College Football's Top 10 Head Coaches on the Rise for 2013

Kliff Kingsbury is a rising star in the coaching ranks.

It seems every college football season has an active coaching carousel at the end of the year. Athletic directors are always looking for the next big thing, and there is no shortage of coaches looking to make the jump to a top-tier BCS program.

Earlier this offseason, Athlon ranked the top 20 coaches on the hot seat for 2013. There’s a good chance most of the coaches on that list won’t return for 2014. Which begs the question: Who could fill those voids? Or which coaches are the next big stars in college football? Toledo’s Matt Campbell, Ball State’s Pete Lembo, Memphis’ Justin Fuente and Louisiana-Lafayette’s Mark Hudspeth are just a few names that should be among the next group of rising coach stars in college football. A few years ago, names like Kevin Sumlin, Hugh Freeze or Mike MacIntyre would have made this list. Now, all three coaches are at BCS programs.

Although Kliff Kingsbury and Dave Doeren are taking over BCS programs, both coaches deserve a mention in this space. Kingsbury isn’t going to leave Texas Tech, but his experience as a coordinator and high-scoring offense should have the Red Raiders climbing the Big 12 food chain in the next couple of years. Doeren arrives in Raleigh after a 23-4 stint at Northern Illinois. Expect Doeren to elevate the Wolfpack after a 40-35 record under former coach Tom O’Brien. 

College Football's Top 10 Head Coaches on the Rise for 2013

Matt Campbell, Toledo
At 33 years old, Campbell is one of college football’s youngest coaches. The Ohio native was a solid player during his career at Mount Union and is on the fast track as a head coach. After spending time as an assistant with Mount Union, Bowling Green and at Toledo, Campbell was promoted to the top spot after Tim Beckman left for Illinois. The Rockets went 9-4 last season and three of their losses came by a touchdown or less. Toledo has a handful of players departing on defense, but the offense should remain one of the best in the MAC. The Rockets host defending MAC champion Northern Illinois in late November, so all of the pieces are in place for Toledo to win the conference title this year. Campbell should be one of the MAC’s top coaches in 2013 and beyond.

Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State
DeRuyter went 9-4 in his Fresno State debut and has the Bulldogs primed to contend for the Mountain West title in 2013. Prior to coming to Fresno State, DeRuyter served as a defensive coordinator at Texas A&M, Air Force, Nevada and Ohio. He was Texas A&M’s interim coach for the 2011 Meineke Car Care Bowl, which the Aggies defeated Northwestern 33-22. All signs point to DeRuyter being a home-run hire for Fresno State, but with the Bulldogs a potential top-25 team for 2013, he could receive interest from BCS programs this offseason.

Dave Doeren, NC State
NC State made one of the offseason’s top coaching moves by hiring Dave Doeren away from Northern Illinois. Although Tom O’Brien led the Wolfpack to four bowl games in five seasons, a 22-26 record in conference play wasn’t good enough. It’s tough to envision NC State consistently beating Clemson and Florida State, but the program can win more than it has the last few years. Doeren looks like the right coach to take NC State to the next level, as he comes to Raleigh after a 23-4 mark in two seasons with Northern Illinois. Although he inherited a good team from Jerry Kill, Doeren took the Huskies to new heights, including a berth in last season's Orange Bowl against Florida State. Prior to his two-year stint as Northern Illinois’ head coach, he served as a defensive coordinator at Wisconsin and Kansas and also spent time as a graduate assistant at USC. Doeren doesn’t have any experience in the ACC, so it may take some time to build connections on the recruiting trail. However, all signs point to Doeren’s hire being a home run for NC State. 

Related Content: Ranking the ACC Coaches for 2013

Justin Fuente, Memphis
Fuente inherited a mess when he arrived at Memphis. The Tigers were coming off a disastrous two-year stint under Larry Porter, which resulted in a 3-21 record. And under Fuente’s watch, the Tigers showed big improvement in 2012. Memphis went 4-8 last season, which included a three-game winning streak to finish the campaign. The Tigers lost three games by 10 points or less and got better as the season progressed. Before taking over at Memphis, Fuente spent five years as an assistant at TCU, including the last three as the co-offensive coordinator. With the move to the American Athletic Conference (new name of the former Big East), Fuente’s job will get a little tougher in 2013. Memphis doesn’t quite have the talent to push for a bowl game this year, but the Tigers will continue to take another step forward under Fuente’s watch in 2013.

Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana-Lafayette
If you are looking for college football’s next rising star in the non-BCS ranks to jump to a BCS job, look no further than Lafayette, La. Hudspeth has recorded back-to-back nine-win seasons and has two bowl victories since taking over the Ragin’ Cajuns. Before coming to Louisiana-Lafayette, Hudspeth went 66-21 and made five playoff appearances in seven years at North Alabama, a Division II member school. Hudspeth served as an assistant on Dan Mullen’s staff at Mississippi State from 2009-10 and spent one year as Navy’s offensive coordinator in 2001. As each of his two head coaching stops have shown, Hudspeth is a proven winner and is ready to jump to a BCS school in the next few years. And under Hudspeth’s direction, expect the Ragin’ Cajuns to win the Sun Belt conference title in 2013.

Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech
Kingsbury has been on a meteoric rise through the coaching ranks and lands his first head coaching job at his alma mater. The San Antonio native had a prolific career as a starting quarterback under Mike Leach from 2000-02, finishing his career with just under 12,000 passing yards. Following his collegiate career in Lubbock, Kingsbury had a short professional stint, playing for five different teams in five seasons. Kingsbury joined Kevin Sumlin’s staff at Houston in 2008 and worked his way through the ranks, before becoming the Cougars’ offensive coordinator and guiding quarterback Case Keenum to nearly 20,000 career passing yards. Kingsbury followed Kevin Sumlin to Texas A&M and produced a successful one-year stint as the offensive coordinator, which resulted in a Heisman Trophy winner (Johnny Manziel). Kingsbury is young and unproven as a head coach, but he is the perfect fit at Texas Tech. For a program that never really embraced Tommy Tuberville, the Red Raiders are in good hands with one of college football’s rising stars at head coach.

Related Content: Ranking the Big 12 Coaches for 2013

Pete Lembo, Ball State
Thanks to last season’s 9-4 record, Lembo now has an overall winning record at three different programs. In five years at Lehigh, Lembo won 44 games and led the Mountain Hawks to two playoff appearances. At his next stop, Lembo won 35 games at Elon and made one postseason appearance. Ball State showed big improvement in Lembo’s first season in 2011 and won nine games, with an appearance in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl in '12. Lembo should have the Cardinals in the mix for the MAC title in 2013 and as a sharp X’s and O’s coach, will be high on athletic director’s wish lists come December.

Trent Miles, Georgia State
The Panthers quietly made one of the offseason’s best hires by pulling Miles away from Indiana State. The Sycamores were 1-32 in the three years prior to Miles’ arrival but recorded a winning record in each of the last three seasons. Also, Indiana State was the only team to defeat FCS champion North Dakota State in 2012. Even though Miles’ overall record is just 20-36, he clearly improved Indiana State from one of the worst FCS programs to a top-25 team in his final year. Georgia State is another difficult job, as the Panthers transitioning from the FCS to the FBS level. However, the program is located in a good recruiting base (Atlanta) and should eventually be competitive in Sun Belt games. If Miles turns around Georgia State, he should expect to hear from BCS programs in the near future.

Willie Taggart, South Florida
After a three-year stint as Western Kentucky’s head coach, Taggart essentially returns home to take over the top spot at South Florida. Taggart went 16-20 during his three years with the Hilltoppers, including back-to-back seven-win seasons in 2011-12. The 14 victories during that stretch was the best two-year stint for Western Kentucky since 2004-05. Taggart played his high school ball at Manatee in Bradenton, Fla., which is just an hour outside of USF. The 36-year-old coach is clearly one of college football’s rising stars in the coaching ranks and should help the Bulls be one of the most-improved teams in the conference in 2013.

Related Content: Ranking the Big East Coaches for 2013

Matt Wells, Utah State
Gary Andersen did a tremendous job at Utah State, elevating the Aggies from a 4-8 program in his first season to an 11-2 team in 2012. Andersen left for Wisconsin in December, which promoted Utah State to promote Wells to the top spot. The Oklahoma native has deep ties to the program, as he played quarterback for the Aggies from 1993-96 and has served as an assistant under Andersen over the last two seasons. In his only season as Utah State’s offensive coordinator, the Aggies averaged 34.9 points a game and ranked 21st nationally in total offense. Wells has proven himself as an assistant and should keep Utah State near the top of the Mountain West in his first chance to be a head coach.

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