The start of spring practice for all 128 college football teams is a chance to start fresh and forget the bad results that came along with 2013.
For a handful of coaches, spring practice is also the first opportunity to turn around a program and save their job for 2015.
Florida’s Will Muschamp sports a 22-16 record after three years with the Gators, but last season’s 4-8 record isn’t sitting well in Gainesville. Fixing the offense was the top priority for Muschamp this spring, and former Duke assistant Kurt Roper is tasked with finding the right answers. Considering Florida recruits at an elite level, there’s too much talent on the roster to be finishing 4-8. Another losing season would certainly spell the end of Muschamp's tenure with the Gators.
Virginia’s Mike London and Illinois’ Tim Beckman rank behind Muschamp as the other top coaches on the hot seat. London has one winning record in four years at Virginia, while Beckman has one Big Ten victory in two seasons.
The 2014 season is still months away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about which jobs might come open in December. Here’s a look at the top 10 coaches on the hot seat for 2014, as well as some reasoning on why or why not they should be feeling the heat this year.
College Football’s Coach on the Hot Seat Rankings: Spring Practice Edition
1. Will Muschamp
Record at Florida: 22-16 (3 years)
Career Record: 22-16 (3 years)
Why he should be on the hot seat: At a program like Florida, losing seasons simply shouldn’t happen. The Gators have averaged a 5.6 finish nationally over the last five recruiting classes, yet have only 30 wins during that span. Florida’s SEC record is also a disappointing 17-15 from 2010-14. Muschamp may have inherited some roster problems from Urban Meyer, but he has four classes of his players heading into the 2014 season. Although Muschamp guided Florida to 11 wins in 2012, his other two seasons resulted in just 11 total victories. Also, the offense has been an ongoing concern. The Gators averaged an underwhelming 4.7 yards per play in SEC games last year.
Why he shouldn’t be on the hot seat: Although Florida underachieved last year, this program is just one year removed from a Sugar Bowl appearance. Muschamp seemed to have things trending in the right direction, but injuries and a woeful offense were just too much to overcome. With the addition of Kurt Roper and Mike Summers to the offensive staff, the Gators should show improvement in 2014. As mentioned above, recruiting certainly isn’t an issue for Muschamp. And with a full offseason for all of the injuries to heal, Florida could be the most improved team in the SEC in 2014.
2. Mike London
Record at Virginia: 18-31 (4 years)
Career Record: 42-36 (6 years)
Why he should be on the hot seat: London was a promising hire for Virginia after recording 24 wins in two seasons at Richmond. He also guided the Spiders to a FCS Championship in 2008. However, he has yet to fulfill that promise with the Cavaliers. London has just 18 wins on his resume in Charlottesville and eight of those victories came in 2011. After a 2-10 record last year, London needs to show significant progress to return in 2015.
Why he shouldn’t be on the hot seat: Recruiting. If any number suggests Virginia could turn things around in 2014, the recruiting rankings are the one to look at. The Cavaliers have four straight classes ranked inside of the top 35, which places this roster as the No. 6 group in the ACC. Also, success at Virginia hasn’t been easy to come by since George Welsh left in 2000. The Cavaliers have only six winning seasons in the last 13 years. Perhaps this job is tougher than some believe?
3. Tim Beckman
Record at Illinois: 6-18 (2 years)
Career Record: 27-34 (5 years)
Why he should be on the hot seat: After a solid 21-16 stint at Toledo, Beckman has just one Big Ten victory in two seasons at Illinois. And that one conference win was over a Purdue team that was 1-11 and among the worst BCS teams in the nation last season. Prior to Beckman's arrival, the Fighting Illini won seven games in back-to-back years. Although progress was notable on offense last year, Illinois’ defense regressed from 2012 and allowed a whopping 506.3 yards per game in Big Ten action. Illinois isn’t one of the Big Ten’s elite jobs, but this program should be going to bowl games on a consistent basis.
Why he shouldn’t be on the hot seat: The Fighting Illini made a two-game improvement in the win column last year, and there’s hope the offense can pickup where it left off with Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt at quarterback. And with eight starters back on defense, it's reasonable to expect improvement on that side of the ball.
4. Charlie Weis, Kansas
Record at Kansas: 4-20 (2 years)
Career Record: 39-47 (7 years)
Why he should be on the hot seat: Weis was a surprising hire by Kansas. In five years at Notre Dame, he guided the Fighting Irish to a disappointing 35-27 record and went 16-21 in his final three years in South Bend. Weis’ tenure at Kansas hasn’t fared much better. The Jayhawks are 4-20 overall and six losses last year were by at least 20 points. Although Weis seems to have upgraded the overall talent level, it’s not showing on the field.
Why he shouldn’t be on the hot seat: Kansas snapped a 27-game Big 12 losing streak last year and improved its win total by two games in Weis’ second year. Yes, it’s small, but at least there was some progress. Also, Kansas isn’t the easiest place to coach. The Jayhawks have only five bowl appearances since 1995, and prior to Weis’ arrival, only one of the last 11 coaches finished their tenure with a winning record.
5. Norm Chow
Record at Hawaii: 4-20 (2 years)
Career Record: 4-20 (2 years)
Why he should be on the hot seat: Hawaii is coming off its first back-to-back losing seasons since 1997-98. Even though this is not an easy job, the Warriors have played in seven bowl games since 2000. With the recent success in mind, winning four games in two years is underachieving at a place like Hawaii.
Why he shouldn’t be on the hot seat: As mentioned above, despite the success of June Jones, this is not an easy job. Chow is also making a significant switch in schemes, changing Hawaii from a wide-open passing offense to more of a pro-style approach. Clearly, a big change in schemes does take time to recruit to. If there’s any coach who understands what it takes to win at Hawaii, Chow would be the perfect pick. He’s a Hawaii native and began his coaching career in the state’s high school ranks. The Warriors won only game last season but lost five games by seven points or less.
6. Ron Turner, FIU
Record at FIU: 1-11 (1 year)
Career Record: 1-11 (1 year)
Why he should be on the hot seat: Turner was an unpopular pick to replace Mario Cristobal at FIU. And after one season, there’s not much to suggest he can lead the Panthers into Conference USA title contention. FIU went 1-11 last year, which was its worst record since 2007. The Panthers were largely uncompetitive in 2013, losing to FCS opponent Bethune-Cookman and scoring only 10 touchdowns in eight Conference USA games.
Why he shouldn’t be on the hot seat: Turner deserves a little time to rebuild FIU’s roster. Only five starters returned last year, and the experience gained by the young players in 2013 could pay off in 2014.
7. Dana Holgorsen
Record at West Virginia: 21-17 (3 years)
Career Record: 21-17 (3 years)
Why he should be on the hot seat: Since a 10-3 debut in 2011, Holgorsen is just 11-14 in his last two years. West Virginia’s Big 12 record regressed from 2012 to 2013, and the Mountaineers missed out on a bowl for the first time since 2001. Also, West Virginia had an inexcusable loss to a bad Kansas team last year. Although Holgorsen is regarded for his background on offense, West Virginia’s defense has allowed at least six yards per play over the last two years. Can he find the right answers in 2014?
Why he shouldn’t be on the hot seat: Transitioning from the Big East to the Big 12 was supposed to be easy. However, as some of the other programs that changed conferences (TCU and Utah) have showed, it’s not as easy as it seems. West Virginia needs a little time to get acclimated to its new surroundings, and Holgorsen must improve the talent level to compete consistently with Texas, Oklahoma and now Baylor. Last year’s 4-8 record was a disappointment, but the Mountaineers lost two games in overtime and had to replace three of the top offensive performers in school history. Also, a rash of injuries prevented the defense from taking a step forward.
8. Kyle Flood
Record at Rutgers: 15-11 (2 years)
Career Record: 15-11 (2 years)
Why he should be on the hot seat: Rutgers is moving from the American Athletic Conference to the Big Ten in 2014. The Scarlet Knights are in a division that features Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State, so there’s little margin for error each season. Although Flood has 15 victories through his first two years, Rutgers went just 6-7 in the American Athletic Conference in 2013. In a tougher conference, Flood has to prove he is capable of elevating the program. Recruiting has regressed under Flood, as the Scarlet Knights have ranked outside of the top 40 in back-to-back years.
Why he shouldn’t be on the hot seat: Flood took steps in the right direction this offseason, hiring former Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen to coordinate the offense, while making other staff changes after a 6-7 record. As with any program changing conferences, the move to the Big Ten will take some time to adjust. Would changing head coaches really improve a team that is predicted by most to finish sixth or seventh in the East in 2014?
9. Bo Pelini
Record at Nebraska: 58-24 (6 full years)
Career Record: 58-24 (6 full years)
Why he should be on the hot seat: At programs like Nebraska, coaches are expected to win big. Pelini has won at least nine games in each of his six seasons, but he does not have a BCS bowl appearance and has yet to win a conference title. Is Nebraska a tougher job than it was in the 1990s? Perhaps. Pelini also had an up-and-down year off-the-field in 2013. Comments made about the fanbase from 2011 surfaced, and he was reprimanded for his comments about officials after losing to Iowa last season.
Why he shouldn’t be on the hot seat: Although Pelini has yet to win a conference title, winning 58 games in six years is a solid tenure. And Nebraska has finished in the final Associated Press poll for five consecutive years. Although the move from the Big 12 to the Big Ten wasn’t a drastic switch, an adjustment period was expected. With three full seasons under their belt, the Cornhuskers should be acclimated to their new surroundings, allowing Pelini a chance to take this program to the next level.
10. Brady Hoke
Record at Michigan: 26-13 (3 years)
Career Record: 73-63 (11 years)
Why he should be on the hot seat: After winning 11 games in 2011, Hoke’s win total has regressed in each of the last two years. Michigan was barely over .500 in 2013, and the offense finished 10th in the Big Ten in total yards per game. According to the recruiting rankings, the Wolverines have the No. 2 roster in the Big Ten. So why is this team just 9-7 in conference play over the last two years?
Why he shouldn’t be on the hot seat: Remember 2011? Michigan went 11-2 and claimed a Sugar Bowl victory over Virginia Tech. That isn’t the only highlight on Hoke’s resume, as he guided Ball State to a 12-1 mark in 2008 and San Diego State to a 9-4 record in 2010. It’s not easy to win at programs like Ball State and San Diego State, so Hoke was clearly doing something right. There’s no question last year’s 7-6 mark was a huge disappointment. However, the Wolverines lost four regular season games by four points or less. With a stockpile of young talent, Michigan could turn those close losses into wins in 2014.
Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
Johnson set the bar high by winning 19 games through his first two seasons (2008-09). But over the last four years, the Yellow Jackets are 28-25 overall. Johnson is considered a sharp X’s and O’s coach and has never finished under .500 in ACC play. Georgia Tech ranks as the No. 9 job in the ACC, yet only two teams (Florida State and Virginia Tech) have played for the ACC Championship more times since 2005. Despite the success, there is plenty of unrest about the program among the fanbase. 2014 will be an important year for Johnson’s long-term future at Georgia Tech.
Bill Blankenship, Tulsa
Blankenship picked up where Todd Graham left off and guided Tulsa to 19 wins in his first two years. However, the Golden Hurricane dramatically regressed last season, winning three games and was outgained by 70.5 yards per game in Conference USA play. Blankenship lost several key performers going into last season, so some regression from the 11-win campaign in 2012 was expected. But with Tulsa moving to the American Athletic Conference, the competition is only going to increase. Blankenship needs to prove the Golden Hurricane is headed back in the right direction in 2014.
Dan Enos, Central Michigan
After back-to-back 3-9 records to start his tenure, Enos is 13-12 over the last two years. However, soft late-season schedules helped to pad the win total, and Central Michigan has largely been uncompetitive against Ball State, Northern Illinois and Toledo – arguably the top three teams in the MAC West heading into 2014.
Kyle Whittingham, Utah
Whittingham isn’t in any danger of being fired, and it’s hard to place him on any hot seat list as the Utes are making a difficult transition from the Mountain West to the Pac-12. Quarterback injuries have impacted the offense in each of the last three years, which has hindered this program’s ability to compete in the Pac-12. However, after winning four conference games in 2011, the Utes are just 5-13 over the last two years. Again, it’s too early to place Whittingham on the hot seat. However, the gap between Arizona State, Arizona, USC and UCLA seems to be growing over Utah. Showing progress in 2014 will be important for Whittingham’s long-term outlook in Salt Lake City.
Kevin Wilson, Indiana
Indiana is one of the toughest jobs in the Big Ten. Wilson has made considerable progress over the last three years, and the Hoosiers just missed out on a bowl in 2013. Although Indiana has one of the conference’s top offenses, the defense has ranked last in yards allowed (conference-only games) for three consecutive years. Fixing the defense has to be a priority for Wilson, especially in a tough division that features Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Ohio State.