After a 2015 off-season that saw 14 G5 coaching changes, this off-season was expected to be much more quiet. Some of the big names would get their FBS opportunities, while the dregs of the G5 would consider making changes at the top. Instead, we are sitting at mid-December with 11 G5 programs under new leadership.
Some programs like Houston made in-house promotions, while other schools went for the more risky big splash candidate that is always looking for his next job (looking at you FAU). I posed the question to the Forgotten 5 staff, “Which G5 program made the best hire this off-season?” In some cases, I made an executive decision with two hires that were neck and neck in the rankings.
With that information, I present to you the Forgotten 5 rankings of the eleven head coaching jobs.
- Charlie Strong to South Florida: The hire was mentioned either first or second by every writer on the staff that answered the call. Strong was never a good fit at Texas and heads to a South Florida team that is stacked on both sides of the ball. As long as he brings in an offensive staff that can continue the offense ran under Taggart and company, I would expect Strong to turn USF into one of the better defenses in the nation. The Bulls are already one of the favorites to make a NY6 bowl next season.
- Luke Fickell to Cincinnati: Instead of making a sexy pick like Kiffin to FAU, the Bearcats went with a proven under the radar coordinator on one of best teams in the nation. Sure, you can say that Kiffin is a proven coordinator on one of the best teams in the nation, but Fickell’s dedication to the state of Ohio sets him apart. He is a Ohio guy that loves the state and couldn’t see himself taking over a program outside of Ohio. Maybe not a home run hire, but a stand up triple.
- Lane Kiffin to Florida Atlantic: FAU looked down and out as many of the big names on the board never even gave them a second thought. Kiffin, having already blown multiple head coaching chances, is a sexy but risky hire that will get people wanting to watch FAU football. Whether he stays long enough to turn FAU into a success is up for debate. Our FAU writer Ryan Lynch said it best. “Kiffin is gonna make the program great but break so many NCAA rules.”
- Mike Sanford to Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers have been on a head coaching roll lately with Willie Taggart, Bobby Petrino, and Jeff Brohm leaving for more “attractive” jobs. WKU knows what kind of coach they want and they go after that individual. Mike Sanford is one of the hottest up and coming coaches in the business and was not tarnished as much as the rest of the Notre Dame staff with their poor showing in 2016. He has coached at WKU and has been licking his chops at a chance to take over this program. Expect that ridiculous WKU offense to be just as explosive with Sanford in charge.
- Butch Davis to Florida International: Similar to FAU, the Panthers needed to make a splash. They definitely woke up the national media with the ingenious and stunning decision to go after Davis. This hire does come with a bit of risk as Davis turns the teams he coaches into winners, but he tends to leave programs with the NCAA ready to pounce for multiple rules infractions. Basically, if you want to see NCAA rules broken in Conference USA, head to Florida.
- Major Applewhite to Houston: I am still not sure what to think of this hire. It came out of nowhere and basically told star defensive coordinator Tony Orlando that his services were no longer needed. Applewhite inherits a Cougars program that has flourished in the last two years under Tom Herman after being a good but not great program in previous years. This job is the most pressurized job on the list as the administration has gone on record that 8-4 seasons are not good enough at Houston.
- Geoff Collins to Temple: While he was not their first choice to lead the program, Collins should work out well at Temple. He is a defensive guru that inherits a team that is very good on defense. He has to prove that he can get a staff together on the offensive side of the ball that can score on a much more regular basis with division mate South Florida expected to be a trendy pick as the top G5 program in 2017.
- Shawn Elliott to Georgia State: Our own esteemed site manager Nicolas Lewis said it best. “I might argue that Georgia State didn’t make a great hire, and probably STILL got more coach than they deserve.” Sun Belt guru and Arkansas State writer Jeremy Harper was not impressed either, “Don’t know why, but hiring an offensive line coach to become your head coach seems a little desperate for Georgia State.” I think that about sums it up.
- Jay Norvell to Nevada: This just seems like a change for change sake type of hire. Polian was not bad a Nevada, but he wasn’t good either. He was just kind of there. That is exactly the feeling that I had when hearing about this hire, no strong feelings and just a shrug of the shoulders before moving on. Note to Nevada administration: an effective hire elicits some sort of emotion.
- Brent Brennan to San Jose State: No offense to Brennan or the Spartan AD, but this hire is just flat-out dull. Firing Caragher was probably a good call, but hiring the wide receivers coach at Oregon State was the best you could do? For those that will mention Brennan’s ties to SJSU, he was the offensive coordinator from 2005-2010 with the team going 26-47 during that span and never averaging more than 24.9 points per game. His final two years leading the Spartan offense included 13.8 and 16.1 points per game and a 3-22 record.
- Jeff Tedford to Fresno State: Raise your hand if you knew that Tedford had been coaching at any point since being fired at California. Now lower your hand because you are a liar. Tedford just disappeared after his sting with Cal and has been bouncing around from the CFL to the Pac-12 and a stint in the NFL that included him never actually doing any coaching. There are questions whether Tedford can coach well or if he just had a great amount of talent that made him look more appealing than he really was at the time. Needless to say, this hire comes off as a desperate and sad look into what has become Fresno State football.