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Revisiting the coaching class hires of 2018: Florida clearly made the best hire

May 27, 2020
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The Class of 2017-2018 college football hires included head coaches at 13 Power 5 programs - including Florida stealing Dan Mullen away from Mississippi State. After two seasons, four have actually already been replaced. 

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While none of them have led their program to the College Football Playoff, it is clear that Florida's Dan Mullen sits at the top of the class.

Inside the Gators, along with Braden Gall of Athlon Sports College Football takes a closer look at all 13 hires by looking at the grade Athlon gave each hire prior to the start of the 2018 season and now, where those coaches are currently ranked in CBS Sports latest countdown.

We also take a closer look at how they match-up statically as well.

MARIO CRISTOBAL - OREGON

Wheeler: Known as a damn good recruiter, I was wondering if he was head coach material after going 27-47 at FIU. What he has been able to do at Oregon though is in large part to having a large advantage in talent compared to the rest of the PAC12 - which in turn has helped hide some coaching deficiencies. 

Gall: I had my doubts about Cristobal's ability to lead an upper-tier Power 5 program after his tenure at FIU, but he's proven all of the doubters wrong with his ability to bring an SEC-style recruiting approach - and subsequent physicality - to the West Coast.

HERM EDWARDS - ARIZONA STATE

Wheeler: For the most part he was considered a terrible hire two years ago, but if you ever saw him around high school kids, you knew he had the ability to relate to them, thus able to recruit and coach them. He went an impressive 3-1 last year against ranked opponents.

Gall: The longtime NFL coach has proven many wrong with his ability to lead and sell his program. He's essentially got an NFL staff coaching college kids and he landed the most important piece of his tenure in quarterback Jayden Daniels. They will go as far as he takes them over the next few seasons.

JIMBO FISHER - TEXAS A&M

Wheeler: You can bet that the Aggies weren’t expecting middle of the pack SEC West finishes when they signed Fisher to a 10-year $75 million dollar contract. They are better off than they were under Kevin Sumlin, but are they that much better off considering the investment they made?

Gall: You don't spend $600 million or guarantee an entire contract to a head coach to go 7-5. While Fisher didn't take a big leap in year two his roster projects to take that leap in 2020. And he instantly flipped the culture on its head with his hardcore approach.

SCOTT FROST - NEBRASKA

Wheeler: He was the golden boy of this hiring cycle coming out of Central Florida two years ago, but the results to this point haven't matched the hype. Despite playing in the weaker of the two Big10 divisions, his Cornhuskers have finished second to last in the West in each of his first two seasons.

Gall: I couldn't have loved a hire more than Nebraska bringing back their former star quarterback but the get-off hasn't been as quick as some expected, myself included. Instead, the growth has been far more incremental as he's slowly collecting the pieces he needs to win. Nebraska is better, but is not even close to back yet.

CHIP KELLY - UCLA

Wheeler: There was talk that Kelly picked UCLA because it wasn’t considered a pressure cooker type of job. Thankfully for him, that’s the case because his record and recruiting to date might not have earned him a third-year at several other places that made hires that year.

Gall: What in the hell? I am not sure if defensive coordinators have caught up with his scheme or if his bizarrely slow recruiting strategy simply isn't working but his first two seasons has to be one of the biggest shocks of this coaching class.

MATT LUKE - OLE MISS

Wheeler: In the future, this hire should be used as an example as to why those in a position of power should make coaching decisions independent of player feedback. Yes, the players may have loved him, but from the jump, he seemed out-of-place and in over his head.

Gall: This hire always felt like a transitional move to get Ole Miss from the scandal-ridden Hugh Freeze era into whatever came next. It turns out that was exactly what Luke was as the Rebels moved on quickly to Lane Kiffin.

JOE MOOREHEAD - MISSISSIPPI STATE

Wheeler: Of the four coaches in his class who have been fired, he is the one where the best case could be made that he deserved more time. He did better than several coaches who still have a job. 

Gall: His offensive prowess should've fit in the SEC but his laid back style never really settled into the chaotic shark-invested waters of the SEC. The dismount was solid though, landing a great gig as the Oregon Ducks offensive coordinator.

CHAD MORRIS - ARKANSAS

Wheeler: One of the bright young offensive minds in the game was an up-and-comer before taking the job with the Razorbacks. Looking back it now would probably be deemed as a mistake on his part. He should have waited for a Power 5 job at a school where it is easier to compete early on. That of course isn’t the case at Arkansas - where they are probably the fifth best program in the West at best.

Gall: Arkansas was terrible under Chad Morris but I'm not sure what fans should've expected. The schematic shift from the previous regime to Morris' intellectual spread style was always going to take time and they just didn't give it to him. And after a bizarre coaching search, they might be right back where they started when they fired Bret Bielema.

DAN MULLEN - FLORIDA

Wheeler: It wasn’t seen as the sexy ‘splash’ hire at the time, but Mullen now sits at the top of this class, leading his Class of 2018 hires in almost every meaningful statistical category - including spending 22 of 26 game weeks ranked in the Top 25. His recruiting will determine whether or not his very good seasons soon become great ones.

Gall: The best coach in Mississippi State history was always going to leave for a bigger job in the SEC but he wasn't going to settle for anything but elite. He's instantly put the Gators back in the top 10 and if his recruiting prowess can match his coaching talent, then Florida should be competing for playoff spots very soon.

JEREMY PRUITT - TENNESSEE

Wheeler: In one of the more long and drawn out coaching searches of the year, Tennessee settled on Pruitt after being mentioned with just about anyone and everyone who had a pulse. After losing to Florida last season, the headline in the Knoxville News was as to whether nor not he should be fired. The good news is the Vols rebounded to go 7-2 after that. The bad news is only two of those Power 5 teams ended the season with a winning record, leaving a question mark as to whether or not they have turned the corner.

Gall: Everyone knew two things about Jeremy Pruitt when he took the job at Tennessee: He can develop defenders and he is a hell of a recruiter. Those two things have been true at Tennessee in spades and the result is the second-longest active winning streak in college football. But he still has a lot to prove as his team has yet to beat anyone of any real significance.

JONATHAN SMITH - OREGON STATE

Wheeler: He took over one of the worst Power 5 jobs in the nation and has slightly improved their record compared to what it was the two years before he was hired. The Beavers are still outmatched in the PAC12, and will likely never become a consistent winner under Smith’s direction.

Gall: Oregon State has shown marked improvement under Smith. The Beavers were historically bad on defense the year before he arrived and in his first season. They took a big step forward on that side of the ball in year two and there are signs of life in Corvallis.

KEVIN SUMLIN - ARIZONA

Wheeler: His teams can be fun to watch, but after failing at Texas A&M and now Arizona, his next job opportunity will likely be as a coordinator or at a Group of 5 program.

Gall: There could be an entire documentary about Khalil Tate's career under Kevin Sumlin. The program is clearly headed in the wrong direction and the fan base could be uneasy if 2020 goes as poorly as many expect in Tucson.

WILLIE TAGGART - FLORIDA STATE

Wheeler: Here is a classic case of over-promising and under-delivering. There were questions about his actual coaching ability from the start and it went downhill from there. This is probably one of the more disastrous major head coaching hires in the last 20 years.

Gall: Many believed that a lighter touch was needed in Tallahassee after the militaristic (and very successful) Jimbo Fisher Era. But I don't think complete chaos and disorganization was what power brokers envisioned when they hired Taggart. And that's why Mike Norvell is the Noles head coach today.

***You may need to turn your phone horizontally to see the full tables below***

Below are the grades given by Athlon at the time they were hired and where they are included in CBS Sports ranking of college head coaches.

Coach Cristobal Edwards Fisher Frost Kelly Luke Moorhead
Athlon Grade B- D- A- A+ A C B+
CBS Ranking #24 #30 #7 #34 #36 NA NA

 

Coach Morris Mullen Pruitt Smith Sumlin Taggart
Athlon Grade B+ A B C+ B A-
CBS Ranking NA #8 #38 #52 #53 NA

 

Coach Cristobal Edwards Fisher Frost Kelly Luke Moorhead
Prev 2 years 11-14 12-13 15-11 13-12 10-15 11-13 15-11
Record last 2 years 21-6 15-11 17-9 9-15 7-17 9-15 14-12
Plus/Minus +10 +3 +2 -4 -3 -2 -1
Conference Record 13-5 9-9 9-7 6-12 7-11 3-13 7-9
W/L v Top 25 5-3 5-4 3-7 0-6 2-6 0-7 2-5
W/L v Power 5 16-6 12-9 11-9 6-14 7-13 4-14 7-12
Game Weeks in Top 25 22 5 11 2 0 0 11
Game Weeks in Top 10 4 0 0 0 0 0 0

 

Coach Morris Mullen Pruitt Smith Sumlin Taggart
Prev 2 years 11-14 13-11 13-12 5-19 10-15 17-9
Record last 2 years 4-20 21-5 13-12 7-17 9-15 11-14
Plus/Minus -7 +8 NC +2 -1 -6
Conference Record 0-16 11-5 7-9 5-13 6-12 7-9
W/L v Top 25 0-8 5-3 2-6 0-4 1-3 1-8
W/L v Power 5 0-16 16-5 8-10 5-14 7-12 7-13
Game Weeks in Top 25 0 22 0 0 0 1
Game Weeks in Top 10 0 12 0 0 0 0

 

Revisiting the coaching class hires of 2018: Florida clearly made the best hire

245 Views | 2 Replies | Last: 1 mo ago by Swamp_Thing
TJWarren
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Wait what???? I read how awful he is and he cant recruit. This article must of been written by Coach OR the doom and gloomers on this site are just that, a real pleasure to be around I'm sure.

Doom and gloomers, and you know who you are, if DM is so bad .......who would you hire to replace him? I'm all ears

Swamp_Thing
How long do you want to ignore this user?
TJWarren said:

Wait what???? I read how awful he is and he cant recruit. This article must of been written by Coach OR the doom and gloomers on this site are just that, a real pleasure to be around I'm sure.

Doom and gloomers, and you know who you are, if DM is so bad .......who would you hire to replace him? I'm all ears




Ah I just love these takes. Please show me one post saying Mullen is an awful coach. Please show me proof he's a great recruiter. What was the take on him in this article? What's his record vs UGA? So if we're critical about Mullen's mediocre recruiting it means we want him fired? Or are we just living in a fantasy world? If so I'll go Lincoln Riley. Or maybe two things can be true at once? Maybe Mullen is a good coach, but an average or below recruiter? Can he win a lot of games that way? Sure, he has, but has he beaten UGA? Won the East? The SEC? Made the playoffs? No, does that mean he can't or won't? Not necessarily, but being consistently less talented than 4-5 teams in the SEC doesn't make it any easier.
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