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Best Coaching Debuts in Week 1


There is nothing like making a positive first gridiron impression on your fan base, and many new coaches around college football did that over the weekend. Michigan’s Brady Hoke, Florida’s Will Muschamp, Stanford’s David Shaw and West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen were among those new bosses who had expected wins in Week 1. Minnesota’s Jerry Kill and Miami’s Al Golden had impressive first games despite losing, while Indiana’s Kevin Wilson and Colorado’s Jon Embree had a rough Saturday.

Which new coach had the most impressive debut?

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
I’ll go with Randy Edsall of Maryland. The Terrapins’ offense looked crisper than I have seen it since the early 2000's, and they are one of only three teams in the nation with a conference win under their belt. The game plan was sound, Danny O'Brien looked comfortable and the skill talent looked explosive on Monday night against Miami. The hard-fought field-goal win, in fact, should have been a blowout as the Terps stalled numerous times in the red zone. Good things are in store for Maryland and Edsall. I will also give a quick nod to Luke Fickell of Ohio State. The Buckeyes were a heavy favorite over Akron, but his team looked downright perfect on Saturday afternoon.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
Many Michigan fans may not be overly thrilled with a 34-10 win over Western Michigan, but I believe Brady Hoke already has the Wolverines regaining their old identity. Rich Rodriguez had talent on the roster and his spread offense was exciting, but the UM defense was a sieve last year and there was no running game outside of quarterback Denard Robinson. Enter Hoke and new offensive coordinator Al Borges, and the running back tandem of Fitzgerald Toussaint and Michael Shaw had 130 yards rushing on just 15 carries. Also enter new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who saw his group score two touchdowns while only giving up one score on the first drive of the game. Additionally, Michigan only committed one penalty for five yards on the day. While some Michigan fans may be worried about Robinson’s passing stats in the short term, the improvement of the running game and defense under Hoke makes his debut the most impressive.

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
There were some big-name coaches who recorded some nice wins on the opening weekend of college football, but it’s hard to argue that any of them had a more successful debut than Pete Lembo at Ball State. The former boss at Elon and Lehigh in the FCS ranks led the Cardinals to a 27–20 win over in-state rival Indiana in Indianapolis. Ball State struggled mightily on offense en route to a 3–9 record last season. In Lembo’s first game, the Cards rolled up 383 yards of total offense (about 75 more than last year’s average) against a Big Ten opponent. Over the summer, we ranked the 21 new coaches in FBS and had Lembo No. 5 on the list.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I know a loss is never the way you want to begin the season, but I was impressed by the coaching debuts of Al Golden at Miami and Jerry Kill at Minnesota. There were a lot of positives to take away from Saturday’s defeats and both coaches should be able to continue to build off that going forward. The Golden Gophers were big underdogs for Saturday’s game against USC, but rallied from an early deficit to have a chance to win in the fourth quarter. The Hurricanes were without a handful of key players for Monday night’s matchup against Maryland, but also nearly pulled off the victory. With a full roster, Miami will be a dangerous team in the ACC. Although both coaches debuted with a loss, I think Week 1 confirmed they were the right hire for each school and should have a lot of success in the coming years.