By Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch on Twitter)
As expected, the 22 new coaches from 2010 provided a mixed bag of success last season. Charlie Strong, Jimbo Fisher and Brian Kelly were some of the top first-year coaches. Strong had a solid debut at Louisville and should have the Cardinals in contention for a Big East title in the next couple of seasons. Fisher has Florida State in the national title picture once again, while the Irish looked poised for a return into the top 10 this season. While Fisher, Strong and Kelly posted winning years, Larry Porter, Rob Ianello and Bobby Hauck finished on other end of the spectrum. Porter, Ianello and Hauck combined to earn only four wins last season and face an uphill battle for success in 2011.
Here's Athlon's take on how the new coaches from 2010 ranked in terms of performance:
1. Charlie Strong, Louisville Cardinals - The Cards showed dramatic improvement on both sides of the ball — offensive production was up by more than 30 yards per game, and the defense allowed 60 fewer yards per game. In addition, five of Louisville’s six losses came by eight points or less.
A Strong Start at Louisville
2. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State Seminoles- The Seminoles increased their win total by three games thanks in large part to a defense that jumped 66 spots in the national rankings in yards allowed per game (108th to 42nd).
3. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame Fighting Irish - It wasn’t the smoothest ride, but the Fighting Irish won eight games — the most for Notre Dame since 2006 — and capped the season with a dominating 33–17 win over Miami in the Sun Bowl.
4. Willie Taggart, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers - The Hilltoppers were far more competitive under Taggart’s watch. They were outscored by an average of 19.2 points per game en route to an 0–12 record in ’09; the scoring differential dropped to 10.3 point per game last fall.
5. Skip Holtz, South Florida Bulls- The Bulls closed strong, winning five of their final seven games, highlighted by overtime wins at Louisville and Miami and a victory over Clemson in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
6. Derek Dooley, Tennessee Volunteers - There were some egregious substitution errors — 13 men on the field vs. LSU just to name one — but Dooley squeezed six wins out of one of the least talented Tennessee teams in decades.
7. Mike London, Virginia Cavaliers - The Cavs’ win total is a bit misleading — they beat two FCS teams and FBS bottom-feeder Eastern Michigan — but London is changing the culture at Virginia and has done a tremendous job on the recruiting trail.
8. Lane Kiffin, USC Trojans - The Trojans lost three games by four points or less but beat only two teams that played in bowl games (Hawaii and Arizona). The offense improved, but the defense was horrid, allowing over 400 yards per game.
9. Sonny Dykes, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs - Dykes was one of only four new coaches whose team improved its record in conference play. The Bulldogs’ four WAC victims went a combined 6–26 in league play.
10. Todd Berry, Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks - The Warhawks’ season could have been much better — they lost one game by one point and another in overtime — or much worse — they won three games by five points or less.
11. Joker Phillips, Kentucky Wildcats - The Cats won one fewer game but were far more entertaining with Phillips as the boss. Kentucky’s offense improved from 331.5 yards per game in ’09 to 427.9 in ’10.
12. Ruffin McNeill, East Carolina Pirates - With only six starters back from the 2009 Conference USA championship team, the Pirates were expected to take a step back — which they did. But East Carolina was fun to watch in 2010; the Pirates averaged 437.6 yards and 36.8 points per game.
13. Doc Holliday, Marshall Thundering Herd - The Thundering Herd came oh-so-close to their first-ever win over West Virginia — they blew a 21–6 lead in the fourth quarter — and closed strong, winning four of their final five games.
14. Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech Red Raiders - The Red Raiders did some good things — three wins over bowl teams in the regular season — but they won two fewer Big 12 games and took several steps backward on defense. They gave up 52 points in a 14-point loss at Iowa State, and 45 points to both Texas A&M and Oklahoma.
15. Butch Jones, Cincinnati Bearcats - Yes, the Bearcats did lose quarterback Tony Pike from the 2009 Big East championship club, but it’s hard to give a coach high marks when his team’s win total dips by eight games. Cincinnati went 4–8 overall and slumped to 2–5 in the Big East.
16. Dan Enos, Central Michigan Chippewas - Enos didn’t have the luxury of coaching Dan LeFevour, but the Chips did return four starters on the offensive line. Yet, their scoring offense dipped from 13th in the nation to 82nd — and their win total plummeted from 12 to three.
17. Turner Gill, Kansas Jayhawks - There were some good moments, like the upset over Georgia Tech and the 28-point fourth-quarter comeback vs. Colorado, but don’t forget about the 6–3 loss to North Dakota State and the five defeats by 28 points or more.
18. Jeff Quinn, Buffalo Bulls - The Bulls beat only one FBS team (Bowling Green) and were outscored by an average of 13.7 points per game. In ’09, Buffalo knocked off four FBS foes and outscored its opponents for the season.
19. Mike MacIntyre, San Jose State Spartans - The Spartans played better down the stretch — four of their final five losses came by seven points or less — but they finished the season ranked 115th in scoring offense and 105th in scoring defense.
20. Bobby Hauck, UNLV Rebels - The Rebs did manage to win two Mountain West games, but they were alarmingly uncompetitive in their 11 losses. The average margin of defeat was 30.7 points, and the closest loss was by 15 points.
21. Rob Ianello, Akron Zips - The Zips lost their first 11 games before beating Buffalo in the season finale. They ranked 90th or worse in all but one of the 17 major statistical categories maintained by the NCAA.
22. Larry Porter, Memphis Tigers - The Tigers’ 2010 season was a trainwreck. They ranked 119th in the nation in scoring offense and 117th in scoring defense, and lost their final eight games by an average of 30.6 points.
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