By the time the college football season is ready to kick off, we will have you fully prepared at BangTheBook.com. In this particular article, we’ll be taking a look at the new Power Five head coaches in FBS for the 2019 season. It was an offseason with a substantial amount of turnover, as 27 of the 130 FBS teams have a new leader of the program.
The head coach role in college football is so unique because of the additional responsibilities outside of game day when it comes to being the face of the program and also a recruiter. You want to consider the total package when handicapping these head coaches. That includes understanding how the program will change, from offensive and defensive schemes to recruiting and coordinator hires.
It has a dramatic impact on everything surrounding a university. Sure, for our purposes, we mostly want to know how those guys will fare on game day, but getting players to buy in and getting players to attend that university or college is also part of the battle.
For your sake, we’ll split these new hires into Power Five and Group of Five (which can be found here), which means that we’ll have two separate articles. This is a look at the new Power Five conference head coaches (listed alphabetically by program):
Mel Tucker (Colorado) – Mel Tucker spent a decade in the NFL before coming back to the college ranks. He coached at Alabama and Georgia, two of the most talent-rich programs in college football. Now he’s at Colorado. Boulder is a beautiful place, but it’s not an easy sell for a college football player. Maybe Tucker was able to be the deciding factor for a five-star deciding between elite universities. Can he get 2* and 3* kids to pick Boulder over other Pac-12 or Mountain West schools?
Tucker’s new OC, Jay Johnson, was the quality control analyst for Georgia. He was formerly the OC at Louisiana-Lafayette and at Minnesota. Everything about these hires seems iffy. It’s not hard to recruit at Alabama or Georgia and it’s not all that difficult to be on the coaching staff either. It’s not the same with the Buffaloes.
Outlook: The Buffaloes have holdover talent from last year, so any strides on defense may be enough to reach respectability and one of the 200 bowl games. Looking out at the horizon, Colorado may be in a tough spot again in a year or two. They may be competent this season, but I don’t have high hopes down the line.
Geoff Collins (Georgia Tech) – This is easily the most interesting hire of them all. For the first time since 2007, the Yellow Jackets will run something other than the triple option. That head coach was Chan Gailey. The Yellow Jackets have a team recruited to run the option, so that will be Collins’s first big assignment.
Of course, not running the option can have a significant recruiting windfall, especially in Georgia, where there are tons of great high school football players. Collins also has deep ties to the Sunshine State as the defensive coordinator at Florida and has SEC roots at Mississippi State.
Outlook: This is a really strong hire. Year 1 has the potential to be very ugly, as a marginal defense is likely to get exposed without a ball control offense and, well, the offense has to undergo a massive overhaul. But, Collins is a strong recruiter and a more traditional style of play opens his program up to different kinds of players. Collins is also a Georgia native, which doesn’t hurt.
Les Miles (Kansas) – The Mad Hatter is back! This is a fun hire. Will it pay off? I don’t know, but Kansas football has been a laughingstock since Mark Mangino was done in Lawrence, so what difference does it make? Miles is almost playing with house money here. He’s not a long-term hire at 65 years old, so the hope is that he can warm the seat up for somebody else in a few years time.
He can afford to be aggressive. He can afford to take risks. Whether or not he has the talent to see that those risks pay off remains to be seen. Right now, he doesn’t. He stopped taking risks at LSU in hopes of saving his job and not squandering elite recruiting classes. Kansas won’t sniff anything like what LSU was able to pull in.
Outlook: Miles is not set up for success, as Kansas has fewer scholarships than other Big 12 schools and he’s up against it with a program that hasn’t won four games since 2009. At least he might make Kansas football fun? From a betting standpoint, I’d still stay away from this team.
Chris Klieman (Kansas State) – Much like his predecessor and mentor, Chris Klieman finds himself in a tough place to recruit. Former North Dakota State head coach Craig Bohl took the Wyoming job and he’s had varying levels of success. Klieman finds himself in Manhattan, Kansas, with a program that expects to be competitive and often has to scour the JUCO landscape for talent.
He replaces a College Football Hall of Famer (and Underdog ATS assassin) Bill Snyder, but Snyder’s time was coming to an end and some of the things that were coming out about the program were concerning. Klieman almost has a blank slate here, but he enters a situation with more stability than most new coaches.
Outlook: The hire of Scottie Hazelton from Wyoming was a coup for Klieman. If you play defense, you can hang in the Big 12. There will be a transition for both Klieman and the program, but this was a pretty safe hire to get a proven winner. K-State should be competitive and also an under team.
Scott Satterfield (Louisville) – Louisville gets a lot of talent, but it feels like the Cardinals have struggled to live up to expectations. Bobby Petrino’s second stint ended with a whimper, as the Cardinals quit on him and themselves and won three games in the first year without Lamar Jackson. Satterfield was a solid recruiter at Appalachian State, but he’s in an ocean filled with sharks now, as Kentucky falls in Big Ten, ACC, SEC, and Conference USA territory.
His first task will be to clean up the program and get everybody to buy in. His second task will be to fix a roster that got outscored by nearly 300 points last season.
Outlook: Bleak. The Cardinals were 0-8 in ACC play and 2-10 overall. Satterfield is a tremendous hire, but this will take time.
Mike Locksley (Maryland) – DJ Durkin never really worked out at Maryland and the tragic death of Jordan McNair will forever be his legacy. Mike Locksley comes in after serving under Lord Nick Saban. Locksley recruiting area was this part of the country, so he’s very familiar with the D.C. and Baltimore areas.
This is his second try after winning two of 28 games at New Mexico. Locksley, who once punched an assistant coach on the sideline, will be under an interrogation light right away with an angry, sad, and disappointed fan base. The deck is already stacked against him and his one data point as a head coach doesn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence.
Outlook: This wasn’t the most attractive job this past winter with the fan base and the administration under fire for the McNair tragedy and subsequent fallout. Locksley would have taken a chance anywhere. There’s some measure of talent here, and better health fortunes would benefit all coaches, since Maryland seems to go through four QBs every year. This just doesn’t feel like it’s going to work out, even with a low bar in the Big Ten East.
Manny Diaz (Miami FL) – What a weird winter for Manny Diaz. Diaz signed on the dotted line to take Geoff Collins’s old post at Temple, but then the Miami job opened up when Mark Richt abruptly retired. Diaz’s resume takes up 10 pages in Google Docs with all of his previous coaching stops, but none of them read “Head Coach”. For a program like Miami, a program that has been dragged down by a lack of offensive prowess, this feels like an uninspired hire.
The road back to being a head coach for Dan Enos goes through Miami. If he can maximize the talent in Florida and put together an offense that can complement the annually-strong Hurricanes defense, then maybe this can all work out.
Outlook: Diaz is a Miami native, a good recruiter, and a top-notch defensive coach, but defense hasn’t been the problem in Coral Gables. If Enos isn’t the right guy, the program will be in limbo for a few more seasons and that’s not good enough with this level of talent. I’m cautiously optimistic, but also publicly pessimistic, if that makes sense.
Mack Brown (North Carolina) – There were definitely some head-scratching hires this offseason. Perhaps none more than this one. With a lot of capable coordinators and up-and-coming head coaches, UNC went to Mack Brown, who hasn’t coached at the FBS level since 2013. The program isn’t in bad shape talent-wise after Larry Fedora’s tenure, but you really have to wonder if the old dog has any new tricks at 68 years old.
Fedora was plagued by inconsistency, injury, and academic scandal. What challenges will Brown face? For starters, recruiting seems like a stretch for a 68-year-old stuck around programs like Clemson, South Carolina, NC State, and even Wake Forest with Dave Clawson’s recruiting prowess.
Outlook: Here’s the thing, though. Brown is more of a figurehead. Offensive coordinator Phil Longo is installing a “Don’t Blink” offense and defense coordinator Jay Bateman was hired away from Army, so he’s a disciplinarian that has been outstanding in the DC role. Be careful overvaluing what Brown means in Chapel Hill.
Matt Wells (Texas Tech) – I’m not entirely sure I get this hire. The Red Raiders want to improve on the defensive side of the ball, which is what Wells did an excellent job with at Utah State until the offense caught up last season. Kliff Kingsbury was a pretty face and an average coach, but defensive coordinator David Gibbs did have the defense going in the right direction.
Wells is a wait-and-see hire. He doesn’t have a lot of ties to Texas, which doesn’t help for recruiting. My worry here is that Texas Tech won’t be able to outscore teams and won’t be able to play good enough defense to win conference games, as Wells only had the one-year aberration on offense in Logan.
Outlook: Maybe this hire works out better than expected, but I’m not real keen on Wells in the Big 12 or in this particular location. I’d be looking for a tough season.
Neal Brown (West Virginia) – Dana Holgorsen saw the writing on the wall in Morgantown. With Will Grier and a bevy of offensive weapons gone, it was a good time to get out. He’ll be the highest-paid Group of Five coach at Houston. Brown took Troy to heights that the program had never seen before, including its first top 25 ranking and three straight double-digit winning seasons.
It isn’t a bad thing that Brown enters in a transitional year from a personnel standpoint. He’ll get a pass for this season and then be able to make a big leap in Year 2 with his recruits and his schemes entrenched in Appalachia.
Outlook: A transitional first year should lead to quick success in Year 2 and Year 3 with a great recruiter that has ties all over the country from Texas to Kentucky to Alabama and places in between. Just don’t expect much this season, at least not early on.