Every year, major programs change head coaches after less than stellar seasons. This year, twelve power five conference school have new leaders. Let’s take a look at how each one will do in their first season.
Willie Taggart, Florida State
Taggart takes over in one of the better situations for a first-year coach. The Seminoles are stacked up and down the roster thanks to the great recruiting of former coach Jimbo Fisher. Taggart had some success at Oregon last year and it should translate to the ACC. The quarterback battle between Deondre Francois and James Blackman will be important, but Florida State will return to ACC title contention in Taggart’s first season
2018 Projection: 9-3, 2nd in ACC Atlantic
Scott Frost, Nebraska
Scott Frost is being billed as the Nebraska football messiah. The former national champion Husker quarterback returns to his alma mater after turning around Central Florida. The Knights were 0-12 before Frost took over, and in just 2 seasons he led them to an undefeated season. That level of success won’t happen so quickly at Nebraska but Frost is the right man for their future. Nebraska isn’t ready to return to championship contention, but at least they can get to a bowl game.
2018 Projection: 7-5, 3rd in Big 10 West
Jonathan Smith, Oregon State
Jonathan Smith is one of the biggest question marks among first-year coaches. Taking over as a first-time head coach at a program that hasn’t been to a bowl game since 2013 and is coming off a 1-11 season will not be easy. We’ll need a couple years to see if Smith is able to turn around the team, but year 1 won’t yield much success.
2018 Projection: 2-10, 6th in Pac 12 North
Herm Edwards, Arizona State
One of the strangest hires in a long time, Herm Edwards returns to coaching after a 10-year absence. This is Edwards’ first college job since he was the defensive backs coach at San Jose State in the late 1980’s. I honestly have no idea what to expect from his first season with the Sun Devils, but he does have a pretty talented roster.
2018 Projection: 5-7 5th in Pac 12 South
Chip Kelly, UCLA
Regardless of how year 1 goes, college football is better with Chip Kelly as a head coach. In Kelly’s 4 year tenure as Oregon’s head coach, he was able to turn the Ducks into a national power. After his less successful few years in the NFL, he returns to the Pac 12 with UCLA. The post-Josh Rosen era begins for the Bruins, and they have a lot of holes to fill, starting at quarterback where there are 5 different guys competing for the starting role. Despite a lot of position battles running deep into fall camp and even into the season, UCLA should improve on 2017 with its new coach.
2018 Projection: 6-6 3rd in Pac 12 South
Mario Cristobal, Oregon
Oregon was shocked when Willie Taggart left for Florida State after just one season with the Ducks. Rather than bring in an outside coach, Oregon decided to promote offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal to head coach. The former Nick Saban assistant was also the head coach at FIU from 2007-2012. With quarterback Justin Herbert returning this year, Oregon should be pretty good.
2018 Projection: 8-4 3rd in Pac 12 North
Kevin Sumlin, Arizona
Kevin Sumlin’s 6 years at Texas A&M were better than a lot of people believe. He was able to transition the Aggies into the SEC well, leading them to bowl games in every season. You could argue that Johnny Manziel was the sole reason for most of Sumlin’s success at A&M. That bodes well for his new job at Arizona. Sumlin takes over this Wildcats team with a great scrambling Heisman contending quarterback in Khalil Tate. Beyond Tate, Arizona is set up to win a lot of games this season. With Sam Darnold gone, USC has some issues, and the Wildcats will jump at the opportunity to return to the Pac 12 championship for the first time since 2014.
2018 Projection: 10-2 1st in Pac 12 South
Chad Morris, Arkansas
The jump from SMU to the SEC West will be a tough transition for new Razorback coach Chad Morris. Morris was decent in his 3 years as the Mustang’s head coach, mostly with recruiting. If he can bring in some big names to a school that’s struggled to do so in years past, His tenure at Arkansas may be a long one. Don’t expect much in year 1 though.
2018 Projection: 5-7 7th in SEC West
Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee
Pruitt is a first-time head coach at Tennessee, but he comes from a long line of great coaches. Coming from the Nick Saban coaching tree, Pruitt’s also coached under Mark Richt at Georgia and Jimbo Fisher at Florida State. Tennessee’s journey to find a coach was long, but they’ve got a solid hire in Pruitt. Unfortunately for the Vol’s the SEC East is looking pretty good this year and Pruitt has a lot of work to do before he’s ready to make Tennessee a title contending team.
2018 Projection: 5-7 5th in SEC East
Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M
Jimbo Fisher comes to Texas A&M with high expectations. The former national title-winning Florida State head coach did just sign a $100 million contract after all. Jimbo now has the program backing and facilities he felt he lacked at FSU. This seems like a great hire for A&M, but they won’t have instant success. The SEC West is still stacked, and a non-conference matchup with Clemson doesn’t help their 2018 projection.
2018 Projection: 7-5 5th in SEC West
Joe Moorhead, Mississippi State
Moorhead takes his first FBS head coaching job after making Penn State one of the best offenses in the nation last year. With a quarterback as good as Nick Fitzgerald, the Bulldogs are ready to compete right away. Moorhead could take the SEC by storm and surprise a lot of people in his first season.
2018 Projection: 9-3 3rd in SEC West
Dan Mullen, Florida
Dan Mullen returns to Florida in their hour of need. The Gators haven’t had any stability since Urban Meyer left following the 2010 season. Mullen was Meyers offensive coordinator for 4 years from 2005-2008. He now comes back to lead them back to the top after a long successful reign at Mississippi State. Florida still has plenty of roster issues to work out, including the starting quarterback job, but there’s no doubt the Mullen is the right man for the job in Gainesville.
2018 Projection: 8-4 2nd in SEC East
– Guest Writer, Dylan Hall
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