College Football Betting: Eddie Walls Grades 2020’s Head Coaching Hires Part I
For college football bettors, the offseason is where the real work begins. The training grounds of February through August are restless times for me. The studying of new coaches, the constant shifting of transfer portals, and the expanding universe of assistants is never ending.
This offseason has featured some of the wildest head coaching hires I can recall in quite some time. We now have the Air Raid in the SEC and bully ball invading the PAC-12 and Mountain West. More defense and less offense seems to be the trend with a majority of these hires. Athletic directors have decided to either go for broke or make the safest of all hires possible with very little in between.
I’ve graded each head coaching hire from best to worst. Today marks part one of a three-part series.
New Mexico Lobos – Danny Gonzales A+
How the Lobos convinced Gonzales to return to his alma mater for less money than he was making as Arizona State’s defensive coordinator just two months ago is incredible. A rising star that I believe in a couple of years could have handpicked a job at a much better school went out his first day on campus and recruited Rocky Long to serve as defensive coordinator. Yeah, that will work. Overall, Gonzales was a home run hire even if it only lasts a couple of seasons. Recruiting the area and appealing to his hometown gives the Lobos a boost as well.
USF Bulls – Jeff Scott A
We knew someone would eventually start stealing the Clemson staff away from Dabo Swinney. Scott made a calculated jump. The expectation levels of UCF are down after Charlie Strong dismantled the program in just three years. Scott has returning talent and it will not take much to see a turnaround on offense (112th nationally in total offense in 2019). Good fit all the way around.
Fresno State Bulldogs – Kalen DeBoer A
Two years removed from serving as offensive coordinator for a 10-win FSU squad, DeBoer returns to a program that took a rebuild year in 2019 and finds poised to rebound nicely in 2020. DeBoer has coached at the NAIA ranks all the way to the Big Ten where he served as Indiana’s offensive coordinator. More importantly, he has proven able to succeed in different systems and work well with different coaching philosophies. DeBoer has also had success as a recruiter. The only concern is if he wins quickly, he might exit just as quickly for a Power 5 job.
Washington Huskies – Chris Lake A
It’s not flashy but if your best staff member the last three years is also your best recruiter and he can keep all of the kids on a 9-win team from transferring after a rebuilding season, it’s a solid hire. If Lake makes the right offensive coordinator hire and can recruit offense as well as he has defense, don’t be surprised if the program avoids a drop off.
Boston College Eagles – Jeff Hafley A
I was rather shocked that Boston College was able to convince a big time defensive coordinator who really had his pick of jobs over the next year or two to come to a program with so little in the terms of good news or upside. Hafley (Ohio State co-DC in 2019) didn’t just take the job and start camp. He hired two NFL coordinators, convinced three Big Ten starters to transfer in, and out-recruited former head coach Steve Addazio’s last season in the span of only three weeks. Regardless of first year results, this was a home run of a get for the Eagles.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights – Greg Schiano B+
I don’t quite understand the love Rutgers has for Schiano. But paying him $4 million per year, and then for him to steal Oklahoma State’s impressive young offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson, and then sign the 64th-ranked recruiting class with limited time shows me that Rutgers is desperate to win. Schiano, after being passed on for big time jobs the last few years, is possibly just as desperate.
Florida State Seminoles – Mike Norvell B+
The Seminoles made arguably the smartest hire in college football for short term success. They lacked offense and excitement in unspeakable ways over the last few seasons. Thanks to above average recruiting on the defensive side of the ball, FSU was able to remain bowl eligible (barely) in a down ACC. Win or lose they’ll change that narrative with Norvell who is exceptional at aggressive offensive play calling and finding a run game even with a lack of dynamic playmakers. The Seminoles haven’t ranked in the top 50 in rushing yards per game since 2016. If he can recruit, they should become a force again.
UNLV Rebels – Marcus Arroyo B
This was a safe hire. It looks great on paper as Arroyo was an accomplished play caller at Oregon. He can also recruit his butt off and overall offers upside as a first-time head coach who inherits an NFL stadium and a lot of new found enthusiasm within the program. The coordinator hires, however, were questionable and Arroyo has zero experience coaching defense which is one of the program’s many weak spots. It might take two or three years to see dividends pay off. Does he have a leash that long? Tony Sanchez got five seasons and never reached a bowl.
Follow Eddie on Twitter @walls_edwards.