College football: Reviewing 10 of the most notable FBS coaching hires this offseason
Each college football season provides fans the chance to see new faces at the helm of top programs around the nation. While some head coach mainstays are given the opportunity to restart in a new environment, many ex-assistants roam the sidelines for the first time in the role.
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Come the start of the 2016 season, 27 FBS programs will have new coaches in charge. Here’s a review of 10 of the most notable hires over the offseason:
Mark Richt – Miami (Fla.)
Old school: Georgia
Richt wasted little time landing a new spot after parting ways with Georgia in November. After leading the Bulldogs to two SEC titles and 14 bowl game appearances in 14 seasons, Richt moved to the ACC to take over a Hurricanes program that had an up-and-down 8-5 season last year that ended with a loss to Washington St. in the Hyundai Sun Bowl.
Richt’s Miami routes extend back to the late 1970s when he served as a backup quarterback for four years at the university.
The two-time SEC Coach of the Year sits at a 145-51 career record as head coach, including nine bowl game victories.
Kirby Smart – Georgia
Old school: Alabama (Defensive coordinator)
Smart, a longtime defensive mind and one of the most coveted assistant options out there for hire this offseason, will get his first chance at guiding both sides of the ball this year in Athens.
The Georgia alumnus spent the past eight seasons overlooking one of the most consistent defensive units in Alabama and was part of the staff for four national titles. He was named best assistant coach in the nation and was given the Broyles Award in 2009.
While Alabama isn’t on Georgia’s 2016 regular season schedule, a highly-anticipated reunion may be in order if both teams earn spots in the SEC Championship game.
Will Muschamp – South Carolina
Old school: Auburn (Defensive coordinator)
Muschamp has tough shoes to fill in his second opportunity as head coach.
In the wake of Hall of Fame coach Steve Spurrier’s mid-season resignation at South Carolina last year, Muschamp must follow in the footsteps of a larger-than-life coach once again.
Touted as a top assistant back in his three years as Texas’ defensive coordinator under Mack Brown, Muschamp didn’t live up to the hype in his first head coach go-around with Florida, where he finished 28-21 in four years following up Urban Meyer’s run of success in Gainesville.
The Gators’ best season under Muschamp came in 2012 when they finished 11-2. Florida’s only bowl victory during his tenure came in 2014 when it defeated ECU in the Birmingham Bowl.
The defensive minded coach then returned to Auburn last year and took the same defensive coordinator position he held with the Tigers in 2006-07. Auburn finished with the 71st ranked defense in 2016.
Jim Grobe – Baylor
Old school: Wake Forest (2013)
Arguably the most successful team over the past five years featured on this list has been Baylor, but after former coach Art Briles was terminated this offseason, the No. 21 team in the nation – according to USA Today’s Preseason Coaches Poll – has a new coach at the helm.
Grobe last coached for Wake Forest in 2013 before he resigned at the end of a 4-8 season. In 13 years leading the Demon Deacons and six years before that at Ohio, Grobe has posted a 110-115-1 record with three bowl game victories.
He has been named AP College Football Coach of the Year (2006), ACC Coach of the Year (2006) and MAC Coach of the Year (1996) over his long career.
Dino Babers – Syracuse
Old school: Bowling Green
One of the most exciting and high-powered offenses in 2015 was Baber’s Bowling Green, which finished fourth in the nation with 546.8 yards per game, led by quarterback Matt Johnson who posted a second-best 4,946 yards through the air.
Now at Syracuse, Babers hopes to translate the success he had leading the Falcons over to the ACC where the Orange finished 11th out of 14th in the conference last year in scoring.
Babers was 37-16 in his time at Bowling Green (2014-15) and Eastern Illinois (2012-13). He led the Falcons to a MAC championship win over Northern Illinois last season.
Syracuse Nation I am so excited to be your new head football coach and can't wait to get to work!— Dino Babers (@CoachBabersCuse) December 7, 2015
Bronco Mendenhall – Virginia
Old school: BYU
The Cavaliers haven’t posted a winning season since 2011, but Mendenhall brings a winning pedigree from his 11 years at BYU.
Mendenhall brought the Cougars two Mountain West Conference championships and six bowl wins from 2005-15. BYU finished 9-4 last season despite losing starting quarterback Taysom Hill in the season’s opener against Nebraska, where the Cougars pulled out a 33-28 victory behind a miraculous 42-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass as time expired.
Prior to his stint at BYU, Mendenhall served a variety of assistant roles on defense for New Mexico, Louisiana Tech, Oregon St., Northern Arizona and Snow College.
Justin Fuente – Virginia Tech
Old school: Memphis
Virginia’s state rival Virginia Tech also has a new leader, as Fuente, Memphis’ former coach, departs for Hokie Nation.
Fuente replaces Frank Beamer who retired after 29 years at Virginia Tech. Fuente led Memphis to a 9-4 2015 season in which the Tigers ranked in the top 25 for four straight weeks following an upset victory over then-No. 13 Ole Miss.
Fuente won the American Coach of the Year Award in 2014 and boasts a 26-23 career record.
Lovie Smith – Illinois
Old school: N/A; NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2015)
Smith, a former NFL head coach who led the Chicago Bears to an appearance in Super Bowl XLI, will try his luck in the college game for the first time in 2016.
Owner of an 89-87 NFL regular season record, Smith last coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015. His college experience includes time as a linebackers coach for Tulsa, Wisconsin, Arizona St. and Kentucky and as a defensive backs coach for Tennessee and Ohio St. in the 1980s-1990s.
Illinois finished 5-7 last season.
Barry Odom – Missouri
Old school: Missouri (defensive coordinator)
In another case of an alumnus getting a shot at leading the school he once played for, Odom will receive his first head coaching opportunity at his alma mater Missouri.
Odom starred as a middle linebacker for the Tigers from 1996-1999 and had served as the university’s defensive coordinator since 2012 before his promotion this offseason.
Suiting toward his defensive specialty, Odom takes over a Tigers program that finished sixth in total defense last season. However, Missouri struggled to score last season (124th in total offense) en route to a disappointing 2015.
But only at age 39, Odom should have a bright future in this role, especially with the overwhelming support he has from his players already.
Mike Norvell – Memphis
Old school: Arizona St. (Deputy head coach/offensive coordinator)
Speaking of young head coaches getting started, Norvell, 34, fills Memphis’ hole left open by Fuente’s departure.
Norvell comes off four years at Arizona St. where he climbed the coaching ladder and became deputy head coach in 2014. He also spent prior time coaching Pittsburgh and Tulsa on the offensive side of the ball.
Norvell inherits a Memphis offense that scored more than 40 points per game last season.
However, with former Tigers quarterback and Denver Broncos 2016 round one draft pick Paxton Lynch no longer there, it will be an uphill battle for Norvell and Memphis to replicate last season’s offensive success.