring the passion back to the program and get back to the FCS title for the first time since 2000.
Jerry Kill: New Mexico State
New Mexico State in 2022 is making the leap to join Conference USA and become a Power Five football team. In making the leap they turned to Jerry Kill as their hire, Kill brings with him experience and a winning record of 154-101. The Aggies on the other hand haven’t had a winning season and a winning conference record since 2002 when Tony Samuel was the head coach. Since then they have gone through four head coaches. For Kill, he is just recently coming off being TCU’s interim head coach after Gary Patterson was fired. Kill led TCU to go 2-2 during that time and one of the wins was against a ranked Baylor team marking TCU’s first win against a ranked opponent since 2019.
Billy Napier: Florida
After a 2021 season that saw the Florida Gators team struggle in close games, and an inability to keep in-state talent in Florida the Gators fired Dan Mullen. The first and only coach they had their sights on bringing in was Louisiana head coach Billy Napier. For more on this hire check out the in-depth article on the TWSN website with the link below.
Rhett Lashlee: SMU
After spending the last two seasons as the offensive coordinator for the Miami Hurricanes, Rhett Lashlee is coming back to SMU, but this time as their head coach. Lashlee is being brought back to the program due to their former head coach Sonny Dykes leaving to become the new head coach at TCU. While at SMU in 2018 and 2019 he helped Dykes and the team achieve their first 10 win season since 1983. When he went to Miami his success continued there as he helped the program go from 6-7 the year before his arrival to 8-3. In addition to that, he has helped develop quarterbacks like D’Eriq King and backup quarterback Tyler Van Dyke who came in after King got injured and had a 2,931 yard and 25 touchdown season. SMU will be looking for Lashlee to continue this with either current junior quarterback Tanner Mordecai if he stays another year, or current freshman quarterback Preston Stone.
Kalen DeBoer: Washington
Kalen DeBoer will be coming in to replace Jimmy Lake and will need to rebuild one of the worst offenses in the Power Five. DeBoer in 2019 was the offensive coordinator for Indiana where he had the eighth-best offense in terms of completion percentage with 67.9%, and 15th best passing offense that averaged 302.4 yards per game. Just this recent year he was the head coach for Fresno State where he led them to a 9-3 record with a win over a ranked UCLA team at the time, and almost beat a ranked Oregon team. Again at Fresno State his offense there is ranked as one of the top units in college football, and that has been the case everywhere he has coached. This provides optimism for Washington that the success he has can help them turn their offense around from being the 17th lowest in the league.
Sonny Dykes: TCU
As mentioned above, Dykes helped lead SMU to their first 10 win season and overall had a 30-18 record with the Mustangs. Dykes will be making his return to TCU as he served as an analyst there in 2017 a year where the team went 11-3. TCU has always been known as a defensive school, but as of this 2021 season their defense had struggled with slowing down opponents and getting off the field leading them to be the 14th lowest defense in the nation. Dykes will be replacing Garrett Patterson who had been TCU’s head coach for 20 years but hasn’t led the team to a ranked season on the AP Poll since 2017 and has had a 21-22 record over the last four seasons. TCU is hoping Dykes can help get TCU back to where they were with developing players and building a culture.
Lincoln Riley: USC
One of the most surprising coaching changes this cycle was Lincoln Riley leaving Oklahoma to become the new head coach of USC. Riley was hired by Oklahoma in 2015 as their offensive coordinator where he led them that season to have the seventh-best offense in the nation. Then after Bob Stoops retired in 2017 from being the Sooners head coach it was Riley who took over the position. Over the next few seasons, Riley would finish with a record of 55-10 and produced two Heisman winning, NFL starting-caliber quarterbacks in Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, and although not a Heisman winner he helped develop another NFL quarterback in Jalen Hurts. Now heading to USC he will look to get the program back on track from its worst record since 1991 with 4-8. Riley was also a key candidate for the USC job as he has the potential to truly develop the players USC has recruited.
Sonny Cumbie: Louisiana Tech
After nine seasons Louisiana Tech decided to part ways with former head coach Skip Holtz who went 3-8 this past season. For their new head coach, they will be bringing in former Texas Tech offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie. This will be Cumbie’s first time as a head coach, but what made Cumbie the top option for Louisiana Tech is his ability to recruit and develop quarterbacks.
Brian Kelly: LSU
Another shocking coaching change was Brian Kelly leaving Notre Dame after 12 years where he only had one losing season during his time there. The hire of Kelly comes after LSU and five-year head coach Ed Orgeron decided to part ways after not being able to replicate the 15-0 championship season from 2019 and going 11-11 over the last two years. LSU is looking to not only get back to having a season above .500 but having that success be sustained and that is one thing Kelly has done throughout his career. Before his career at Notre Dame, he was the coach at Cincinnati where he had a 34-6 record. This success Kelly has had is what LSU is trying to accomplish by hiring him.
Brent Pry: Virginia Tech
After six seasons at Virginia Tech, it was announced on November 16 that the Hokies would be parting ways from Justin Fuente who went 43-31 during that time. Fuente started off successful going 10-4 and made it to the ACC championship game and faced Clemson. As the years went on though offensive and defensive struggles happened on a continuous basis and this led to players transferring. By May 2021 the team had 43 players enter the transfer portal and Fuente struggled to put together a strong recruiting class on the east coast to make up for the lost talent. Being able to recruit on the east coast is where Brent Pry comes in. Pry is the former defensive coordinator for Penn State, and before that was a graduate assistant at Virginia Tech where he saw firsthand how Frank Beamer built that defense.
John Sumrall: Troy
Continuing the defensive trend is with John Sumrall becoming the next head coach at Troy. Sumrall is coming to Troy after being the co-defensive coordinator for the Kentucky Wildcats, the Wildcats are coming off a 9-3 season that has a top 25 defense in the nation. Sumrall has expertise at Troy as he was their assistant head coach in 2017, a season where the team had a defense in the top 30. After leaving Troy he has gained experience not only at Kentucky but Ole Miss as well. Now returning to Troy, Sumrall will look to continue his defensive success and be able to establish success through recruiting as well.
Marcus Freeman: Notre Dame
In the midst of a season where Notre Dame is one of the top teams in the country and a New Year’s Six Bowl contender, the Fighting Irish needed to fill their head coaching vacancy left by Kelly. The person that takes over is someone who already knows South Bend and has a connection with the players in former defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman. TWSN analyst and writer Tristen Kuhn went more in-depth on Freeman’s hire in his article linked below.
Joe Moorhead: Akron
The Akron football program is in desperate need of revitalization and that is where Joe Moorhead comes into play. Akron is getting a highly respected person in Moorhead who has had experience at some of college football’s top programs. Those programs include Mississippi State from 2018-2019 where he went 14-12 with two bowl games, and recently the last two years he has been the offensive coordinator for the Oregon Ducks.
Michael Desormeaux: Louisiana
With Napier heading to coach at Florida, the job at Louisiana was then left open. Instead of going out and searching for a coach, the Ragin’ Cajuns decided to stay in-house and promoted offensive coordinator Michael Desmoreaux to the head coaching spot. Desormeaux has spent the last four seasons under Napier and during that time they have led the team to breaking records. The decision to keep Desormeaux was to keep the continuity.
Brent Venables: Oklahoma
With Riley leaving for USC that left the job open at Oklahoma and it is Brent Venables who will be taking the position. This will be Venables first stint as a head coach as he has been the offensive coordinator at Clemson under Dabo Swinney since 2012. The Sooners had struggled on the defensive side of the ball in 2021, and since 2013 at Clemson Venables defense has been a top 25 unit each year both in total defense and scoring defense. His ability to help in recruiting will also be a huge factor in why Venables was hired at Oklahoma in the attempt to keep up the same success they had under Riley.
Jay Norvell: Colorado State
Jay Norvell will be leaving Nevada to replace Steve Addazio at Colorado State. Norvell went 33-26 during his coaching tenure at Nevada and helped develop a top quarterback for the 2022 NFL Draft in Carson Strong. The offense Norvell runs is an air-raid type with NFL-style under-center schemes blended in and it has been successful. After the last two seasons going 1-3 and 2-6 under Addazio, the team hopes that bringing in Norvell will get them back to a winning season while also being able to continue to implement the style of offense he runs.
Mario Cristobal: Miami
The Miami Hurricanes have decided to move on from Manny Diaz and bring in Mario Cristobal. This hiring caught many by surprise after the 2021 season Cristobal had with leading the Ducks to a 10-3 record and is ranked No.15. Over his time at Oregon, he had a record of 35-13. For Miami, the hire of Cristobal makes all the sense in the world. Cristobal is from the area and with him being a strong recruiter they are hoping to win the Florida talent battle. For many years the state of Florida has seen in-state talent go to premier southern programs like Alabama, Georgia, etc. instead of staying in-state. The hope of bringing Cristobal in is to change that while also beating out the other Florida schools like the Gators and Florida State all while improving the program back to being a National Championship contender.
Jeff Tedford: Fresno State
With the departure of DeBoer, it will be Jeff Tedford taking over the head coach position. As soon as Tedford was hired, Fresno’s star quarterback, Jake Haener, who had entered the transfer portal backed out of it. When Haener first transferred from Washington to Fresno in 2019 it was Tedford who was the coach at the time. From 2017-2019, Tedford was the head coach before resigning due to health conditions, during that time he had a 26-14 record. Now after stating he is 100% healthy he is taking back over as their head coach.
Tony Elliott: Virginia
Virginia’s new head coach happens to be familiar with the ACC landscape and that is Tony Elliott. Elliott has spent the last 10 seasons as the offensive coordinator for Clemson. As soon as Elliott was hired in 2011 they have had 10 straight winning seasons since then and have helped the team go 121-18 during that time. Elliott is stepping into a stable Virginia program that had gone 9-5 and 6-6 over the last two seasons and was only in search of a head coach after Bronco Mendenhall stated he needed to take some time away from college football. Under Elliotts’ time at Clemson, he has helped develop top NFL Draft offensive talents like Deshaun Watson, Tee Higgins, and Trevor Lawrence.
Mike Elko: Duke
After two back-to-back losing seasons, Duke is hiring Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mike Elko to succeed David Cutcliffe who had been Duke’s head coach for 14 years. Elko is coming off a season with the Aggies where his defense was ranked third in terms of scoring defense and allowed only an average of 15.92 points per game. This will be Elko’s first stint as a head coach and will be tasked with helping Duke’s defense turn around from a season where they allowed 46.6 points per game.
Dan Lanning: Oregon
The latest hiring in college football was for the Oregon position after the departure of Cristobal. The person Oregon decided to hire is Dan Lanning who was formerly Georgia’s defensive coordinator. This will be Lanning’s first go at the head coach position. Out of the three years being the Bulldogs defensive coordinator, Lanning has put together two top-10 defenses, this year specifically its No. 1 in the nation. As a head coach Lanning can show at only 35-years old he has the potential for immaculate upside. Another positive for Oregon securing Lanning is his recruiting ability, according to 247 sports Lanning is currently the eighth-best recruiter in college football.
A trend throughout all the coaching hires has been the increase of defensive-minded coaches. This is signaling a shift in college football from what people thought the standard was for head coaches. There have been many changes and the programs will either look to improve or sustain success with these hires. One thing is for sure the 2022 season will be interesting to see how the hirings play out.
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