Another season, another round of preseason coaches on the “Hot Seat”. Every year college programs want to see the win totals increase or stay pat from the previous season. Who will be the first coach fired? Who will get a buyout? Here are some names to keep tabs on, as we inch closer to the new season.
Brian Kelly, Notre Dame:
He had Deshone Kizer and Malik Zaire. He had a solid offensive line, weapons on the outside, and talent. However, their defense and they wonky quarterback play caused the Irish to go from 10-3 to 4-8 and miss a Bowl Game. Their schedule this year is loaded: USC, Miami (FL), Georgia, Stanford on the road, Navy, NC State, Temple, and at Michigan State. That schedule could be the main reason for concern. That and you have a new defensive coordinator, and a quarterback that has not seen action in-game. The Irish of course could go 9-3 or 10-2, it has happened before, but you could also see the Irish losing 5 or even 6 games. If Kelly does not win 8 games, is he out?
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M:
Every year it seems Sumlin gets off to a torrid start, then dramatically runs out of gas and crashes in the second half of the season. Last season, another dismal end, 1-4. He also lost a TON of talent, a lost players leaving early. However, Sumlin can recruit, but with a young team, will the team be able to produce in a season where it matters most?
A&M opens against UCLA, where their head coach is also on the hot seat. However, they end the year will Ole Miss and LSU. Sumlin needs to avoid another November December collapse, though it almost seems like a forgone conclusion since Johnny Football left. Sumlin came to the Aggies from Houston with a lot of hype and a lot of hope. The A&M faithful have been mired in 8 or 9 win seasons, or worse. They are dying for a New Year’s 6 or a College Football Playoff season. It is definitely time for Sumlin to Put Up!
Jim Mora: UCLA
Like the aforementioned Sumlin, Mora enters the season on the hot seat. The two will face each other to open the season. Mora, in the offseason, was able to woo Michigan Passing Coordinator and stud recruiter Jedd Fisch to Westwood in the hopes of taking potential first round pick Josh Rosen to the next level. It did not help that last year Rosen missed six games with an injury, but the Bruins had talent on all sides of the ball and even taking that into consideration, there is already talk that Mora may not even have the chance to finish out the season.
The Bruins also have a schedule that works against them. They also have to travel to Memphis, which is an underrated mid-major; and loaded Pac-12 schedule (at Stanford, Colorado, at Arizona, Oregon, at Washington, at Utah, Arizona St, at USC, Cal). The target is firmly on UCLA’s back to make it to a decent Bowl Game.
Hugh Freeze: Ole Miss
The Rebels took a postseason ban due to a major NCAA investigation. Many other pundits wonder if only one season of a ban is enough. The NCAA loves to drag out investigations: I’m looking squarely at you North Carolina! If some of the violations are true, Freeze does not have a job. If Ole Miss has a struggling season, Freeze could be out of job too. Freeze has done wonders recruiting, developing those recruits, and putting them in to the NFL. He has also won a lot of games, but lost some major ones as well. With Freeze, will the winning be enough?
Mark Dantonio: Michigan State
Last year was a tough one for Sparty. They had a string of three amazing seasons. They should most definitely have more wins than last year, but how many more? Looming over this season are many sexual assault charges and investigations, ones that the District Attorney’s Office say “will take awhile”. Sparty went 3-9, and lost to rival Michigan in East Lansing. Sparty has a non-conference slate of: Bowling Green, Western Michigan, and Notre Dame. I could be conceivable that Mark gets another year if they win 6 or 7 games, but you could also see him not getting another chance, but that could be more with off the field issues.
Brett Bielema: Arkansas
The man came from Wisconsin with a notion and reputation of being a winning coach that competes for championships. Yes, Bielema is in the mighty SEC, but the coach has looked like he has a team ready to turn the corner, only to lose games and take confusing steps back. He has been able to put up solid recruiting classes, but it has not been translating on the field. This, like Sumlin and others, is time for the winning to come.
Butch Jones: Tennessee
Last year saw Jones survive by the skin of his teeth. He has brought stellar recruits to the Volunteers, has put a few of them into the NFL, but he has not make it to the SEC Championship game, nor has he put together a consistent season. It looked like it last year, but they tumbled and tripped to a 9-4 finish. If Jones does not get double digits, he will most likely be out. And this year’s schedule is a doozy: Georgia Tech, at Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, at Alabama, at Kentucky, at Missouri, LSU. They do have Vandy, UMass, and Indiana State, but the rest of the schedule could be tough. Jones needs many wins, and might even need to upset mighty Bama to keep his job.
Others To Keep Eyes On:
Todd Graham (Arizona State), Rich Rodriguez (Arizona), Doug Martin (New Mexico State), Kliff Kingsbury (Texas Tech), Steve Addazio (Boston College), Barry Odom (Missouri), Dave Doren (NC State), Rod Carey (Northern Illinois).