Grading College Football's Head Coach Hires for 2017

Tom Herman ranks as the No. 1 coaching hire for 2017.

College football’s 2016-17 coaching carousel featured 21 changes and several big-time hires. Texas (Tom Herman), Minnesota (P.J. Fleck), Oregon (Willie Taggart) and Purdue (Jeff Brohm) were just a few of the biggest winners from this year’s cycle. While no hire can be judged accurately prior to the first game or even after the completion of a full season, this year’s cycle didn’t produce any bad moves by the 21 programs changing coaches. On the lower end of the rankings, San Jose State (Brent Brennan), Georgia State (Shawn Elliott) and Nevada (Jay Norvell) each seemed to hire a coach that’s a good fit at the program.


Here’s a look at how Athlon Sports views, grades and ranks the 21 new coaches for 2017:  


Grading College Football's New Coaching Hires for 2017

1. Tom Herman, Texas

Previous Job: Houston Head Coach

Career Record: 22-4 (Houston 2015-16)


Texas has slipped from the ranks of a national power in recent years, but the program found the right coach to get it back on track. Herman arrives in Austin after compiling a 22–4 record in two years at Houston. The Cougars went 13–1, claimed the American Athletic Conference title and earned a Peach Bowl trip in Herman’s first year. Injuries derailed Houston’s hopes of another AAC title in 2016, but the Cougars still finished 9¬–3 with victories over Power 5 opponents Louisville and Oklahoma. The successful stint at Houston was just another step in Herman’s fast rise through the coaching ranks. The California native has several ties to the state of Texas from stops as an assistant at Texas Lutheran, Sam Houston State, Texas State and Rice. Herman also worked as Iowa State’s offensive coordinator for two years (2009-11) and called the plays for Ohio State from 2012-14. Additionally, Herman was hired as a graduate assistant under Mack Brown at Texas from 1999-2000. While Texas has recorded three consecutive losing seasons, Herman isn’t stepping into a complete rebuilding job. He has the right demeanor to handle the off-field responsibilities at Texas — including forming relationships with the state’s high school coaches — and he runs a style that meshes well with many of the state’s prospects. The Longhorns have a wealth of promising young talent and return 17 starters for 2017. Herman is the right hire at the right time for Texas. He will win big in Austin.


Final Grade: A+


Related: College Football's Early Top 25 for 2017


2. P.J. Fleck, Minnesota

Previous Job: Western Michigan Head Coach

Career Record: 30-22 (2013-16 Western Michigan)


After a successful four-year stint at Western Michigan, Fleck is taking his “Row the Boat” mantra to the Big Ten. Under Fleck’s direction, the Broncos reached new heights in 2016. Western Michigan finished 13–1, No. 15 in the final Associated Press poll and earned the program’s first trip to a New Year’s Six Bowl (Cotton). The 2016 season was the culmination of a relatively swift rebuild in Kalamazoo. The Broncos went 1–11 in 2013 but finished with 8–5 records in each of the next two seasons. Fleck is regarded for his work on the recruiting trail, and the Broncos inked the MAC’s best class from 2014-16. In addition to his time at Western Michigan, Fleck worked as a graduate assistant at Ohio State (2006) under Jim Tressel, spent three years at his alma mater Northern Illinois (2007-09), worked under Greg Schiano at Rutgers (2010-11) and spent a year in the NFL with the Buccaneers (2012). The Big Ten’s West Division provides an easier path to compete than the East. Fleck should increase the school’s recruiting profile and has already proven that he can be the CEO of a program. The energetic 36-year-old coach is a great fit at Minnesota.


Final Grade: A


3. Willie Taggart, Oregon

Previous Job: USF Head Coach

Career Record: 40-45 (2010-12 WKU, 2013-16 USF)


Armed with standout facilities, the backing of Nike and a young cast of talent, it shouldn’t take long for Taggart to rebuild at Oregon. That’s a significant change from his first two opportunities to be a head coach. At WKU, Taggart returned to his alma mater and inherited a program struggling to transition to the FBS level and was coming off a winless 2009 campaign. After a 2–10 mark in his debut, Taggart guided WKU to back-to-back 7–5 seasons, which included the program’s first bowl bid in 2012. Taggart left for USF prior to the 2013 season, which was a natural fit for the Bradenton, Fla., native. The Bulls struggled through Taggart’s first two years (6–18) but went 18–7 the next two seasons — largely due to the development of the team’s up-tempo “Gulf Coast Offense.” While most of Taggart’s coaching experience is from WKU, he also spent three years (2007-09) as a running backs coach at Stanford under Jim Harbaugh. Adapting to Taggart’s style on offense should be a relatively seamless transition for the Ducks, and the addition of Jim Leavitt as defensive coordinator should provide an immediate spark for that side of the ball. As evidenced by his track record, Taggart is a program builder. But considering what’s already in place in Eugene, it won’t take long for Oregon return to national prominence.


Final Grade: A-


Related: College Football's Early Top 50 Players Returning in 2017


4. Jeff Brohm, Purdue

Previous Job: WKU Head Coach

Career Record: 30-10 (2014-16 WKU)


Joe Tiller took Purdue to 10 bowl games in his 12 seasons (1997-2008), but the program has since slipped to the bottom of the Big Ten food chain. The Boilermakers have just two bowl trips since 2009 and only one winning record during that span. Additionally, Purdue has won a total of three Big Ten games in the last three seasons. There is, however, finally some hope — thanks to the arrival of one of the top young coaches in the country. In three years at WKU, Brohm guided the Hilltoppers to 30 wins and back-to-back Conference USA titles. Brohm is one of the nation’s top offensive mind; WKU is the only team at the FBS level to average at least 40 points per game in each of the last three years. Prior to taking over as the Hilltoppers’ head coach, Brohm worked under Bobby Petrino for one season at WKU (2013) and four seasons at Louisville (2003-06). He called the plays at UAB in 2012 and also had a stint at Illinois (2010-11). Purdue increased his financial commitment to make this hire and has recently announced facility improvements. That’s a winning formula. 


Final Grade: A-


5. Matt Rhule, Baylor

Previous Job: Temple Head Coach

Career Record: 28-23 (2013-16 Temple)


Considering most of Rhule’s coaching experience came on the East Coast, it’s a bit of a surprise he landed at Baylor — a program trying to pick up the pieces from a major scandal. Rhule does lack natural ties to the state, but he’s a proven head coach and is off to a good start after salvaging a recruiting class that featured only one commitment in early December. After a 2–10 record in his first year at Temple, Rhule guided the Owls to three consecutive non-losing seasons. Temple went 6–6 in 2014 but finished 20–7 over the last two years, including a 10–3 regular-season mark in 2016 highlighted by an American Athletic Conference title. Rhule was a former linebacker at Penn State, so it’s no surprise Temple ranked as one of the top teams in the AAC on defense. But he also is well versed in offense, as he spent three seasons as Temple’s offensive coordinator from 2008-11 and worked for one season as an assistant offensive line coach with the Giants in ‘12. Attrition hit Baylor’s 2016 signing class hard after Art Briles was dismissed, so it may take a year or two for Rhule and his staff to rebuild the roster.


Final Grade: A-


Related: Ranking College Football's Rosters for 2017


6. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma

Previous Job: Oklahoma Offensive Coordinator

Career Record: 0-0


Riley is the newest and youngest FBS head coach after the surprising decision by Bob Stoops to retire in early June. Stoops was one of college football’s top coaches during his stint in Norman and leaves big shoes to fill in 2017 and beyond. However, Riley is a rising star in the coaching ranks and is poised to pick up where Stoops left off. The Texas native started his coaching career as an assistant under Mike Leach at Texas Tech in 2003, moving up through the ranks to receivers coach in 2007. He followed Ruffin McNeill to East Carolina as the offensive coordinator in 2010 and remained with the Pirates until 2015. Under Riley’s watch, East Carolina averaged at least 30 points a game in four out of his five seasons as the offensive coordinator. At Oklahoma, the Sooners found an extra gear on offense with Riley at the controls. Oklahoma averaged over 40 points a game in back-to-back years (2015-16) and led the conference by posting 7.5 yards per play last fall. Riley has no previous head coaching experience, but he’s surrounded by a veteran staff and inherits a team capable of contending for a CFB Playoff berth in 2017. Growing pains by a first-year coach are inevitable. However, Riley has the background, potential and dynamic play-calling ability on offense to keep Oklahoma near the top of the Big 12. The transition from Stoops to Riley (especially as he retains play-calling duties this fall) should be relatively seamless in 2017. 


Final Grade: A-


7. Charlie Strong, USF

Previous Job: Texas Head Coach

Career Record: 53-37 (2009 Florida interim head coach, 2010-13 Louisville, 2014-16 Texas)


Strong inherited rebuilding projects at his last two head coaching stops (Louisville and Texas), but that’s not the case at USF. With 16 returning starters — including dynamic quarterback Quinton Flowers — the Bulls should be one of the top Group of 5 teams in the nation in 2017. Strong’s stop at Texas ended in disappointing fashion, but the Arkansas native is returning to familiar territory. He spent more than 10 years as an assistant coach at Florida, including a stint as the team’s defensive coordinator from 2003-09. Strong was hired at Louisville after the Cardinals suffered through three disappointing seasons under Steve Kragthorpe. U of L showed marked improvement in Strong’s first season, finishing 7–6 in 2010, followed by another 7–6 campaign in ‘11 and an 11–2 mark in ‘12. Strong left Louisville for Texas but never managed to put all of the pieces in place in Austin. The Longhorns did not post a winning mark in any of Strong’s three seasons and declined to a 3–6 record in Big 12 play in 2016. Additionally, Strong’s side of the ball — the defense — regressed over his three years in Austin. While Strong’s performance in Austin can’t be ignored, USF seems to be a much better fit. It would be a surprise if he doesn’t enjoy success in Tampa.


Final Grade: A-


8. Mike Sanford, WKU

Previous Job: Notre Dame Offensive Coordinator

Career Record: 0-0


WKU has nailed its last three coaching hires — Willie Taggart, Bobby Petrino and Jeff Brohm — and there’s little reason to believe Sanford won’t follow the same path as the last three coaches to roam the sidelines in Bowling Green. At 35 years old, Sanford will be college football’s youngest head coach in 2017. Despite his youth, he has an impressive résumé that includes stops at UNLV (2005-06), Stanford (2007-08, ‘11-13), Yale (2009), Boise State (2014) and Notre Dame (2015-16). Sanford also worked for one year in 2010 under Willie Taggart at WKU and held the offensive coordinator tag at Notre Dame for the last two seasons. A young, up-and-coming coach with a background on offense? Sanford sure seems like a home-run hire for the Hilltoppers.


Final Grade: A-


9. Lane Kiffin, FAU

Previous Job: Alabama Offensive Coordinator

Career Record: 28-15 (2009 Tennessee, 2010-13 USC)


Kiffin to FAU is the most polarizing hire of the 2016-17 coaching carousel. The 41-year-old arrives in Boca Raton after a successful three-year stint under Nick Saban at Alabama. Under Kiffin’s direction, the Crimson Tide’s offense transformed from a pro-style attack to more of a no-huddle or spread approach and ranked near the top of the SEC in all three seasons. The stint in Tuscaloosa helped Kiffin rebuild his image after an early dismissal at USC and a memorable (for the wrong reasons) exit from Tennessee following the 2009 campaign. Kiffin was fired by former USC athletic director Pat Haden following the fifth game of the 2013 season, ending his tenure in Los Angeles with a 28–15 mark. NCAA sanctions hurt USC’s depth and overall talent, but Kiffin was just 10–8 over his last 18 games. He went 7–6 in his only season at Tennessee, with three of those losses coming by 10 points or less, including a two-point defeat to eventual national champion Alabama. While Kiffin has had previous experience as a head coach and knows how to develop an offense, he also comes with plenty of baggage. Can Kiffin avoid some of the mistakes from his previous jobs? If so, FAU will be a contender in Conference USA in the near future.


Final Grade: B+


Related: College Football's Top 15 Teams on the Rise for 2017


10. Randy Edsall, UConn

Previous Job: Detroit Lions Director of Research – Special Projects

Career Record: 96-104 (1999-2010 UConn, 2011-15 Maryland)


Six years after leaving UConn for Maryland, Edsall is returning to Storrs. Edsall is the winningest coach in program history after recording 74 victories from 1999-2010. He inherited a program transitioning to the FBS level in 1999 and guided the Huskies to a bowl trip in 2004 — their first year in the Big East. UConn later earned four consecutive bowl bids from 2007-10, won the 2010 Big East title and played in the Fiesta Bowl that season. Edsall’s tenure at Maryland got off to a rocky start with a 6–18 record through the first two years. The Terrapins showed modest improvement, winning seven games in each of the next two seasons, but he was fired after a 2–4 start to the 2015 season. While Edsall may not be the most exciting hire, he’s a proven coach, has a good eye for finding talent and should provide stability for a program that won just 11 games in three years under previous coach Bob Diaco.


Final Grade: B


11. Ed Orgeron, LSU

Previous Job: LSU Interim Coach

Career Record: 22-29 (2005-07 Ole Miss, 2013 USC, 2016 LSU)


The term “dream job” is tossed around by a lot of coaches, but it’s an accurate description for Orgeron at LSU. After going 10–25 at Ole Miss from 2005-07, Orgeron is getting a second chance in the SEC. Once known for his gruff and aggressive demeanor, the Louisiana native seems to have mellowed a bit since his first stint in the SEC. Orgeron replaced Lane Kiffin early in the 2013 season at USC and went 6–2 as the program’s interim coach. However, he was not retained by Steve Sarkisian and spent 2014 out of football. Orgeron was hired by Les Miles at LSU in 2015 and was promoted to the top spot after Miles was fired in late September. Orgeron guided the Tigers to a 6–2 record over the last eight games, with the two losses coming against the SEC’s division champs — Alabama and Florida. Miles was frequently criticized for the performance of the offense. Under Orgeron’s watch, things improved; the Tigers averaged 32 points during the final x games, though there was one very costly snafu late in the loss to Florida. There’s no question Orgeron knows how to recruit, but attracting talent hasn’t been a problem for LSU. He will have to prove he can win at a high level at a program that is just 25–15 in SEC play over the last four years. Trading Miles for Orgeron and new offensive coordinator Matt Canada seems like a positive step forward for LSU — but is it enough to catch Alabama?


Final Grade: B


Related: SEC's Best Players Returning from Injury in 2017


12. Tom Allen, Indiana

Previous Job: Indiana Defensive Coordinator

Career Record: 0-1 (2016 Foster Farms Bowl)


Indiana athletic director Fred Glass didn’t have to look far for a replacement for Kevin Wilson. The Hoosiers parted ways with their former head coach in early December after allegations of player mistreatment surfaced. Allen was hired following the 2015 season to coordinate Indiana’s defense and made a significant impact in his first year with the Hoosiers. Defense has been a weak link for Indiana in recent seasons, but Allen’s group allowed 27.2 points per game — a significant decrease from the 37.6 mark in 2015. Allen is no stranger to the Hoosier State, as he’s an Indiana native who earned his master’s degree from IU in 2002. Allen worked under Hugh Freeze at Arkansas State in 2011 and again at Ole Miss from ‘12-14. He coordinated USF’s defense under Willie Taggart in 2015 and helped the unit take a step forward. The 2017 season will be Allen’s first as a head coach at the FBS level and his first in this role since 2006 at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis. Allen seems to be a solid hire, but Indiana will have a tough time taking a step forward in the rugged Big Ten East.


Final Grade: B-


13. Geoff Collins, Temple

Previous Job: Florida Defensive Coordinator

Career Record: 0-0


Few programs have changed their outlook as much as Temple has in recent years. After 18 consecutive losing seasons from 1991-2008, the Owls have played in four bowl games since 2009 and have posted only two losing marks during that span. The last three hires by this program – Al Golden, Steve Addazio and Matt Rhule – left the program for Power 5 jobs. Temple hopes it continue its upward trend with Collins taking over following Rhule’s departure to Baylor. Collins has been considered a rising star in the assistant ranks over the last 10 years, including stops at UCF, FIU, Mississippi State and Florida. Collins also worked for one season in an off-field role at Alabama in 2007. In six years as a defensive coordinator in the SEC, Collins’ defenses never allowed more than 25 points per game on average and his 2016 unit at Florida ranked third in the SEC. In addition to his standout defenses, Collins is known for his aggressive mentality, garnering the nickname “Minister of Mayhem.” He’s also regarded as a good recruiter. The only concern about this hire is Collins’ lack of head coaching experience, and he’s spent most of his career in the Southeast.


Final Grade: B-


14. Luke Fickell, Cincinnati

Previous Job: Ohio State Defensive Coordinator

Career Record: 6-7 (Ohio State interim head coach in 2011)


Not many coaching hires in the 2016-17 cycle have a better match in geography than Cincinnati and Fickell. The state of Ohio is where Fickell has spent nearly his entire life, including a playing career at Ohio State from 1993-96, a stint as Akron’s defensive line coach from 2000-01 and as a coach — in various roles — with the Buckeyes from 2002-16. He served as the Buckeyes interim head coach in 2011 after Jim Tressel resigned due to an NCAA investigation and guided the team to a 6–7 record. While he was not hired as the full-time coach, Urban Meyer retained him in a co-defensive coordinator role prior to the 2012 season. In addition to his lifetime ties to Ohio, Fickell is regarded as a good recruiter and should connect well with the state’s high school coaches. Considering all of the NCAA turmoil surrounding Ohio State in 2011, it’s tough to read too much into the six-win season. However, the 6–7 record was the Buckeyes’ first losing mark since 1988. 


Final Grade: B-


Related: College Football's Top 20 Impact JUCO Transfer QBs for 2017


15. Butch Davis, FIU

Previous Job: ESPN analyst

Career Record: 79-43 (1995-2000 Miami, 2007-10 North Carolina)


It’s a homecoming of sorts for Davis, as he returns to the sidelines six years after his firing at North Carolina in 2010. The Oklahoma native has ties to the state of Florida from a stint as Miami’s defensive line coach (1984-88) and again as the program’s head coach from 1995-2000. Under Davis’ watch, the Hurricanes overcame significant NCAA sanctions to finish 51–20, highlighted by a No. 2 ranking in 2000. Davis left Miami for the NFL prior to the 2001 season and guided the Browns for four years, recording a 24¬–35 mark in that span with one playoff trip. After spending two seasons out of coaching, Davis was hired as North Carolina’s head coach. The Tar Heels showed steady progress in his tenure, finishing 28–23 with three consecutive bowl trips. However, Davis was fired after an investigation into academic misconduct and improper benefits with the program. Davis was never penalized by the NCAA but has not worked on the collegiate level since his departure from Chapel Hill. FIU is a program with potential, and Davis’ previous success in the area, along with recruiting ties to the state should help the Panthers take a step forward in Conference USA.


Final Grade: B-


16. Justin Wilcox, California

Previous Job: Wisconsin Defensive Coordinator

Career Record: 0-0


California was the last school to make a coaching change in the 2016-17 carousel, firing Sonny Dykes in early January and replacing him with Wilcox x weeks later. Wilcox, an Oregon native, is no stranger to life in the Pac-12. He played at Oregon under Mike Bellotti from 1996-99 and later worked as an assistant coach at California (2003-05), Washington (2012-13) and USC (2014-15). In addition to his Pac-12 stops, Wilcox spent time at Boise State (2006-09), Tennessee (2010-11) and Wisconsin (2016). Wilcox has worked as a defensive coordinator every season since 2006, and his ‘16 defense at Wisconsin finished fourth nationally by limiting opponents to just 15.6 points per game. Wilcox does not have any previous head coaching experience, but he has surrounded himself with an excellent staff, which includes former Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter (defensive coordinator) and Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin (offensive coordinator). California has not finished higher than eighth in the Pac-12 in scoring defense since 2011. Wilcox should help improve that side of the ball, while the arrival of Baldwin will keep California near the top of the Pac-12 on offense.


Final Grade: B-


17. Major Applewhite, Houston

Previous Job: Houston Offensive Coordinator

Career Record: 0-1 (2016 Las Vegas Bowl)


Applewhite was promoted to head coach after Tom Herman left for Texas. The Louisiana native should ensure a seamless transition from the Herman era after spending the last two years as the program’s offensive coordinator. Under Applewhite’s direction (and some help from Herman), Houston finished No. 10 nationally in scoring offense in 2015 and No. 26 in ‘16. In addition to his stint as Houston’s pla -caller, Applewhite worked at Texas under Mack Brown from 2008-13, served as the offensive coordinator for Nick Saban at Alabama in 2007 and had one-year stops at Rice (2006) and Syracuse (2005). Applewhite’s debut in the Las Vegas Bowl did not go well, as Houston suffered a 34–10 loss to San Diego State. However, it’s tough to read too much into the one-game showcase. With standout lineman Ed Oliver and transfer quarterback Kyle Allen leading the way, Houston will be picked near the top of the American Athletic Conference. Keep in mind, however, that expectations are very high at Houston. Going 7-5 or 8-4 at Houston isn’t enough.


Final Grade: C+


Related: Early Top 50 Players Returning for 2017


18. Tim Lester, Western Michigan

Previous Job: Purdue QB Coach

Career Record: 0-0


P.J. Fleck guided Western Michigan’s program to new heights in 2016 with a trip to a New Year’s Six Bowl and a 13-win campaign. With Fleck off to Minnesota, it’s up to Lester to build off that momentum and keep the Broncos near the top of the MAC. Lester is well-equipped to handle this job, as he played quarterback in Kalamazoo from 1996-99 and threw for 11,299 yards and 89 touchdowns. Lester did not play in the NFL but bounced around in the XFL (2001) and Arena Football (2001-02) before going into coaching. In 2004, Lester went 7–4 as the head coach at Division II Saint Joseph’s, followed by a two-year stint as Western Michigan’s quarterback coach. He later worked at North Central College for one season, spent five years as the head coach at D-III Elmhurst and landed back at the FBS level for stops at Syracuse (2013-15) and Purdue (2016). Lester hasn’t worked as a head coach at the FBS level, but his record at Saint Joseph’s and Elmhurst is a respectable 40–23. With a background on offense, familiarity with the program and a solid foundation in place, Lester should be able to keep Western Michigan relevant in the MAC.


Final Grade: C+


19. Jeff Tedford, Fresno State

Previous Job: Washington Offensive Consultant

Career Record: 82-57 (California head coach 2002-12)


Fresno State enjoyed a considerable amount of success under Jim Sweeney (1980-96) and Pat Hill (1997-11), but this program slipped considerably after winning 20 games in Tim DeRuyter’s first two years (2012-13). Since winning 11 games in 2013, the Bulldogs have managed only 10 victories over the last three seasons (2014-16). Considering the talent in Fresno State’s recruiting territory, it won’t take long for his program to return to the top of the Mountain West. And the Bulldogs have a familiar face leading the way, as Tedford returns to the Valley. The California nave played at Fresno State from 1981-82 and later coached under Sweeney from 1992-97. Tedford had a four-year stint at Oregon (1998-2001) before his hire as California’s head coach in 2002. During Tedford’s 11-year run in Berkeley, the Golden Bears went 82–57 and earned seven consecutive bowl trips from 2003-09. However, California slipped at the end of Tedford’s tenure. Since his dismissal at California, Tedford has spent time with the Tampa Bay Bucs (offensive coordinator), British Columbia Lions (head coach) and the University of Washington (offensive consultant). With deep ties to the school, Tedford appears to be a good fit for Fresno State, though it will take time to rebuild the roster.


Final Grade: C+


20. Brent Brennan, San Jose State

Previous Job: Oregon State WR Coach

Career Record: 0-0


With only three bowl appearances since 1991, it’s no secret San Jose State is one of the Mountain West’s toughest jobs. But the Spartans are hoping to change their fortunes with a familiar face and a coach with extensive ties to the state of California taking over the program in 2017. Brennan is a California native and grew up in Redwood City, which is less than 30 miles from San Jose. He also played at UCLA from 1991-94 and later worked as an assistant at Cal Poly and at San Jose State under Dick Tomey (2005-09) and Mike MacIntyre (2010). Brennan left the Spartans to work under Mike Riley at Oregon State from 2011-14 and remained on staff as a receivers coach under Gary Andersen from 2015-16. Brennan is regarded as an excellent recruiter who developed several standouts at receiver during his career as an assistant. The lack of head coaching experience is the biggest concern about this hire.


Final Grade: C+


Related: Early Look at College Football's Top 25 Games for 2017


21. Jay Norvell, Nevada

Previous Job: Arizona State WR Coach

Career Record: 0-0


After a lengthy career as an assistant coach with stops in the college and NFL ranks, Norvell landed his first head coaching opportunity at Nevada at the age of 53. Norvell has gained valuable insight from some of college football’s top coaches, including Wisconsin’s Barry Alvarez (1989-94), Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops (2008-14) and under Iowa’s Hayden Fry as a player 1982-95 and a graduate assistant from 1986-87. While the experience is there, Norvell’s results as an assistant are a mixed bag. UCLA finished 92nd nationally when he worked as the offensive coordinator in 2007; Oklahoma’s offense improved following his departure in 2014; and Texas averaged just 25.3 points in Big 12 games after he took over as interim play caller in ‘15. Nevada does not have the same resources as some of its Mountain West counterparts but has still made 10 bowl games over the last 12 seasons. Surprisingly, Brian Polian was let go after taking Nevada to two bowl games in three years, and the division isn’t getting easier with recent improvement by UNLV and Hawaii. Norvell will be expected to win right away.


Final Grade: C+


22. Shawn Elliott, Georgia State

Previous Job: South Carolina OL Coach

Career Record: 1-5 (South Carolina interim head coach in 2015)


In just its fifth season at the FBS level, Georgia State is going through a significant transition. After sharing the Georgia Dome with the Atlanta Falcons, the Panthers will play their games in 2017 at a renovated Turner Field (now called Georgia State Stadium). And in addition to the new home field, Georgia State has a new coach. Elliott spent the last seven years at South Carolina and previously worked at Appalachian State from 1997-2009. The South Carolina native was hired as the Gamecocks’ offensive line coach in 2010 and remained in that role until ‘15, when he was promoted to interim head coach after Steve Spurrier’s retirement. Elliott guided the Gamecocks to a 1–5 mark to finish the 2015 season, with all five losses coming by 10 points or fewer. He was retained by Will Muschamp in 2016 and continued to coach the offensive line. Elliott’s offensive lines had their share of ups and downs during his tenure with the Gamecocks, but he was a solid assistant for a program that won at least nine games every year from 2010-13. He also worked under current Georgia State athletic director Charlie Cobb from 2005-09 at Appalachian State.


Final Grade: C+


(Tom Herman photo courtesy of, J.P. Fleck photo courtesy of @GopherFootball)

Event Date: 
Sunday, February 19, 2017 - 15:45

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