The 2021 college football coaching carousel has officially closed with Gus Malzahn going to UCF, so we’re grading every hire that’s been made.
And just like that, the carousel has stopped spinning. Of course, we know that the college football coaching carousel will kick back up at the end of next season but, with Gus Malzahn being named the head coach of the UCF Knights, that leaves no more vacancies to be filled. Now it’s time for these coaches to come in and get results.
In total, there were 15 new college football coaches hired heading into 2021. Though that total may be down from some years, it’s actually a bit surprising that many jobs were vacant given the challenges presented by playing during a pandemic this season. Wins are still wins and losses are still losses, though, which is why there are new faces in new places.
Not all hires are created equal, however. Though we’ve not seen any of these clipboard heroes coach even a single practice with their new programs, we can still look at the situation and the hire and evaluate from there. With that, let’s hand out grades to every hire in the 2021 college football coaching carousel.
Arizona Wildcats: Jedd Fisch
Name any college football program or even NFL team and it’s likely that Jedd Fisch has served as some type of assistant coach within the program. But he’s getting his first shot as a head coach with Arizona after letting Kevin Sumlin go.
While Fisch is a highly regarded offensive coach, we’ve seen that before with the Wildcats program and it hasn’t exactly worked out for them. Perhaps Fisch can be the difference-maker but his lack of experience and the similarity to previous hires is not comforting. Even still, there is enough substance to Fisch to where Arizona gets a passing grade. – Grade: C
Arkansas State Red Wolves: Butch Jones
Success at Central Michigan and then Cincinnati led to Butch Jones getting the Tennessee job in 2013. That could lead some to believe that Arkansas State made a good move to bring him back to the Group of 5 head coaching ranks after losing Blake Anderson to Utah State but it’s hard to see that truly being the case.
Jones, despite a couple of winning seasons, ultimately turned into an unmitigated disaster with the Vols. That can’t be overstated enough and it might be to a degree that he never recovers from it as a head coach. Because of his previous G5 success, I won’t give this an outright “F” but know that we’re teetering near that territory. – Grade: D
Auburn Tigers: Bryan Harsin
There’s no escaping the success Bryan Harsin was able to enjoy while at Boise State, totaling 69 wins over seven seasons with the Broncos. Subsequently, you don’t need to look far to see why Auburn wanted him to replace Gus Malzahn. But despite his winning pedigree, there is cause for concern.
Harsin has no real SEC ties and a staff he’s built of veterans with moderate (or less than) success in the conference doesn’t help to inspire confidence either. There is a real worry that recruiting could be an issue for Harsin as it was at the end of Malzahn’s tenure and that could result in some trying times for the Tigers. – Grade: C+