The clock finally struck 12 in Tucson. A sexual assault case files against former head coach, Rich Rodriguez, led to the program and the longtime head coach parting ways. Early Sunday morning they hired Kevin Sumlin. That closed the door on five coaching changes this offseason. The biggest question is: Did any team actually upgrade after making the changes? Of course, you won’t really know until year three or four, but let’s examine who won and lost their hires on paper.
The aforementioned storyline led to Kevin Sumlin coming to Arizona after being fired from Texas A&M. He’s an offensive savant. His stops at Houston and A&M all included elite offenses and multiple quarterbacks drafted. While at Houston he posted a record of 35-17 in four seasons with his 12-1 record his final season being his best. Year one at Texas A&M was filled with fireworks as he tutored Johnny Manziel leading them to a 11-2 record and a combined 51-26 win-loss record in six seasons. This is a home run hire considering the consistency and late timing for Rich Rod’s departments. An underrated piece is his familiarity with the Arizona recruiting grounds. Plucking a few players from the state is his short time at A&M, one being Gatorade Player of the Year in the state, Christian Kirk. He’ll already have his QB in place to run his system in Khalil Tate. Maintaining their previous defensive coordinator, Marcel Yates, is HUGE. He’s familiar with Yates as he was a co-DC at A&M and defense has been Sumlin’s Achilles’ heel.
Todd Graham’s firing was a bit of a shock to most. He led the Sun Devils to back-to-back wins, including one over arch rival Arizona to become bowl eligible. If the firing of Graham wasn’t enough, they shocked the world by hiring Herm Edwards, who hasn’t coached since 2008 and has no college experience. Edwards was to assume a CEO-type of role with talented defensive and offensive coordinator Phil Bennett and Bill Napier being retained. That changed quickly as Bennett took a defensive coordinator role at Texas A&M and Napier was hired as the head coach at Louisiana Lafayette. This is looking more and more like an experiment gone bad.
The Willie Taggart era was off to a solid start. So solid that Florida State thought he’d be a great replacement for Jimbo Fisher. Many thought the program would go big game hunting again, but they elected to hire from within by promoting co-offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal. Their primary thinking was the stability within the coaching staff would help maintain the recruiting class and rebuild process that is already underway. Cristobal comes after stops at FIU as a head coach where he posted a 27-47 record in six seasons. After being let go, he was hired by Nick Saban as assistant head coach, offensive line coach, and recruiting coordinator. Each year they posted elite recruiting ranks and top offensive line groups. I’m not sold. An offensive line group full of 5-⭐ prospects and the established brand that was already established by three national championships, it strikes me as a job that could’ve been done by many coordinators. There’s been a precipitous dip in the caliber of recruits since Taggart’s departure and this was supposed to be one of Cristobal’s selling points for the hire.
The Beavers hired Jonathan Smith, the previous offensive coordinator for the electric University of Washington Huskies. He’s an OSU Alum and MVP of the 2000 Fiesta Bowl, which was the best season in program history. This will be his first head coaching opportunity, but this seems like a perfect fit. The program was in dire need of a shakeup and new energy after an abysmal 2017 season that led to previous head coach Gary Andersen walking away mid-season and the largest loss in Civil War history. Smith, a former walk-on should bring some much-needed toughness and hard nose mentality, similar to his Washington run game, to the Oregon State program.
What a forgetful season for the Bruins. After so much hype coming off of potential #1 pick Josh Rosen’s legendary comeback game against Texas A&M, it was all downhill. Another mediocre season forced UCLA to part ways with Jim Mora. In comes the previous proverbial owner of the Pac-12 and Oregon Ducks head coach, Chip Kelly. The only thing that could’ve made this more perfect was if the Ducks hired him. Having familiarity with the conference, recruiting grounds, and being in a hot bed like California has all the making for a quick turnaround.