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Coaching Carousel Roundup: Quick Decisions Aren't Always Good Ones

A crazy week sees USC retain Clay Helton, Mark Richt to Coral Gables, and Kirby Smart to UGA.

Bob Diaco, trying to look like an actual Husky.
Bob Diaco, trying to look like an actual Husky.
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Jobs:

1.       USChires Clay Helton- First of all, congrats to Helton on getting this shot after his second interim coaching gig. That said, this was a pretty uninspiring way to fill the best job on the market - what did he do to actually earn the job? Helton should probably send a thank you card to Utah - the Trojans making the Pac-12 Championship game had more to do with the Utes falling apart down the stretch than USC's performance. The win over UCLA was nice, but going 5-2 (with a narrow victory at Colorado) is pretty Sark-like. Grade: C

2.       UGAhires Kirby Smart- The good news is that Georgia acted quickly with a coach in mind - I don't think there's any way they let Mark Richt go without signs Smart was coming. It doesn't worry me that he doesn't have head coaching experience, and the biggest question will be which direction Smart goes offensively. If your goal is to win the SEC Championship, you need to beat Nick Saban - does Smart stick with pro-style or go spread? Recruiting should not be a concern as the top program in a talent-rich state, and it likely helps that the in-state rival is running the triple option. Grade: B+

3.       Miamihires Mark Richt- A high upside job with an embarrassment of riches in local talent and the most historically successful program in the ACC Coastal. Mark Richt should be able to find early success, assuming he doesn't repeat past mistakes with staffing like hiring Brian Schottenheimer. The biggest questions were around administrative support and salary, but those were apparently answered. Mario Cristobal seemed like an obvious candidate but didn't apparently receive serious consideration. But Richt is as good as Miami could have hoped for, and will help clean up the program image. Grade: A

4.       Virginia Tech: hired Justin Fuente- Replacing Frank Beamer is no easy task, but Fuente was a strong hire. The Hokies were able to act quickly to get one of the brightest up-and-coming head coaches, and Fuente was able to convince Bud Foster to stay on as DC to complement his offensive expertise. The ACC Coastal has been a wide-open league, and Beamer built Virginia Tech into a football school, so Fuente should be set up for early success. Grade: A

5.       South Carolina: A big-time job with lots of $ and administrative support, but a challenging job in a program that's the fourth most successful in the SEC East, and with an in-state rival that's on fire in recent years. Supposedly looking at Will Muschamp, which is bizarre for a program that had a front seat for how we worked out as a head coach in the Gamecocks division.

6.       Missouri: Update: hired DC Barry Odom - See the other SEC East program in a Columbia above. Gary Pinkel won the SEC twice, and his predecessor will have an uphill battle to match that feat. The fruits of Tennessee's recruiting efforts are coming down the road, Florida's been early on their turnaround this year, and UGA should remain a top program. An offensive-minded coach seems somewhat likely after the struggles to score in 2015.

7.       Maryland: hired DJ Durkin- Welcome to the Big Ten! Your reward is competing with Jim Harbaugh, Urban Meyer, and Mark Dantonio every year. The Terps have not yet been able to pull of the "Oregon East" plan with Under Armour, but it's nice to have the assets to attempt it. The DC area has talent, but keeping it local has been a challenge, so the hire of an ace recruiter makes sense. Durkin has learned up Harbaugh and Meyer, and while I might have looked for an offensive mind with head coaching experience, I think this is a smart, measured move - they were never getting Chip Kelly. Grade: B+.

8.       UCF: hired Scott Frost- This is a secretly good job, maybe even better than Maryland. It's a better stepping stone to a major program - you can recruit Orlando, it's a giant school (over 60,000 students), and the Knights even have a major bowl appearance in their recent past. Frost's name has been floated for HC positions for the last few seasons, and it'll be one of the first real tests outside Eugene of Chip Kelly's offense. Grade: B+

9.       Illinois: stuck with Bill Cubit- The Illini looked around and basically said, "eh, we'll just stick with the guy we have". I guess if you really wanted you could rationalize hiring an interim coach given the competition this offseason, but Cubit's a 62 year-old that had been overseeing a struggling Illinois offense. Headline from SBN's Illinois Blog: "Illinois Doesn't Care About Football". The west division of the Big Ten is open for a big surge, as evidenced by undefeated Iowa, but is Cubit really going to bring in the talent to take advantage? Seems like Illinois punted and went with a low-risk, low-upside strategy. Grade: D

10.   Virginia: This is a scary job - little recent success, and recruiting ground where the elite talent has been poached by the SEC and Big Ten. Mike London actually was able to make a splash by convincing some five-star talent to stay in-state, but even with some high future NFL draft picks wasn't able to win consistently.

11.   Rutgers: Another mess, but the Scarlet Knights do have a secretly decent talent pipeline in New  Jersey. But between the Kyle Flood and Julie Hermann debacles, this athletic department is in shambles. Taking this job means figuring out a way to make bowl games and jump to a better destination while knowing you'll play at least 4 conference games a year against vastly superior talent at Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State.

12.   Syracuse: The Orange have been to just three bowl games in the past 11 seasons, and have recruited at the bottom of the ACC. Being in the Atlantic division of the conference with Clemson and Florida State isn't fun, and there's not a ton of local talent in upstate New York. It could be time to gamble on a high-risk / high-upside offensive mind.

13.   Iowa State: hired Matt Campbell- Recruiting to Ames isn't ever going to be ELITE, so the Cyclones needed a coach that excels in player development. Campbell is a nice, high-upside gamble - he succeeded at Toledo as the youngest coach in FBS. The timing isn't ideal with Iowa in the middle of its best season in years, but the bar for success should realistically set at being a 2nd tier Big 12 team, and that's doable. Grade: B+

The Candidates:

With big jobs off the board, definitely staying

Mike Gundy: Has come close to the BCS title game and had a decent run in the playoff conversation last year. Has T. Boone Pickens making it rain - why move?

Charlie Strong

Kyle Whittingham

Bryan Harsin: Doesn't seem like he's proven enough for a major job and is coming off a bad year, and geographically the openings don't match up.

Proven / Semi -Proven P5 HC's, who could move

Larry Fedora: His stock is super-hot! But UNC is fertile recruiting ground if you can convince kids to stay in-state - are open jobs any better?

Rich Rodriguez

Dan Mullen: Seemingly rumored for every coaching job in the SEC - is it time to jump ship with Dak Prescott graduating? Is he actually a very good coach?

Dana Holgorson

Sonny Dykes: Supposedly unhappy with his contract, would be an interesting hire for a program looking to make an offensive splash.

On the rise non-P5 HC's

Todd Herman: staying at Houston, a huge win for the Cougs.

PJ Fleck: One of the youngest head coaches in the land and a great recruiter, Fleck can probably bide his time and wait for the right job if he wants.

Dino Babers: Probably on the move this offseason, but where?

Todd Monken: Quietly doing good things at Southern Miss, where he's gone from 1-11 in his first year to 9-3 and playing for a conference title.

Bob Diaco: I know many people that would love if his next job was a stepping stone to a return to under the dome (and many people that would hate it).

Bob Stitt: someday this dream will come true and the internet will rejoice

Matt Rhule: Could be a candidate for the open jobs in the Northeast.

Jeff Brohm: Rising star at WKU - if he waits a year I think he gets consideration for a better job than those remaining now.

Rod Carey

Doc Holliday

Matt Wells: He's just 42 and has somewhat quietly put together three quality seasons at Utah State despite Chuckie Keeton getting injured every year.

Troy Calhoun

Coordinators that could make a leap

Brent Venables: Reportedly staying, and a tough hire as the Tigers will be prepping for the playoffs.

Chris Ash: Another coordinator who can likely wait out an ideal position - Ohio State's defense is so much more talented than most Big Ten offenses that his stock should be very stable.

Lincoln Riley: He's 32 but Mike Sanford-level hot, except maybe hotter since his team is in the CFB Playoff. He should be in no rush -  but quickly has taken a talented offense to another level in Norman.

Pep Hamilton

Major Applewhite

Dave Aranda: Probably could get a head coaching job, but I'd love to see him in South Bend.

Barry Odom: Reportedly under consideration for the Memphis job, but also would be on my short list if Van Gorder is not coaching the Irish next year. Has done an excellent job with less talent at Mizzou. Update - hired as Missouri HC.

Retreads that could get another shot

Mario Cristobal: Seems like he will wait out a major opportunity - is he Kirby Smart's replacement?

Lane Kiffin: You only need one school to think this is a good idea, and eventually he'll convince someone.

Jeff Tedford

Brady Hoke

Randy Edsall: Apparently has blackmailed many AD's if he's seriously getting consideration for many open jobs.

Chip Kelly: Probably not coming back to college this year, but Philly is tiring of him and his high-profile offseason moves have backfired.

Ed Orgeron: I would love to see him get an opportunity at Tulane. He'd instantly put them near the top of the AAC in recruiting.

Gene Chizik

Greg Schiano: Rutgers, the return?

Butch Davis

Rod Chudzinski

Al Golden: Lots of jobs could be open in the Northeast, where his success at Temple isn't forgotten.

Mack Brown: This feels like a bad idea, but worse hires have been made.

Jon Gruden

Jon Gruden: No coaching search would be complete without fanbases holding out hope for this guy.