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Evaluating College Football Head Coaching Changes: Part 4


Photo: L.G. Patterson, AP

Today we wrap up our college football heading coaching analysis (see part 1, part 2 and part 3) with the remainder of the non-power 5 conference first-year hires.

Josh Heupel – UFC
Grade: B-

UCF may have be the most desirable of all of the non-power 5 openings but it won’t be easy following what former head coach Scott Frost was able to accomplish in such a short about of time. Heupel, a former quarterback who held OC gigs at Oklahoma, Utah State, and Missouri, inherits a wealth of offensive talent including one of the best quarterbacks in the country in McKenzie Milton. But I do have some concerns. Most notably, I thought UCF should have brought in someone with head coaching experience. Obviously Frost came in under similar circumstances having served as Oregon’s OC but the program is light years ahead of where it was just a few years ago when expectations were minimal. Heupel not only will be expected to win immediately but continue the program’s trajectory and do so having zero defensive coaching experience and an offensive system totally different than what they ran under Frost. UCF’s overall talent is unmatched in the AAC and transfers from power 5 schools are starting to pile up leaving little issue with depth. That means plenty of wins but it won’t be nearly as smooth sailing as it was for Frost (10 wins by double-digits) last season.

Mike Bloomgren – Rice
Grade: C+

On paper, Bloomgren looks like a great fit having spent seven years as an offensive coach at Stanford, who like Rice, emphasizes academics. But given how little Bloomgren has to work with and how difficult it is to recruit at Rice, this is a huge undertaking. I’ll admit I’m a bit biased about the hire because former head coach David Bailiff was such a good earner — due to his predictability — during his 11-year tenure. But Bloomgren inherits little returning talent and with no ties to Texas, has zero momentum in the recruiting game. Also a concern is Bloomgren’s inability to develop quarterbacks. Despite working with stellar offensive linemen and running backs, Stanford hasn’t produced an above average quarterback since Andrew Luck left in 2011. At Rice, he’ll attempt to install a pro-style system with no clear cut starting quarterback and an offensive line with only 33 career starts. Rice was patient with Bailiff — he posted only one winning season his first five years. I imagine they’ll take the same approach with Bloomgren but his profile (young, zero Texas ties) suggests he’ll jump ship if given the chance. But before he starts to update his resume, he must try to compete with one of the worst rosters in the country.

Sonny Dykes – SMU
Grade: C-

My least favorite hire behind Tennessee’s Jeremy Pruitt and Arizona State’s Herm Edwards. Dykes has been around the block and some and throughout his many jobs earned the reputation of being an offensive guru. The problem is Dykes’ sexy offenses haven’t resulted in much success outside of putting points on the board. He’s 41-46 as a head coach and delivered only two profitable seasons during his seven years at Louisiana Tech and California. Yes, it was a tough spot taking over for Chad Morris who bolted to Arkansas prior to SMU’s bowl game. But with Dykes in charge, the Mustangs, who were -3.5 chalk and playing a virtual home game, got steamrolled by a very mediocre Louisiana Tech squad 51-10. Not a good start. Unlike Morris, Dykes doesn’t have to deal with a total rebuild. He inherits 16 returning starters and a stud quarterback in Ben Hicks. And Dykes also should be able to maintain a decent recruiting level. But Dykes has shown little ability to produce anything beyond high scoring offenses. His defenses are notoriously abysmal and he pays little attention to special teams. I would have loved to see another hungry assistant with Texas ties take over. Nevertheless, at least we know what we’re getting with Dykes.

That will wrap up the analysis of our 2018 college football coaching hires. First-year coaches can offer tremendous betting potential and this year’s group is no exception. My ability to accurately read coaches and the current state of their programs has and will continue to be a big part of my handicap. Thanks for reading!

Read all four installments evaluating new hires for the 2018 college football season:
Part 1: Power Conference Coaching Changes
Part 2: Power Conference New Hires (continued)
Part 3: Mid-Major Coaching Changes

Eddie Walls

Specializes in small conference games and finds value in both sides and totals. Professional gambler who always gets the best of the numbers. Can give you a full strength and weakness report on all 130 college football teams, coaches, coordinators and players over a large sample size.