#22. Todd Berry, UL-Monroe - This hire should be no surprise as the worst in college football. I apologize to the UL-Monroe fans (both of them) if I offend you, but Berry has done nothing but struggle as a head coach in college football (a combined 29-60 with stints at Illinois State and Army). Sure, Berry was not coaching the greatest players, and sure, UL-Monroe is not able to go after big named assistant coaches, but surely you can do better than Berry.
#21. Mike MacIntyre, San Jose State - San Jose State is in the same boat as UL-Monroe: a non-BCS school with no real history of winning. Former head coach Dick Tomey did all he could to turn the program around, going 25-35 in his run, including winning the 2006 New Mexico Bowl, but it wasn't enough to make the Spartans competitive with the likes of Boise State and Fresno State in the WAC. So, who should San Jose State hire to replace Tomey? How about a guy who's defense at Duke gave up 49, 34, and 45 points in their last 3 games? That's the resume that MacIntyre brings to San Jose State. I wish him the best of luck, because teams like Boise State are not shy about running up the score.
#20. Dan Enos, Central Michigan - No, this is not Enos from the Dukes of Hazzard. This is former Michigan State QB and RB coach Dan Enos, who was hired to replace Butch Jones, who went to Cincinnati to replace the man he replaced at Central Michigan, Brian Kelly. Enos has big shoes to fill, as Central Michigan has won 3 MAC titles since 2006. Personally, I think Central Michigan could have done better than Anus, uh, Enos (Sorry, old Family Guy joke). They should have hired Grand Valley State head coach Chuck Martin, who went 74-7 in 6 seasons as Lakers head coach. Martin has since left for Notre Dame to become defensive backs coach. Still, what would mean more, being a positions coach at a big school or becoming the head coach of a highly successful MAC school?
#19. Larry Porter, Memphis - Former head coach Tommy West bombarded the Memphis media, calling for those around the program to try and help out the team instead of "runnin' it down all the time". Exit West, Enter Porter. Porter, a former Memphis RB, has spent the last 5 seasons at LSU as the RB coach. Porter, only 39, could bring back some fire to the program that has pretty much been down since star RB DeAngelo Williams went pro. Memphis has no where to go but up with Porter, as they are coming off a dismal 2-10 season. It will take a lot of hard work, but it isn't entirely impossible that Larry Porter makes the Tigers contenders again in the C-USA.
#18. Rob Ianello, Akron - This is not a terrible hire by Akron. Ianello was recruiting coordinator and WR coach at Notre Dame, coaching the likes of star WRs Michael Floyd and Golden Tate. That never hurts recruiting. Ianello is fairly young as a head coach (44), which means if he is successful he has a long head coaching tenure ahead of him. Ianello just lacks the name recognition of many of the coaches that are higher on this list. However, this could change quickly if Ianello makes the Zips into contenders.
#17. Ruffin McNeill, East Carolina - This could make for a great fit for East Carolina, as McNeill is an East Carolina alum (played DB for the Pirates from 1976-1980). Usually Big 12 Defensive Coordinator is someone you stay away from hiring as a head coach due to the high offensive numbers put up by the teams, but McNeill did a good job with the Red Raiders defense. McNeill was at Texas Tech for 11 seasons, showing he is very loyal. McNeill has to work hard to continue with the success that Skip Holtz had with the Pirates, but I believe he is stepping into a great situation.
#16. Willie Taggart, Western Kentucky - I believe that Taggart has the potential to become a solid head coach at Western Kentucky. Taggart, a former Western Kentucky QB (seems like more and more schools are hiring alums), had spent the last four seasons at Stanford as RB coach. Stanford success could be partially given to Taggart, who coached standout RB Toby Gerhart to a second place finish in the Heisman race. Former Hilltoppers head coach David Elson failed to make Western Kentucky contenders in the Sun Belt. It's now Taggart's time to try and accomplish this feat.
#15. Jeff Quinn, Buffalo - Buffalo Bulls fans were probably grieving when head coach Turner Gill went back to the Big 12 as Kansas head coach, but they rebounded nicely by hiring Jeff Quinn. Quinn, formerly the offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bearcats, followed Brian Kelly from Grand Valley State, then Central Michigan, then Cincinnati. Most would have thought that Quinn would have once again followed Kelly to Notre Dame, but the Buffalo job was too good to pass up. As mentioned before, Quinn has experience coaching in the MAC with Central Michigan, so he knows what to expect. Kelly made his mark by building a MAC team to annual contenders, and I wouldn't be shocked if his former assistant did the same.
#14. John "Doc" Holliday, Marshall - I watched Tombstone yesterday, so I could try and fit as many appropriate movie quotes into this as possible. Like maybe after his first win, Doc goes to the opposing coach and says "Does this mean we can't be friends?". Maybe when he was being interviewed for this job the Marshall AD said he was looking for a great head coach and leader, Holliday said "I'm your huckleberry". Marshall Doc Holliday. How ironic. Ok, ok, enough with the name. Holliday was a very successful assistant coach at West Virginia, where he spent the last two seasons. Prior to that he was at the University of Florida. Throw in that name with that resume and you got yourself a pretty nice head coach.
#13. Lane Kiffin, USC - Last year Kiffin was last on this list, irking many of the people who read it. Although I do think that my personal feeling on the man affected his ranking, his leaving after just one season partly justified my placing him last. Kiffin got out of Dodge as fast as he could (Jeez, I'm stuck on Westerns now), leaving behind a Volunteer program that was wondering about what might have been. Don't lie to yourself, USC is still a PAC-10 power and Kiffin can get the job done. The problem is getting the job done cleanly. Kiffin has been mired with NCAA sanctions, and there were rumors of probation possibilities at Tennessee and now USC. I believe that if Kiffin can make the NCAA look the other way for a while that he will contend for National Titles much like his predecessor.
#12. Sonny ****, Louisiana Tech - I'm preparing for FanNation to censor his last name, so this will look stupid if they don't. His name is ****, D-Y-K-E-S, son of former Texas Tech head coach Spike ****, also spelled D-Y-K-E-S. ****, the younger one, Sonny, has spent the last three seasons as Arizona's Offensive Coordinator and QB coach. It was rumored that **** (Sonny) was in the running for the Texas Tech job that his father, Mr. Spike ****, formerly held, but the job went to former Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville (no sensor there). Sonny has his work cut out for him, as he must fight to make Louisiana Tech contenders in the WAC, something Derek Dooley had problem doing. Sonny **** has been in line for a head coaching job for a while, and it's not just because his last name is ****.
#11. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State* - Well, the Bobby Bowden fiasco is finally over. Fisher, who was named head coach-in-waiting in 2007, finally has his chance to lead the Seminoles by himself. Although I feel like Florida State didn't treat Bowden right, I don't believe Fisher had any part in it and just did his job as offensive coordinator and QB coach and let it all play out on its own. Fisher was a hot head coaching prospect from his days at LSU, and now he's coached under the likes of Saban and Bowden, two very good coaches to model yourself after. I would be highly surprised if FSU hasn't played in the ACC title game in 4 years with Fisher as head coach.
#10. Joker Phillips, Kentucky* - Phillips is another product of the head coach-in-waiting strategy, but his rise to the head coaching position was not as highly publicized as Jimbo Fisher's. Following Kentucky's 13-21 loss to Clemson in the Music City Bowl, Rich Brooks announced his retirement. Although I found this surprising, I think it is time for Phillips, who has been at Kentucky since 2003, to take over. This move means that Joker Phillips is the second non-interim African American football coach in the SEC. However, race doesn't matter in the SEC. Winning does. Phillips will have to work his butt off for Kentucky to contend with the likes of Florida and Alabama year after year.
#9. Derek Dooley, Tennessee - Twenty-two years. That's how long it's been since a Dooley has been a head coach in the SEC. Derek, the son of Georgia legend Vince Dooley, comes to Knoxville after three seasons as head coach of the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. Although he only led the Bulldogs to one bowl appearance, progress was being made in Ruston. Along with his association with Vince Dooley his his association with the head coach of the reigning National Champs, Nick Saban. Dooley was the recruiting coordinator at LSU under Saban when the Tigers won the National Title in 2003. He then followed Saban to the NFL with the Dolphins, where Dooley was the TEs coach. Many feel like this hire was due to Derek's last name, and there's no doubt that it helped him get the job. However, Derek's background looks to be one of a winner who won't put up with much and won't take no for an answer. At the moment things are looking up for the Volunteers.
#8. Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech - When Tuberville was fired at Auburn following only his second losing season with the Tigers I thought that he would have a head coaching job in no time. However, it took a full season for Tuberville to find the job that was right for him, and I think that he is a good fit with the Red Raiders. Tuberville is looking to keep the air-attack offense that made Texas Tech annual contenders in the Big 12, but is looking to improve on the defensive side of the ball. Tuberville was highly successful in his runs in the SEC, so I don't see why he can't have the same success in Big 12 country.
#7. Skip Holtz, South Florida - Holtz, like Dooley, is a name that most college football fans have come to know. South Florida needed a coach who could make fans forget about the only other coach at South Florida, Jim Leavitt, who was fired after he allegedly hit one of his players. Skip Holtz has had success everywhere he's been head coach (72-50 at stints at UConn and East Carolina), and I think it can only get better now that he can extensively recruit the state of Florida. The only problem will be fighting Florida, Miami, and Florida State for these recruits. I think Holtz will pick up where Leavitt left off, and pretty soon I think Holtz's name could be mentioned for even bigger jobs.
#6. Mike London, Virginia - Say what you want about Al Groh's run as Virginia's head coach, but you cannot take away the fact that he had some of the best assistants in the country working for him. One of those assistants was Mike London, who left Virginia to become head coach of the Richmond Spiders. London was highly successful with the Spiders, posting a 24-5 record including the 2008 FCS Championship in two seasons. London now returns to Virginia for his fourth stint at the school, showing he is very familiar with the school. There's no doubt in my mind that Mike London is a good football coach; the question is if he can make the Cavaliers contenders in an ACC conference that has never been more competitive.
#5. Bobby Hauck, UNLV - Usually the Top 5 on my list consists of BCS schools, but there's no denying that the UNLV Rebels made a huge step in the right direction by hiring Montana head coach Bobby Hauck. Hauck, who went 80-17 in seven seasons as Grizzlies head coach, really doesn't have to do much to outdo his predecessor, Mike Sanford. Sanford went a dismal 15-43 in his five seasons as Rebels head coach. This program has struggled ever since the end of John Robinson's tenure as head coach, and there's no doubt the fans are praying for success. I would be highly surprised if Hauck doesn't at least make UNLV contenders in the Mountain West during his time there.
#4. Butch Jones, Cincinnati - Jones's landing at Cincinnati can be described by two words: "Earned" and "Ironic". Jones picked up where Brian Kelly left off with Central Michigan, leading the Chippewas to two MAC titles in his three seasons there. Once Kelly left the Bearcats for Notre Dame, Jones decided to replace Brian once again. Sadly, things can really only go down from here for Cincinnati, as last year's 12-1 season was the best in school history. Although the 2010 season will not be a repeat of '09, don't see it as a sign of things to come. Butch Jones is a good head coach, and the Bearcats will contend for the Big East title year in and year out as long as he is head coach.
#3. Turner Gill, Kansas - Gill, a former QB at Nebraska, took the extremely difficult job of building the University of Buffalo's football program, a team that had went 8-49 in 5 seasons under head coach Jim Hofher, in December of 2005. Gill led the Bulls to success they had never achieved before, including the 2008 MAC Title. Although there was a bit of a dropoff in 2009, the job Gill did building the program was undeniable. Gill steps into a good position at Kansas. The Jayhawks, who were on a hot streak the past few seasons, fell apart in 2009 on the heels of allegations of abuse not to mention a seven game losing streak to end the season. Turner Gill knows all about the Big 12 from his years at Nebraska as both a player and assistant coach. I predict that it doesn't take long for the Jayhawks to be highly successful under his leadership.
#2. Charlie Strong, Louisville - It took me a while to decide on the final two spots on this list, and after a while I just had to put Strong #2, but believe me, I think this hire has been coming for about ten years. Strong, the defensive coordinator for the Florida Gators since 2002, has been the hottest coaching prospect this decade to have not been given a head coaching opportunity. Many believe it's because he is African-American, others point to the fact that he is African-American and his wife is white. Whatever the reason was, the reasoning was 100% wrong. Strong is one of the best assistant coaches of my time, and that's coming from someone who cannot stand the Gators. Louisville made a fantastic hire, and it will pay off very quickly.
And the NUMBER ONE COACHING HIRE IS......................................................................
#1. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame - As much as I hate giving Notre Dame credit, they did make the best hire of the offseason, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Kelly has won everywhere he's been head coach: Grand Valley State (118-35-2 in 13 seasons), Central Michigan (19-16 in 3 seasons after the Chippewas went 9-26 the three seasons before he arrived), and Cincinnati (34-6 in four seasons, including an undefeated season in 2009). Notre Dame needs a name and a coach that will make everyone say "Charlie Who?" Brian Kelly looks to be that guy. He is one of the Top 5 coaches in the entire country, and will lead the Fighting Irish to at least one National Championship appearance in the next 5 years.
(Can Kelly with Championships at Notre Dame? I think so)
*= denotes coach-in-waiting who was named head coach this year