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Assessing the New Coaching Staffs in College Football

By Steve Makinen  () 

A look at the new coaches from a betting perspective

As bettors, one of the most important things to do in preparing for the upcoming college footbalI season is to get a handle on all of the coaching changes that came about since last season. For 2019, there are 27 different new head coaches across FBS football. Of course, each of the programs hopes to have landed a new leader that will help them to improve or reach the promised land. Unfortunately, that is not always the case, and often the exact opposite happens. Finding the right fit is not an easy job. Let’s take a quick look at the teams welcoming in new staffs. I’ll even take a stab at how I feel the change might affect the program for the near future.

Note: for the coordinators, a star indicator means that coach is new in the position for 2019.

AKRON

New Head Coach: Tom Arth

Offensive Coordinator: Tommy Zagorski*

Defensive Coordinator: Matt Feeney*

Steve’s Thoughts: The Terry Bowden era at Akron last seven seasons, two of which ended in bowl bids. Tom Arth comes over from FCS Chattanooga, which was just 6-5 last season and lost its last three games. Arth brings with him his DC and another FCS coordinator for offense. The Zips have just 10 starters back and would seem to be plummeting. Expect it to get worse before it gets better.

APPALACHIAN STATE

New Head Coach: Eliah Drinkwitz

Offensive Coordinator: Eliah Drinkwitz*

Defensive Coordinator: Ted Roof*

Steve’s Thoughts: Eliah Drinkwitz, most recently the offensive coordinator at NC State, inherits a nice situation at Appalachian State. He gets 16 returning starters including proficient QB Zac Thomas. Drinkwitz will be the OC and he brings DC Ted Roof over with him. This should be a solid staff and there’s no reason the Mountaineers won’t maintain the success of the last handful of seasons.

BOWLING GREEN

New Head Coach: Scot Loeffler

Offensive Coordinator: Terry Malone*

Defensive Coordinator: Brian VanGorder*

Steve’s Thoughts: Scot Loeffler comes over from Boston College, where he was offensive coordinator. His offense was very high tempo, certainly compared to what Bowling Green was used to playing. Loeffler will have 12 starters back from a

3-9 team and I would project that the Falcons have room for modest improvement in 2019.

CENTRAL MICHIGAN

New Head Coach: Jim McElwain

Offensive Coordinator: Charlie Frye*

Defensive Coordinator: Robb Akey*

Steve’s Thoughts: The hiring of Jim McElwain at Central Michigan could prove to be a huge coup for the university, or alternatively, a career death blow for the coach. McElwain spent two and a half years at Florida before manning the sidelines as wide receivers coach at Michigan last year. He brings two coordinators that were with him at Florida, as well as a new QB in Quinten Dormandy that was at Houston last year and started five games with Tennessee the year prior. After going 1-11 last year and scoring just 15 PPG, there is nowhere to go but up, and that is exactly where I expect the Chippewas to go, both in wins and scoring.

CHARLOTTE

New Head Coach: Will Healy

Offensive Coordinator: Alex Atkins*

Defensive Coordinator: Brandon Cooper / Marcus West*

Steve’s Thoughts: Despite a four-game improvement from 2017 to 2018, Brad Lambert was fired at Charlotte following his 6th season. He is replaced by 33-year old Will Healy, who led a remarkable turnaround at FCS Austin Peay. His OC is former offensive line coach at Tulane, and DC Cooper was with him at Charlotte. His new QB will be grad transfer Brett Kean from South Florida. With 12 starters back in all, Kean could be the piece that gets this team from 5 to 6 wins and a potential bowl bid.

COASTAL CAROLINA

New Head Coach: Jamey Chadwell

Offensive Coordinator: Willy Korn / Newland Isaac*

Defensive Coordinator: Marvin Sanders

Steve’s Thoughts: Jamey Chadwell was the OC the last two seasons at Coastal Carolina under Joe Moglia, who stepped down after a successful 6-year run at the school. There will be 15 starters back but this team lost its L4 games of 2018 to finish 5-7. Despite the fact that Chadwell spent time as interim coach at CC in 2017, this is truly his first head job. With the negative momentum carrying over from the end of ’18, I would project the Chanticleers slightly down for this season.

COLORADO

New Head Coach: Mel Tucker

Offensive Coordinator: Jay Johnson*

Defensive Coordinator: Tyson Summers*

Steve’s Thoughts: Mel Tucker is a fairly high profile hire for Colorado after he spent the L3 seasons guiding Georgia’s well-respected defense. He won’t have the same defensive talent in Boulder, that is for sure, and in fact, only has four starters back from that side of the ball. His coordinators come over with him from the Bulldogs. Georgia ran a far more deliberate offense than Colorado, and combined with Tucker’s defensive prowess, I would expect scores to be down for the Buffaloes in 2019. I would also project some stumbling blocks this fall but eventual success for Tucker here.

EAST CAROLINA

New Head Coach: Mike Houston

Offensive Coordinator: Donnie Kirkpatrick*

Defensive Coordinator: Bob Trott*

Steve’s Thoughts: The 2019 season was the third straight that ended with a 3-9 record for East Carolina, so a change coming at head coach was obviously needed. Mike Houston gets the job after spending three years at FCS power James Madison. One of those seasons ended with a championship.

Not surprisingly, the JUM coordinators make the trek to Greenville with Houston. Part of the problem for ECU was an up-tempo offense that didn’t have the talent to be run that way. James Madison’s offense was not nearly as high paced, so expect fewer plays per game, and hence lower scoring. QB Holton Ayers had a 12/3 TD/Int ratio last year and is one of 14 starters back. I give the Pirates a good shot at a 2-3 win improvement in 2019.

GEORGIA TECH

New Head Coach: Geoff Collins

Offensive Coordinator: Dave Patenaude*

Defensive Coordinator: Nathan Burton / Andrew Thacker*

Steve’s Thoughts: One of the more impactful coaching staff changes in college football is at Georgia Tech, where Geoff Collins (& his coordinators) come over from Temple. Gone is the option offense of Paul Johnson, who spent 11 years in Atlanta. The new pro-style attack will be higher paced and naturally result in more scoring, likely on both sides of the ball, so expect higher totals than you’re used to from the Yellow Jackets. After a 7-6 season that ended with back-to-back 24-point losses, and only nine starters back, expect growing pains in 2019 for Collins and Georgia Tech.

HOUSTON

New Head Coach: Dana Holgorsen

Offensive Coordinator: Marquel Blackwell / Brandon Jones*

Defensive Coordinator: Joe Cauthen / Doug Belk*

Steve’s Thoughts: Dana Holgorsen, most recently at West Virginia, is a pretty strong hire for Houston, and with QB D’Eriq King back for his senior season, I would put Houston as one of the top contenders in the American Conference. Ironically, Houston might actually slow down this year compared to the last couple of seasons under Major Applewhite. That’s not to say the Cougars won’t be prolific on offense, as they certainly will, but the games probably won’t be nearly as wild. Holgorsen’s new OC was with him at WVU, and the DC Cauthen comes over from Arkansas State.

KANSAS

New Head Coach: Les Miles

Offensive Coordinator: Les Koenning*

Defensive Coordinator: DJ Eliot*

Steve’s Thoughts: Between Les Miles at Kansas and new UNC coach Mack Brown, it’s debatable as to which program made the bigger splash. Both will be newsworthy all season long. Miles, of course, comes from LSU, where he spent 12 seasons, ending in 2016. He has a career record of 142-55 so the most interesting aspect of this hire will be how he deals with the adversity of losing. Miles already has had an impact on recruiting but he only brings back 10 starters from a team that won its most games in five seasons. My speculation is valleys come before the peaks for KU.

KANSAS STATE

New Head Coach: Chris Klieman

Offensive Coordinator: Courtney Messingham*

Defensive Coordinator: Scottie Hazelton*

Steve’s Thoughts: The sideline will look a lot different in Manhattan in 2019 as Chris Klieman takes over for Bill Snyder, who spent 27 seasons at K-State. Klieman’s name should be familiar to football fans, as he has led North Dakota State’s tremendous FCS run over the L5 seasons. He brings his OC over

with him and his DC is the former defensive leader at Wyoming. He has half of the starters back from last year’s 5-7 team, a group that failed to reach a bowl game for the first time in nine years. This year’s team looks like a potential similar team with a lean to a game worse.

LIBERTY

New Head Coach: Hugh Freeze

Offensive Coordinator: Kent Austin / Maurice Harris*

Defensive Coordinator: Scott Symons*

Steve’s Thoughts: Turner Gill retired following last year’s 6-6 season, the first one for the program at the FBS-level. A big-name hire replaces Gill in Hugh Freeze, best known for his 5 years spent atop the Ole Miss program. Things are looking pretty solid for Freeze’s first year with 15 starters back, especially if he can help senior QB Steven Calvert cut down on his interceptions. His new OC comes from CFL’s Hamilton Ti-Cats. The schedule is extremely manageable and I could see this team being anywhere from 5-7 to 8-4 in the regular season.

LOUISVILLE

New Head Coach: Scott Satterfield

Offensive Coordinator: Dwayne Ledford*

Defensive Coordinator: Bryan Brown / Cort Dennison*

Steve’s Thoughts: The 2018 season was a forgettable one in Louisville, and the last for Bobby Petrino, who “led” the team to a 2-10 record. The numbers were ugly, as the Cardinals were outscored 44.1 to 19.8 on average. Former Appalachian State head man Scott Satterfield takes over after a tremendous run with the Mountaineers. It’s a big job, but improvement could come quickly with 16 starters back, including highly rated Jawon Pass, a big & mobile QB. Satterfield’s OC is Dwayne Ledford, who led NC State’s offensive line last year. Expect improved numbers on both sides of the ball and overall improvement, if for no other reason than 2018 was likely rock bottom.

MARYLAND

New Head Coach: Mike Locksley

Offensive Coordinator: Scottie Montgomery / Joker Phillips*

Defensive Coordinator: Jon Hoke*

Steve’s Thoughts: With all of the turmoil surrounding Maryland’s program last season, Mike Locksley steps in as the new head coach. Locksley was on the Alabama staff last year and was the interim coach at Maryland in 2015. Locksley’s new OC is Scottie Montgomery, the former HC at East Carolina. That could be a key factor, as ECU ran a high-tempo offense compared to the Terps. In fact, the difference was 2.73 plays per minute of offense to 2.07 PPM. Games could be on the wild side for Marlyand in 2019. Ten total starters are back and talented QB Josh Jackson (Virginia Tech) is expected to take over. I like Maryland’s chances of matching or beating its 5-7 record last year with the turmoil seemingly in the rear view mirror now.

MASSACHUSETTS

New Head Coach: Walt Bell

Offensive Coordinator: Walt Bell*

Defensive Coordinator: Aazaar Abdul-Rahim / Tommy Restivo*

Steve’s Thoughts: Walt Bell gets his first head coaching job after serving as OC at Florida State last year and Maryland prior. He will be the play caller at UMass as well, and tempo should be up

slightly for the Minutemen in 2019. Bell only has eight starters back from last year’s 4-8 team though and it’s difficult to project improvement. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 2-10 or 3-9 type of season.

MIAMI FL

New Head Coach: Manny Diaz

Offensive Coordinator: Dan Enos*

Defensive Coordinator: Blake Baker / Ephraim Banda*

Steve’s Thoughts: Miami’s Manny Diaz hire was not unexpected after Mark Richt’s abrupt retirement. Diaz has been DC the L3 years and dubbed the inventor of the famous “Turnover Chain”. Diaz named Dan Enos his new OC, stealing him away from his role as QB coach at Alabama. His new DC Baker was last in the same position at Louisiana Tech. There are 12 total starters back for 2019 and the new QB is expected to be highly rated Tate Martell, a transfer from Ohio State. I’ll be honest when I say I don’t expect much to be different with the Hurricanes in 2019, won-lost wise nor scoring-wise.

NORTHERN ILLINOIS

New Head Coach: Thomas Hammock

Offensive Coordinator: Eric Eidsness*

Defensive Coordinator: Derrick Jackson*

Steve’s Thoughts: Thomas Hammock is one of a handful of new coaches in the MAC, coming over from the Baltimore Ravens, where he was RB coach. His OC comes from South Dakota State, his DC from Purdue. The six years under Rod Carey were strong, with five ending in bowl games. However, the Huskies didn’t win any of those bowl games so there is still room to get better. There are 13 starters back, but in my opinion, this is a rather unorthodox hire, and it feels like a situation that could get bumpy in 2019 before it gets better.

candidates. Last year the Buckeyes averaged 42.4 PPG offensively and allowed 25.5 PPG on defense. With four starters back on offense and nine on defense, I expect both numbers to fall significantly this season.

TEMPLE

New Head Coach: Rod Carey

Offensive Coordinator: Mike Uremovich*

Defensive Coordinator: Jeff Knowles*

Steve’s Thoughts: Rod Carey’s strong run at Northern Illinois helped him bump up a step to Temple, where he’ll face new challenges in the American Athletic Conference. He brings both of his coordinators with him from NIU. The Owls now have their fifth head coach in four years, and despite that, have won at least seven games each season. As such, with 14 starters back and a similar offensive pace expected, I would project Temple to continue its run of bowl seasons again in 2019.

TEXAS STATE

New Head Coach: Jake Spavital

Offensive Coordinator: Bob Stitt*

Defensive Coordinator: Zac Spavital / Archie McDaniel*

Steve’s Thoughts: Jake Spavital gets his first head coaching gig after spending the last two years as West Virginia’s OC. That should be exciting news in itself for offensively-starved TSU, who hasn’t scored over 20 PPG since 2015. Nine starters are back on offense and if the unit can quickly adapt to Spavital’s new system, should be much improved. The defense was actually pretty strong last year allowing a respectable 5.3 yards per play and could also be better with 10 starters back. Jake’s brother Zac is the DC, after serving similarly at Texas Tech. This team could surprise people in the Sun Belt in 2019 despite the complete coaching changeover.

NORTH CAROLINA

New Head Coach: Mack Brown

Offensive Coordinator: Phil Longo*

Defensive Coordinator: Jay Bateman / Tommy Thigpen*

Steve’s Thoughts: Mack Brown spent 10 seasons at UNC back in the late 80’s-90’s, and returns some 22 years and one national championship later. That title, of course, came with Texas. His new OC is Phil Longo, architect of Ole Miss’ high-tempo offense. The Tar Heels already ran a fast offense so any change should be marginal. Brown inherits a team that was just 2-9 last year despite being outscored by just 7.1 PPG. Being that competitive with 14 starters returning should produce more wins in Brown’s first season. Let’s call for 4-8 or 5-7 in an exciting fashion.

TEXAS TECH

New Head Coach: Matt Wells

Offensive Coordinator: David Yost*

Defensive Coordinator: Keith Patterson*

Steve’s Thoughts: Texas Tech is well known for its offensive prowess over the last couple of decades in college football. Well, new Head Coach Matt Wells had a pretty good offense at Utah State last year too, one that scored 47.5 PPG. With 7 starters back on offense, including QB Alan Bowman, expect there to be a lot of fireworks in 2019 in Lubbock. Wells brings his two coordinators over with him from USU, and their first job will be to erase Red Raiders’ players memories of the season-ending 5-game losing skid that cost a bowl bid. All five were by 15 points or less. Expect Texas Tech back in a bowl game this December.

OHIO STATE

New Head Coach: Ryan Day

Offensive Coordinator: Kevin Wilson / Mike Yurcich

Defensive Coordinator: Jeff Hafley / Greg Mattison*

Steve’s Thoughts: Ryan Day’s task of replacing Urban Meyer may seem difficult on paper, but keep in mind that Day was 3-0 while Meyer was suspended last year, has a fantastic rapport with players, and has the same OC in place that has been in Columbus the L3 seasons. He even managed to steal DC Greg Mattison from rival Michigan’s highly rated defense. The biggest challenge for Day in year one figures to be replacing QB Dwayne Haskins, that is even lessened when you look at the stable of highly rated potential

TROY

New Head Coach: Chip Lindsey

Offensive Coordinator: Ryan Pugh*

Defensive Coordinator: Brandon Hall*

Steve’s Thoughts: Chip Lindsey is another first time head coach that takes over a program that has enjoyed success recently. Filling Neal Brown’s shoes won’t be easy for the former OC at Auburn, as Troy won 10 games or more in each of the L3 seasons. Lindsey has 13 starters back, including senior QB Kaleb Barker, so this is anything but a rebuild. The new OC is from BYU and the new DC is the LBs coach of the Trojans. Expect status quo for Lindsey & Troy in 2019.

UTAH STATE

New Head Coach: Gary Andersen

Offensive Coordinator: Mike Sanford Jr.*

Defensive Coordinator: Justin Ena*

Steve’s Thoughts: Gary Anderson is familiar with USU, having coached here from ’09-12, but a lot has changed system-wise since then. His new OC is Mike Sanford, the former coach at Western Kentucky. Anderson’s past teams at his previous stops ran different offenses from Sanford, but the talent in Logan is a better fit for Sanford’s systems, so there shouldn’t be much difference from what you got used to from the Aggies under Mike Wells. Quarterback Jordan Love was fantastic last year for Wells and is one of only two starters back on offense. New DC Justin Ena coached LB’s at Utah and gets seven starters back. Despite optimistic projections, I’m going to say it’s unrealistic for the Aggies to match last year’s magic, and I expect a plummet of at least three games.

WESTERN KENTUCKY

New Head Coach: Tyson Helton

Offensive Coordinator: Bryan Ellis*

Defensive Coordinator: Clayton White

Steve’s Thoughts: Just above, I mentioned Mike Sanford going to Utah State as the new OC after being fired by Western Kentucky. Sanford’s

teams clearly underachieved compared to the previous regime, so WKU brass is looking for new guy Tyson Helton to restore the magic. Helton was Tennessee’s OC last year and was with USC before that. His new OC is also from USC, a former QB coach. The defensive staff remains in place. A total of 16 starters are back from the 3-9 team of a year ago. However, when you consider that they lost four games by a FG (probably much

of reason Sanford was fired), there is plenty of reason for optimism. I expect this team to be improved and challenge for a bowl bid.

WEST VIRGINIA

New Head Coach: Neal Brown

Offensive Coordinator: Matt Moore / Chad Scott*

Defensive Coordinator: Vic Koenning

Steve’s Thoughts: It was a bit of a surprise that Dana Holgorsen chose Houston over West Virginia, but with only nine starters back in the tough Big 12, the former Mountaineers’ head coach may have seen rough waters ahead. The pressure falls on Neal Brown, who comes off a successful tenure at Troy. Moore & Koenning were with Brown previously, and combine that with a new quarterback coming to town, this is legitimately the most unstable situation in college football for 2019. Troy was known for playing a deliberate pace so scoring and entertainment value could be down in Morgantown this fall.

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