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Coaching Carousel 2022-23: Breaking Down Every Power Five Hire of the Offseason

Deion Sanders, Colorado

College football coaching has always been a turbulent business, but it feels like it's been taken up a notch in the last several years. The money being thrown around the sport these days means programs are more willing to pay up to afford a new head coach (or just to get rid of one), creating a hectic coaching carousel. With things settled, at least for the time being, it seems like the perfect time to recap another busy offseason of coaching changes, one that will have major impacts on the college football landscape moving forward.


Arizona State Sun Devils

Out: Herm Edwards

In: Kenny Dillingham, Oregon OC

Despite being just 32 years of age, Kenny Dillingham has long been considered a rising name in the collegiate coaching ranks. After several years in high school coaching and as an offensive assistant at Arizona State, his big breakthrough came during his time at Memphis. Under Mike Norvell, Dillingham rose from a grad assistant to the team's offensive coordinator, a position he parlayed into the same role at Auburn. Since, he's had pit stops at Florida State and most recently, Oregon, where he helped turn Bo Nix into a superstar. Now, Dillingham gets a chance to take over at his alma mater, a program he knows well and has emotional ties to. It's a logical next move for Arizona State after the disastrous end to the Herm Edwards experiment, but the program is in a tough spot. They were hit hard by transfers the last several off-seasons, recruiting has fallen off, and their chief rival, Arizona, looks to be on their way up. Even so, this is a program long considered to be a sleeping giant out West, at a massive institution with plenty of talent in the pipeline. Dillingham seems like the right guy to bring them into the modern era, but how quickly he responds to the unique challenges facing the program will likely determine his long-term success.

Auburn Tigers

Out: Bryan Harsin

In: Hugh Freeze, Liberty HC

Bryan Harsin was a strange hire by Auburn in the first place, and the former Boise State head man lasted less than two seasons on The Plains before he was unceremoniously dumped. In his place, Auburn has turned to a familiar face in the SEC West, one-time Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze. Freeze became a controversial figure in the college football world due to his demise in Oxford, but he quickly rebounded at Liberty. Helped by a former Auburn quarterback, Malik Willis, Freeze went 34-15 in Lynchburg, including four consecutive bowl trips. There's no questioning his coaching chops, but has he learned from past incidents off-the-field? Auburn is a job with unlimited potential, with a tradition of success and loads of resources, but it's also one that can chew up and spit you out. So far, Freeze seems to be looking for stability by bringing in veteran assistants, including former Tulsa head coach Phillip Montgomery as OC, but the roster remains in flux due to a wave of transfers. Recruiting will be the name of the game here; when you're competing Alabama in the state and the entirety of the SEC West, you will need elite talent. Freeze brought in plenty of big names during his time at Ole Miss and Liberty, can he do the same with Auburn?

Colorado Buffaloes

Out: Karl Dorrell

In: Deion Sanders, Jackson State HC

Since the turn of the millennium, Colorado has mainly been an afterthought on the national stage. They've had just two double-digit win seasons in that span and have spent plenty of time floundering at the bottom of the Big 12 and Pac-12. After an 1-11 mark this fall, the Buffaloes went out and made arguably the splashiest hire of this year's coaching carousel, bringing in Deion Sanders from Jackson State. "Primetime" went 27-6 during his time with Jackson State and brought in elite-level talent, namely the former No. 1 recruit in the nation, Travis Hunter. Sanders has come into Boulder and immediately injected a different energy into the program, but the reality is that this will be a stark transition. Going from an HBCU playing in the SWAC to Power Five ball is a significant leap and Colorado is not an easy job. While the administration appears ready to make adjustments to the stringent academic standards that have hamstrung past football coaches, this program is not exactly in a recruiting hotbed and the Pac-12 appears to be on the upswing after several lean years. Speaking of the Pac-12, the league's future is completely uncertain, which complicates the Colorado job in the long-term. Sure, Deion likely is not here for the long haul, but I'm not under the impression this is going to be a quick turnaround. This was the worst Power Five team in the country by a wide margin in 2022 and even if the roster is overhauled, it will take time. That doesn't mean this won't work out, and Deion was worth the risk for a Colorado program that needed a different direction, but I don't envision a lot of wins right away like there was at Jackson State.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Out: Geoff Collins

In: Brent Key, interim HC

It was always going to be a tough rebuild for Geoff Collins as he brought Georgia Tech into the modern era and away from the triple-option. But, the reality is that no head coach is going to survive going 10-28 in the year 2022, and the Yellow Jackets decided to move on. Instead of going with a flashy hire or taking a swing at a Group of Five head coach, Georgia Tech opted to stay close to home by promoting interim Brent Key to full-time head coach. Key is an alum who played for George O'Leary, then coached under him for a decade at UCF. After a brief stint with Alabama, he returned to his alma mater on Collins' staff and despite struggles, he earned a reputation as a great developer of offensive line talent. Key went 4-4 following Collins' midseason firing and has stabilized the program. He's not going to bring the flash that Collins did when he was brought on, but he's a strong hire. Key understands the program and knows what they need to compete. He'll have plenty of talent available to him in the loaded Atlanta area, and the school appears to be have a renewed commitment to the sport. It's not a hire that will get as much attention as others, but I believe this to be one of the more underrated hires of this carousel.

Louisville Cardinals

Out: Scott Satterfield

In: Jeff Brohm, Purdue HC

Scott Satterfield's relationship with Louisville administration and university power-brokers seemed to be on the ropes for awhile, leading to an unsurprising decision for him to take a new gig at Cincinnati. Satterfield helped the program recover from the brutal ending to Bobby Petrino's second tenure, but he was never able to develop them into a legit ACC Atlantic contender. Following his departure, the Cardinals turned to a familiar face to replace him, in Purdue's Jeff Brohm. Brohm played at Louisville in the early 1990s and previously served on their coaching staff from 2003-2008. He did a great job at Purdue, taking over a program mired in mediocrity for years before going 36-34, including a division title this fall. He had previously said no to the Louisville job before Satterfield took it in 2018, but this was different. Whether Brohm felt he had reached his ceiling at Purdue or just felt now was the time to make the jump, it's a big win for the Cards. 

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Out: Scott Frost

In: Matt Rhule, former Carolina Panthers HC

The long-drawn out Scott Frost saga concluded in quick order this fall, with Nebraska deciding to move on after an embarrassing loss to Georgia Southern. Frost seemed like the perfect, home-run hire, but the 'Huskers lost close game after close game and were not able to build any type of consistency. Firing their coach faster than any other Power Five team in the country, Nebraska had more time to conduct this search and in the end, chose Matt Rhule as their next head man. Rhule became a hot coaching candidate after success at Temple and turning around Baylor, but his short stint in the NFL was less than ideal. He went just 11-27 with the Carolina Panthers and was unceremoniously dumped early in 2022. Rhule never seemed like an NFL coach; his ability to develop talent the way he did always felt like a college coaching trait, and he's more of a program builder than X's and O's guru. Nebraska needed a coach that can bring in the right type of talent and elevate it, but I do have questions about Rhule. He wasn't at either Temple or Baylor long enough to see if he could sustain a program over the long-term and in both positions, he was recruiting against schools vastly different than he will at Nebraska. He's a good football coach, but the reality around this job is that it's a difficult one in the modern context. There are outsized expectations in comparison to the product they can realistically put in the field and it's tough to get players to come to Lincoln in the new era of NIL. 

Purdue Boilermakers

Out: Jeff Brohm (took Louisville job)

In: Ryan Walters, Illinois DC

Jeff Brohm's decision to return to his alma mater wasn't particularly shocking, but left Purdue scrambling for a replacement fairly late in the coaching carousel. In response, Boilermaker brass took a major swing at a young up-and-comer, bringing in 36-year old Ryan Walters as their next head man. It's been an amazingly quick ascent for Walters, as he played college football as late as 2008 before making the transition to coaching. He bounced around before making an impression at his last two stops, Missouri and Illinois, where he served as defensive coordinator. Leading the Illini defense this past fall, Walters' group became known for its discipline and physical nature, finishing second in the country in points allowed. He earned national attention as a Broyles Award finalist and despite the Illini's plans to keep him in Champaign, it wasn't shocking he got a head coaching job. With that being said, this is a significant jump; Walters has never been a head coach at any level and now makes the leap straight to Power Five football. It's likely his program will differ greatly from the one Brohm ran, which was about airing it out offensively and playing a bend-don't-break defensive style. Landing a well-known offensive coordinator in Graham Harrell helps, but this hire feels like a coin flip to me. It certainly wouldn't shock me if it works out, but there is clearly ample risk involved.

Stanford Cardinal

Out: David Shaw

In: Troy Taylor, Sacramento State HC

There's nothing easy about moving on from your winningest coach in program history, an alum who guided the program to some of their most successful years of all-time. Yet, it certainly felt like David Shaw's run at Stanford was heading in an ugly direction; the Cardinal capped off two consecutive 3-9 seasons and hadn't won double-digit games since 2016. Recruiting had stalled, roster turnover was high, and the energy in Palo Alto felt off. Shaw decided his time was over, resigning one day after Stanford's season-ending loss to BYU. His decision allows the Cardinal to go in a brand new direction, and they decided it was Sacramento State's Troy Taylor who would be ushering in the new era. Taylor has long been a regular on the West Coast football scene, coaching in the high school ranks and throughout colleges in the region. He served as Utah's offensive coordinator for two years before taking over at Sacramento State, leading the Hornets a 30-8 overall record and 23-1 mark inside the Big Sky. His aggressive, up-tempo offense will be a welcome change for Stanford, whose offensive philosophy seemed stuck in the early 2010s for too long. However, there are external factors in play here that are likely to decide just how effective Taylor will be with the Cardinal. They've been hurt, perhaps more than any other program in college football, by the Early Signing Period. Due to their stringent academic requirements, Stanford has oftentimes been unable to get recruits in during the early period, crippling their recruiting. Stanford's graduate school also has notoriously difficult entry requirements, meaning graduate transfers regularly leave, robbing the Cardinal of key veterans. Is the university willing to change in order to help their football program survive and compete? It's hard to imagine any coach building a long-term winner here in the NIL and transfer portal era the way it is currently constructed.

Wisconsin Badgers

Out: Paul Chryst

In: Luke Fickell, Cincinnati HC

Wisconsin's firing of Paul Chryst came as a major surprise in many ways, but also felt like a strategic one by Badger decision-makers. The program had begun to feel a bit lifeless under Chryst, and Wisconsin looked like they had his hand-picked successor picked out. That was supposed to be defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard, a Wisconsin alum who had quickly become one of the hottest defensive names on the market. The logic went like this: Leonhard would get a change to guide the program through the conclusion of the 2022 campaign and assuming everything went as planned, he would take over long-term. That logic went out the window, with the Badgers instead pulling off a stunner, convincing Luke Fickell to leave his longtime post at Cincinnati and make the move north to Madison. It did feel like a bit of a middle finger to Leonhard, but the reality is that the Badgers landed arguably the nation's top Group of Five coach in Fickell. Early on, Fickell has looked like he will move Wisconsin away from the ground-and-pound approach and instead move them into the modern offensive era, bringing on North Carolina's Phil Longo as OC. That feels like a wise approach, but one that may take some getting used to in Madison. For so long, Wisconsin's run-oriented offense and gritty defense has defined the program, going all the way back to the Barry Alvarez years. Are they going to be able to make the transition, particularly in a conference going through an upheaval of its own, with UCLA and USC on the way? It's a fair question, but it's hard to argue that the Badgers were one of the major winners of the carousel by landing Fickell.

Group of Five Hires to Watch

Cincinnati: Scott Satterfield (Lousiville HC) -- Scott Satterfield entered the offseason looking for a change of scenery, and will move forward with Cincinnati after taking the job vacated by Luke Fickell. Although this is technically a Power Five to Group of Five move, Cincinnati will be moving to the Big 12 next season and this job has always had loads of potential, situated right in fertile recruiting grounds.

Florida Atlantic: Tom Herman (former Texas HC) -- Things didn't work out for Tom Herman at Texas, but it's no surprise he's getting another opportunity in the collegiate ranks. He's a superb offensive mind and known as a tireless recruiter who should be able to elevate Florida Atlantic's floor. He should also benefit from lesser expectations away from the drama and politics of being Texas head man.

Kent State: Kenni Burns (Minnesota RB coach) -- Looking for a quick rising name that could be manning a Power Five program shortly? Kenni Burns makes the jump to Kent State after spending years as an assistant under P.J. Fleck at Minnesota, and should be in high demand in short order. His work with the Minnesota RB room speaks for itself, and he also spent time at FCS juggernaut North Dakota State.

Liberty: Jamey Chadwell (Coastal Carolina HC) -- One of the more surprising hirings of the 2022-23 coaching carousel comes at Liberty. Many assumed Jamey Chadwell would be in line for a Power Five job after another strong season at Coastal Carolina, but he instead opted to replace Hugh Freeze at Liberty. This is a spot that has proven to be a good stepping stone and there's no shortage of talent, so it wouldn't be surprising if this is a short-term solution.

UAB: Trent Dilfer (former NFL QB, HS coach) -- Bill Clark's surprise retirement right before the start of the 2022 season left UAB a bit unprepared, although interim Bryant Vincent scrapped together a 6-6 campaign. Instead of making Vincent the head man or going with a young up-and-comer, UAB took a shocking swing with Trent Dilfer, a former Super Bowl winning QB who had been head coach at Lipscomb Academy (Tennessee) since 2019. I'm all for outside-the-box hires, but this was a major risk; Dilfer has never coached at any level of college ball.

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