Monday, August 1, 2016

Too Hot to Touch?

By Jonathan Lowe

One constant in today's world of college football is change. There will always be change in the players providing the product on the field. There has been so much change when it comes to conference allegiances and alliances. And there is always change because few, if any, head coaching jobs are safe.

From this date in 2015 to now, 29 FBS schools have changed the man responsible for their respective programs (that includes the firestorm that Jim Grobe is entering in place of the fired Art Briles at Baylor). That's more than one-fifth of the 128 available jobs in the sport (22.7%, to be more exact).

Everyone knows that, in any given season, a handful of athletic departments will move on from a disappointing era to try and grab the coach that can point that football program in the right direction. With that in mind, when looking at this year's "hottest seat" candidates, we can give the newest hires a chance for things to settle before offering a one-way ticket out of town. Heck, I'm feeling generous. Let's exclude the coaches going into their second seasons at their new digs.

These are my top candidates for coaches that might not be back on their respective sidelines one year from today:

7) Craig Bohl (Wyoming)

This could be the "Grass is Always Greener" argument. There was a lot of winning for Bohl during his time at North Dakota State. The last three seasons, he led the Bison to a 43-2 record and three consecutive FCS national championships. Now, he's finding out the difficulty of running a smaller FBS program. You would think that if he could get talent to go to Fargo, he could get talent to move to Laramie. However, that's usually a long-haul effort. With a 6-18 record in his first two years with the Cowboys, you wonder if he gets a chance to see the long-haul timeline work out.

6) Tim DeRuyter (Fresno State)

This is DeRuyter's fifth year in Fresno. So far, it has been an era in two stages. The first starred quarterback Derek Carr. In the two seasons that Carr led the offense, the Bulldogs went 20-6, with one shared and one outright Mountain West Conference title. Then, Carr graduated on to the NFL. Since that point, the Bulldogs have gone 9-17. In 2015, his squad went 3-9 (2-6 in the MWC). Another year like that, and he might not get the opportunity to create a third act with another star signal caller.

5) Gus Malzahn (Auburn)

Stop me if this sounds familiar. A former Auburn assistant coach comes back to the Plains as the head coach. The start to the tenure is phenomenal, ending with a shot at a national title. Then, the success wanes. The shine wears off. Next thing you know, the coach is thrown off the Plains and looking for his next opportunity. This was the path that former coach Gene Chizik went down. It appears to be the path the Malzahn is following as well. After getting to the title game in 2013 (okay, technically January 2014), the Tigers have taken a step back. Their SEC record has receded over Malzahn's three seasons (7-1 -> 4-4 -> 2-6). Plus, it doesn't help that he's coaching in the same state as Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide.

4) Dave Clawson (Wake Forest)

There are just places where it's difficult to win. Winston-Salem is one of those places. In the history of Demon Deacon football, only three coaches have left the school with this distinctive combination ... having a better-than .500 record and having coached 10 or more games. The last man to do that (D.C. "Peahead" Walker) left in 1950. Grobe, who coached the program for 13 years (I didn't think he'd been there that long, either), finished up five games below level. So, maybe it's just not in the cards for Clawson. It has only been two full seasons, but the matching records of the first two years don't appear to show much promise (3-9 overall, 1-7 in the ACC).

3) Hugh Freeze (Mississippi)

When it comes to on-field production, Freeze has done what any athletic director would want out of him. The team record has improved by one win each season. The talent is being drafted by the NFL. It would appear that a program is being built in Oxford. However, the whispers and murmurs of impropriety in the recruiting process may be more than smoke and mirrors. Ole Miss has already punished itself for NCAA violations. That doesn't mean more sanctions won't be thrown down by the hand of the national organization. What to do with Freeze then? Most of the violations occurred on his watch. Do the Rebels punish him by making him wait the sanctions out. or do they try to get the stench of this whole ordeal out of nostril range as quickly as possible?

2) Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M)

When you coach in the SEC, the expectations are high going in. Sumlin raised those to solar heights after his first season in College Station. The team went 11-2, upset eventual-national champion Alabama (in Tuscaloosa), and sported the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy in Johnny Manziel. Since then, the Aggies have been really good, but not great. The proceeding three seasons have yielded, basically, an average of 8 wins a season (and 4 conference wins). Combine that with a seemingly high transfer rate (especially amongst his QBs) and a couple controversial moments (including the recent suspension of two assistant coaches for a slideshow featuring offensive material), and the seat might be getting warmer.

1) Darrell Hazell (Purdue)

To be honest, I'm surprised that he wasn't let go after last season. Hazell's star caught fire after a successful two-year stint at Kent State (as predecessor to Paul Haynes, whom isn't so hot himself these days). In today's college football, Hazell's record at a Big Ten school wouldn't result in a fourth year leading the way. His 6-30 overall mark in three seasons is only surpassed in "badness" by his 2-22 conference record. I'm guessing that Purdue is allowing him time to really build a program. I hope it continues, but I'm afraid that time's running out.

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