Setting the Expectations for College Football's Second-Year Coaches

Can Bielema deliver a SEC win in 2014?

Predicting the success of college football coaches on a year-to-year basis is nearly impossible. There’s a baseline of results and history to use, along with a program track record, but good coaches can raise the profile of a team in a short amount of time. Need evidence? How about James Franklin at Vanderbilt?


The group of first-year coaches in 2013 had a successful debut, starting with Gus Malzahn at Auburn and continuing through the rest of the FBS with Boston College’s Steve Addazio, Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury and Wisconsin’s Gary Andersen.

But as the calendar flips to 2014, what are the reasonable expectations for coaches in their second year on the job? Let’s take a look at last season’s grade and explore what a reasonable expectation should be for these second-year coaches.




Steve Addazio, Boston College


2013 Record: 7-6 (4-4)


First Season Grade: A


2014 Expectation: 6-6


Addazio and the Eagles exceeded preseason expectations last season, finishing 7-6 and ending a two-year postseason drought with an appearance in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl. Despite the quick turnaround last year, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Boston College took a small step back in 2014. Several key players have expired their eligibility, including standout running back Andre Williams. The ground attack should be fine with Myles Willis and a solid offensive line leading the way, but quarterback Tyler Murphy has to play better than he did in his limited stint at Florida last season. With only nine returning starters, a successful season at Chestnut Hill would be another trip to a bowl game, with an eye on bigger things in 2015.


Scott Shafer, Syracuse


2013 Record: 7-6 (4-4)


First Season Grade: A


2014 Expectation: 8-4/7-5


After winning four out of their last six games in 2013, the Orange has momentum entering 2014. The schedule certainly isn’t easy, but non-conference games against Notre Dame and Maryland are winnable, and quarterback Terrel Hunt should be comfortable in his second year under center. Replacing defensive tackle Jay Bromley is Shafer’s biggest concern, especially on a defense that allowed 40 or more points in four out of the six losses. Beating Florida State or Clemson for one of the top two spots in the Atlantic Division is out of reach, but another bowl trip and a one or two-game improvement in regular season record should be expected.


Dave Doeren, NC State


2013 Record: 3-9 (0-8)


First Season Grade: C


2014 Expectation: 5-7/6-6


Last season’s 3-9 mark was a surprise for a program that won 24 games in the previous three years. However, Dave Doeren’s first year was marked by uncertainty at quarterback, largely due to a foot injury suffered by Brandon Mitchell in the opener against Louisiana Tech. The quarterback concerns in Raleigh should be eased by the arrival of Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett, and the junior will have talent to work with at the skill positions. After averaging only 22.8 points per game last year, expect significant improvement on offense for NC State in 2014. Most of the roster is underclassmen, so this isn’t a team built to win big next season. With four winnable non-conference games to open the year, combined with home ACC swing games against Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Boston College, a bowl game is a very realistic goal for Doeren in Year 2.


Big 12


Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech


2013 Record: 8-5 (5-4)


First Season Grade: B


2014 Expectation: 8-4


If Texas Tech’s final record in 2014 is 8-4, it would represent only a one-game improvement from last year’s 7-5 mark in the regular season. However, it’s tough to envision a significant jump for the Red Raiders in Kingsbury’s second year. But even if Texas Tech finishes 7-5, the future is bright in Lubbock for a program that is on the rise. Quarterback Davis Webb is a breakout candidate for 2014, and there’s talent at skill positions even with tight end Jace Amaro and receiver Eric Ward leaving. Offense shouldn’t be a problem, but the defense returns only three starters and new faces must emerge on the line and in the secondary. The middle of the Big 12 is open, and there’s room for a dark horse like Texas Tech to make the jump into a No. 5 finish in the conference. A small step forward should be anticipated, with even bigger things set to come in 2015.


Big Ten


Darrell Hazell, Purdue


2013 Record: 1-11 (0-8)


First Season Grade: D


2014 Expectation: 3-9/4-8


Hazell inherited a rebuilding project, but the Boilermakers struggled to be competitive in Big Ten games last year, and its 1-11 mark was the worst since a 1-10 record under Jim Colletto in 1993. Hazell needs time to rebuild, so another losing mark wouldn’t be a surprise in 2014 or 2015. With 12 returning starters, combined with the development of quarterback Danny Etling, the Boilermakers should be more competitive in the Big Ten. However, victories in conference play will be tough to come by, as Michigan State and a road trip to Indiana are the crossover games with the East Division, while potential swing matchups against Minnesota and Illinois are on the road.


Gary Andersen, Wisconsin


2013 Record: 9-4 (6-2)


First Season Grade: A


2014 Expectation: 10-2


Andersen was considered one of the top coaching hires of the 2013 carousel, and the former Utah State coach didn’t disappoint in his first year in Madison. The Badgers lost four games by 10 points or less, including a bizarre last-minute defeat to Arizona State. Even though Wisconsin’s front seven must be revamped on defense, and star receiver Jared Abbrederis has expired his eligibility, expectations are high in Madison. The Badgers have a favorable schedule, including a home date against Nebraska and no Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan or Penn State in crossover play. Sure, there are personnel concerns. However, the schedule is too favorable to finish 8-4 or 7-5.




Mark Helfrich, Oregon


2013 Record: 11-2 (7-2)


First Season Grade: B


2014 Expectation: Pac-12 title and a spot in CFB’s Playoff

Oregon has all of the necessary pieces to contend for a national championship in 2014. Quarterback Marcus Mariota is the biggest challenger to Florida State’s Jameis Winston for the Heisman, and the Ducks are three deep with options at running back. The defense will be under the direction of a new coordinator (Don Pellum), but five starters are back, including senior cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and talented defensive linemen DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead. With Mariota likely headed to the NFL after 2014, Oregon has another window of opportunity to play for the national championship.


Mike MacIntyre, Colorado


2013 Record: 4-8 (1-8)


First Season Grade: B


2014 Expectation: 4-8


Colorado won only one Pac-12 game last season, but there was clear improvement in Boulder. And if you need reinforcement of that, other Pac-12 coaches anonymously praised MacIntyre for the job he did last year. But as the 2014 season approaches, it’s easy to see why Colorado is probably a year away from contending for a bowl. The Buffaloes catch Oregon and Washington in crossover play with the North and must replace standout receiver Paul Richardson. Sophomore quarterback Sefo Liufau is promising, and the depth on defense is getting better. An upset or two wouldn’t be a surprise in Pac-12 games. However, a 4-8 final record with a more competitive team in conference action is very likely for MacIntyre.  


Sonny Dykes, California


2013 Record: 1-11 (0-9)


First Season Grade: D


2014 Expectation: 3-9


Thanks to a rash of injuries, new schemes on both sides of the ball, and a freshman quarterback, California slumped to a 1-11 mark in Dykes’ first year. While last year was brutal, there’s only one way to go - up - in 2014. California’s schedule is challenging, so drastic improvement in the win column is unlikely. But the Golden Bears are healthier, and the depth has improved due to the return of a few injured players on defense. Assuming Goff takes a step forward under center, California’s offense could average 30-35 points per game. Just being more competitive in conference play would be a step forward (and a victory) for Dykes in 2014.




Bret Bielema, Arkansas


2013 Record: 3-9 (0-8)


First Season Grade: C


2014 Expectation: 4-8


Bielema’s debut wasn’t easy, as the Razorbacks went winless in conference play for the first time as a member of the SEC. Expectations were low in Fayetteville last season, but Arkansas lost its first six conference games by 10 or more points, including a 52-0 defeat at the hands of Alabama and a 52-7 loss to South Carolina. There were small signs of progress by the end of 2013, as the Razorbacks lost in overtime to Mississippi State and lost by four points at LSU. Bielema didn’t inherit much on the roster, so it will take time to rebuild. With one of the SEC’s top backfields, a promising sophomore tight end in Hunter Henry and two potential All-SEC linemen in Trey Flowers and Darius Philon, Arkansas should be more competitive in 2014.  And a healthy year from quarterback Brandon Allen should help the offense improve after averaging only 20.7 points per game last season. After going winless in SEC play in 2013, a conference victory would be a reasonable expectation.


Butch Jones, Tennessee


2013 Record: 5-7 (2-6)


First Season Grade: B


2014 Expectation: 6-6


Considering the success of Tennessee in the 1990s, it seems odd to consider a 6-6 or 7-5 mark as a good year on Rocky Top. But that’s exactly the situation Jones finds himself in as the Volunteers are clearly in rebuild mode. Nine starters return from a Tennessee team that finished 5-7 last year and lost four out of its final five games. The Volunteers suffered massive personnel losses on the offensive and defensive lines, and both units could see a handful of freshmen taking major snaps. The personnel concerns are heavy, but the schedule is an even bigger hurdle. Tennessee plays Utah State and Oklahoma in non-conference play and catches Ole Miss and Alabama in crossover play. Just getting to a bowl would be a good season for Jones in Year 2.


Gus Malzahn, Auburn


2013 Record: 12-2 (7-1)


First Season Grade: A


2014 Expectation: CFB Playoff


Malzahn set the bar high last season. The Tigers reached the national championship game after a 3-9 record under Gene Chizik in 2012 and lost to Florida State by only three points. Auburn certainly had good fortune on its side in 2013, using a returned missed field goal for a touchdown to beat Alabama, along with a tipped Hail Mary pass for a score to defeat Georgia. While the good fortune certainly helped, this team was certainly worthy of its No. 2 rank at the end of the season. A year after reaching the national title, Auburn’s goal is simple: Win it all in 2014. With 12 starters back, expect Malzahn’s team to be in the thick of the playoff race all season. One potential pitfall for the Tigers will be the lines of scrimmage, especially after injuries to end Carl Lawson and guard Alex Kozan. The schedule is challenging, but Auburn has the offensive firepower to win the SEC once again.


Mark Stoops, Kentucky


2013 Record: 2-10 (0-8)


First Season Grade: C


2014 Expectation: 4-8


Stoops is not an easy coach to grade, and an incomplete might be more appropriate than a C rating from 2013. The former Florida State defensive coordinator didn’t inherit much to work with, and the Wildcats finished winless in SEC play for the second consecutive year. But despite the 2-10 record, there are plenty of positives in Lexington headed into 2014. Stoops has upgraded the roster talent through recruiting, and a good chunk of the team’s core is set to return in 2015. Small gains in the win column should be expected. And don’t be surprised if Kentucky finds a way to steal a victory in SEC play.

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